Given all of the vicious homophobia of Russia and its self-proclaimed Tsar, Vladimr Putin, along with the recent annexation of Crimea and the long-established regional history of misogyny and anti-Semitism, I’m starting to get a bit worried about a possible resurrection of a new USSR.
Last week I learned that following Pesach services a group of masked men (hard not to make a link to the KKK here) were delivering leaflets that instructed Jews to register with the city of Donetsk. Jews were told they had to register to prove their citizenship and provide a list of all of their assets. Am I the only one freaking out about this? Is anyone else thinking about Nazi Germany or the old Russian pogroms?
Despite the clear impression they intended to give, the masked bigots were not actually representing the Ukrainian government or the city of Donetsk. They seem to represent a fringe right-wing group of bigots. Sadly, I can only imagine the trauma caused to these people coming out of the synagogue.
The tensions mounting in the Ukraine are unsettling at best. I struggle with how humans can make space for creating communities to thrive, and how do we prevent communities from being taken over and governed by an autocrat? Certainly, Putin has not been a friend to the Jewish community or the LGBT community. Now with his increased military presence in eastern Ukraine, this is feeling similar to Uncle Joe Stalin’s way of governing.
Cousin Vlad has made stirring speeches referring to “Tsarist borders” for Russia. Given the Crimean annexation, that should be terrifying for anyone paying attention. Do those borders include Latvia? Lithuania? Poland? Finland? Does the simple weight of historical maps trump over a century of evolving national identities, diplomacy, and binding international agreements? Putin seems to think himself a law unto himself. If he gets a nationalist surge behind him, where will it end?
By no means am I encouraging or endorsing we entrench ourselves in yet another war, but I wonder if it would be helpful for NATO to take a strong stand against Putin? The weight of history around how humans treat Jews and gays is very scary for me and I wonder with sadness, have these militants never read a history book?