Some Soviet Jews, whether or not they were true believers in Communism, were forced to express gratitude to Stalin simply for not being Hitler. That is one conclusion to be drawn from “Kirill Kondrashin: His Life in Music” a recent biography of the great Russian Jewish conductor by journalist Gregor Tassie (The Scarecrow Press).
According to Tassie, Kondrashin’s repeated claims that he was “proud to call himself a Stalinist” were motivated by the fact that his family was allowed to survive in an era when Europe’s Jews were largely exterminated. Yet the question remains of how genuine such declarations of allegiance could be under a murderous dictatorship. One Ukrainian-born colleague of Kondrashin’s, Dmitry Paperno, defines him as “another victim of a regime that he deeply despised yet had no choice but to serve, and thus to promote.”
Kondrashin was born in Moscow to violinist parents who worked with both the post-Revolutionary conductor-less orchestra Persimfans, and the Moscow State Jewish Theater of Yiddish actor Solomon Mikhoels, who would eventually be murdered by Stalin.