The White House compared a riot targeting Jewish people in Dagestan on Sunday to pogroms of the 18th and 19th centuries.
The comments come a day after hundreds of protesters in the Russian region stormed an airport in search of passengers who had landed on a flight from Israel. Twenty people were injured before security forces contained the protest.
“Some people will compare it to the pogroms of the late 19th and early 20th century and I think that’s probably an apt description,” National Security Council spokesman John Kirby said.
‘Pogrom’ is a Russian word designating an organised massacre or attack against a particular ethnic group, and is most commonly associated with the historic targeting of Jewish communities in Russia and Eastern Europe.
Anti-Jewish riots categorised as pogroms were commonplace in the former Russian empire in the years leading up to the 1917 revolution which toppled the former Czarist monarchy and led to the formation of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, the communist state that would rule Russia and much of Eastern Europe for the next seven decades.
The Dagestan-based protesters appeared to be expressing anger over Israel’s war on Gaza, which was sparked by a Hamas attack that killed 1,400 people in Israel. More than 8,000 people have been killed by Israeli airstrikes and artillery in response.
Videos shared on social media showed some of the protesters holding handwritten banners saying, “Child killers are not welcome in Dagestan“ and “We’re against Jewish refugees.”
In response, Israel issued its “highest level travel warning for the Dagestan region on Monday.
Mr Kirby’s comments came on the same day the White House unveiled a series of actions meant to combat anti-semitism on college campuses amid protests over the Israel-Gaza war.
White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre told reporters on Monday that the White House was “closely monitoring and concerned by the reports of anti-semitic threats” at Cornell University, where Jewish students at a Kosher dining facility had to be briefly locked down for their own safety over the weekend.
Ms Jean-Pierre said there was “no place for hate in America” and stressed that the White House condemns anti-semitism “in the strongest possible terms”.