Traditional Russian anti-Semitism is making new advances here at the same time that Soviet Jews, in record numbers are being allowed to emigrate to Israel and the United States.
A spate of official "anti-Zionist" books and unofficial Russophile denunciations that allege harmful Jewish influences within the Politburo itself are now circulating in Moscow and other cities of European Russia. These tracts have aroused new apprehensions within the Jewish community and apparently are spurring many to endure the hazards of seeking to leave permanently rather than face an uncertain future here.
It is impossible to point to any single reason for the rising anti-Semitism. But interviews in recent weeks with non-jewish and Jewish Soviet citizens and Western sources suggest that a variety of complex internal and external factors are converging to create the tide of abuse and heightened antagonism against Jews.
A principal ingredient appears to be the careful balancing act regarding Jewish emigration forced on the Kremlin. While seeking to placate the United States to gain better trade terms by raising Jewish emigration, the Soviets also must please their Arab allies who staunchly oppose the strengthening of Israel, which emigration can mean for the Jewish state.
Another factor, suggested by official Soviet sources, is that Russophiles within the Communist Party bureaucracy and intelligentsia perceive that the era of Soviet leader Leonid Brezhnev is coming to a close. They are portrayed as maneuvering, with covert official sanction, within secret "higher circles" of the party - ironically once a stronghold for Jews seeking refuge from czarist repression - to heighten traditional Russian anti-Semitic antagonisms and force Jews from such positions of power and influence as they now hold.
These people are said to be seeking to capture and sharpen persistent xenophobic Russian anxieties that "foreigners" and foreign influences will irreparably dilute the unique spiritual values of "Mother Russia." Jews, especially in the cities, have long been regarded here as representatives and sometimes even clandestine agents of such contaminating "cosmopolitan" influences.
Fueling the anti-Semitic efforts are readily perceivable resentments among some younger, Western-oriented Soviets who envy the Jews' right to emigrate through the Soviet Union's closed borders to partake of what is widely accepted as far greater material advantages offered by the West.
Jewish emigration from the Soviet Union this year passed the 25,000 mark in late June and if the visa department of the Soviet Interior Ministry continues its present policies, more than 50,000 will have left by the end of the year, a record.
Authoritative sources here say the number of highly trained Jews obtaining visas is "astonishing." More than 200,000 of the Soviet Union's estimater 2 1/2 million to 3 million Jews have left in the past decade and an estimated minimum of 100,000 visa applications are pending. This migration, which includes some of the Soviet Union's most talented artists, musicians, writers and scientists, is one of the largest peacetime exoduses in modern history.
At least half go to Israel, a source of certain discomfort to the Kremlin as it seeks to wield influence among anti-Israeli Arab states. One knowledgeable source asserts that Soviet visa officials have been carefully culling Jewish applications so that a large number are sure to go to the United States. This eases trouble with the Kremlin's Arab clients and bolsters propaganda that emigrating Soviet Jews are turning their backs on the motherland only to seek life in the corrupt West instead of family reunification.
Although the number of anti-Semitic books and denunciations has grown continuously here since the Six-Day War in 1967, recent months have brought remarkeable new additions to this genre. Officially, they are labeled "anti-Zionist." Soviet bureaucrats vehemently reject suggestions that "anti-Zionism" means "anti-Semitism." But to many Soviet Jews, it is a distinction without a difference.
Early this year, the prestigious Academy of Sciences published 45,000 copies of a book entitled "The Ideology and Practice of International Zionism," which assails Judaism as a religion and alleges that "Zionist centers" control Western media and aim to subvert the Soviet state., This book alleges that Zionist supporters work for the influential magazine "Novy Mir," as well as in the Ukraine.
"Zionism in the Chain of Imperialism" by Yevgeny S. Yevseyev, published late last year in just 500 copies and now circulating here, calls Zionism "the worst form of fascisim, the most dangerous of all fascist forms," according to those who have seen it. It implies that Lenin, revered as the founder of the Soviet state, erred in opposing anti-Semitism, and criticizes Soviet television for using "heroes who look like Jews" in some programs.
In recent weeks, members of the Moscow intelligentsia have received copies of a letter from "Segrei Ryazanov" - a pseudonym thought to represent a Russophile group - that declares in part that "both in the U.S. Senate and the Central Committee of the Communist Party there is a powerful Zionist lobby that protects shameful activity of the Zionist agents in the U.S.S.R."
The letter was printed on a duplicating machine, and such machines are licensed and presumably controlled by the state, leading recipients to believe it is part of a deliberate, officially inspired campaign of heightened anti-Semitic harassment.
Other duplicated letters point out that Brezhnev's wife Victoria is a Jew and that the only "real Russians" in the 13-member ruling Politburo are Prime Minister Alexei Kosygin, Leningrad party chief Grigori Romanov and longtime party ideologist Mikhail Suslov.
A virulent example of the new wave is a Minsk painting, "Summer Theater," by official Soviet artist Mikhail Savitsky. It depicts a German soldier and a Jewish camp trustee with a Star of David on his uniform grinning over a pile of naked Russian dead in a concentration camp.
For many Soviet Jews the current anti-Semitic campaign was signalled early this year with publication by the official "Jurists Publishers" of 150,000 copies of "The White Book" of "evidence, facts and documents" purportedly tying "Zionists'here to U.S. inteligence agents trying to undermine Soviet power. The book alleges C.I.A. ies to "potential emigrants" from the Soviet Union. The government newspaper Izvestia two months ago called the book "a humane publication, a contribution to the inmplementation of the Helsinki Accords."
Jewish parents say this overt anti-Semitism is bolstered by hidden, but ever-rising barriers against their children at universities, where admittance virtually guarantees better-paying jobs later. They say only a handful of young Jews are now admitted to science and mathematics faculties at prestigious Moscow State University and their institutes of higher learning where Jews traditionally have excelled. The parents say such impediments are more severe now than at any time since the early 1950s.
In part because of the virulent anti-Israeli, "anti-Zionist" campaign, many Soviet Jews are fearful that the Kremlin may unexpectedly curtail its eased emigration policy, introduced this year in a move to get trade concessions from the U.S. Congress, which has tied emigration to improved credit.
Jewish fears on this point are so high that longtime activists uncharacteristically shunned a vigil conducted by Anatoly Scharansky's mother today at the "Proletarian Regional People's Court" in downtown Moscow marking the first anniversary of his 1978 treason conviction in a political trial that sought to link his Jewish activism and dissent with anti-Soviet activity.
They were worried about the visas," one Jew said later, "and decided it was better not to attract attention."