On January 27, Pyotr Tolstoy, Deputy Chairman of Russia’s State Duma, was elected one of twenty vice-presidents of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe.
The Ukrainian delegation opposed his nomination; Mariia Mezentseva, a representative of the Servant of the People party, recalled that the Russian politician had repeatedly slammed European values in interviews. She also recalled his anti-Semitic statements that triggered a high-profile scandal in 2017.
Tolstoy then publicly called the persons protesting against handing over St. Isaac Cathedral in St. Petersburg to the Russian Orthodox Church ‘grandchildren of those who destroyed our churches’.
“They sprang across the Pale of Settlement with revolvers in their hands in 1917. Today they are working in revered places like radio stations and legislatory assemblies and are continuing that work,” he said.
The Pale of Settlement included the regions of Imperial Russia, in which the Jews were allowed to permanently reside. Tolstoy’s statement was widely interpreted as a reference to the Jewish origin of a number of Bolsheviks. Finding himself in the hot seat, the lawmaker denied any anti-Semitic context of his words.
However, he was harshly criticized in The Times of Israel by Alexander Boroda, Chairman of the Federation of Jewish Unions in Russia. He called Tolstoy’s rhetoric ‘undermining of inter-ethnic coexistence and inciting hatred’.
Due to Ukraine’s protesting against appointing Tolstoy, a secret ballot was held. In the first round, the Russian MP failed to obtain the required number of votes. 101 deputies voted in his favour; 71 were against, but he needed a minimum of 161 votes, i.e. an absolute majority. For this reason, a second voting tour was carried out. In the end, Tolstoy won the position by receiving a simple majority of votes.
Most recently, when responding to the statement by Poland’s Foreign Ministry, Pyotr Tolstoy has recently accused the Polish authorities of ‘hysterical Russophobia and historical illiteracy’. According to the Polish side, although the Soviet Army liberated Warsaw from Nazis, it did not bring freedom to the Poles.