(JNi.media) In a mood reminiscent of the Soviet era, Russian leader Vladimir Putin is clamping down on “foreign” influences and intellectuals, and as Jews feel they are the natural targets of his ire, they have been leaving Russia for Israel in droves.
Putin is tightening his grip on “foreign agents,” or Russian individuals and organizations that have ties overseas. The President has accused foreign funds of sucking up the country’s scientists “like vacuum cleaners.” Never mind that the Dynasty foundation which Putin criticizes has measures to enable Russian scientists to remain in their home country.
Russian ministers have singled out certain groups by name as causing the “disintegration of our traditional values.” Among them were George Soros’ Open Society Foundation and the Mikhail Prohkorov Foundation.
Soros’ Open Society provided Xerox machines during the Cold War to allow people in Communist countries gain access to banned texts.
Irina Prohkorova (sister of billionaire Mikhail Prokhorov), founder of the Prokhorov Foundation, told the Daily Beast that the Russuan officials’ remarks “reminded me of Stalinism.”
Prohkorova has invested $20 million of her brother’s money in cultural and artistic projects, many geared toward children.
The Prokhorov siblings were born in Moscow to Tamara and Dimitri Prokhorov, and their Jewish maternal grandmother Anna Belkina was a microbiologist who produced vaccines. Irina feels Russia is headed back towards a totalitarian regime: “The problem is not some hunt that a few individuals declared, but the trend, the monopolization of private life–obviously aiming to return us to Soviet times.”
Russian journalist Vladimir Yakovlev, founder of Kommersant Publishing house, left Russia for Israel because he feels the Russian “value system has been destroyed. People are running from Russia,” he told Big News Network.
Yakovlev’s case is an indication of a larger trend, as the number of Jews emigrating from Russia and the Ukraine to Israel has doubled in 2014 to 4,685. Unlike the last boom of Russian immigrants, following the end of the Cold War in the 1990s, many of the recent immigrants are young intellectuals from major cities like Moscow and St. Petersburg. Yakovlev says he considers himself a refugee rather than a regular immigrant.
“People usually emigrate due to domestic circumstances,” he notes. “People are now leaving because they are scared to stay in a place they would like to live. They are running from Russia.”
Mikhail Kaluzhsky is a playwright and journalist who emigrated to Israel for political reasons. He witnessed the Ukranian pro-democracy protests that led to the downfall of pro-Russian President Viktor Yanukovych. He didn’t feel the same kind of vital resistance in Russia.
“I understood our protests were worthless,” he says.
When Kaluzhsky lost his job with a human rights organization under new regulations against “foreign agents,” that was time for him to move to Israel.