Xenophobia: Stalin & Today

Cover photo: “Impromptu Shabbat service … in front of Tree of Life” 1

Webster’s Dictionary defines xenophobia as “fear and hatred of strangers or foreigners or of anything that is strange or foreign.” Xenophobia can be referred to in many different contexts and does not target one group, culture, minority, race, sex, gender, ethnicity, sexual orientation. However, xenophobia is often associated with racism, homophobia, or general intolerance.

Throughout the Cold War, Stalin perpetuated a rhetoric of xenophobia in part because of his paranoia, but also to create an “Other.” By creating an “Other”, he created an enemy. Furthermore, Stalin gained more power and unified the Soviet Union against some other entity. In Vera Dunham’s analysis of the “The Big Deal”, she points to the vulnerability of the Soviet Union to show why Stalin used xenophobic arguments in his speeches. Stalin “Otherized” the West and Jews. The West was perceived as dangerous and uncaring because of the free culture surrounding music, youths, public speech, and protests. Stalin wanted to ensure that that type of culture would never take root in the Soviet Union, so he publicly denounced it and made it seem as if it were strange and something to be feared.

However, Stalin didn’t just stop with the West. He also promoted anti-semitism as being “cosmopolitanism” and reinforced the hatred of Jewish culture and Jewish people already present in the Soviet Union. Due to his vulnerability, Stalin used this hateful, horrific speech. This is not an uncommon trend, nor is Stalin’s use an isolated event. Jews have been persecuted for centuries in many different places and by many different people. Anti-Semitism still persists today. On October 27, 2018, a gunman entered the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania and killed 11 people while shouting “all Jews must die.” The same hateful rhetoric Stalin used is in use today in the United States. Hate speech cannot be allowed to continue, and xenophobic/ anti-Semitic statements cannot be allowed to go unnoticed.

Defintion: xenophobia





4 thoughts on “Xenophobia: Stalin & Today

  1. This was really interesting to read. It is really sad how Stalin felt that the only way he could maintain control was to “otherize” as you put it the West, Jews, and pretty much anything that was different in a way he did not like or agree with. The citizens missed out on so much culture and experiences because of this.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I think it is so interesting that while Stalin was engaging in xenophobic rhetoric against the West and “others” that the United States was engaging in similar rhetoric with regards to the Soviet Union. I really goes to show how dangerous it can be to paint differences in a negative light rather than to appreciate different cultures and be able to learn from them.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I appreciated how you tied anti-semitism during Soviet times to the shooting in Pittsburg during the past week, it really shows that some things never change, especially something as disgusting as xenophobia

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I agree with Joy – and the parallels are hard to miss! I think one of the reasons anti-semitism is so pernicious is that Jews have so often been “othered” and seen as “rootless” or seditious in White christian cultures….and in Stalin’s Soviet Union. For me one of the real tragedies and ironies of the Pittsburgh attacks is that, as was the case in the Soviet Union — which was supposed to be all about “friendship of peoples” and committed to the trans-ethnic solidarity of the working class — the image we have of the USA as a “melting pot” where everyone can make their way, where everyone is equal before the law, and where freedom of religion is a right — is just that — it’s an image, but not a reality.

    Liked by 1 person

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