The head of a Russian Orthodox Church panel looking into the 1918 killing of Russia’s last tsar and his family said his statement that the church is investigating whether it was a ritual murder had no anti-Semitic connotations.
Father Tikhon Shevkunov said Thursday that he was only talking about the “ritual revenge of atheist Bolsheviks” and never implicated the Jews.
At an event in Moscow earlier this week, Shevkunov said that according to “the most rigorous approach to the version of ritual murder, a significant part of the church commission [on Nicholas II’s killing during the Russian revolution of 1917] has no doubt that this murder was ritual.”
That drew an angry response from Russia’s largest Jewish group, which denounced the words as a revival of anti-Semitic myths.
Also at the conference, Marina Molodtsova, a senior investigator for a special ministerial committee on the 1917 slaying of Nicholas II of Russia, said her committee will conduct “a psycho-historical examination” to find out whether the execution of the royal family was a ritual murder, Ria Novosti reported.
Claims that Nicholas was killed by Jews for ritual purposes had been limited before the conference to a fringe of zealous anti-Semites and promoters of unsophisticated conspiracy theories.
Amid rising nationalism and nostalgia for tsarist times in Russia under President Vladimir Putin, a Russian court in 2010 ordered prosecutors to reopen an investigation into the murder of the tsar and his family although the Bolsheviks – the radical wing of the communist party that eventually led it following the 1917 revolution — believed to have shot them in 1918 have been dead for many years.
The outsized prevalence of Jews in the ranks of the revolution has remained a mainstay of anti-Semitic vitriol in the area. During the Holocaust, it served as a pretext for the murder of countless Jews across Eastern Europe by self-proclaimed enemies of communism and Russia, despite the fact that communists already then severely oppressed Jews and any public expression of their faith
The role of Jews in the revolution is still being used today to incite hatred against local Jews, including among devout Christians who were persecuted by the anti-religious Soviet authorities.
Nicholas II’s killers were “obviously committed atheists who rejected any belief in any force – except their own,” said Boruch Gorin, who is a senior aide to Berel Lazar, a chief rabbi of Russia. But the blaming of Jews for the tsar’s death is “an absolutely anti-Semitic myth used in anti-Semitic propaganda for several decades, which is why the Jews view this with great concern.”