From Russia with Love (?)

22 Apr

jews-must-register-or-face-deportation-ukraine-russia-donetsk-leafletGiven 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?


15 Responses to “From Russia with Love (?)”

  1. Central Oregon Coast NOW April 22, 2014 at 6:47 am #

    Reblogged this on Central Oregon Coast NOW.

  2. Xena April 22, 2014 at 7:04 am #

    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?

    Sure they have — but they read to learn what works in bullying, fear, and hate which they want to instill in others.

    • Michael Hulshof-Schmidt April 22, 2014 at 7:29 am #

      Xena, it really is quite alarming. I hope the globe is watching this carefully. Peace, Michael.

  3. Jennifer Carey April 22, 2014 at 7:47 am #

    You don’t have to look to Nazi Germany, the former Soviet Union and Russia has a long history of violent anti-semitism. Most of the Jews that migrated to Israel were Russian. Putin is a scary, scary man.

    • Michael Hulshof-Schmidt April 22, 2014 at 8:28 am #

      Jen, I just love and adore you! Thank you for being such a constant powerful ally to the LGBT community and for your dedicated voice to social justice.

  4. prideinmadness April 22, 2014 at 10:28 am #

    I to have been wondering if a new USSR would appear….

  5. evelyneholingue April 22, 2014 at 12:24 pm #

    As always, important thoughts and compassion in your post and the comments as well. The situation in Ukraine and Russia is certainly worrisome. I got to visit the USSR in the 80s and it is not the form of country we want to see again. I doubt it will happen because people living there have seen more of the world and don’t want to live the way they did. I want to trust them for making right choices. Thank you again.

    • Michael Hulshof-Schmidt April 22, 2014 at 4:34 pm #

      Evelyn, thank you for your very thoughtful comment here. Yes, this whole situation with the Ukraine leaves me nonplussed and I struggle with how do I be a good human being and honor people’s self-determination while simultaneously creating resistance around a barbaric Tzar. Peace, Michael.

  6. momshieb April 22, 2014 at 1:56 pm #

    Hi, Michael
    Whoever is behind this, it is appalling. But I am not convinced at this point that it is in any way “official”. The Russians would not have asked people to bring “50 American dollars”. I have been researching this story, and am not finding anything that shows me that it is anything more than some idiots hoping to grab a little bit of cash (not sure how many Ukrainians have American dollars……)

    • Michael Hulshof-Schmidt April 22, 2014 at 4:38 pm #

      While their actions were apparently not sanctioned by a government, the impact of their actions resonates and effectively targets a population that has been targeted for centuries. Let us hope we do not witness a new incarnation of the USSR. Peace, Michael.

      • momshieb April 22, 2014 at 7:01 pm #

        Michael, I absolutely agree with you. Many years ago I worked as an interpreter for Russian Jews who were emigrating to Boston. I met many, many people with those horrific numbers tattooed on their arms. I heard stories that were not to be believed.
        I just hope that everyone on all sides of this very scary situation can take a deep breath and a step back from the brink. I think that this situation is more dangerous than anything happening in the Middle East, and so I want us all to be cautious.
        Please understand that I admire your position and your statement. We absolutely cannot go back to the Nazi era.

      • Michael Hulshof-Schmidt April 23, 2014 at 7:39 am #

        Thank you for such a very thoughtful and considerate comment. Let us hope the globe will be equally considerate as we navigate how to learn from the atrocities we as humans committed throughout history. Thank you for also sharing your experience working with Russian Jews–we need to learn from these narratives. Peace, Michael.


  1. Tuesday Link Encyclopedia and Self-Promotion | Clarissa's Blog - May 7, 2014

    […] the most hilarious post I read in a while: “Given all of the vicious homophobia of Russia and its self-proclaimed Tsar, Vladimr Putin, along w….” I shouldn’t laugh, this blogger means well. It’s just weird to see somebody […]

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