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Many Russians, especially among radical nationalist groups, accept the
charge of ritual murder as part of a vicious conspiracy theory: that rather
than a Bolshevik crime, the Romanovs’ murder was the product of a
Judeo-Masonic plot to sacrifice the czar’s family in a religious ritual
intended to symbolize a murder of the Russian people.

The accusation of ritual murder, of course, has a much longer history. In
the violent anti-Semitism that pervaded the czarist empire, the murder of a
Christian child in murky circumstances would typically be attributed to
Jews, who were falsely accused of needing the blood of a child for
religious rituals — the infamous “blood libel.”

Why resurrect the idea of ritual murder now? Has Bishop Tikhon become
President Putin’s Rasputin? In today’s Russia, where transparency is rare,
speculation abounds. One possibility is that reigniting traditional
anti-Semitism is a Kremlin ploy intended to tap into ultraright Russian
nationalism ahead of the presidential elections in March. After all,
stoking Russian nationalism worked well for Mr. Putin during the 2012
presidential campaign. Why not try again?

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