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The Soviet Union, despite its official view of Zionism as, in Lenin’s words, “bourgeois nationalism,” became the first country in the world to give legal recognition to Israel on this date in 1948, just three days after the state declared its independence. A year earlier, on May 14, 1947, Soviet Foreign Minister Andrei Gromyko had declared his country’s support for the UN Partition Plan for Palestine in recognition of the “exceptional sorrow and suffering” of the Jews in World War II and the fact that “no Western European State has been able to ensure the defense of the elementary rights of the Jewish people and to safeguard it against the violence of the fascist executioners.” The USSR made good on its recognition by prompting Czechoslovakia to provide armaments to Israel (including the Avia S-199 fighter plane, pictured above), which proved crucial to its defense against the invading Arab armies. Within a few years, however, Israel had positioned itself as a staunch ally of the United States and its Western allies in the Cold War, and the USSR switched sides in the Arab-Israel conflict. Soviet anti-Zionist propaganda resumed, and by the 1967 Six-Day War, Jews in the USSR, Poland, Czechoslovakia and other communist states were facing exclusion and discriminatory policies.

“[T]he main posits of modern Zionism are militant chauvinism, racism, anti-Communism and anti-Sovietism . . . [and] overt and covert fight against freedom movements and the USSR.” —Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 1967