Artist Vadim Kruglikov has undertaken the formidable task of laughing antisemitism out of Russia. To that end, he mounted a startling tongue-in-cheek exhibit of hate mythology at an art gallery here late last month in hopes of confronting Russians with their deepest prejudices -- and at least provoking a chuckle, if not outrage. At the Gelman Gallery, tucked away in a basement in central Moscow, spectators were able to gaze on a hodgepodge of displays based on anti-Jewish legends and hate-generated pseudoscience. There were large graphs purporting to show Jewish professions -- 90 percent of KGB agents are Jews, according to one. Another described how the Moscow subway was designed by Jews to run under key strategic installations, including the planetarium! On display in the "Truth About Jews" exhibit was a jar of ground frogs' feet, snake heads and female hair -- "a mixture that does not burn" -- used to poison Christian wells; a bottle of blood said to be used in making matzo; and a letter supposedly celebrating the success of a Jewish tavern owner in getting Russians drunk on vodka. (The letter is actually composed of random letters from the Hebrew alphabet.) The centerpiece of the exhibit was a sculptural representation of a 19th-century tale about a Belarusan boy who was rolled around inside a barrel with nails driven into the sides -- to collect blood for Judaic ritual purposes. Nasty stuff, all of it, but Kruglikov insists there is method to his rough satire. "I have always been angered by these fantasies. Then I decided to make a joke out of it," he said. Russia is engaged in another of its periodic surges of antisemitism. Late last year, far-left politicians in Moscow and a few provinces blamed Jews for Russia's economic troubles. They spoke in a transparent code, wondering aloud why there are so many "non-Russian" names in government and among tycoons prominent in the country's banking oligarchy and media companies. The Communist Party and its allies in parliament blocked a resolution to condemn Communist legislator Albert Makashov for suggesting that Jews should be rounded up and jailed. In December, Communist Party leader Gennady Zyuganov said that he had nothing against Jews but that Zionists, "operating stealthily," were trying to take over the world. Last week, in an interview with the nationalist newspaper Zavtra, Zyuganov said that remarks by Makashov and others were "a tough response to the destructive actions of forces that have occupied our country." Public opinion surveys differ on the extent of anti-Jewish feeling in Russia. One, carried out last year by sociologist Lev Gudkov, estimated that 6 to 10 percent of Russians are aggressively hateful of Jews and that another 15 percent are "passively" antisemitic. Thirty percent said they have nothing against Jewish acquaintances but worry about Jewish influence in government and culture. In November, the Public Opinion Fund took a poll in which 83 percent of respondents said they oppose antisemitic remarks, while 43 percent criticized the unwillingness of parliament to censure Makashov. President Boris Yeltsin, Moscow Mayor Yuri Luzhkov and other Russian leaders have criticized antisemitic expressions, but no one has taken up the issue as darkly or imaginatively as Kruglikov. "I had been thinking about putting on {the} exhibit even before the Makashov statements, but his words got me going," said Kruglikov, whose father is a Jew. "I have been angered and perversely fascinated by the fantasy of the authors of anti-Jewish myth. I decided, why not put it on display?" Kruglikov's father told him tales of repression in post-World War II Russia, and Kruglikov himself ran into antisemitism among officers during his stint in the Soviet army. In everyday life, he confronts a milder version, in which associates raise questions about about the prominence of Jews in Russian life. "I have to endure drunken conversations trying to explain why Jews are everywhere," he said in an interview at the gallery. He was wearing what he called anti-antisemite sunglasses: No one can see in, and he can't see out. He fretted that his exhibit was not attracting spectators with anti-Jewish sentiments. He had trusted to television and newspaper reports to whip up controversy; he even invited Makashov, who did not respond. "I don't want to preach to people with whom I agree," he said. One day, a few spectators wandered in among TV cameras and inquisitive reporters to gaze at the odd wares. The risks of trying to make an ironic point on such a sensitive subject were evident. An elderly man gazed at vandalized Russian Orthodox icons -- put on display as "proof" of Jewish anti-Christian activities -- and said: "I don't think it was right to deface the icons, even for this cause." A Jewish retiree, who declined to give his name, said he thought that the myths portrayed were too painful for joking. "Look," he said, "the people who believe in these stories won't understand the joke. Or they'll just say it's another attack on Russia. And the ones who know this is false don't need to be shown it." Kruglikov did not dispute the critique. "There are risks, but it is riskier not to get these things out in the open," he said. He wished, in fact, that he could have created more offbeat examples. "Some Russians believe that Jews are mutant extraterrestrials," he said. "I couldn't decide how to depict that." CAPTION: Kruglikov, wearing "anti-antisemite sunglasses," exhibits a model of a boy whose blood is allegedly being collected and a chart ostensibly showing Jews taking over the world. ec