Justice in the USSR of the Khrushchev era was tendentiously aimed against Jews – such a bold conclusion was reached by Eugenia Evelson, author of the book “Litigation in Economic Cases in the USSR (Sixties)”, published in 1986 in London.
In her book, Evelson, a former Soviet lawyer, analyzed 440 trials of 1961-1967, in which a total of 1,676 Jews were put on trial. The author argued that during the years of the thaw, discrimination against Jews in the Soviet Union not only did not disappear, but took on a new form, manifested in the form of a campaign against economic crimes.
The offender must be punished – dura lex sed lex – but it was Evelson's clients, Jews by nationality who were involved in economic matters, never knew mitigating circumstances and received the harshest sentences.
At the end of her monograph, Evelson gave a list of Jews sentenced to death for economic crimes – only 163 names. On the territory of Ukraine alone there are more than 80 executed Jews, while Russians and Ukrainians – only 5. This is the Soviet “justice”.
Another notable conclusion of the author: no matter how hard Comrade Andropov tried, there will always be an illegal, “leftist” economy in the Union. Without the adjustment it provides, a planned economy cannot exist. People just want to live a normal life - to earn money with their work and spend it on decorating their modest life.
At the end of her work, Evelson emphasized: several decades after the sensational case of knitwear, which started on March 5, 1962, there were no changes either in economic policy or in legal practice in the USSR. And it will not happen until this unsustainable system collapses. Five years after the publication of the book, Evelson's prophecy came true – the Soviet system died.
The author of the quoted monograph was a non-public person. Eugenia Evelson was born (at birth – Zlata Evelson) in the Pale of Settlement, in the shtetl near Nikolaev in southern Ukraine.
Eugenia, or, as she was called in the family, Zlatka, was 15 years old. Despite her artistry, the ability to dance beautifully and a great voice, the girl chose a completely different path. During the day, she worked hard at the Moscow Concession Factory of Armand Hammer's stationery, and in the evenings she studied diligently at the workers' faculty of the Moscow Institute of Law.
While working at the factory, the enterprising young worker was noticed and soon promoted to the position of head of the Bureau of Workers' Inventions, and later – to the apparatus of the People's Commissariat of Light and Local Industry of the RSFSR. There she enthusiastically led the certification of light industry enterprises and held the position of head of the conjuncture department. The skills acquired at work in the national economy were then very useful in the legal profession.
In 1936, Evelson graduated from the institute. In June 1940, at the age of 28, she defended her Ph.D. thesis on the history of state and law, and from October 26, 1940 she became an assistant professor. Even before defending her Ph.D., she taught law at four Moscow universities and, preparing for the defense of her doctoral dissertation, wrote the monograph “The Cathedral Code of Tsar Alexey Mikhailovich”, which analyzed the entire complex of legal institutions of that time. The monograph was accepted for publication in 1941, but never saw the light of day – the war mixed up all plans, not only the plans of the publishers.
Eugenia Evelson's husband immediately volunteered for the Moscow people's militia and went missing two months later. Meanwhile, the Germans were eager for Moscow. Eugenia left with her daughter Elena for evacuation to Chkalov (present-day Orenburg). There, on January 29, 1942, she was admitted to the Chkalov branch of the All-Union Legal Correspondence Institute, where she became one of the first teachers who lectured and took tests and exams on the history of state and law of the USSR.
In 1942-1944, she served in the Office of Educational Institutions of the People's Commissariat of Justice of the USSR, and was part-time assistant professor of the Department of Theory and History of State and Law at the Faculty of Law of Moscow State University and deputy dean of the faculty for academic affairs.
Later, Evelson's colleagues said that among the material evidence presented at the Nuremberg Tribunal was a book published by the Nazis in occupied Minsk in 1942 – “The Truth about Jews in the USSR”. It listed the names of all Jews who occupied at least some significant posts in the Soviet hierarchy, scientists and art workers. In this list, in the section of Jewish lawyers, there was a place for Eugenia, and with an exact indication of the topic of her dissertation.
In the early 1950s, Eugenia Evelson was accused of cosmopolitanism. She was then the scientific secretary of the Department of Theory and History of Law at the All-Union Correspondence Institute of Law. Her “Methodological Letter on the Course of the History of State and Law in the USSR” was subjected to devastating criticism: the role of the Russian people at the initial stage of the formation of the state was insufficiently covered and the leading role of Stalin in this process was not reflected. What was the leading role of the leader in the study of ancient Russian history or in the history of Russia itself – was not clear from the wording.
As an intelligent woman, Evelson voluntarily left the department and went to the advocacy, which was not as prestigious and, accordingly, dangerous as high school. In the bar, the disgraced Jewish woman seemed to find it easier to get through the dark times.
Until the last moment, Evelson was sure that the “father of nations” Joseph Stalin knew nothing about repressions and anti-Semitic attacks. When Stalin died, as Eugenia’s daughter later recalled, she was sitting on the bed, her legs dangling, sobbing, tearing her hair and shouting: “What will happen to us all now?!”
When the thaw came, Evelson, as a member of the Moscow City Bar Association, continued to defend those who are now commonly called “entrepreneurs” and “businessmen”, but the Soviet Union called “crooks”. She avoided political cases – she was afraid that her statements at court sessions would turn out to be sharper and sharper than those of the defendants – and focused on the so-called economic crimes.
Eugenia fought for fair sentences to her clients, who, of course, were guilty of deliberately violating Soviet laws. But, as a competent theorist, doctor of jurisprudence and a shrewd person, over time she came to the conclusion that if they were convicted citizens of a normal state, they would be revered as outstanding representatives of the nation. For example, the famous in the USSR Yan Rokotov would not have been shot as a criminal currency dealer, but a successful entrepreneur acting within the framework of the law.
After the triumphant victory of the Israelis in the 1967 Six Day War and the famous Leningrad aircraft business in 1970, Evelson's son-in-law was fired up with the idea of repatriation to Israel. Both families did not have Zionism and strong Jewish sentiment, but they were attracted by the opportunity to part with the Soviet Union forever.
Evelson's daughter left for Israel with her family in 1973. Two years later, Eugenia also repatriated.
At the time of her departure, Eugenia Evelson was finally disillusioned with communism: her work in the legal profession perfectly illustrated how Soviet socialism is achieved in practice.
In Israel, Eugenia immediately felt like a duck to water. In Israel, she met many peers from her small homeland: at one time they went not to Moscow, but to Palestine. These were people close in age that, like her, had been ill with communism.
She became interested in Zionism, sympathized with the Labor Party. She even donated her piano to the Avoda party club, attended their meetings and lectures. At some political rally, Eugenia met Ben-Zion Keshet, who was at that time the deputy chairman of the Knesset. She made a great impression on the Israeli politician, and he invited her to a meeting of the Knesset. The daughter, granddaughter and son-in-law solemnly accompanied Eugenia to the Israeli parliament, where Ben-Zion Keshet introduced her to Menachem Begin, who was then the head of government.
Eugenia was especially proud of her granddaughter Sonya, a combat officer of the Israel Defense Forces.
At the age of 65, Eugenia Evelson began working as a part-time researcher at the Department of Slavic Studies at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. It was then that she began to analyze criminal cases in the USSR. The results of this research were later published in the aforementioned book dedicated to the memory of her first husband.
Eugenia Evelson passed away in California in 2011. She is buried in New York at Mount Carmel Cemetery.
1911 – 2011