How the world reacted to pogroms in Russia’s Dagestan

A crowd
A crowd "looking for Jews" at the Makhachkala airport on October 29, 2023

The storming of the airport in Makhachkala, Dagestan, "in search of Jews," together with several other anti-Jewish incidents in the North Caucasus, once again revealed to the world the true nature of the Russian regime: from its deep-seated anti-Semitism to its inability to quickly respond to any uncontrolled outbreaks of disobedience outside Moscow.

In response to the stunning surge of anti-Semitism in the Russian Federation, the Israeli government has already stated that it is closely monitoring the events and expects that Russian authorities will "protect all Israeli citizens and Jews" and act decisively against "wild incitement" to anti-Semitic actions.

NV has assembled reactions from world media, Western politicians, and Ukrainian opinion leaders to the events in Dagestan.

A new headache for Vladimir Putin: assessments from global media

The Financial Times, describing the violent scenes in Makhachkala, wrote that an angry crowd at the Dagestan airport "hunted down passengers on a flight from Tel Aviv," and that the violence was fueled by rumors that Israelis were being resettled in Muslim-majority Russian regions. The publication also notes that before this, a wave of protests in support of Palestine took place in cities across the Caucasus, despite the "strict rules prohibiting public demonstrations in Russia."

"Putin has demonstrated his pro-Palestinian stance, and the Kremlin last week welcomed [the arrival of] members of the Hamas leadership in Russia for talks," the FT adds.

The Guardian recalled what preceded the anti-Semitic pogroms in the North Caucasus and fueled similar sentiments in Russia. Even earlier, numerous well-known figures from Dagestan spoke in support of Palestine and against the Israeli state after the Oct. 7 Hamas attack. In particular, Khabib Nurmagomedov, a Dagestan mixed martial arts fighter and former champion ("perhaps the most famous figure in Dagestan," according to the publication), earlier this month accused Israel of "genocide" in Gaza in a post on his Instagram page, where he has 35 million followers.

The UK publication also emphasized that these anti-Jewish remarks were not isolated. In the city of Nalchik in the neighboring Republic of Kabardino-Balkaria, a Jewish center that was under construction was set on fire. In another incident, a hotel was besieged in the Dagestani city of Khasavyurt as a mob hunted for Jews there.

"We have received reports from four different cities of Dagestan […] about crowds demanding to kill Jews. This is a direct result of the Russian government siding with Hamas in this conflict and a lack of condemnation of the October 7 massacre,” tweeted Rabbi Pinchas Goldschmidt, the former chief rabbi of Moscow, who left Russia in 2022 after Russia began its full-scale invasion of Ukraine.

The Guardian also emphasizes that after the brutal attack on Israel on Oct. 7, Moscow was the first place where a high-level Hamas delegation arrived (at the beginning of last week, representatives of the terrorist movement were received at the Foreign Ministry).

The New York Times stated that the episode at the Makhachkala airport "may be a signal of a new ‘point of friction” for the Kremlin and came after several anti-Israel protests in the region.

"President Vladimir V. Putin has listed interethnic and interreligious accord in Russia as a main policy priority. Anti-Israel and antisemitic protests in the North Caucasus, a region where Mr. Putin fought his first war as Russian leader, could jeopardize that at a time when the Kremlin is also waging a long and bloody war in Ukraine." the paper writes.

The NYT reminded readers that Russia has previously "made extraordinary efforts to suppress protests over its unprovoked invasion of Ukraine," launched under the false pretext of fighting to supposedly ‘rid the country of 'Nazis.” Instead, the publication notes that Ukrainian officials, including President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, have used the events in Russia as a reason to point to a "deeper culture of hatred that the Kremlin has been fomenting for years."

Reuters noted that "unrest in the region, where Russian security forces once battled an Islamist insurgency, is a headache for Vladimir Putin, who is waging war in Ukraine and seeking to maintain stability at home on the eve of an expected presidential election next year." Now the authorities of Dagestan have had to strengthen security measures throughout the republic, where about 3 million people live.

The Telegraph notes that crowds at anti-Israel protests in Dagestan have grown throughout the week, and thousands of people joined "angry demonstrations" against Israel's strikes on Gaza. The publication notes that Dagestan, which borders Chechnya, is one of the poorest regions of Russia and became one of the main sources of manpower for Russian recruiters and mobilization campaigns during the war against Ukraine.

Reactions from around the world

U.S. National Security Council spokeswoman Adrienne Watson wrote that the United States "strongly condemns the anti-Semitic protests in Dagestan" and "unequivocally supports the entire Jewish community at a time when we are witnessing a worldwide surge in anti-Semitism." "There is never any excuse or justification for anti-Semitism," she stressed.

Canadian PM Justin Trudeau stated that "The scenes emerging from Makhachkala’s airport in Russia are deeply disturbing. Antisemitism is never acceptable. Hatred – in all its forms – is unacceptable. Period. We must stand together against it – wherever and whenever it occurs," he declared.

Linas Linkevičius, former Lithuanian Foreign Affairs and Defense Minister, noted that the last large-scale Jewish pogroms took place in Russia more than 100 years ago. "Today they are being revived, like other neo-Nazi ‘traditions.’ This is the result of successive brainwashing by the authorities. Hundreds of people stormed the airport in Russian Dagestan, hunting Jews," he wrote.

Bellingcat investigator Christo Grozev recalled that "the Kremlin's reaction to the escalation in the Middle East was shamelessly complacent — they said the new front would turn the world away from Ukraine…It seems that this 'new front' has come too close [to Russia itself], and the FSB and Rosgvardia [Russia’s National Guard] have turned out to be completely unprepared for what is happening in Dagestan," Grozev noted.

Former German EMP Rebecca Harms posted footage of the savage attack on the Makhachkala airport, during which anti-Semitic chants were heard, with the sarcastic comment: "This is for those who thought that the pogrom in which Hamas killed more than 1,400 Jews, as well as terror and atrocities, should be seen ‘in context.”

Outlines of a fascist state

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy emphasized that the situation in Dagestan demonstrated the depth of Russian anti-Semitism and hatred of other peoples, which are "systematic and deeply rooted." According to him, the events in Makhachkala are not an isolated incident, but a part of the "culture of hatred towards other peoples" that is spread in Russia by the authorities and mass media. Zelenskyy noted that Russian dictator Vladimir Putin habitually uses anti-Semitic insults. Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov has also made several anti-Semitic statements over the past year, even after the attack by Hamas militants and the start of the war in Israel. And for Russian propagandists, "rhetoric of hatred is routine…Hatred is what drives aggression and terror. We must all work together to resist hatred," added Zelenskyy.

Valery Pekar, a public figure and instructor at the Kyiv-Mohyla business school, noted that "the [Russian] empire always resorts to Jewish pogroms. This is its tradition…Here, domestic anti-Semitism intersects with state anti-Semitism, and the events in Israel were the trigger," Pekar argued.

However, he draws particular attention to another aspect — the lack of reaction of the authorities. "The power capacity of the Putin regime outside the key largest cities is very small, as the Prigozhin mutiny has already shown. Here is another confirmation. I’m certain that it is well seen by those who want to see it, and we need those of our allies in America and Europe to see it, who believe in the power and inviolability of Putin's regime," said Pekar.

Political scientist Petro Oleschuk expressed a similar opinion. "Well, the Russians told us that ‘everyone there is terribly afraid of protests’ and even for a ‘small picket’ everyone is imprisoned for a million years, and therefore they simply ‘cannot protest’ against the war. They cannot protest the war, but they can organize pogroms. That's the regime they have over there," Oleschuk noted with amusement.

Valery Chaly, head of the Ukrainian Crisis Media Center and Ambassador to the United States in 2015−2019, argued: "History repeats itself. Fascism turns to racism. They are destroying Ukrainians, destroying Jews, they want to create disorder and chaos. This artificial formation between Ukraine and China will fall apart sooner or later. And yes, we need to push them so that they don't drag even more countries into the abyss. Better this sort of end than endless racist horrors."

Former PM Arseniy Yatsenyuk viewed the events in Makhachkala as "another generation of racism — the ideology of hatred, lawlessness, contempt for human life," now in the form of "paleo anti-Semitism".

"Furious mobs are looking for Jews to massacre. These are the events we remember from the history of Hitler's Nazism. And then there were Auschwitz, the crematoria, Babyn Yar in Kyiv, and millions of victims of various peoples and nationalities. Putin's regime is a monster that feeds on hatred and produces it. Today he craves the blood of Ukrainians, officially accepts Hamas in the Kremlin, and provokes hatred of Jews — tomorrow it could be anyone whom his claws reach. This is why Putin and Russia's sick society must be stopped now, while the concentration camps and crematoria have not happened yet," Yatsenyuk argued.

Blogger Karl Volokh shared several observations regarding the event in Dagestan. Firstly, "if you spend decades building a fascist state, you will definitely have one built. Even in forms that I did not expect."

Secondly, Volokh emphasizes the ironic paradox of how "the leadership of the Moscow region can with all honor accept the leadership of an organization that cuts off the heads of Jewish children in their beds, but ordinary Russian citizens cannot continue the holy cause of Hamas."

Finally, he is convinced that "in Moscow, despite all the authoritarianism, the signs of a full-fledged state are gradually disappearing."

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Read the original article on The New Voice of Ukraine