Saturday, April 08, 2006

Correction Corner #1: "Every Jew is a nationalist..."

In this irregular series of postings we will be correcting various historical inaccuracies that got into mainstream historical literature and are frequently thought to be factual - sort of urban legends of history. Of course, they will be somehow related to the general thrust of this blog, even if loosely. They may be minor, but they do nothing but muddy the waters, so they deserve their own "column" here.

The first correction concerns Stalin's famous quote:
Every Jew is a nationalist and potential agent of the American intelligence.
This is purported to have been said on December 1, 1952, and recorded in the diary of vice-chair of Sovmin, V.A. Malyshev.

Well, it turns out that this quote has been mangled. Here's the true text of the diary (with some context), as first published in Istochnik in 1997, and also by Gennadij Kostyrchenko in Gosudarstvennyj antisemitizm v SSSR. Ot nachala do kul'minatsii, 1938-1953 (Moscow, MFD, Materik, 2005, pp. 461, 462):
The more successes we have, the more the enemies will try to harm us. About this our people have forgotten under influence of big successes; placidity, heedlessness, conceit have appeared.
Every Jewish nationalist is the agent of American intelligence service. Jewish nationalists think that their nation was saved by the USA (there you can become rich, bourgeois, etc.). They think they're indebted to the Americans.
Among doctors there are many Jewish nationalists.
Note that in the correct version Stalin did not call all Jews nationalists and spies, even if he thought that they really were. He was quite "politically correct" to the end.

This is not to say that he wasn't an antisemite. In fact, the book edited by Kostyrchenko is a collection of documents mainly from Stalin's era, which show the rampant antisemitism under guise of "anti-cosmopolitanism" and "anti-Zionism". The documents describe complaints about disproportionate numbers of Jews in various state institutions (from orchestras to physics departments at universities), anti-Jewish purges which followed these complaints, documents conclusively proving that Stalin personally ordered the murder of Solomon Mikhoels (but no order on paper has been found, so I guess Holocaust deniers may accept the official Soviet version of death), JAC case, Doctors' plot, etc.

Given the wealth of other evidence, this mangled quote should not be used to prove Stalin's antisemitism.

Update: Brent and Naumov on p. 355 of Stalin's Last Crime (which, by the way, has been thrashed in Kostyrchenko's review in Lechaim) give the mangled version of the quote, and cite Istochink as their source. So, it seems, they are to blame for mistranslation.


  1. Sergey, may I assume Lechaim is a Russian-Jewish publication?


  2. Yes, it is.

    BTW, I assume that you may have based your statement about Stalin's plans for anti-Jewish action on this book.

    Kostyrchenko points out some examples of authors' shoddy logic,such as when they mention 4 camps in preparation in 1953 (they had nothing to do with Jews and, in fact, had the capacity only for 5337 people; besides, deported people in USSR were sent not to the camps, but to special settlements).


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