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Friday, November 19, 2010

Is Dmitry Medvedev Jewish?

When Dmitry Medvedev was first hand-picked to be president of Russia in 2008, there were a number of rumors that he was Jewish.
The rumors are based in part on the fact that his maternal grandfather's first name was Veniamin - similar to the Hebrew Binyamin (Benjamin) - while his family name, Shaposhnikov, is sometimes a Jewish name. But beyond that, accusing an electoral rival of being Jewish is a tactic that nationalist parties have employed in the past, both in Russia and in other former communist countries.

Even though he was baptized at 23, the rumors continued.

NRO translated (badly) a Dutch source from 2009:
A Russian journalist to RIA Novosti asked Russian President Dmitry Medvedev if he has Jewish ancestry?

Russian President Dmitry Medvedev replied that the rumors about his Jewish ancestry are inaccurate. He added that his ancestors are from Adana (Western Armenia in Turkey now) but he was born in Russia. He added in “I want everyone to be clear that I am Armenian, surname of my mother was Naxshikyan what the word Naxshik comes oudarmeens. The surname of my father was Bagratyan. This name is also purely Armenian. I was forced to change name to be head of Russian secret service (KGB) in France to work the cold war times. Since France had large Armenian community should not Arms Irish secret service agent working in France. That I have an Armenian surname changed to Russian. I am 100% Armenian.” Finally the Russian President says he is proud of his Armenian parents and ancestors.
Armenians, who had heard that claim earlier, weren't buying it:
The story has little, if any, credence. Medvedev who was born in 1965, lived and studied in Russia for most of his life. He received his Law Degree in 1987 from Leningrad State University. Three years later, he received his Ph.D. from the same university… and then the Cold War was over. Published biographies of Medvedev do not make any reference to his Armenian ancestry either.
Now, more fuel is being added to the fire.

Victor Shikhman, who is a talented blogger, writes almost as an aside in a recent post:
As a sidenote, Medvedev's [planned] visit [to Israel] is all the more interesting given that he is a Jew, the son of a Jewish mother and the first Jew to become President of Russia, much less enter the Kremlin in any capacity besides the following: doctor, scientist, military hero, foreigner.

I've personally confirmed Medvedev's Jewish identity with former Muscovites, who say that Medvedev's mother regularly attended the main synagogue in Moscow. The subject has not been broached much in Russian media, as Medvedev is Putin's man, and, well, Russian journalists know what's good for them, or they have an accident - there is freedom of choice in Russia. I wonder if anyone's bothered to tell the Arabs.
Ooooh...I will! I will!

It is mind-blowing that the president of one of the most anti-semitic nations in history could be a halachic Jew.

(h/t Silke)