Some years back I had occasion to board an airplane from Budapest full of Jews heading for Israel. The story was this: when the Soviet Union was on the verge of collapse I managed to finagle my way to Russia in order to do research on a graduate thesis using some sources that were available nowhere else. Among my many eye-opening adventures in what then was the Wild East, I spent time in Moscow, Tashkent, Samarkand, Bukhara, and Kiev. From Kiev I took a train across the Ukrainian landscape to Budapest, and from there flew to Tel Aviv.
My specialty was Russian-Muslim relations, thus my research work focused on Central Asia. Unfortunately, the entire Caucasus was closed off to me as it was in ferment in anticipation of imminent independence from Moscow. While I was in the Soviet Union I came to perceive there were distinct differences among the different nationalities. For instance, the ethnic Russians were all educated to be good Communists, members of Komsomol or other Communist organizations. They knew Marx; they knew Lenin; they admired Stalin, and each of these “saints” had ironclad statues everywhere. But the Russians, including the ethnic Russians in Central Asia, knew absolutely nothing about business. No understanding or conception. They had no idea what a contract was and had no sense of obligation as part of concluding a deal. To them it was called simply “beezness” which they had no experience with. They cheated each other every chance they got and valued only money–specifically, American dollars. As one put it to me: “We have tons of rubles, but nothing to spend them on. We throw them away.” One could get anything one wanted, but only if you paid American dollars.
The Muslims were different. They understood contracts and making a profit. They too would cheat every chance they got, and of course only patronage counted since there were no courts one could go to if one got cheated. Soviet courts didn’t recognize contracts and they weren’t open to the general public anyway. Under Islam, Muslims cannot charge interest or speculate in stocks and bonds. They can, however, deal with commodities and physical goods, which they did. In Central Asia under the Soviet Union, ethnic Russians were poor; the Muslims were comparatively rich. They did not take all that Marxism stuff seriously but went on with their traditional trading and swindling as they had done since long before Marx arrived, and they always had pockets full of dollars.
The Jews I encountered were different still. Although they understood Marxism and could talk the talk when they had to, they also had the same kind of ethnic kinship networks like the Muslims, unlike the non-Jewish Russians who did not value kinship ties. In the competition for wealth that I saw in the SU, the Russian Jews came out on top, better than other Russians and better than the Muslims. The Jews had no religious injunction about charging interest or speculating in stocks and bonds. They made money in every way and had the kinship organization to out-compete everyone else. Their kinship ties were not limited to Russia but stretched to America and Europe, unlike the Muslims who only had ties across the border to poverty stricken Iran.
When the Bolsheviks first seized power, most of the leaders were Jews. Bolsheviks and Communists the world over in fact were mostly Jews, or at least the leadership, and this was aided by the fact that most media in the 1920s were owned by Jews both in Europe and America, and still are. When Stalin won his power struggle against Trotsky, this did not destroy Jews’ allegiance to Communism and the Soviet Union. Even as Stalin executed most of the Old Bolsheviks in the purges of the late 1930s, most Jews outside of the SU remained loyal to the SU and to Stalin.
However, in 1953, it seemed that Stalin was about to unleash a second purge, this time focusing on Jews in the Communist Party that Stalin feared had transferred their loyalty to the new state of Israel. Then Stalin died, perhaps at the hands of Jewish doctors. We’ll never know the truth of the matter because while democracies change power by newspaper editorials, dictatorships like Stalin’s change power by poison.
Once Stalin was gone, a power struggle ensued and Krushchev came out on top by 1956. At a Congress of the Party, Krushchev read aloud a denunciation of Stalin, detailing his crimes. This denunciation shocked world Communism to its core. Only then did Jews outside the SU finally begin to question their loyalty to “the god that failed”, World Communism as led by Stalin. This began an erosion of Jewish faith in Communism and the Soviet Union. By 1990, virtually no Jews anywhere were still loyal to Moscow.
When I arrived in Budapest, the planes were leaving one after another, each loaded with ex-Soviet Jews abandoning the SU and flying to Israel where their Jewish ethnicity made them instant citizens. Where did they get the money? Virtually no Soviet citizen could afford a plane trip at the time. Yet they filled up plane after plane to the rafters. Like I said, Soviet Jews understood business and kinship loyalty and they used their foreign ethnic connections to pay their way out of a devastated failing empire to start a new life in an all-Jewish country.
The plane I was on was carefully guarded on the tarmac by several armored cars with cannons. The airport was closely guarded by multiple teams of well-armed police and soldiers, some in uniform, some in private dress. Hungary was making a fortune ferrying so many Soviet Jews to Israel and was not taking any chances on Palestinians interfering. There were many Arabs and displaced Palestinians in Budapest at the time who were kept well away from this traffic.
One thing I’ve always wondered about is the “coincidence” of Soviet Jews abandoning the Soviet Union after 1956 and the slow collapse of the SU afterward. Prior to that, Communism was a global threat supported by sympathetic media throughout the West. But by the mid-1960s, after the majority of Western Jews came to learn of Stalin’s heelturn against the Jews in Russia, Jews no longer were identified in the public mind of the West as synonymous with Communism and its chief promoters, but suddenly became a helpless minority oppressed by Communism. “Save the Soviet Jews” was the new slogan of the Republican Party which helped extract many Jews from Russia and send them to Israel.
Was this the real cause of the fall of Communism? If Soviet Jews had remained loyal to Moscow, would the United States have still won the Cold War? Or might the Soviet Union have marched on to final victory? If Jews had remained loyal to the SU, would it remain in power today, and would the world’s media today be calling for a modernized Soviet Union to occupy not only Ukraine but also the rest of Europe, as so much Jewish media did in the 1920s and 1930s when Communist Jews were attempting armed coups in Berlin, Munich, Budapest, and elsewhere?
In Israel I made friends with an elderly Jew from Cape Cod. He visited Israel every year. His son served in the Israeli Defense Forces. He openly proclaimed that he and all his Jewish kin in the United States had always supported the Soviet Union against the US. But by 1990 his loyalty had switched to Israel. We trekked all over Israel together. While he was a great guy and we got along well, I could not help but notice his often-expressed racial contempt for Arabs just as he had open contempt for America and especially for the American South. He seemed quite surprised when I told him about the widespread crimes committed by blacks in the South which I characterized as a slowly growing ethnic civil war as whites searched for ways to protect themselves from black crime. Being from Cape Cod in Massachusetts, he had never heard of black crime, which amazed me. For what it’s worth. . .