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Anti-Zionist Committee of The Soviet Public

Founded as one of many public groups mobilized to further Soviet policy aims, the Anti-Zionist Committee of the Soviet Public (Anti-Sionisticheskii Komitet Sovetskoi Obshchestvennosti; AKSO) was part of a broader program intended to diminish the motivation of Soviet Jews to apply for emigration. In accordance with a decision of 29 March 1983 by the Secretariat of the Central Committee of the Soviet Communist Party (CC CPSU), the committee’s budget was to be provided by the Soviet Peace Foundation, and the technical staff was to operate within the framework of the joint administration of Soviet social organizations. AKSO activities were supervised jointly by representatives of the Department of Propaganda and by the KGB.

The first suggestion for such a committee had been raised in 1974 by the Central Committee’s Propaganda Department. The name suggested (Committee for Struggle against Zionism) was explicitly meant to evoke memories of the Jewish Anti-Fascist Committee, which had been active during World War II. No action was taken, however, until the 1980s. Two main reasons prompted the establishment of AKSO in 1983. One was growing tensions between the United States and the USSR following the invasion of Afghanistan. The second, and most likely the more important, was the growing movement, both domestic and international, for unrestricted Jewish emigration after the exodus was shut down starting in 1979 and in light of the Stevenson Amendment to the Trade Act of 1974 that denied substantial credits to the USSR. Following these events, the Soviet leadership felt that an appropriate response was to depict Zionism as a reactionary appendage of world imperialism. In fact, the decision to create AKSO came two weeks after a large international gathering in Jerusalem on behalf of Soviet Jews that called for free emigration, the release of all those who had been arrested in connection with Jewish activities, and the restoration of Jewish cultural and religious life in the USSR.

Two days after the CC resolution establishing AKSO, Pravda published an appeal signed by eight prominent Jewish personalities from various fields of science and culture. Heading the group was Colonel General David Dragunsky (1910–1992), a highly decorated Soviet Jewish war veteran, calling for the formation of the committee to head an active struggle of all Soviet citizens to reveal the reactionary nature of Zionist provocations as part of an imperialist psychological campaign against the USSR under the guise of defending the cultural and religious rights of Soviet Jews. On 21 April 1983, at a public meeting, AKSO emerged as a committee consisting of 37 Jews and non-Jews with Dragunsky as chair; Professor Samuil Zivs, a jurist, as first vice chair; and a presidium of 13. Ten weeks later the presidium recommended the establishment of similar committees in a number of Soviet republics and in several large cities. The KGB and the Propaganda Department of the Central Committee approved the proposal in January 1984.

AKSO promoted its message through publications, interviews with Soviet and foreign journalists, and press conferences, several of which were held in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs Press Center. Novosti, the Soviet Union’s news agency for foreign audiences, published booklets setting forth the committee’s anti-Zionist views. In fact, Mark Krupkin, a deputy director of Novosti, was also a deputy chair of AKSO. AKSO activity peaked in August 1985 when, together with the Association of Soviet Jurists, it produced the White Book, a 300-page compendium of documents and articles emphasizing the three main themes of AKSO’s propaganda: that the State of Israel served as the striking force of American imperialism in the Middle East, using Nazi-like methods to accomplish its goals; that so-called International Zionism, seeking world hegemony, served American imperialism by fomenting anti-Soviet feeling abroad and spreading lies about the persistence of a “Jewish Question” in the USSR; and that the decline in Jewish emigration after 1979 resulted not from any Soviet policies, but from the fact that the process of “family reunification” had been completed and that increasing numbers of Soviet Jews had changed their minds about leaving because they had become aware of the “pernicious and evil nature of Zionist propaganda.”

It appears that AKSO was never formally disbanded, though at the end of the 1980s, when the tone and content of Soviet Jewish policy changed under Mikhail Gorbachev’s perestroika, Soviet diplomats repeatedly stated that it would be. In August and November of 1990, AKSO statements still appeared in the Soviet press, and as late as 1993 it was listed as a public organization represented at the Tenth Meeting of the United Nations Discussion Group on the Question of Palestine.

Suggested Reading

William Korey, Russian Antisemitism, Pamyat, and the Demonology of Zionism (Chur, Switz., 1995); Sima Ycikas, “Soviet Public Anti-Zionist Committees,” Jews and Jewish Topics in the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe, 18.2 (Summer 1992): 40–45.