Minister Freeland's Grandfather,
Michael Chomiak,
the Nazi's Top
Ukrainian Propagandist:

Fake News,
Mighty Wurlitzers,
Historical Amnesia and the
(or Bear) in the Room

By Richard Sanders, editor, Press for Conversion! magazine of the Coalition to Oppose the Arms Trade, March 22, 2017

"It takes a village to raise a Nazi" (old African proverb, slightly modified)

1- Introduction

2 - The Liberal Government's Warm Embrace of Ukraine's Nazi Collaborators

3 - Historical Amnesia and the Blinding Effects of Propaganda

4 - The Nazis as Victims?  Sure, just Blame the Russians!

5 - Canada needs Truth and Reconciliation, not Denials and Obfuscation

6 - Historical Denial among Canada's ultranationalist Ukrainians

7 - Michael Chomiak, The Ukrainian Central Committee and its Nazi Newspapers

8 - Aryanisation and the "Mighty Wurlitzer"

9 - The Ukrainian Canadian Congress and its Fascist Roots

10 - Getting them Early: Building the ultraNationalist Cause among Children and Youth

11 - The Freeland-Chomiak Parallels in Advocacy Journalism

12 - Was Freeland an "Accidental Journalist," or Groomed for the Job?

13 - In 1989, Freeland was Declared an "Enemy of the Soviet State"

14 - A Chomiak-Freeland Fixation on Jewish Oligarchs running the Kremlin

15 - Freeland's Kremlin-Oligarch Theory goes Global with Jewish Plutarchetype

16 - Institutionalised Confidence Scams: An Open Conspiracy of Oligarchs, Politicians and Journalists

17 - Escaping the War Racket starts with Seeing the Elephant

18 - Just Following Orders?  Which Orders?

19 - Is there a Bear in the Room?  Kill it!

20 - The Collective Care and Feeding of Russophobia

21 - The Need for Truth and Reconciliation






































Press for Conversion!

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Captive Canada:
Renditions of the Peaceable Kingdom at War, from Narratives of WWI and the Red Scare to the Mass Internment of Civilians
Or, how we learned to stop worrying, keep calm and carry on loving the myths that define and confine us.

This issue (#68) deals with the mass internment of Ukrainian Canadians, this community's left-right split and the mainstream racist, xenophobic anti-communism of progressive "Social Gospellers" (like the CCF's J.S. Woodsworth) who were so captivated by their false beliefs that they carried out the genocide of First Nations and turned a blind eye to government repression during the 20th-century "Red Scare."

The main thesis is captured here:
"The Canada Syndrome,
a Captivating Mass Psychosis"

Part 14
A Chomiak-Freeland Fixation on Jewish Oligarchs running the Kremlin

The most curious similarity between the journalistic oeuvres of Freeland and her grandfather is that they both advanced a peculiar fixation on conspiracy theories about wealthy Russian Jews who they believed were exerting inordinate control over the Kremlin. For Chomiak's part, the newspapers under his lead helped fuel the Nazi's "Big Lie" about a supposed plot between Moscow's top politicians and a powerful clique of Jews thought to be pulling the Kremlin's strings. 

Freeland too has repeatedly perpetuated very similar themes in postSoviet politics. Since the mid1990s she has returned again and again ‑ in articles, speeches, interviews and books ‑ to focus on the economic and political power exercised behind the scenes by a small pact of Russia oligarchs who are said to be mostly Jewish.

After serving some of the world's largest corporate media outlets as a freelancer in Lviv Ukraine, Freeland moved to the Russian capital.  She soon became The Financial Times' Moscow Bureau Chief. During her years there, Freeland interviewed some of Russia's top oligarchs. In one very influential 1996 Financial Times article, called "Moscow's Group of Seven," a Jewish oligarch named Boris Berezovsky is said to have boasted that he was among seven wealthy Russian men ‑ six of whom were widely identified as Jewish ‑ who, he claimed without any proof at all, controlled 50% the country's entire economy. This article, led by Freeland's byline, named all the "bankers" and described them as "a tight-knit group," a "pact," "a new centre of power in Russia," and an "elite pooling their efforts" to "control Russia's two top television networks, a popular radio station and a growing number of national newspapers ‑ assets they are happy to use to advance their agenda."[i]

This article, headlined by Freeland, cited unnamed "critics" who were said to have described these men as an "unelected oligarchy whose rise to power jeopardises the country's chances of becoming a democratic state with an open market economy based on the rule of law." Thus scapegoated, this small mostly-Jewish clique of bankers were also said to be "very dangerous," "insolent," "not subject to any rules," and a "mafia" with whom Russian politicians had made a "Faustian bargain." (Faust was a character of fiction who sold his soul to the devil. It is an interesting choice of tropes to target Russian leaders for conspiring with Jewish financiers in the mid1990s because it made illusion to a very famous German legend which had been immensely popular with the Nazis during the Third Reich.[ii])

Harvard Political Science professor Daniel Treisman has stated that in the "famous 1996 Financial Times interview," Freeland's "desire to reduce Russian events to a simple morality tale seems to take over."[iii]  Because this simplistic narrative "is difficult to fit with the evidence," Treisman said, "Freeland, perhaps because her view on this is widely shared, does not bother to provide much."[iv] Although Freeland's "story line," Treisman continued, "fits ... Western opinion on Russia .... it does not fit well with the statistics."[v]

Treisman further lamented that, despite all of the facts proving otherwise, "[s]till the 50 percent claim was widely repeated as if credible...."  Going as far as to say that the "claim was demonstrable nonsense," Treisman calculated that these seven men actually held only 6% of Russia's GDP.  He admitted however that, with some very convoluted manipulations, the figures might conceivably be inflated to 10%, or possibly even 15% at the very most, but certainly no where near 50%.[vi]

The "Faustian bargain" that Freeland referred to was known as the "loans for shares" deal.  Treisman however showed that "[i]n fact, only three of the seven original oligarchs ... won anything in loans for shares."  He also pointed out that Freeland's repeated focus on the so-called "outsiders," composed mostly of Jewish oligarchs, was also unfair.  This, he explains, is because "the loans for shares winners were a small subset of Russia's wealthy at the time, and an even smaller subset today."[vii] Treisman also points out that "[t]he biggest beneficiaries were not the so-called 'oligarchs,' but Soviet-era industrial managers"[viii] It is this group of so-called "red directors," who ‑ contrary to Freeland's narrative ‑ received most of the Russian state resources that were privatised.  These "red directors" however were very rarely Jewish.  In fact, according to Serguey Braguinsky, a business professor at the University of Maryland, only 1.7% of the "red directors" were Jewish.[ix]

But despite all of these serious problems making the actual facts match her narrative, Freeland used her media platform to confidently repeat again and again the now-popularly accepted fake news about the political control wielded by a small "tight-knit" "pact" of Russian oligarchs who were mostly Jews.  She returned to this theme, for example, in her blockbuster book, Sale of the Century: Russia's Wild Ride from Communism to Capitalism (2000).

In a chapter in that book, called "The Faustian Bargain," Freeland tied her German metaphor about the devil even more closely to religious imagery.  Freeland says that the deal, which made the whole Russian "economy ... irredeemably warped" and "its government unquestionably corrupt":

"turned out to be a Faustian bargain, laying a corrupt, inegalitarian foundation for everything that came after it. In a way, it was Russian capitalism's original sin."[x] (Emphasis added.)

In reviewing this book, Treisman took exception to Freeland's extravagant use of hyperbole to overstate her inaccurate message:

"The [loans for shares] program was a 'Faustian bargain,' wrote one journalist [Freeland], a 'fiendishly complicated scheme,' in which the liberal ministers had sold their souls to a cabal of unscrupulous tycoons, who — switching metaphors ‑ quickly metamorphosed into a 'Frankenstein's monster.' .... (Freeland, 2000, pp.22-3, 169-89)"[xi] (Emphasis added.) 

Over the years, Freeland has repeatedly used her "Faustian bargain" metaphor to describe Russia's "loans for shares" program. It became one of her favourite, go-to expressions for provoking the imagination of her readers about the Kremlin's "original sin" with a "Frankenstein's monster" of mostly Jewish bankers.[xii]

Freeland's choice of tropes also included some other interesting Germanic references.  Besides Faust's bargain with the devil, Freeland also drove home the diabolical nature of the deal by using the word "fiendishly." Derived from the Germanic root Feind, this word for enemy conveys the meaning of a "devil," "demon" or "Satan." 

Freeland also made an allusion to Mary Shelley's 1818 novel about a golem-like "monster" created by "Frankenstein."[xiii] Franckenstein is of course a very German name which recalls "The Franks," a 4th century grouping of powerful Germanic tribes that ruled Western Europe.

In her book, Sale of the Century, besides using suggestive German terminology and stretching statistics to suit a particular "morality tale," Freeland overstated the Jewishness of the Faustian "Group of Seven." Vladimir Potanin, the one nonJewish member in this cabal, was by far the wealthiest of all the Russian oligarchs.  In fact, Potanin was the only Russian on the Forbes' list of billionaires for 1998 and, even then, he only had $1.6 billion, ranking him 199th out of the world's 209 billionaires. Even Canadian Kenneth Thomson, the 2nd Baron of Fleet and owner of the Globe and Mail, had nine times more money ($14.4 billion)[xiv] than Potanin. (Freeland was the deputy editor of the Globe and Mail, 1999-2001.  This paper came to Freeland's defence by spreading the fake news that the scandal about her grandfather's role as a Nazi newspaper editor was a Russian conspiracy to undermine Canadian democracy.)

The much-repeated and already overly exaggerated claim that a monstrous cabal of mostly Jewish bankers owned 50% of the Russian economy, was later overblown beyond all proportions when Freeland took this fake news and ran with it. For example, in a Harvard Business Review interview about her book Plutocrats (which won the National Business Book Award), Freeland stated very clearly that "In Russia, as it happened, most of the oligarchs were Jewish."[xv]  This stretched the original falsehood about Jewish predominance within a self-selected group of seven Russian oligarchs, to the outrageous allegation that most Russian oligarchs were Jewish.  Freeland's spin on a spin took what began as "demonstrable nonsense" and whirled it to a whole new level of mass media mythology. 

Other major mainstream journalists jumped into the ring of this media circus.  For example, John Lloyd (who like Freeland is a former Financial Times' Moscow Bureau Chief), followed the release of her 2000 book with an article which quoted her about the oligarchs of Russia. In it, Lloyd stated unequivocally that "In a country where Jewishness is best kept quiet, nearly all of the oligarchs are Jewish."[xvi] A similarly-false blanket statement was made by Ian Birrell in the Guardian newspaper's 2012 review of Freeland's book, Plutocrats.  Birrell stated outright that "most Russian oligarchs, for example, were Jews clever and driven enough to get degrees from top universities under the old Soviet system – and often they are immigrants."[xvii] (Emphasis added.)  (This journalist ‑ who often writes about fake news but can't see his own contributions to the genre ‑ was a speechwriter for Conservative David Cameron during the 2010 election campaign which led to his becoming Britain's prime minister.[xviii])

So we have to ask, what percent of Russian oligarchs are actually Jewish?  Anyone who searches the web trying to ascertain the Jewishness of Russian oligarchs will soon realise that this task is like negotiating a minefield of fascist hate speech.  Many of the sources which immediately arise are extremely antiSemitic and proNazi.  Clearly the issue of wealthy Jewish oligarchs controlling the Kremlin is alive and well, if not thriving among online fascists.[xix]

Thankfully, reputable academic research on this subject is also not difficult to find.  Treidman's 2010 article for example cited the work of Serguey Braguinsky, a doctor of economics who analysed the first cohort of Russian oligarchs who emerged in the 1990s. His research on the "296 most prominent first-wave post-communist business tycoons" found that "while 13.98% of oligarchs were of Jewish ethnicity and 12.9% were other ethnicities (Georgians, Chechens, Tatars, etc.)," those of "Russian or Slavic (Ukrainian or Belorussian) ethnicity comprised 73.12% of the sample."[xx]  While only 39 of the 296 Russian oligarchs were Jewish, this was still high, he notes, because only 0.16% of the population identified themselves as Jewish in Russia's 2002 census.  Setting aside the complicating factor that some census respondents may have chosen not to identify themselves as Jewish, this was still a far cry from Freeland's popularisation of the idea in an interview with the Harvard Business Review, in which stated -- for the record -- that "In Russia, as it happened, most of the oligarchs were Jewish."[xxi] 

(Continue reading this article)

Sources and Notes

[i] Chrystia Freeland, John Thornhill and Andrew Gowers, "Moscow's Group of Seven," Financial Times, November 1, 1996. FT_7bankers.doc

[ii] David Pan, "The structure of aesthetic pleasure in the Nazi Reception of Goethe's Faust," Pleasure and Power in Nazi Germany (P. Swett, C. Ross, F. d’Almeida, editors), pp.87-106.

[iii] Daniel Treisman, "Blaming Russia First," Foreign Affairs, November 2000, pp.10-11.

[iv] Daniel Treisman, "Blaming Russia First," Foreign Affairs, November 2000, pp.10-11

[v] Daniel Treisman, "Blaming Russia First," Foreign Affairs, November 2000, p.13.

[vi] Daniel Treisman, "'Loans for Shares' Revisited," Post-Soviet Affairs, July-September 2010

[vii] Daniel Treisman, "'Loans for Shares' Revisited," Post-Soviet Affairs, July-September 2010, p.23.

[viii] Daniel Treisman, "'Loans for Shares' Revisited," Post-Soviet Affairs, July-September 2010, p.1

[ix] Serguey Braguinsky, "The Rise and Fall of Post-Communist Oligarchs: Legitimate and Illegitimate Children of Praetorian Communism," The Journal of Law & Economics, May 2009, pp.13, and "Table 6. Basic demographics of old and new oligarchs," p.47.

[x] Chrystia Freeland, Sale of the Century: Russia's Wild Ride from Communism to Capitalism, 2000, p.22.

[xi] Daniel Treisman, "'Loans for Shares' Revisited," Post-Soviet Affairs, July-September 2010, p.2.

[xii] Here are a few other examples of Freeland's well-worn use of the devil-conjuring phrase "Faustian bargain" to depict the Kremlin's deal with mostly-Jewish oligarchs.

Chrystia Freeland, "To Russia with love," New Statesman, June 19, 2000.

Chrystia Freeland, "The quiet revolutionaries," Financial Times, December 4, 2004.

Chrystia Freeland, My Ukraine: A Personal Reflection on a Nation's Independence and the Nightmare Vladimir Putin Has Visited Upon, May 12, 2015.

Chrystia Freeland, "My Ukraine, and Putin’s big lie," Quartz, May 22, 2015.

[xiii] Mary Shelley wrote in the preface to Frankenstein (1818) that her novel was written in imitation of "German stories of ghosts."(p.x).  Listed below are some texts which discuss her novel within the context of the antiSemitism of gothic literature.  Also of interest is the connection between Frankenstein's monster and Jewish folklore about a mythical creature called the golem. Jewish folktales describe the golem as a creature created by Rabbis to protect the community.  In some versions of the fairytale, the golem turns against its master.  Curiously, the Jewish community in Chelm, Poland, is closely connected to a famous, early tradition of golem stories.  The antiSemitic newspaper edited by Michael Chomiak, called Cholmer Land, catered to the Ukrainian community in and around Chelm which the Nazi's had empowered during the Holocaust.

Matthew Biberman, Masculinity, Anti-Semitism and Early Modern English Literature: From the Satanic to the Effeminate Jew, 2017.

M. Scrivener, Jewish Representation in British Literature 1780-1840: After Shylock, 2011.

Cathy S. Gelbin, The Golem Returns: From German Romantic Literature to Global Jewish Culture, 1808-2008, 2011.

[xiv] Forbes List of billionaires, 1998

[xv] Economy: "The Rise of the Global Super-Rich," Harvard Business Review, December 13, 2012.

[xvi] John Lloyd, "The Autumn Of the Oligarchs," New York Times Magazine, October 8, 2000.

[xvii] Ian Birrell, "Plutocrats: The Rise of the New Global Super Rich by Chrystia Freeland – review," The Guardian, November 1, 2012.

[xviii] Ian Birrell

[xix] During the course of my research, I created a "Custom Search Engine" (CSE) to scan the contents of 67 of the world's largest antiSemitic, neo-Nazi and "white power" websites.  This was useful, for example, in identifying the number of times that racist websites referenced ultranationalist Ukrainian leaders and their periodicals as references.  Using this CSE, I found that a search of these 67 hate sites, for the words "russian," "Jewish" and "oligarchs," yielded about 114,000 web pages that included all three terms.

[xx] Serguey Braguinsky, "The Rise and Fall of Post-Communist Oligarchs: Legitimate and Illegitimate Children of Praetorian Communism," The Journal of Law & Economics, May 2009.

[xxi] An interview with Chrystia Freeland by Sarah Green, Economy: "The Rise of the Global Super-Rich," Harvard Business Review, December 13, 2012.