HomeWorld History & GeopoliticsStalin Against the Jews: How the Soviet Dictator Lost his Last Fight

Stalin Against the Jews: How the Soviet Dictator Lost his Last Fight

  • EDITORIAL BRIEF: Stalin’s final battle against the Jews was part of his campaign against cosmopolitanism, and it ultimately failed. After his death, the legal process of the “Doctors’ Case” was abruptly closed, and the campaign against cosmopolitanism ended. The legacy of this campaign, however, remained, as it targeted Jews and created a lasting impact on Soviet society.

The final battle of Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin was against the Jews, and it was a fight he ultimately lost. Stalin’s “purges” in the 1920s and 1930s targeted political competitors, former White Army officers, and workers of the tsarist military-industrial complex. In the 1940s, his focus shifted to internal party opponents, the entire leadership of the Red Army, and the NKVD.

However, the victory of the USSR over Germany and Japan, combined with friendly relations with Western countries, created a cognitive dissonance among Soviet citizens. To resolve this, the USSR launched a campaign against cosmopolitanism, which targeted citizens expressing “cosmopolitan” views and statements, especially those with foreign contacts. This campaign included attacks on “Jewish bourgeois nationalism,” which was important because Israel’s War of Independence made it clear that Israel would not become a satellite state of the USSR in the Middle East.

The Soviet authorities created the Jewish Anti-Fascist Committee (JAC) in 1942 for propaganda purposes, with members including Soviet Jews, scientists, and intellectuals. Their primary task was to collect financial assistance from the international community on behalf of Jews fighting Nazism under the red banner.

The JAC also collected information regarding the Holocaust on German-occupied Soviet territory, which was published as the “Black Book” in New York in 1946. However, the authorities refused to acknowledge the Holocaust as affecting specific nationalities and only erected one memorial in Kiev, at Babi Yar. The JAC was dissolved in 1948 when it was deemed useless and attracting “unnecessary” attention.

At this time, the campaigns against “kowtowing before the West” and latent anti-Semitism merged into a single fight against cosmopolitanism. Jews, especially Zionists, became the most frequent victims, as they were seen as the internal “fifth column” and the enemy of the mobilization economy.

The campaign was led by Andrey Zhdanov, who believed that there could be no civilization without the Russian language, science, and culture of the Soviet peoples. The Propaganda and Agitation Department of the Central Committee of the CPSU focused on educating workers in the ideas of Leninism and encouraging Soviet patriotism and hatred of capitalism and bourgeois ideology.

During this campaign, images of Western artists such as Salvador Dali were harshly criticized for “militant imperialism and zoological misanthropy,” and there were attempts to rename “Nord” cigarettes to “Sever” and “French bread” to “urban bread.” There were also attempts to attribute the discovery of the Law of Conservation of Matter to Mikhail Lomonosov instead of Antoine Lavoisier and the invention of the radio to Alexander Popov instead of Guglielmo Marconi.

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