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Thursday, 19 July, 2001, 10:45 GMT 11:45 UK
Zhirinovsky admits Jewish roots
Vladimir Zhirinovsky signing books
An earlier book launch: Mr Zhirinovsky is a prolific author
Russia's flamboyant ultra-nationalist, Vladimir Zhirinovsky - a notorious anti-Semite - has stopped denying that his father was a Jew.


Why should I reject Russian blood, Russian culture, Russian land, and fall in love with the Jewish people?

Vladimir Zhirinovsky
"My father was a Jew, a Polish Jew," he says in a new book published this week.

"His name was Volf Isaakovich Eidelshtein."

Mr Zhirinovsky always denied, or glossed over, his father's Jewishness - even after a reporter found dug up documents in 1994 that showed his family name was Eidelshtein until he changed it at the age of 18.

Ethnic Russian

"My mother was Russian, my father was a lawyer," he once said.

He has at various times accused Jews of:

  • Bringing Russia to ruin
  • Sending Russian women abroad as prostitutes
  • Selling healthy children and transplant organs to the West
  • Provoking the Holocaust

This year he refused to honour a moment's silence for the Nazis' Jewish victims in the Russian parliament, on the grounds that to do so would be an insult to the millions of Russian victims of the Second World War.

In his latest book, Ivan Close Your Soul, Mr Zhirinovsky repeatedly states that he considers himself an ethnic Russian.

Emigration

"Why should I reject Russian blood, Russian culture, Russian land, and fall in love with the Jewish people only because of that single drop of blood that my father left in my mother's body?" he writes.

Vladimir Zhirinovsky addresses demonstrators protesting against a new land code
Mr Zhirinovsky's election success in 1993 boosted Jewish emigration
Jewish activists have said that the success of Mr Zhirinovsky's Liberal Democratic Party of Russia in the 1993 general election, when it won nearly a quarter of the vote, caused tens of thousands of Jews to emigrate.

His popularity has faded in recent years.

Although he is now a deputy speaker of the Russian parliament, many Russian voters see him as an entertainer, not a serious politician.

Anger targets

There are also signs that Russian anti-Semitism, which survived the transition from tsarist to Soviet rule, is now on the wane.

The chief rabbi of Russia's Federation of Jewish Communities, Berl Lazar, says it has become fashionable for people who formerly hid their Jewish roots to advertise them publicly.

"Thousands and thousands of people who knew they were Jewish and were hiding it... are opening up their closets," he told the Associated Press news agency.

Polls show that Russians have found other targets for their anger, in particular Chechens and other dark-skinned natives of the Caucasus.

See also:

05 Jul 01 | Europe
Duma debate sparks street fight
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