The struggle against "cosmopolitanism" in Leningrad
In 1948, Leningrad became the center of the struggle against "cosmopolitanism". The anti-semitic campaign was launched at the bidding of the Central Committee of the VKP(B) as part of a policy of state-sponsored anti-semitism in the USSR. Thereafter, anti-semitism was an integral part of the ideology and the practice of Soviet Communism. Figures in science and culture, Jewish by origin and assimilated in general, were the main targets of the campaign against "cosmopolitanism". They all felt a strong tie to Russian culture; many of them honestly regarded themselves as Russian. Some of them were born of mixed marriages. Some had adopted Christianity before the Revolution; others had boundless faith in Communist Internationalism. All of them were accused of an absence of patriotism, the propagation of foreign Western ideology, and connections with the West.
The harassment of "cosmopolitans" was directed by the authorities but "initiative from below" usually played an important role in anti-semitic repression. For example, in February, 1949, a collective letter was directed to the Central Committee of the VKP(B) by a group of employees at the Institute of Literature (Pushkin House); they accused leading scholars of the institute - B.M. Eihenbaum, M.K. Azadovsky, V.M. Zhirmunsky, G.A. Byaliy, G.A. Gukovsky, and others - of organizing a secret "anti-patriotic group" that, as they claimed, had usurped power in the institute. The letter's authors pointed out that the "cosmopolitans" had hidden their ethnic origin and propagated anti-Russian traditions. As a result, scientists of worldwide renown were exiled from the institute and mediocrities seized power at the Pushkin House, making a career of their anti-semitism and struggle with dissent. Ordinary employees of Jewish descent suffered, too.
Leningrad University suffered the worst losses. The best professors were exiled from the Philological Faculty and G.A. Gukovsky was arrested and died in prison. At the History Faculty, professors M.A. Gukovsky, O.L. Vainstein, docent M.B. Rabinovich and others were arrested and the dean of the faculty, V.V. Mavrodin, was accused of shielding "cosmopolitans" and dismissed from his post. The Philosophy Faculty suffered the same purges. As a result of the devastation of the Economic Faculty, the head of the Political Economy Chair V.V. Reikhart and lecturers Ya.S. Rozenfeld and V.M. Stein found themselves behind bars. Jews were excluded from postgraduate studies; Jewish graduates from university were sent to out-of-the-way places or found themselves jobless. It was forbidden for many years to accept Jews to the university as lecturers (this situation, with some exceptions, continued until the recent past). It was made difficult for Jews to enter the university; on some faculties, it was forbidden to accept them at all. Leningrad University became a stronghold of anti-semitism.
Anti-Jewish oppression was not limited to the liberal arts; it affect the sciences, too. The leading physicists A.F. Ioffe, Ya.I. Frenkel and others suffered harassment. In a denunciation which accused the administration of the All-Russian Institute of Experimental Medicine, a Jewish-Masonic conspiracy was mentioned; the claim was made that some mythic Masonic Lodge headed by Jews existed in Leningrad. In some Leningrad enterprises, all or most Jews were simply dismissed. This happened, for example, in the Central Archive of the USSR after the visit of a special commission from Moscow. The repressions and mass dismissals affected pedagogy and medicine, educational and cultural enterprises. Jews were excluded from the management of industrial enterprises.
The leadership of Leningrad Regional Committee of the CPSU, headed by V.M. Andrianov, played a leading role in conducting the anti-semitic campaign. Former bosses, themselves no strangers to anti-semitic sentiments, were accused, inter alia, of protecting of "cosmopolitans" during the "Leningrad Case". Their successors were zealous in kindling anti-Jewish fervor and encouraging anti-semitic denunciations. As a result, by 1953, Leningrad Jews were dismissed from all high posts in science, culture or the national economy; thousands of Jewish experts found themselves jobless or had to change their profession; Jewish young people were almost completely barred from higher education. The relaxation of constraints that followed Stalin's death could not change the situation radically. Jews were completely ousted from the city elite; later, however, they regained their positions in the science, culture, education and medicine.
A caricature of the agents of Western capital. "Krokodil" journal. 1949