27 March 2007

Anti-Semitism at MSU

Meryl has recently reported on the disturbing, but expected, resurrection (or, to be more precise, intensification) of anti-Semitism taking place at MSU, the most prestigious university in Russia, right before our eyes. Quite frankly, I yawned loudly after flipping through the story published by the NYT, as MSU has always been the unassailable bastion and the proud flagship of anti-Semitism in Russia. The story, therefore, has no real shock value to someone even casually acquainted with the situation on the ground in this country. The happenings are essentially rather run-of-the-mill part of the broader pattern of behavior typical of MSU.

As usual, the fundamental reasons for this notoriously phenomenal anti-Semitism are both abundant and complex, but, in my view, it all boggles down to the following: MSU has always been scared stiff of Jews and wanted desperately to protect itself from our “offensive”. While the general population was, for the most part, getting drunk on cheap vodka (probably prevented from doing anything else by the elite Elders’ brigade), Jews were receiving higher education en masse and then venturing into science as well as other highly demanding professions. MSU was obviously designated as an institution for Russians mainly, considering that in any other case it would have swiftly become a university teeming with Jews. (Yeah, I am gloating.) Needless to say, few among the ruling classes wanted to provide Jews with such a head start in life.

The bottom line is as follows: If Jews constituted, for example, 2% of the population, then they could not, as the informal (or formal?) policy read, make up more than 2% of students at MSU. By way of illustration, my mother was not admitted to this university, despite the fact that she had passed all the exams brilliantly, because there already were too many Jews at the faculty she intended to enter. Determined to fight on, she appealed, but it goes without saying that her case was dismissed straight out of hand. According to her, the people who were afforded the pleasure of informing her about her lack of success in the endeavor had to struggle to repress their cheerful smiles – after all, a Jewish girl had just been cut down to size. (Hooray!)

Those yids who did make it to MSU against all odds were persecuted mercilessly and ruthlessly – Sergey Brin et al. can definitely attest to the fact.

I am not even talking about the sheer hell Jewish professors had to go through – this narration would undoubtedly be almost physically painful.

All told, the persecution in question boasted considerable magnitude and occasionally assumed almost unbelievably perverted forms. Sometimes it was escalated, sometimes lessened out of the blue, depending on the environment in the country and a myriad of other factors (such as the mood of the bigwigs).

Anti-Semites have always received a hearty welcome at MSU, and a great number of professors, to this day, are infected with the virus - the goings-on at the Faculty of Sociology are a towering testament to this sorry state of affairs.

A lot of time has, thankfully, passed since those “dark ages”, and much has changed. I am a student at MSU and have rarely, if ever, experienced any discomfort because of my nationality (if truth be told, I am trying my best to keep it secret). I have repeatedly been assured, however, that the situation in the Humanities (Sociology, Philosophy, History and all the other faculties of this variety) is, sadly, vastly different and not so inspiring.

The only occasion when my hair was made to stand on end was when I was submitting my documents prior to the exams. I had to fill out a disgusting application form, which, among other things, demanded that I state my nationality. To add to the shock I understandably felt at that moment, I had to state whether I was an Ashkenazi or Sephardic Jew. Someone had been busy carrying out quite a bit of research, eh? (To be honest, I assumed, after the telling incident, that I had better apply to some other university if I wanted to actually receive higher education.)

Oh, and I was also once called an "AshkeNAZI" by one astute fellow student of mine, and a son of one professor to boot.

Moving on to the story brought to light by the NYT, the students have been protesting the corruption that undeniably permeates the Faculty of Sociology for a while already. As a matter of fact, they have even been arrested once for their demonstrations and insubordination. What is immensely encouraging and uplifting about this story is that most protesters, fed up with the bald-faced lies passed as the absolute truth as well as a few other liberties the faculty allows itself, were, in the main, Russians, not Jews.

The Russian media, unsurprisingly, is mute, distant and indifferent as far as this whole affair is concerned. The two articles I have managed to dig up can be accessed here and here by those who are proficient in the Russian language.