Joseph Stalin or Iosif Vissarionovich Stalin
18 December 1878 – 5 March 1953) was the de facto leader of the Soviet Union from the mid-1920s until his death in 1953. Among the Bolshevik revolutionaries who took part in the Russian Revolution of 1917, Stalin was appointed General Secretary of the party's Central Committee in 1922. He subsequently managed to consolidate power following the 1924 death of Vladimir Lenin through expanding the functions of his role, all the while eliminating any opposition. He held this nominal post until abolishing it in 1952, concurrently serving as the Premier of the Soviet Union after establishing the position in 1941.
Under Joseph Stalin's rule, the concept of "socialism in one country" became a central tenet of Soviet society. He replaced the New Economic Policy introduced by Lenin in the early 1920s with a highly centralised command economy, launching a period of industrialization and collectivization that resulted in the rapid transformation of the USSR from an agrarian society into an industrial power. However, the economic changes coincided with the imprisonment of millions of people in Soviet correctional labour camps and the deportation of many others to remote areas. The initial upheaval in agriculture disrupted food production and contributed to the catastrophic Soviet famine of 1932–1933, known as the Holodomor in Ukraine. Later, in a period that lasted from 1936–39, Stalin instituted a campaign against alleged enemies of his regime called the Great Purge, in which hundreds of thousands were executed. Major figures in the Communist Party, such as the old Bolsheviks, Leon Trotsky, and several Red Army leaders were killed after being convicted of plotting to overthrow the government and Stalin.
In August 1939, Stalin entered into a non-aggression pact with Nazi Germany that divided their influence within Eastern Europe, but Germany later violated the agreement and launched a massive invasion of the Soviet Union in June 1941. Despite heavy human and territorial losses, Soviet forces managed to halt the Nazi incursion after the decisive battles of Moscow and Stalingrad. After defeating the Axis powers on the Eastern Front, the Red Army captured Berlin in May 1945, effectively ending the war in Europe for the Allies. The Soviet Union subsequently emerged as one of two recognized world superpowers, the other being the United States.The Yalta and Potsdam conferences established communist governments loyal to the Soviet Union in the Eastern Bloc countries as buffer states, which Stalin deemed necessary in case of another invasion. He also fostered close relations with Mao Zedong in China and Kim Il-sung in North Korea.
Stalin led the Soviet Union through its post-war reconstruction phase, which saw a significant rise in tension with the Western world that would later be known as the Cold War. During this period, the USSR became the second country in the world to successfully develop a nuclear weapon, as well as launching the Great Plan for the Transformation of Nature in response to another widespread famine and the Great Construction Projects of Communism. In the years following his death, Stalin and his regime have been condemned on numerous occasions, most notably in 1956 when his successor Nikita Khrushchev denounced his legacy and initiated a process of de-Stalinization. He remains a controversial figure today, with many regarding him as a tyrant; however, popular opinion within the Russian Federation is mixed.
Stalin and antisemitism
Background and early yearsThough communist leaders including Joseph Stalin publicly denounced antisemitism, instances of antisemitism on Stalin's part have been witnessed by contemporaries and documented by historical sources
Jewish children massacred during a pogrom in Yekaterinoslav, 1905.
Imperial Russia was a multiethnic state dominated by the Romanov dynasty. Its expansion over the centuries absorbed various ethnic groups. As elsewhere in Europe, antisemitic policies were adopted by the monarchy. In 1791, under Catherine the Great, Jews were largely restricted to the Pale of Settlement. The May Laws, enacted in 1882 under Alexander III, promoted further discrimination. Russia's anti-Semitic pogroms, sporadic during the 1800s, were particularly bloody under Nicholas II in 1903-1906, and were apparently directed against the Jews by the imperial authorities.
Born in Gori, Georgia (then in the Russian Empire) and educated at an Orthodox seminary in Tiflis (Tbilisi) before becoming a professional revolutionary and a Marxist around the start of the 20th century, Stalin appears unlikely to have been stirred by antisemitism in his early years and met only a limited number of revolutionaries of Jewish origin during his first years of political activity. Although active in the Bolshevik faction of the Russian Social Democratic Party, he did not attend a party congress until 1905.
Although Jews were active among both the Social Democratic Bolshevik and the Menshevik factions, Jews were more prominent among the Mensheviks. Stalin took note of the ethnic proportions represented on each side, and, in a 1907 report on the Congress published in the Bakinsky rabochy (Baku Workman), included a coarse joke, purportedly made by then-Bolshevik Grigory Aleksinsky:
1917 to 1930” Not less interesting is the composition of the congress from the standpoint of nationalities. Statistics showed that the majority of the Menshevik faction consists of Jews—and this of course without counting the Bundists—after which came Georgians and then Russians. On the other hand, the overwhelming majority of the Bolshevik faction consists of Russians, after which come Jews—not counting of course the Poles and Letts—and then Georgians, etc. For this reason one of the Bolsheviks observed in jest (it seems Comrade Aleksinsky) that the Mensheviks are a Jewish faction and the Bolsheviks a genuine Russian faction, so it would not be a bad idea for us Bolsheviks to arrange a pogrom in the party. “
Although the Bolsheviks regarded all religious activity as counter-scientific superstition and a remnant of the old pre-communist order, the new political order established by Lenin's Soviet after the Russian Revolution ran counter to the centuries of antisemitism under the Romanovs.
The Council of People's Commissars adopted a 1918 decree condemning all antisemitism and calling on the workers and peasants to combat it. Lenin continued to speak out against antisemitism. Information campaigns against antisemitism were conducted in the Red Army and in the workplaces, and a provision forbidding the incitement of propaganda against any ethnicity became part of Soviet law. State-sponsored institutions of secular Yiddish culture, such as the Moscow State Jewish Theater, were established in Soviet Russia and the Soviet Union during this time, as were institutions for other minorities.
As People's Commissar for Nationalities, Stalin was the cabinet member responsible for minority affairs. In 1922, Stalin was elected the first-ever General Secretary of the party—a post not yet regarded as the highest in the Soviet government. Lenin began to criticize Stalin shortly thereafter.
In his December 1922 letters, the ailing Lenin (whose health left him incapacitated in 1923-1924) criticized the Georgian Stalin and the Polish Dzerzhinsky for their chauvinistic attitude toward the Georgian nation during the Georgian Affair. Eventually made public as part of Lenin's Testament—which recommended that the party remove Stalin from his post as General Secretary)—the 1922 letters and the recommendation were both withheld from public circulation by Stalin and his supporters in the party: these materials were not published in the Soviet Union until de-Stalinization in 1956.
After the incapacitated Lenin's death on 21 January 1924, the party officially maintained the principle of collective leadership, but Stalin soon outmaneuvered his rivals in the Central Committee's Politburo. At first collaborating with Jewish and half Jewish Politburo members Grigory Zinoviev and Lev Kamenev against Jewish arch-rival Leon Trotsky, Stalin succeeded in marginalizing Trotsky. By 1929, Stalin had also effectively marginalized Zinoviev and Kamenev as well, compelling both to submit to his authority. The intransigent Trotsky was forced into exile.
When Boris Bazhanov, Stalin's personal secretary who had defected to France in 1928, produced a memoir critical of Stalin in 1930, he alleged that Stalin made crude antisemitic outbursts even before Lenin's death.
1930sNevertheless, following Lenin's death in early 1924, another large scale campaign against antisemitism was again conducted in 1927-1930, under Stalin's leadership.
Stalin's 1931 condemnation of antisemitismOn January 12, 1931, Stalin gave the following answer to an inquiry on the subject of the Soviet attitude toward antisemitism from theJewish News Agency in the United States:
Establishment of Jewish Autonomous OblastIn answer to your inquiry:
- National and racial chauvinism is a vestige of the misanthropic customs characteristic of the period of cannibalism. Anti-semitism, as an extreme form of racial chauvinism, is the most dangerous vestige of cannibalism.
- Anti-semitism is of advantage to the exploiters as a lightning conductor that deflects the blows aimed by the working people at capitalism. Anti-semitism is dangerous for the working people as being a false path that leads them off the right road and lands them in the jungle. Hence Communists, as consistent internationalists, cannot but be irreconcilable, sworn enemies of anti-semitism.
- In the U.S.S.R. anti-semitism is punishable with the utmost severity of the law as a phenomenon deeply hostile to the Soviet system. Under U.S.S.R. law active anti-semites are liable to the death penalty.
- This answer was subsequently published as an item in the Soviet newspaper Pravda on November 30, 1936, and was again republished as part of a posthumous 1954 volume of Stalin's collected Works.
Great PurgeTo offset the growing Jewish national and religious aspirations of Zionism and to successfully categorize Soviet Jews under Stalin's nationality policy an alternative to the Land of Israel was established with the help of Komzet and OZET in 1928. The Jewish Autonomous Oblast with the center in Birobidzhan in the Russian Far East was to become a "Soviet Zion". Yiddish, rather than "reactionary" Hebrew, would be the national language, and proletarian socialist literature and arts would replace Judaism as the quintessence of culture. Despite a massive domestic and international state propaganda campaign, the Jewish population there never reached 30% (as of 2003 it was only about 1.2%). The experiment ground to a halt in the mid-1930s, during Stalin's first campaign of purges, as local leaders were not spared during the purges.
Stalin's harshest period of mass repression, the so-called Great Purge (or Great Terror), was launched in 1936-1937 and involved the execution of over a half-million Soviet citizens accused of treason, terrorism, and other anti-Soviet crimes. The campaign of purges prominently targeted Stalin's former opponents and other Old Bolsheviks, and included a large-scale purge of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union, repression of the kulak peasants, Red Army leaders, and ordinary citizens accused of conspiring against the Stalinist government.According to Mikhail BaitalskyThe repression of the thirties hit the Soviet intelligentsia and members of the government and party apparatus much harder than it hit ordinary workers. Within the intelligentsia and the official staffs, in turn, the Communists were hit much harder than non-Communists. Finally, among the Communists themselves repression struck at old members with much greater force than at those who had recently joined. But it was precisely among the Jews that there were more white-collar workers and intellectuals than industrial workers; the percentage of Jewish Communists was two, three, sometimes four times greater than among other nationalities; and if we look at national composition within the party, there was a disproportionately large number of Jews among older party members. The result of this combination of factors was that, although the repression was not specifically aimed at the Jews, it struck them harder, in a kind of ricochet effect, than it did other nationalities, sweeping away in the process the most progressive section of the Jewish nation, those most devoted to the revolution.
The Indiana University historian Jeffrey Veidlinger has written thatHowever, the Russian historian Gennady Kostyrchenko writes that some 29 thousand Jews, or 1% of the total ethnic Jewish Soviet population, were arrested in 1937-1938, and that this proportion of arrested Jews was comparable to the proportion of arrested ethnic Russians and ethnic Ukrainians.The Oxford University historian David Priestland writes that "Jews, as an ethnic group, [were not] victimized by the Soviet regime before World War II, and were not specifically targeted by the 1936-38 Great Terror."
The notion that Stalin and his agents deliberately provoked anti-Semitic discrimination as part of the Terror is not shared by most specialists on the purges. . . . If Jews suffered disproportionately during the purges of the 1930s, it can be attributed largely to their heavy representation among the groups that were hardest hit—intellectuals and Party members. This is not to say that anti-Semitism was absent during this period.
In fact, as Robert C. Tucker notes, hostility toward Jews became increasingly noticeable during the Great Terror. Social hostility, however, should not be equated with the type of genocide imagined by [some writers]. Students of the Soviet Union's other national minorities have held that ethnic persecution was a pervasive aspect of Soviet policies toward non-Russians in general.
Only recently have specialists on the Jewish minority, such as Igor Krupnik, come to realize that 'Jewish policy was a fairly integrated component of Soviet nationalities policy. Several other peoples were purged and promoted in roughly the same way, while a few had a far more tragic record of persecution by the communist stateHistorian Roy Medvedev observes that Stalin's 1930s purges
"noticeably reduced the number of Latvians, Estonians, Finns, Poles and Hungarians within the Soviet elite, but this can be explained by the fact that Latvia, Estonia, Finland, [and] Hungary. . . were not part of the Soviet Union and could not serve as a source of new cadres. The number of Germans and Jews in the elite was also reduced, although many Jews continued to hold leadership posts in the party and government."
After World War IIАccording to the Trotskyite historian Vadim Rogovin there was a strong antisemitic subtext to the stalinist purges of 1930's.German-Soviet rapprochment and the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact
- After dismissing Maxim Litvinov as Foreign Minister in 1939, Stalin immediately directed incoming Foreign Minister Vyacheslav Molotov to "purge the ministry of Jews", to appease Hitler and to signal Nazi Germany that the USSR was ready for non-aggression talks.
- According to some critics, antisemitic trends in the Kremlin's policies were fueled by the exile of Leon Trotsky.
- In the late 1930s, 1940s, and 1950s far fewer Jews were appointed to positions of power in the state apparatus than previously, with a sharp drop in Jewish representation in senior positions evident from around the time of the beginning of the late 1930s rapproachment with Nazi Germany. The percentage of Jews in positions of power dropped to 6% in 1938, and to 5% in 1940.
Historians Albert S. Lindemann and Richard S. Levy observe that
- The experience of the Holocaust, which wiped out some six million Jews in Europe under Nazi occupation, and left millions morehomeless and displaced, contributed to growing concern about the situation of the Jewish people worldwide. However, the trauma breathed new life into the traditional idea of a common Jewish peoplehood and became a catalyst for the revival of the Zionist idea of creating a Jewish state in the Middle East.
- The Jewish Autonomous Oblast experienced a revival as the Soviet government sponsored the migration of as many as ten thousand Eastern European Jews to Birobidzhan in 1946-1948. In early 1946, the Council of Ministers of the USSR announced a plan to build new infrastructure, and Mikhail Kalinin, a champion of the Birobidzhan project since the late 1920s, stated that he still considered the region as a "Jewish national state" that could be revived through "creative toil."
- In the meantime, Stalin also warmed to the idea of Israel as a Jewish state. In 1947, the Soviet Union joined the United States in supporting the partition of British Palestine into Jewish and Arab states, and supported Israel in the 1948 Arab–Israeli War with weaponry supplied via Czechoslovakia.
- Nonetheless, Stalin began a new purge with repressing his wartime allies, the Jewish Anti-Fascist Committee. In January 1948, Solomon Mikhoels was murdered in a purported car accident in Minsk. According to documents unearthed by historian Gennady Kostyrchenko, the organizers of the assassination were L.M. Tsanava and S. Ogoltsov, and the "direct" murderers were Lebedev, Kruglov and Shubnikov.
- Despite Stalin's willingness to support Israel early on, various historians suppose that antisemitism in the late 1940s and early 1950s was motivated by Stalin's possible perception of Jews as a potential "fifth column" in light of a pro-Western Israel in the Middle East.Orlando Figes suggests that After the foundation of Israel in May 1948, and its alignment with the USA in the Cold War, the 2 million Soviet Jews, who had always remained loyal to the Soviet system, were portrayed by the Stalinist regime as a potential fifth column. Despite his personal dislike of Jews, Stalin had been an early supporter of a Jewish state in Palestine, which he had hoped to turn into a Soviet satellite in the Middle East. But as the leadership of the emerging state proved hostile to approaches from the Soviet Union, Stalin became increasingly afraid of pro-Israeli feeling among Soviet Jews. His fears intensified as a result of Golda Meir's arrival in Moscow in the autumn of 1948 as the first Israeli ambassador to the USSR. On her visit to a Moscow synagogue on Yom Kippur (13 October), thousands of people lined the streets, many of them shouting ‘Am Yisroel chai’ ('The people of Israel live!')—a traditional affirmation of national renewal to Jews throughout the world but to Stalin a dangerous sign of 'bourgeois Jewish nationalism' that subverted the authority of the Soviet state
- When, in October 1948, during the high holy days, thousands of Jews rallied around Moscow's central synagogue to honor Golda Meir, the first Israeli ambassador, the authorities became especially alarmed at the signs of Jewish disaffectionJeffrey Veidlinger writes that
- By October 1948, it was obvious that Mikhoels was by no means the sole advocate of Zionism among Soviet Jews. The revival of Jewish cultural expression during the war had fostered a general sense of boldness among the Jewish masses. Many Jews remained oblivious to the growing Zhdanovshchina and the threat to Soviet Jews that the brewing campaign against 'rootless cosmopolitans' signaled. Indeed, official attitudes toward Jewish culture were ambivalent during this period. On the surface, Jewish culture seemed to be supported by the state: public efforts had been made to sustain the Yiddish theater after Mikhoels's death, Eynikayt was still publishing on schedule, and, most important, the Soviet Union recognized the establishment of a Jewish state in Palestine. To most Moscow Jews, the state of Soviet Jewry had never been better
- In November 1948, Soviet authorities launched a campaign to liquidate what was left of Jewish culture. The leading members of theJewish Anti-Fascist Committee were arrested. They were charged with treason, bourgeois nationalism and planning to set up a Jewish republic in Crimea to serve American interests. The Museum of Environmental Knowledge of the Jewish Autonomous Oblast (established in November 1944) and The Jewish Museum in Vilnius (established at the end of the war) were closed down in 1948. The Historical-Ethnographic Museum of Georgian Jewry, established in 1933, was shut down at the end of 1951.
- In Birobidzhan, the various Jewish cultural institutions that had been established under Stalin's earlier policy of support for "proletarian Jewish culture" in the 1930s were closed down between late 1948 and early 1949. These included the Kaganovich Yiddish Theater, the Yiddish publishing house, the Yiddish newspaper Birobidzhan, the library of Yiddish and Hebrew books, and the local Jewish schools. The same happened to Yiddish theaters all over the Soviet Union, beginning with the Odessa Yiddish Theater and including the Moscow State Jewish Theater.
- In early February 1949, the Stalin Prize-winning microbiologist Nikolay Gamaleya, a pioneer of bacteriology and member of the Academy of Sciences, wrote a personal letter to Stalin, protesting the growing antisemitism:
- Judging by absolutely indisputable and obvious indications, the reappearance of antisemitism is not coming from below, not from the masses. . . but is directed from above, by someone's invisible hand. Antisemitism is coming from some high-placed persons who have taken up posts in the leading party organs.
- The ninety-year-old scientist wrote Stalin a second letter in mid-February, again mentioning the growing antisemitism. In March, Gamaleya died, still having received no answer.
- During the night of August 12–13, 1952, remembered as the "Night of the Murdered Poets" (Ночь казнённых поэтов), thirteen of the most prominent Yiddish writers of the Soviet Union were executed on the orders of Stalin. Among the victims were Peretz Markish,David Bergelson and Itzik Fefer.
In a December 1, 1952 Politburo session, Stalin announced:
"Every Jewish nationalist is the agent of the American intelligence service. Jewish nationalists think that their nation was saved by the USA. . . They think they are indebted to the Americans. Among doctors, there are many Jewish nationalists."A notable campaign to quietly remove Jews from positions of authority within the state security services was carried out in 1952-1953. The Russian historians Zhores and Roy Medvedev write that
According to [MVD] General Sudoplatov, there was a large turnover of cadres in the MVD and MGB in December - January 1952-53. The two Ministers, Kruglov (MVD) and Ignatiev (MGB) had become members of the Central Committee, and their deputies Serov and Maslennikov (MVD) and Goglidze and Ryasnoi (MGB) were made candidate members. Simultaneously all Jews were removed from the leadership of the security services, even those in very senior positions. In February the anti-Jewish expulsions were extended to regional branches of the MGB. A secret directive was distributed to all regional directorates of the MGB on 22 February, ordering that all Jewish employees of the MGB be dismissed immediately, regardless of rank, age or service record. .The outside world was not ignorant of these developments, and even the leading members of the Communist Party USA complained about the situation. In the memoir Being Red, the American writer and prominent Communist Howard Fast recalls a meeting with Soviet writer and World Peace Congress delegate Alexander Fadeyev during this time:
The Doctors' Plot
I was [in a Parisian restaurant] alone with Fadeev and the translator. I was not nervous but was certainly unsure of myself and somewhat tentative. I began by saying that I had been instructed to bring formal charges against the Central Committee of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union. That was a mouthful, and I had to pinch myself figuratively to believe that I said what I had said.
It was translated, and then Fadeev thought about it for a while and then nodded and told me to go ahead.
'Do you want to take notes?' I asked him.
'Do you have notes?' he wanted to know.
'Under these circumstances, no, of course.'
'Then I don't need notes. Do any of the French comrades know what this is about?'
'No. It's absolutely secret. I was instructed that it must be absolutely secret.'
'Very well. Go ahead.' He was neither friendly nor unfriendly. He was absolutely calm and passive.
I plunged right in. 'Our National Committee charges the leadership of the Soviet Union with antisemitism, the violation of a basic socialist ethic and a grave threat to the world Communist movement.'
I had worked that one out for myself, and when I finished, I reserved the right to be nervous and a little scared. It was my own decision to put a little elegance into the charge, to give it at least a minimum of literary flavor, and while I had heard about the respect one Communist Party has for another, I was not very certain that it worked in practice. Fedeev, I had been told, was a member of the Supreme Soviet of the Soviet Union.
He worked on what I had said, his eyes half closed, humming softly to himself, a nervous habit, I felt; and then he said, simply: 'There is no anti-Semitism in the Soviet Union.'
'No more than that?'
The translator put the question to him.
'There is no anti-Semitism in the Soviet Union.'
As I look back, I am amazed by my anger and irritation. Before I left, I had been well briefed in New York on the evidence our party had. There was evidence that at least eight leading Jewish figures in the Red Army and in government had been arrested on what appeared to be trumped-up charges. Yiddish-language newspapers had been suppressed. Schools that taught Hebrew had been closed. . .
On January 13, 1953, the Soviet Union's TASS information agency announced the unmasking of a conspiracy of so-called "doctors-poisoners" who had covertly attempted to decapitate the Soviet leadership. The accused doctors were all senior physicians—most of them Jewish—who had allegedly confessed to planning and successfully carrying out heinous assassinations, including the covert murders of such high-profile Soviet citizens as writer Alexander Shcherbakov (died 1945) and politician Andrey Zhdanov (died 1948). The alleged conspirators were accused of acting on behalf of both the American and British intelligence services and an anti-Soviet international Jewish bourgeois-nationalist organization.
As Western press accused the Soviet Union of antisemitism, the Central Committee of Communist Party decided to organise a propagandistic trick, a collective letter by the Jewish public, condemning with fervour "the murderers in white overalls" and the agents of imperialism and Zionism, and to assure there was no antisemitism in the USSR. The letter was signed by well-known scientists and culture figures, who had been forced to do so by the NKVD.
However, the letter, initially planned to be published in February, 1953, remained unpublished. Instead of the letter, a vehement feuilleton "The Simple-minded and the Swindlers" was published in Pravda, featuring numerous characters with Jewish names, all of them swindlers, villains, saboteurs, whom the naïve Russian people trust, having lost vigilance. What followed was a new wave of antisemitic hysteria and rumors that all Jews would be sent to Siberia. Only Stalin's death the same year relieved the fear.
Similar purges against Jews were organised in Eastern Bloc countries (see Prague Trials).
Associates and familyThe reasons for the antisemitic campaign remain unclear; some attribute this to Stalin’s alleged paranoia, while Stalin’s biographer Edvard Radzinsky has claimed that Stalin was actually preparing for a new military conflict, and just repeated the 1937 purges to ensure an atmosphere of terror and absolute submissiveness. Radzinsky also viewed the persecution of Jews by Stalin as a means of provoking the US.
Nikita Khrushchev wrote in his memoirs that
A hostile attitude toward the Jewish nation was a major shortcoming of Stalin's. In his speeches and writings as a leader and theoretician there wasn't even a hint of this. God forbid that anyone assert that a statement by him smacked of antisemitism. Outwardly everything looked correct and proper. But in his inner circle, when he had occasion to speak about some Jewish person, he always used an emphatically distorted pronunciation. This was the way backward people lacking in political consciousness would express themselves in daily life—people with a contemptuous attitude toward Jews. They would deliberately mangle the Russian language, putting on a Jewish accent or imitating certain negative characteristics [attributed to Jews]. Stalin loved to do this, and it became one of his characteristic traits.
Joseph Stalin with Lazar Kaganovich.He further professed that Stalin frequently made antisemitic comments after World War II.
Analyzing various explanations for Stalin's perceived antisemitism in his book The Lesser Terror: Soviet State Security, 1939-1953, historian Michael Parrish posits thatSome of Stalin's associates were Jews or had Jewish spouses, including Lazar Kaganovich. Many of them were purged, including Nikolai Yezhov's wife and Polina Zhemchuzhina, who was Vyacheslav Molotov's wife, and also Bronislava Poskrebysheva. Historian Geoffrey Roberts points out that Stalin "continued to fête Jewish writers and artists even at the height of the anti-Zionist campaign of the early 1950s."
On the other hand, in Esau's Tears: Modern Anti-Semitism and the Rise of the Jews, historian Albert S. Lindemann observes thatIt has been suggested that Stalin, who remained first and foremost a Georgian throughout his life, somehow became a 'Great Russian' and decided that Jews would make a scapegoat for the ills of the Soviet Union. Others, such as the Polish writer Aleksander Wat (himself a victim), claim that Stalin was not an antisemite by nature, but the pro-Americanism of Soviet Jews forced him to follow a deliberate policy of antisemitism. Wat's views are, however, colored by the fact that Stalin, for obvious reasons, at first depended on Jewish Communists to help carry out his post-war policies in Poland. I believe a better explanation was Stalin's sense of envy (an occupational hazard for Marxists), which consumed him throughout his life. He also found in Jews a convenient target. By late 1930, Stalin, as [his daughter's] memoirs indicate, was suffering from a full-blown case of antisemitism.
Determining Stalin's real attitude to Jews is difficult. Not only did he repeatedly speak out against anti-Semitism but both his son and daughter married Jews, and several of his closest and most devoted lieutenants from the late 1920s through the 1930s were of Jewish origin, for example Lazar Moiseyevich Kaganovich, Maxim Litvinov, and the notorious head of the secret police, Genrikh Yagoda. There were not so many Jews allied with Stalin on the party's right as there were allied with Trotsky on the left, but the importance of men like Kaganovich, Litvinov, and Yagoda makes it hard to believe that Stalin harbored a categorical hatred of all Jews, as a race, in the way that Hitler did. Scholars as knowledgeable and diverse in their opinions as Isaac Deutscher and Robert Conquest have denied that anything as crude and dogmatic as Nazi-style anti-Semitism motivated Stalin. It may be enough simply to note that Stalin was a man of towering hatreds, corrosive suspicions, and impenetrable duplicity. He saw enemies everywhere, and it just so happened that many of his enemies—virtually all his enemies—were Jews, above all, the enemy, Trotsky.
Jews in the party were often verbally adroit, polylingual, and broadly educated—all qualities Stalin lacked. To observe, as his daughter Svetlana has, that 'Stalin did not like Jews,' does not tell us much, since he 'did not like' any group: His hatreds and suspicions knew no limits; even party members from his native Georgia were not exempt. Whether he hated Jews with a special intensity or quality is not clear.
When Stalin's young daughter Svetlana fell in love with prominent Soviet filmmaker Alexei Kapler, a Jewish man twenty-three years her elder, Stalin was strongly irritated by the relationship. According to Svetlana, "He (Stalin) was irritated more than anything else by the fact that Kapler was Jewish" and ordered the exile of Kapler to Vorkuta on the charge of being an "English spy." Stalin's daughter later fell in love with Grigori Morozov, another Jew, and married him. Stalin agreed to their marriage after much pleading on Svetlana's part, but refused to attend the wedding.
Stalin's son Yakov also married a Jewish woman, Yulia Meltzer, and though Stalin disapproved at first, he began to grow fond of her. Stalin's biographer Simon Sebag Montefiore writes that Lavrenty Beria's son noted that his father could list Stalin's affairs with Jewish women.