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It's just affirmative action. This sort of thing happens in every multicultural country, especially when one group apparently does better financially than the others.


The Russians came up with an unusually crass method for this, but guess what? Jews and other whites and East Asians all are, to some degree, kept from elite institutions today because of our more subtle system.

Affirmative action? Are you mad?

Perhaps you're unaware of these:


Affirmative action is not the same thing as making it artificially harder for a discriminated minority!

It is exactly like affirmative action:


"Princeton sociologist Thomas Espenshade and researcher Alexandria Walton Radford examined data on students applying to college in 1997 and found what looks like different standards for different racial groups. They calculated that Asian-Americans needed nearly perfect SAT scores of 1550 to have the same chance of being accepted at a top private university as whites who scored 1410 and African-Americans who got 1100. Whites were three times, Hispanics six times, and blacks more than 15 times as likely to be accepted at a US university as Asian-Americans."

In Russia a minority like Jews are asked special questions in admission tests to make it harder for them to get in, while in America a minority like Asians are hit with a penalty of 450 points in SAT to make it harder (15 times harder) for them to get in. There's no difference.

There is a slight difference.

If elite American universities didn't penalize Asians, they would almost literally have no non-Asian students. This is because Asian-Americans optimize the entire lives of their youth around maximizing their admissions chances to elite universities. There's racism here, but there's also just Goodhart's Law, normal old American anti-intellectualism, and the proper acknowledgement that standardized exam scores show very little about a university applicant's real life prospects.

Part of turning 18 in the USA is making the transition from subservient child to independent adult, over a period of years (usually by 26 you're considered definitely adult or way behind). Part of the problem with Asian-Americans is, they don't make the transition. Striver-immigrant culture and extreme focus on family (at one time a part of Jewish-American immigrant culture too, often more an immigrant thing than a particular culture's thing) cause people to overoptimize their kids' upbringing on being good little subservient worker-bee children, often leaving them semi-crippled when required to function as independent adults.

And then let's not even get into the cultural differences in areas of authority, ego and freedom between East Asia and America, which put Asians at a severe disadvantage due to their inclination, ground in by "Chinese mothers" over periods of years, to expect being ordered around all the time.

Before anyone calls me a vicious racist, a Chinese student in a class at university once referred to me as "more Asian than the Asians". I like to look back on how completely wrong he was :-).


please have a look at the history of antisemitism in europe. you cannot compare things which are not comparable at all.

Or you could take a look at the long history of anti-Asian racism in America (Chinese massacre of 1871, imported Asian slave labors for building the transcontinental railroads, Chinese Exclusion Act, Asiatic Barred Zone Act, etc). Just because you want to claim they are not comparable doesn't mean they are not.

I think what he was trying to say is that this is affirmative action for gentiles. In other words, Russia made it easier for non-Jews by virtue of giving them easier entrance exams.

I still think "affirmative action" is a clumsy and not entirely correct way of describing what he's trying to articulate. But he's not trying to be as provocative as he comes across. At least I don't think (?) he is?

Just because you have a name for non-Jews doesn't make it a cohesive group and most importantly nowhere near a minority.

It's insane to say discriminating against a minority is like affirmative action for everyone else. So if I don't like Bob I could phrase it that it's not that I don't like him--I do!-- it's just that I like everyone else better (including other people I dislike). And for someone to fall for that would be ridiculous.

> most importantly nowhere near a minority.

Affirmative action is not just for minorities... in some (many?) places, the historically excluded group form a majority.

And yet, Russians have never been the historically excluded group in Russia. Jews were.

It sounds less like a serious attempt to understand this episode in history, and more like a way to score a quick point about 21st-century American politics.

> Affirmative action is not the same thing as making it artificially harder for a discriminated minority!

It is practically the same. When it comes to limited entrance, you can't make it easier for a certain group without making it harder for the rest.

Principally yes, but I'd disagree on essence.

Say you have a minority that's 1% of the population, and unhindered it would also make up 1% of enrollments.

If you don't allow that minority to enroll, you're increasing the acceptance chance of a majority group member by just over 1%, while decreasing the acceptance chance of the minority member by 100%.

The correct way to describe this is then most definitely discrimination against the minority, and not affirmative action for the majority.

Actually Jews were about 1% of Soviet Union population and 5%-10% of University students. If Jews were only 1% of student population it would not be an issue. I went to mathematical magnet school (best math school in 5M+ city) and easily 30%-50% of students had Jewish roots.

Essentially it was more difficult for Jews to get into university, neutral for Russians, easier for Tatars and some other minorities and extremely easy for what's called Northern Minorities (they had - and still have special quotas, no exams necessary)

Speaking as 1/4 Russian-Jewish, 1/4 Chuvash, 1/8 Latvian and 1/rest Russian.

Thanks. I assumed that Jews would be overrepresented amongst students, but opted for making a more general point.

The term "affirmative action" is so easy to manipulate that it could be used to cover any form of discrimination. I guess Soviets would describe their discriminatory policy as an affirmative action to increase the social and ethnic diversity of the class of intellectuals, or something between those lines.

I can't believe this troll comment is the top comment.

> Our team of the best eight Soviet students, during the month we had the problems, solved only half of them.

Those questions weren't hard. They were impossible. The point was simply to not allow any undesirables to pass. Higher standards for Asians might be bullshit but it's not the same as literally keeping all Asians out regardless of skill.

The entrance math exam in MSU is not pass/fail but graded. There are two math exams (at least in the "math department", I imagine she meant either Mech-Mat or VMK), written and oral. Written exam consists of 6 problems with the passing mark 3 and maximum 5 (you only need to solve 5 correctly, 5th and 6th problems are the hardest and usually allow a choice between an algebra and a geometry problem, giving the time limit it's hard to solve both). Oral test is administered by drawing a random "ticket" with two general questions from the school program (e.g. "What are properties of a triangle?") and the problems the person conducting the test can choose based on the answers and the result of the written test. Answering two "ticket" questions correctly gives you the passing grade (3) already. So there is no way anybody could be failed by any number of the problems given during the oral test if they managed to answer the "ticket". At the worst case one could be dropped to 3 at the oral test, giving total of 8 for the both math tests and that's a pretty good mark. Total test score of 13 (you need to get 5 for the third marked test, written Physics and pass unmarked written Russian) is guaranteed admission. 12 - is a good chance of admission and, depending on the year, even 11 can get you in.

However there is a shortcut - under some conditions (either being a subject of one of Soviet "AA" incentives or being a winner of a math Olympiad), 4 or 5 for the first test (written math) gives automatic admission. 9 for the both math tests is also automatic and unconditional admission.

So the way the hard questions in the oral test come up is usually when you get 4 for the written test. If you could not solve 5th or 6th problem in the written test you are at the average level and giving you 5 (and automatically admitting you) in the oral test would defeat the whole purpose of the shortcut rule to secure admission for the exceptional students. So you have to get 4 or, really, 3 and such a question is to ensure that.

I don't know about anti-semitism, maybe there was some yet I have seen plenty of Jews both among students and faculty so, evidentially, they have not been entirely kept out. Yet I have seen a lot of people (of all origins) complaining about entrance exam being "too hard" and them being persecuted for various reasons. The reality is that pretty much every year from 70s to late 90s there had been several candidates for each student place so some people had to fail the test.

Jews were not completely kept out. There were admitted with a census. I.e. there was a fixed small percentage that was permitted to be accepted, and the rest were to be rejected using these kind of tactics. The obviously antisemitic nature of those methods was practically government sanctioned, but nowhere officially articulated. This existed until USSR fell apart in the beginning of 1990s. Since then this discrimination is practically gone. (Now there are no oral exams altogether anyway).

Unless it's an official policy rejecting somebody using these tactics is impossible: everyone get the same written test and the "ticket" questions on the oral test are fixed and randomly chosen .

You can definitely make it less likely to be admitted for certain groups (e.g. people from out of city who would need a dorm room, there are only so many rooms) or more likely (e.g. minorities or "natzmen") but the article and comments imply the examiners had full ability to reject Jews. This was simply impossible.

Later is actually easier than former because while an unfairly low grade will have to be defended in front of several official committees an unfairly high grade will only draw attention of few students.

PS. Sorry to learn the oral test is gone. Though even during my time (91-96) the number of applications dropped dramatically and if this trend continued they probably have less applications than places by now.

I disagree. The policy was "official" in a sense of coming from above. But they attempted to wrap it around in "natural causes".

> but the article and comments imply the examiners had full ability to reject Jews. This was simply impossible.

There are multiple evidences that it was going on. I'm not familiar with exact mechanics of how those failure problems were given to undesirables (it was before my time). But it's a historic fact that it was happening on a massive scale. There were even "Jewish" institutes, like MIIT which got disproportionally big percentage of Jews, because of the census policy in MSU (Mekhmat & VMK).

> Sorry to learn the oral test is gone.

In many colleges there are no entry tests at all these days. Major ones like MSU have written exams.

See https://ru.wikipedia.org/wiki/%D0%95%D0%B4%D0%B8%D0%BD%D1%8B...

Don't call semi-officially government sanctioned antisemitism with stupid euphemisms. It's plain insulting.

Don't conflate prejudice with anti-semitism. It's plain insulting.

Better don't tell this "wisdom" to those who were discriminated in Russia. They won't appreciate it.

Universities had national census not only for Jews obviously.

Then complain in your comment about all the people treated unfairly, don't mention anti-semitism only.

If you don't get this - there is little point in explaining it to you.

I don't need to complain. Just further ignore your pointless flaming in this thread.

Right back at you

You weren't talking about those who were discriminated against in Russia, you were talking about jews who were discriminated against in Russia.

Implying that all the others who were discriminated against don't count.

And there were lots of them. Including, by these articles, victimized by MGU admissions.

EDIT: check out in the article where it says "These problems were designed to prevent Jewish people and other undesirables"

Unnecessary bashing. The OP singled Jews out, which framed this discussion mostly around Jews. Prejudice against Jews is called anti semitism. There's really nothing to see here, nobody implied that there was no discrimination against other groups.

Well in the first place framing this discussion mostly around jews is precisely the problem. Don't you understand why it is offensive?

The same way it's offensive when my jewish relatives claim the Nazi genocide was the worst catastrophe in all history, conveniently forgetting the Cultural Revolution, the Cambodian Killing Fields, the Armenian Genocide etc etc

So I don't like the use of the word "anti-semitism" in the first place. But what really annoys me is that it is a euphemism, and a hyped one at that. To a first approximation, anti-semite means Nazi. Prejudice against jews is correctly called judeophobia instead.

shmerl managed both to commit this abuse of language and complain about the use of stupid euphemisms at the same time.

And what he was complaining about - affirmative action to mean discrimination - is a far smaller abuse of language.

Sorry, I don't see the offense in framing a discussion around one instance of something. Don't get me wrong, if someone claims to be fighting for a general cause and then repeatedly talks about one instance, that's wrong. But I really don't see a problem with someone offering a story about one instance. At no point did the OP imply that there was no discrimination against other groups.

Claiming that the Holocaust (I'm guessing you don't like that word either) was the worst catastrophe in all of history is a different matter. Now you're dealing with a statement of fact that should at least in theory be either 'right' or 'wrong'. In practice though, I don't think it makes any sense to split hairs around wether it was the 'worst' catastrophe in human history. Who cares, it was pretty damn bad. It's hard to see why you would be offended - there's plenty of defensible views of the word 'catastrophe' that could make the holocaust the 'worst' catastrophe, and if by some other reasonable view of 'catastrophe' the holocaust only comes in at number 7, why would you view it as offensive if someone disagreed?

Same goes for your insistence on the right way to call 'prejudice against jews', where you also manage to find offense. Any mainstream dictionary will define anti semitism as something around discrimination or prejudice against Jews, which would make it's use in this discussion 100% legitimate.

Perhaps you could enlighten us - what exactly is the problem with Jews talking about ways in which they were hurt as a group in the past?

what exactly is the problem with Jews talking about ways in which they were hurt as a group in the past?

The problem is with shmerl saying we can't use the phrase "affirmative action".

At no point did the OP imply that there was no discrimination against other groups.

From the Frenkel article: "People of other nationalities, like Tatars and Armenians, against whom there were prejudices and persecution—though not nearly on the same scale as against the Jews"

One who thinks the Soviets hurt anyone more than the Ukrainians and Chechens is deluded.

The basic problem here is that Russia is blatantly, horrifically racist in general. I'm sharing an apartment with a Russian Jew who shows no outward signs of Jewish practice or culture, but whose father nonetheless had to live a double-life between Russia and America just because he was descended from Jewish stock. That's plainly racial antisemitism and every bit deserving of the word.



Are you clear that "anti-semitism" carries some meaning other than "prejudice against jews"? So if you use it to mean "prejudice against jews" it is a euphemism. I can give you the history of the term if you like.


It's hard to look into your head and understand what exactly anti-semitism means to you. For anti-semitism to qualify as a euphemism, we'd have to establish that:

1. It actually has some substantial meaning outside of 'prejudice/discrimination against jews' 2. It is offensive beyond the offence that one might take from being accused of prejudice/discrimination against jews

As for (1), here's some dictionary definitions:

Merriam-Webste: hostility toward or discrimination against Jews as a religious, ethnic, or racial group Collins: prejudice or hostility towards Jews Cambridge: the strong dislike or cruel and unfair treatment of Jewish people

I'm not clear on what sort of historial narrative you could provide that would 'load' this term with substantial additional meaning and offense, but it would have to be very convincing.

No, your criteria are bogus. We simply have to establish that it is not literal usage.

Calling someone anti-semitic when you mean prejudiced is euphemistic in exactly the same way it is euphemistic to call someone a Nazi instead when you mean prejudiced. This cannot be literal unless said person is a member of the NSDAP.

Which is almost never the case because the NSDAP hasn't existed or had any members since 1945. In fact, "anti-semite" is approximately a synonym for "Nazi", though it is in fact an older term.

The term "anti-semite" was invented by 19th century German racist theorists to describe themselves, based on their social-Darwinistic style theory of race war. (This is also why your dictionary definitions are wrong. Look it up.)

The term strictly cannot apply to anyone who does not buy into 19th century race war theory.

For example, it is strictly a nonsense to call the Spanish Inquisition (or anything else before the 19th century) "anti-semitic".

It is also highly erm, dubious, to call a Russian communist believer in Marxism an "anti-semite".

The correct term is "judeophobe".

You should call someone prejudiced against jews "judeophobic", not "anti-semitic", unless (for example) he is wearing a Gestapo uniform.

The same way you call someone prejudiced against blacks a "racist", not a "White Supremacist", unless he is wearing a Klan uniform.

It was actually shmerl and not me who was getting all hissy about euphemism; I was merely calling him (her?) on his bullshit.

I realize that common usage may be sloppier which is why I did tag my post as being pedantic. I am disinclined to continue posting on this topic.

Universities had national census not only for Jews obviously. This doesn't preclude the fact of that it was manifestation of antisemitism. If you don't get it - there is little point in explaining it to you.

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