Rootless cosmopolitan

From Academic Kids

Rootless cosmopolitan (Russian language: безродный космополит, "bezrodny kosmopolit") was a Soviet euphemism during Joseph Stalin's anti-Semitic campaign of 1948-1953, which culminated in the "exposure" of the alleged "Doctors' plot". The term and the persecutions by the authorities unmistakably targeted the Jews. However, this has never been formally admitted, in order to avoid accusations of state anti-semitism, which goes against Marxist principles such as the fraternity of peoples and proletarian internationalism.



Towards the end and immediately after World War II, the Jewish Anti-Fascist Committee (JAC) grew increasingly influential to the post-Holocaust Soviet Jewry, and was accepted as its representative in the West. As its activities sometimes contradicted official Soviet policies (See Black Book), it became a nuisance to Stalin's absolute power. The CPSU Central Committee auditing commission concluded that instead of focusing its attention on the "struggle against forces of international reaction", the JAC continued the line of the Bund (a dangerous designation, since former Bund members were to be "purged"). In January 1948 the JAC's head, popular actor and world-famous public figure Solomon Mikhoels was killed in a suspicious car accident. This was followed by eventual arrests of JAC's members and its termination.

The USSR voted for the 1947 UN Partition Plan of Palestine and in May 1948 it recognized the establishment of the State of Israel there, subsequently supporting it with weapons (via Czechoslovakia, in defiance of the embargo) against the aggression of five Arab armies. Many Soviet Jews felt inspired and sympathetic towards Israel and sent thousands of letters to the (still formally existing) JAC with offers to contribute or even volunteer for Israel's defense, which could be considered the fifth column.

Missing image
Jewish High Holidays in Moscow, 1948. Golda Meir in the crowd

In September 1948, the first Israeli ambassador to the USSR, Golda Meir1, arrived in Moscow. Huge enthusiastic crowds (estimated 50,000) gathered along her path and in and around Moscow synagogue when she attended it for Yom Kippur and Rosh Hashanah.

The September 21, 1948 edition of Pravda contained Ilya Ehrenburg's article Regarding one letter, in which he criticized anti-Semitism but argued that the fate of Soviet Jews was assimilation into the united "Soviet people". Later he admitted that it was ordered by the Politburo. (Source: Joshua Rubenstein, Tangled loyalties. The Life and Times of Ilya Ehrenburg)

These events corresponded in time with a visible upsurge of Russian nationalism orchestrated by official propaganda, the increasingly hostile Cold War and the realization by the Soviet leadership that Israel had chosen the Western option. In addition, Jews were being considered a security liability for their international connections, especially to the United States of America, and growing national awareness. By the end of 1948, the USSR switched sides in the Arab-Israeli conflict and began supporting the Arabs against Israel, first politically and later also militarily; this policy was maintained throughout the Cold War.

About one antipatriotic group of theater critics

Pravda newspaper front page

The state-wide campaign was set out by an article appeared in Pravda on January 28 1949 entitled About one antipatriotic group of theater critics:

"unbridled, evil-minded cosmopolitans, profiteers with no roots and no conscience... Grown on rotten yeast of bourgeois cosmopolitanism, decadence and formalism... non-indigenous nationals without a motherland, who poison with stench... our proletarian culture.", "What can A. Gurvich possibly understand about the national character of a Russian Soviet man?"

Standard Stalinist accusations of conspiracies (See Great Purge) were accompanied by a crusade in the state-controlled mass media to expose pseudonyms.

Many Yiddish writers were arrested and eventually executed. Yiddish theaters and newspapers were promply shut down, books by some Jewish authors (including Eduard Bagritsky, Vasily Grossman, Mikhail Svetlov, Iosif Utkin, and Boris Pasternak) were seized from libraries. Even Vyacheslav Molotov's wife, Polina Zhemchuzhina, who was Jewish and became Golda Meir's friend, did not escape arrest in 1949.

Stalin's daughter Svetlana Alliluyeva recalls in her book Twenty Letters to a Friend that when she asked her father about her arrested father-in-law, I.G. Morozov (also Jewish), he replied: "You don't understand! The entire old generation is infected with Zionism and they teach their youth." In a December 1, 1952 Politburo session, Stalin announced: "Every Jew is a nationalist and potential agent of the American intelligence." (recorded by Vice-Chair of the Sovmin V.A. Malyshev)

Ehrenburg, who visited the US in 1946 and whose decidedly anti-American articles echoed the Soviet propaganda, and who was by then an international peace activist and the winner of the Stalin Award (1947), was so afraid of being arrested that he wrote Stalin a letter asking to "end the uncertainty". He claimed later that he was spared because the regime needed to conceal the campaign from the West, where the plight of Soviet Jews was becoming a major human rights concern.

Scores of Soviet Jews were fired from their jobs. In 1947, Jews constituted 18% of Soviet scientific workers, but by 1970 this number declined to 7%. (Source: Paul Johnson, A History of the Jews).

Anything Jewish became suppressed by the Soviet authorities, and even the word Jew disappeared from the media. Many were shocked to find a Yiddish verse (sung by Mikhoels) cut out from the famous lullaby known by heart by millions, in the Soviet classic movie Circus ("Tsirk", 1936), still very popular after the war.

The stage was set for the Prague Trials and the Doctors' plot.

1 At the time, her last name was Myerson. She changed it to Meir in 1956.

See also

External links

ru:Безродный космополит


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