Marking the 100th anniversary of the October revolution Chief Rabbi of Russia Berel Lazar shares his thoughts about the Soviet period of history and nearest future in his interview with Interfax-Religion.
- The 100th anniversary of the October revolution will be marked in 2017. How can you evaluate the Soviet period of our history?
- For me it is the dark times. The Bolsheviks have been seeking for their goal to create a "new man" and build a new society without God. They were reaching tgeir goal through violence that reached its apogee under Stalin.
Severe restrictions have been in effect against the believers (regardless of their religious identity) practically throughout the entire Soviet period. Until Stalin's death they were subjected to large-scale repressions - people were imprisoned or executed simply for the fulfillment of the duties of a clergyman. Then the repressions against the believers became individual, but different harassments and restrictions remained in place that I have still witnessed in the late 1980s. All good what people are speaking about, recalling the Soviet Union, existed not thanks to, but rather in defiance of the regime.
- What characteristics and achievements of the Soviet epoch can be an example for contemporary society and state?
- First of all, it is certainly our victory over nazism that saved the world from monstrous prospect of establishing misanthropic regimen in the world and Jewish people from total extermination. Today Russia continues struggling actively against terrorism and extremism. Another achievement, which can be interesting for modern Russia, is an attempt to form one civil nation. It was not completed in the Soviet period, then we faced the wave of nationalism, today we witness to the renaissance of the idea of creating one civil nation. Among the positive achievements I would like to point out to the education system and the health care system, which allowed settling the problem of illiteracy and spreading epidemics in relatively short terms.
- What is your personal attitude to Lenin and Stalin?
- Both of them are people who overflew the country with blood and sought to replace the faith in the God with a cult of idolized leaders. So, Stalin fairly called himself "Lenin's devoted follower," but Lenin did it for promoting his ideas and Stalin - for preserving power.
- Don't you think it is time to resume the discussion on Lenin's reburial?
- I suppose that all necessary discussions are over. The body of Lenin should be interred, and the tombs at the cemetery near the Kremlin Wall should be relocated to other cemeteries. Representatives of all denominations share an opinion that this is needed to be done. As to the Lenin's mausoleum, I believe that it is unnecessary to destroy it, as the building organically fitted in with the Red Square ensemble. It would be better to set up a museum dedicated to the Soviet era at the mausoleum.
- The Jewish Museum and the Center of Tolerance set up about half a year ago by the Federation of Jewish Community of Russia in Moscow joined their efforts with UNESCO to oppose national and religious intolerance in the world. How does this project develop?
- The first joint project of the Center of Tolerance and UNESCO was the conference Migration for Sustainable Development: Social Transformations, Media Narratives and Education in July 2016 in UNESCO headquarters in Paris. The Center of Tolerance was the co-organizer of the conference.
Programs of the center are spread among associated UNESCO schools, there are over 9,500 of them in the world.
The joint international project aimed at forming a positive image of a migrant is launched today. At the first stage of the project, children from different countries of the world will draw the pictures calling for human attitude to migrants.
On November 16, 2016, the Center of Tolerance was given the highest UNESCO award - Madanjeet Singh Prize for the Promotion of Tolerance and Non-Violence. This honorable prize was given to the president of the Federation of the Jewish Communities of Russia Alexander Boroda during the ceremony.
- Earlier, the Center suggested the authorities its help in promoting tolerance among football fans and adaptation of migrants. What was your response to these initiatives?
- The Center of Tolerance suggested a complex program aimed at creating environment free from discrimination on the eve of the 2018 FIFA World Cup. Today the program is in the process of approving in the FIFA organization committee.
- Watching the events in the Middle East, many people wonder if new world cataclysms are in store for us. Do you share such fears? From the point of Judaism how should a person behave on the eve of global trials, which he or she fears?
- I suppose that a possibility of a new world war is extremely low. Unlike the previous wars, world powers have nuclear weapons that can eliminate life on Earth. No one will dare to start a war that will end in total elimination of the whole civilization. As to the attitude of Judaism to global cataclysms, we know that our future is in hands of the Almighty. We need to act in compliance with the proverb "do what you should and let it be."
- How do you see the future of the world and Russia in ten year prospect?
- I hope that Russia will be a stable and prosperous state. As to the world, I believe that it won't change much. Super powers will go on competing with each other. I would like to believe that international terrorism will seriously recede its positions, but I do not think that we can think about entire elimination of it in ten years. The process of its extermination and rehabilitation of those who were touched by misanthropic propaganda takes much more time.