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September 28, 2006



Reading your account moved me to look up Yevtuschenko's poem.


Or (stronger translation)...


I first read it in university and was shocked, at once, to learn of the horrific events it remembered and the political veneer the place had acquired. Until then, my notion of the USSR was vague and somewhat rose-tinted. The events of Babi Yar were brought home to me, some years later, on visiting a university colleague's house and seeing an old, faded, group photo on his bookcase. It was a portrait of his family in Ukraine. Of the eleven people depicted in the photo, only one survived Sept. 29, 1941, his mother, who had been visiting relatives in Odessa.


Is there any evidence that Stalin was a raging anti-semite? I doubt it.

typekey pseudonym

First some nitpicking: Maria wrote Of the two and three quarter million Jews in Ukraine (or an area approximating to modern day Ukraine) at the turn of the nineteenth century, only 486,000 remained in 1989. I doubt that any of the 486,000 Jews in the Ukraine were among those who were in the same area at the turn of the 19th C.

abb1 wrote, Is there any evidence that Stalin was a raging anti-semite? I doubt it. This depends on what you consider evidence. In the last few years of his life, the soviet state went specifically after artists who worked in Yiddish, and the so-called doctors' plot is understood to have been a manifestation of his anti-semitism. There are other examples, but these are the two that come easily to my mind.


Is there any evidence that Stalin was a raging anti-semite? I doubt it.

if the words "rootless cosmopolitans" don't mean anything to you, perhaps the words "the doctors' plot" do?


Those who were machine gunned were the lucky ones. How about those who were starved to death when the Nazis stripped out the food and sent it back to feed their own already oversized posteriors? That's to say nothing of those who were slowly starved while forced to work.

We must never forget.


Yes, I know about anti-Zionist and anti-Jewish campaigns of 1952-53.

But other ethnic groups (like Crimean Tatars, Ingush, Chechens, etc.) suffered even more and all nationalist movements (except Russian) were persecuted as a matter of policy.

I just don't see any reason to believe that Stalin personally was an anti-Semite, I don't think he was.

It's just a minor point, don't worry about it.

P O'Neill

I'm glad you brought up this issue because it seems to hard to think about Ukraine without some mention of WW2 and the Holocaust. Not that one lacks of reminders of it, but this NYT Review of Daniel Mendelsohn's book about his own relatives is very unsettling and includes one account of a savage killing in Bolechow, then Ukraine and now in Poland. And 60-65 years is really not that long ago. It's hard to see how a country can properly recover from such an experience, and some of the east-west split that you mentioned earlier must surely trace back to allegiances during WW2. If I was eastern Ukrainian, knowing what some of my western compatriots were up to during WW2, I'd wonder if we belonged in the same country.


then Ukraine and now in Poland

You mean the other way around.

P O'Neill

thanks radek I had them backwards. Not good at keeping track of the historic border changes at the best of times.


Thanks for posting, this was very interesting to read about.


Cross-commented from CT - I'd strongly recommend that people read Anatoli Kuznetsov's / A Anatol's Babi Yar to find out more . . .

anand sarwate

I sang in Shostakovich's Symphony 13 last year -- it's titled "Babi Yar" and the text is Yevtuschenko's poem. I didn't know anything about it before and then I did some historical reading. The degree of denial is astonishing, like the Armenian genocide as well.


P O'Neill,

I assume you are referring to the fate of "Mrs. Grynberg" in Bolechow. The NYT review introduces a reference to the incident by saying "And if one thinks one has lost one’s capacity for horror at the depths of human nature, consider this." I could not stop myself from crying when I read it and the image will likely haunt me forever.

P O'Neill

Christina, I didn't excerpt the incident in the post precisely because it is so distressing -- it's 5 days after I first read it and I am still disturbed by it. I don't know how Mendelsohn managed to keep an even keel while writing the book.

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