Zhydovka (Russian: жидовка, Ukrainian: жидівка, Polish: żydówka, Czech: židovka) is a term used for a Jewish woman. The term is used to refer to women who are of Jewish heritage. In Russia, it is considered pejorative and the word is used as an "anti-Semitic pejorative" by Russian-speaking people across the old Soviet Union[nb 1]. In other Slavic languages, such as Polish, Ukrainian, Czech, Slovak, and Slovene the terms zhyd (Jewish man) and zhydovka (Jewish woman) are not pejorative. The word zhyd was banned illegal to use by the Soviet authorities in the 1930s, also in the languages of the Soviet Union in which it had no negative connotations.
Use in Soviet times
Nikita Khrushchev commented on this in his memoirs: "I remember that once we invited Ukrainians, Jews, and Poles...to a meeting at the Lvov [Lviv] opera house. It struck me as very strange to hear the Jewish speakers at the meeting refer to themselves as "yids." "We yids hereby declare ourselves in favour of such-and-such." Out in the lobby after the meeting I stopped some of these men and demanded, "How dare you use the word "yid?" Don't you know it's a very offensive term, an insult to the Jewish nation?" "Here in the Western Ukraine it's just the opposite," they explained. "We call ourselves yids...Apparently what they said was true. If you go back to Ukrainian literature...you'll see that "yid" isn't used derisively or insultingly."
In December 2012, Ukrainian politician Ihor Miroshnychenko of the Svoboda party wrote on Facebook that Hollywood actress Mila Kunis is "not a Ukrainian but a zhydivka". Ukrainian Jews protested the use of term. Svoboda officials and Ukrainian philologist Alexander Ponomarev argued that in the Ukrainian language the word does not always have the anti-semitic connotations that it does in the Russian language, though Ponomarev warned that the term would be considered offensive by Jewish people.[nb 2] The Ukrainian Ministry of Justice declared that Miroshnichenko's use of the word was legal because it is an archaic term for Jew, and not necessarily a slur. In a letter of protest directed to (then) Prime Minister of Ukraine Mykola Azarov the term Zhydovka was described by Rabbi Marvin Hier of the U.S.-based Simon Wiesenthal Center as an "insidious slur invoked by the Nazis and their collaborators as they rounded up the Jews to murder them at Babi Yar and in the death camps," while himself referring to the country as the archaic "the Ukraine."
- "Mila Kunis Targeted By Anti-Semitic Ukrainian". TMZ. Retrieved 21 December 2012.
- LaZebnik, Edith (1979). Such a Life. G. K. Hall. p. 108. ISBN 978-0-8161-6662-6. Retrieved 21 December 2012.
- "Ukrainian government: Anti-Semitic pejorative used against Mila Kunis is legal". Jewish Telegraphic Agency. 20 December 2012. Retrieved 21 December 2012.
- Gelblum-Bross, Roma (1992). To Samarkand and Back. Roma Bross Reg'd. p. 110. ISBN 978-0-9695913-0-6. Retrieved 21 December 2012.
- Harvest of Despair: Life and Death in Ukraine Under Nazi Rule by Karel C. Berkhoff, Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, 2008, ISBN 0674027183 (page 60)
- Nikita Khrushchev, Khrushchev Remembers (New York, Bantam Books, 1971), page 145.
- Winer, Stuart. Ukraine okays ‘zhyd’ slur for Jews, The Times of Israel, December 19, 2012.
- Glavcom.ua, Alexander Ponomarev [Олександр Пономарів], 28 November 2012, Reason to believe the word "жид" is not anti-Semitic (Підстав вважати слово "жид" антисемітським немає).
- of Despair: Life and Death in Ukraine Under Nazi Rule by Karel C. Berkhoff, Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, 2008, ISBN 0674027183 (page 60)
- Outrage as Ukrainian politician attacks Mila Kunis and labels her a 'dirty Jewess', London Daily Mail, December 20, 2012.