Issue 9, Article 22, 27 September 2000

Immediate reporting on violations of religious liberty and on religion in
communist and post-communist lands.
SUMMARY: Ryazan�s Jewish Sunday school was raided by neo-fascists who
broke windows and furniture and shouted �Heil, Hitler� before leaving the
classroom of frightened children. A regional administrator attributed the attack
to an act of hooliganism, but the Jewish representative does not think the attack
happened spontaneously.

Wednesday 27 September 2000

by Tatyana Titova, Keston News Service

In the wake of a neo-fascist raid on a Sunday school run by the Jewish
community in the town of Ryazan, 196 km east of Moscow, the Federation of
Jewish Communities of Russia told Keston, `Today [26 September], we have
sent an appeal to the general procuracy and to the local Ryazan authorities'.

According to the Federation spokesman BORUKH GORIN, during the 17
September raid, young people wearing fascist insignia entered the Sunday
school began to break the windows and to destroy the furniture, frightening the
children. Lastly they raised their arms in a Nazi salute and shouted `Heil,
Hitler' before leaving. The Sunday school teaches a range of Jewish subjects,
including religion, history and the Hebrew language.

The head of the Ryazan Jewish community LEONID REZNIKOV declared
an account of the raid could be read on the website of the Memorial society, a
human rights group with which the community works. `I wouldn't go so far as
to call this a pogrom, in so far as there was barely any physical harm,' he told
Keston on 26 September. `Rather this was an action designed to inspire fear.'
Reznikov declared he was not at all astonished or alarmed when the neo-
fascists burst in. `I have been subconsciously ready for this for the whole seven
years I have led the community. The leaders of the city change, but the
atmosphere does not.'

Reznikov does not believe that the raid happened spontaneously. `The ground
had been prepared; this was not an impromptu attack.' He said that for the past
two years anti-semitic slogans have been appearing on walls, and that fringe
groups who were based locally in Ryazan sold their publications unhindered,
stirring up hatred not only towards Jews, but also towards other non-Russian
groups. `The bottom line of all these documents is that anyone who isn't
Russian is bad,' Reznikov noted. It was not surprising to him that the neo-
fascists operated so openly, in spite of the fact that the school rented by the
Jewish community is in the centre of town, just 100 metres from the offices of
the regional administration.

Reznikov reported that it was only after a `dreadful row' that Ryazan's former
synagogue was returned to the community in June. Previously, the offices of
various city services were based there. The local branch of the Ryazan
Communist Party included the return of the synagogue, along with price rises,
in a list of bad things done by the Ryazan city council, which was published on
the eve of the elections. According to Reznikov, when they vacated the
building, the organisations took everything with them, including the gates, so
they had to find large sums of money to restore the building to working order.

Asked about the problems surrounding the return of the synagogue, the deputy
head of the Ryazan regional administration VIKTOR TRUSHIN told Keston
on 26 September that there was no synagogue in the city.

Trushin also claimed that there was no nationalist feeling in Ryazan and said he
regarded the raid on the Sunday school as simply `the activity of hooligans'. To
back up his view he cited the facts that 96 per cent of the inhabitants of Ryazan
region were Russian; that the Tatars and Mordvins lived in tight-knit groups;
and that the remaining nationalities made up only 2 per cent of the population.
In response to this, Reznikov noted: `Although there are indeed not many Jews
- less than half a percent of the population - for some reason, much is always
made of each Jew.' (END)

Copyright (c) 2000 Keston Institute. All rights reserved.