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Russia: Imperial Family “Ritual Murder” Claim Raises Anti-Semitism Fears

From TASS, a couple of days ago:

After the investigation into the Russian Tsarist family’s murder was resumed, more than 30 forensic tests have been commissioned, Colonel of Justice Marina Molodtsova said addressing a conference in Moscow’s Sretensky Monastery, dubbed The Tsarist Family’s Murder Case: New Examinations and Files. A Debate.

…In order to receive answers to these questions, a number of molecular-genetic tests have been commissioned, which are still underway. Besides, “since the investigation was resumed, more than 20 witnesses have been questioned, and the places where the remains were found have been examined. In addition, a psychological and historical test will be conducted to find out if it could have been a ritual killing,” Molodtsove added.

The phrase “ritual killing” here has an obvious particular resonance, as explained by Interfax in an interview with Boruch Gorin of the Federation of Jewish Communities of Russia:

“Myths about the existence of ritual murder have connections to very different cults and religions,” but when the matter concerns Russia’s history, the history of the imperial family’s last days, and the “Beilis case,” which was tried several years before, this looks like “an absolutely Judaeophobic myth, which was used as part of anti-Semitic propaganda for several decades,” and this is precisely why Jews treat it with great concern, he said.

…When someone said that the killing of the imperial family was a ritual murder, “honest people making such accusations did not hide what they meant: Yurovsky, a Jew, acting on instructions from another Jew, Sverdlov, performed a Kabbalistic rite in the presence of eight other people, because this takes ten people,” he said.

The case of Menahem Mendel Beilis, who was the target of a blood libel in Kiev in 1911, is outlined here.

Gorin previously spoke against claims that the Tsar and his family had been killed in a “ritual murder” earlier this month, after an arson attack on a Jewish community centre in Moscow. In particular, he referred to comments made by Natalia Poklonskaya in March; as noted by the Times of Israel:

“They murdered the entire royal family, they killed the children in front of their father, they killed the mother in front of the children. This is a crime, a frightening ritual murder,” declared a deputy of the Russian State Duma (Russia’s lower legislative house) Natalia Poklonskaya on television this year. “Many people are afraid to talk about it — but everyone understands that it happened. It is evil.”

Poklonskaya does not here say anything about Jews, but this idea of people being “afraid” brings to mind a 1990s composition by the orthodox priest Alexander Shargunov, which I noted some time ago:

Even if many will become silent out of fear of the Jews about the murder of the Royal passion-bearers, the rocks will cry out.

News that a “ritual murder” explanation for the royal deaths is being taken seriously in Russia has now gone global, via the Associated Press. In particular, the AP report notes comments from Bishop Tikhon Shevkunov, who heads the Sretensky Monastery and who is known to be close to Putin (according to  long Financial Times profile in January 2013, Tikhon is rumoured to have “ushered the former KGB colonel into the Orthodox faith and became his dukhovnik, or godfather”):

The bishop elaborated on his statement Tuesday, telling the state RIA Novosti news agency that the “Bolsheviks and their allies engaged in the most unexpected and diverse ritual symbolism.” He claimed that “quite a few people involved in the execution — in Moscow or Yekaterinburg — saw the killing of the deposed Russian emperor as a special ritual of revenge” and added that Yakov Yurovsky, the organizer of the execution who was Jewish, later boasted about his “sacral historic mission.”

Further, as noted in Mail Online:

He put forward as evidence the claim that a bullet was assigned to each royal but the majority of the bullets hit the tsar because ‘everybody wanted to be part of the regicide’ and ‘it was a special ritual for many’.

Yurovsky’s own account can be read in English translation here. He states that “each man had one person to shoot”, but that after he had shot and killed the Tsar, the shooting that followed was “disorganized”. It is difficult to see how the men failing to follow their orders properly could be described as a “ritual” – indeed, it indicates the exact opposite. The source for the “sacral historic mission” quote is not apparent so far as I can see, but if it is genuine it is obvious that the word “sacral” is being used loosely and metaphorically.

The massacre, as is well-known, was a botch, with the Tsar’s family and servants surviving the initial shooting spree and then being dispatched by bullets to the head or by bayonet. It seems that the guards did indeed all want “to be part of the regicide” (of killing the children, less so), but how does the idea of “ritual symbolism” make that easier to understand? Like most conspiracy theories, it solves no problem and answers no question about the events it purports to explain. It is superfluous.