Taking into account events in the Middle East, “Jewish question” is again in the first row of world political life. On the other hand, Russian society always has been interested in Jewish theme. PRAVDA.Ru columnist Anatoly Baranov addressed his “Jewish questions” to Alexandr Mashkevich, president of Euro-Asian Jewish Congress. Question. In the conference of the recently founded Euro-Asian Jewish Congress, you spoke about “taking care of Jewish nation.” A sudden formula. Am I right by understanding that the question is about paraphrasing the words of Trubetskoi?
Answer. Of Trubetskoi and his team. But I used the word “preservation.” Supporters of Eureasian doctrine spoke about taking care of Russian nation meaning its life, history, and fate in scopes of great Russian Empire. While actually this was the Euroasian space. In my opinion, “preservation” of a nation is a very good formula which could be used towards any nation living among other nations. I would like one more time stress this peculiarity of our nation: in a diaspora, we live among other, but not close to other nations. This is our Jewish peculiarity, however, not only our.
Q. Therefore, The Jewish Congress singles out Jews living on the territory of historical Russia, which is CIS and some other territories, as some special phenomenon.
A. This is a good question. It would be really so, if the question was only about Euroasian space. But now, the question is about Asian-Pacific Region, “jointed” now to Euroasian continent with its cultural and language specifics and with its great potential. For example, Australian Jewish community makes at least 100 thousand people. On one hand, this is positive, while on the other hand, this ruins something initial and exclusive, which was peculiar only to Euroasian space. Though, now we could more definitely say about Euro-Asian Congress from geographic view.
Q. And from the view of essentials?
A. My report was addressed mostly to delegates who represented Russian-language communities of the great post-Soviet space. That were they who carried the financial, organizational, and ideological loading. We could speak about “Euroasian taste” only with a part of Jewish community. Moreover, in Kazakhstan, as well as in Russia, ideas of Euroasian doctrine are being revived. Though, I do not want to be only an adept of this very multiple-valued conception. Our congress is first of all a Jewish organization. It cannot be a new Jewish resource for Euroasian doctrine’s revival. I support this doctrine in the part which substantiates Eureasian multiculturalism, multilingual essence and sees in this geographic space a unique possibility for coexistence of different nations and different religions.
Q. In the time of Trubetskoi (19th-20th centuries), Great Russia was a united state, while now it has been split into fragments. Though, I understand that Jewish community is one in CIS – we say “Russian-language Jewish community” meaning not only Jews living in Russia, but also Jews living in Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Moldavia…
A. The fragments of Jewish community of the former Soviet Union are being united now thanks to common fate and language.
Q. And probably thanks to common culture?
A. In this sense, the question is about common Soviet culture which is our common property. The 70 years of development cannot be so easily crossed out. Euroasian geography to which the biggest part of the Soviet Union belonged furthered unification and creation of community feeling. That is the feature of our continent, of our Euroasian space: flat countries limited with mountains and oceans. Though, the Soviet Union overpassed these limits, so our Caucasian Jewish communities which should not have belonged to our zone, got to this zone, too. This happened thanks to the language, thanks to culture, and our common fate. But being the leader of the Congress, I understand conditional character of this conception.
Q. There is a very important question about prospects. For example, in the Soviet time, it was not easy to leave the country, so Jewish organizations were aimed at emigration. Are they still aimed at emigration, or at living in the country where the community exist?
A. It is not an easy question. I would prefer to answer this question in parts. The life shows that we cannot choose among two opportunities. For us, living in a diaspora and living in Jewish state, in Israel, that are two sides of one natural Jewish right to life. We have never seen a sense in contrasting that who left the country and that who remained in the country. I was grown up on the experience of the Independent Jewish Movement, which formulated these things very clearly. I suppose we do not review this principle point: for us, the future of Jewish nation is a powerful Jewish state and a powerful Jewish diaspora.
Q. Is there any sense in singling out Jewish nation? I will explain what I mean: not long ago, there was a united community called “Soviet nation,” which, however, did not completed its ethnogeny. Though, this processes started. Now, this process has split into national states, the words “national minorities” are being pronounced without inverted commons. While these “national minorities” appeared where there was that “united community.” Therefore, a question appeared about singling out Jews as a special, separate nation in this space. How does it correspond with traditional feeling of a Soviet Jew as a part of united Soviet nation?
A. There are two questions in this one. First of all, former Soviet Jews have always been an integrated and assimilated part of Soviet community, and they correspond with what was happening with the whole Soviet nation as for their social structure. Despite everyday and political oppression, Jews remained that drop of water which reflected all social processes happening in the Soviet society. On the other hand, you can see that the Soviet Union fell into pieces according to national and territorial formations. The national and territorial division was constituted in the USSR, and the nations seemed to be unsatisfied with their positions. The Soviet Union as a supernational formation split into several national formations pretending to something more than being territorial autonomy with either status.
Q. The USSR spit not into national states, but into small Soviet Unions, such “small giants.”
A. You are right. The CIS consists of fragments of the great empire with the same contradictions. This is very similar to what we can see now in Europe, where they for many centuries fought for national states, though this fight was beneath all historical criticism. Two doctrines conflict with each other: the doctrine of an open democratic state with its civil freedoms and the doctrine of a national state with its traditional values. In any European country, there are now intolerance and violence which reflect this situation. On one hand, we can see the Le Pen France which is only for Frenchmen, on the other hand, we can see Chirac who says that he must be a president for every citizen. In 20th century, the France experience was many times leased by Russian revolutionists, while now both we and Frenchmen can see how uneasy it is to realize ideas of freedom, parity, and brotherhood. We can see that these values are not completely universal.
Alexandr Mashkevich was interviewed by Anatoly Baranov PRAVDA.Ru
Translated by Vera Solovieva
Read the original in Russian: http://pravda.ru/main/2002/06/10/42441.html