UCSJ Action Alert!
"Blood Libel" Documentary Broadcast in Belarus

Join UCSJ campaign against antisemitic programming on state TV

DATE: September 16, 1997


The Union of Councils for Soviet Jews (UCSJ) is outraged by the broadcast of a documentary on Belarussian state television that accuses Jews of murdering a Belarussian child in the seventeenth century. The program brazenly asserts that in 1690, Gavril Belatovsky, a six-year-old boy who has since been canonized by the Belarussian Orthodox Church, was abducted by a group of Jews, tortured, and completely drained of his blood, which was used to bake matzoth for the Passover celebration. Since its broadcast on July 27 (All Saints Day), no member of either the government or the Orthodox Church has come forward to condemn the program's libelous conclusions, which were used to inflame the horrible pogroms of the late 19th and early 20th centuries.

Immediate Action Requested

The Union of Councils calls on defenders of human rights and Jews to write letters to President Alexander Lukashenko and State Television Director Kisel and demand that they publicly condemn this documentary, and that all such overtly antisemitic programs be banned from state television in the future. Please send a copy of your letter(s) to UCSJ so that the Belarussian cannot deny they received any protest. The addresses are:

President Alexander Lukashenko		
Karl Marx Street 38				
220016 Minsk					
Fax: 011-375-172-648-182

Mr. Grigory Kisel, Director of Belarussian
	State Radio and Television
Makayonak Street 9
220807 Minsk
Fax: 011-375-172-648-182


Since 1992, there have been numerous publications and radio and television broadcasts in Belarus that have revisited this libelous charge. Following is the story of Saint Gavril Belostoksky: On April 11, 1690, a few days before the beginning of Passover, Gavril was found murdered and drained of his blood in his home village of Zverki, then a Belarussian town but now within Polish territory. Soon thereafter, the myth that he had been murdered by Jews who needed his blood to make matzoth was spread throughout Belarus. The accusation was bolstered in 1844 in Vladimir Dal's book, "Investigation of the Murder of Christian Babies by the Jews and the Use of Their Blood." The Orthodox Church canonized Gavril in the twentieth century as the patron saint of sick children; he is commemorated in the beginning of each May.

An article from the Polish magazine Chasopis discussed this incident recently. It identified a tax collector named Shutko as the killer, stated that Jewish involvement in the murder was "one of the fables" behind the real story. (According to Belarussian Jewish community activist Dr. Yakov Basin, the Chasopis article never mentioned that Shutko was a Jew, though anyone familiar with the history of the region would know that most tax collectors of the time were Jewish). Several Belarussian secular and Church newspapers reprinted the Polish article, yet they omitted the original's caveat that Orthodoxy, Catholicism, Calvinism and Judaism all clashed with each other in the region in the seventeenth century, casting the perceived motive and the identity of the killer in doubt.

Among the journals that have propagated the ritual murder canard are Soviet Belarussia and the Orthodox Church's Tsar koinae Slova (Word of Church), which in 1992 advised its readers to "be aware of cruel cults, where human sacrifices are being practiced" and identified Hasidism as such a cult. The Church's publications have run several other articles about Gavril, especially in conjunction with All Saints Day and Easter.

Journalists working for a Belarussian television program visited the town of Zverki and interviewed some of its residents; Basin reports that none of them mentioned Jewish involvement in the murder. However, at one point, the narrator reads the following text:

"The Chronicle of Life" [a Church text about the life of St. Gavril] mentions the name of the one who captured the child, taking advantage of the situation while his parents were away, and took him to Belostock. That was Zverki tax collector Shutko, who, together, with other Jews, possibly members of a secret fanatical sect-the followers of those who demanded the death of Christ and yelled to Pilate, "His blood is on us and on our children!"-committed this horribly cruel murder, which was possibly ritual-related, since, according to researcher Alexei Melnikov, it took place on March 21, 1690, on the eve of the Sacred Christ's resurrection. Six-year-old Gavril went through tortures similar to Christ's. The boy was crucified, his side was pricked, and then he was pierced with different tools until all his blood was gone, down to the last drop.

Of course, no such bloodletting of children by Jews has ever been responsibly asserted. "In the end of the enlightened twentieth century, educated people (since uneducated ones are not allowed to work on television) have resurrected the gloomy medieval myth of how the Jews use the blood of Christian babies for their ritual purposes," Dr. Basin reports. "The exploitation of the infamous blood libel by the state mass media can never be rationalized, except to ignite tension among nationalities. Church myths are used in the unseemly political affairs of the state."


President Alexander Lukashenko		
Karl Marx Street 38				
220016 Minsk					

Dear President Lukashenko

On July 27, 1997, Belarussian state television broadcast a documentary about the life and death of Saint Gavril Belostoksky. Throughout the program, it was insinuated that Jews had killed the child to use his blood in the making of Passover matzoth. Though this libelous charge has been discredited for almost a century, the people of Belarus were told this false version of the story as a "historical truth."

The "Passover blood ritual" canard was the basis of many of the horrible anti-Jewish pogroms that swept through Eastern Europe and Russia up through the beginning of this century. That this ancient lie was broadcast over state media shows disregard for the consequences of spreading such misinformation to the Belarussian people. The 100,000 Jews who currently reside in Belarus do not deserve to be subjected to this obvious incitement of ethnic hostility.

We ask that you publicly condemn the conclusions of this documentary, and that you direct all state-owned media to cease from broadcasting such inflammatory programs in the future. The government of Belarus should promote tolerance and democratic values and not divide the population along ethnic lines to create distrust towards innocent citizens.

Thank you very much for your attention to this serious matter.


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Copyright 2007 by UCSJ: Union of Councils for Jews in the Former Soviet Union.