With the Polish partitions, czarist Russia acquired a Jewish "problem" which it sought then and in subsequent epochs to solve by a variety of often contradictory means, ranging from integration to repression. Czar Alexander III's principal adviser, Konstantin Pobedonostev, projected a kind of apocalyptic vision of the final resolution of the festering issue: one-third of Russian Jewry would perish; one-third would be totally assimilated; one-third would emigrate. The "problem" would vanish when Jewry ceased to be. If macabre, the formulation proved to be remarkably clairvoyant. The Nazi invasion brought about the liquidation of approximately one-third of Jewry inhabiting the Soviet Union. With the twin polarities of assimilation and emigration currently pulling at Soviet Jews, the likelihood of a Jewish future in the U.S.S.R. is exceedingly dim, probably nonexistent.

In the working out of that destiny, the United States has played and continues to play a key role. During the epoch of Pobedonostev's preeminence, the House of Representatives called upon the Administration to "exercise its influence with the government of Russia to stay the spirit of persecution as directed against the Jews," while Secretary of State James G. Blaine would formally justify American intervention in the internal concerns of Russia on the grounds that "the domestic policy of a State toward its own subjects" may be "at variance with the larger principles of humanity." Since 1869, when President Ulysses S. Grant first intervened on behalf of Russian Jewry, 11 Administrations have concerned themselves with the "problem." Today and for the immediate future, that concern, through the Jackson-Vanik Amendment tying levels of U.S.-Soviet trade to Soviet policies on emigration, ineluctably focuses upon the future of Soviet Jews.


Roy Medvedev, writing in samizdat almost a decade ago, already noted the advanced state of assimilation among Soviet Jews. The largest number of Jews, he observed, "feel they are Russians" and retain only some "external features and family names" to recall their lineage. There was yet a second group of Jews, Medvedev found, "who want to maintain their national independence, their language and culture and, if we are talking about believers, then also their religious affiliation." But this group, his analysis disclosed, confronted "an extremely sad sight" resulting from the absence of any means for the preservation of Jewish identity. Forced assimilation of Jewry has been, of course, an objective of the Kremlin, especially since 1948. The obliteration of virtually all the ethnic-cultural institutions, along with the Jewish intellectual leadership (the execution of 23 people in Lubyanka prison on August 12, 1952), the rejection of all proposals for any kind of Jewish schooling, and the determined effort to suppress a specific Jewish consciousness-all had, to a considerable extent, reduced self-identity, except in selected geographical areas, to the mere awareness of the nationality listing, yevrei, on internal passports.

An indication of the extent of assimilation that had taken place by 1970 was the severe decline, as compared to the previous census, in the number of persons who reported themselves to the census-taker as Jewish. The decline was over 100,000-from 2,268,000 to 2,150,000. And, as compared with estimates of the size of the Soviet Jewish population, which ranged from two-and-a-half to three million, the number of Jews who refused to specify accurately their nationality ran into the hundreds of thousands. The census data further indicated a deepening degree of linguistic assimilation. Only 17.7 percent indicated that a Jewish language was their principal form of communication. It was the lowest percentage by far of any nationality in the U.S.S.R. And it would have reached a far lower level were it not for vigorous pockets of resistance in the Baltic and western borderland areas.

A third and final group of Soviet Jews, as seen by Medvedev in 1970, were those who "express a persistent desire to emigrate to settle permanently in Israel." While yet small, their numbers-the perceptive historical analyst cautioned-would mount if Soviet policy were distinguished by anti-Semitism. The latter, he wrote, was "the chief factor, and main reason for the rebirth of Jewish nationalism and Zionist tendencies in the U.S.S.R.," and "if we want the number of 'repatriates' not to be too sizable, we must change decidedly the position of all the Jews in the U.S.S.R., abolishing and prohibiting all the discriminatory measures regarding this national group."

Indeed, the dynamic that is propelling the current polarity of emigration (as well as that of an intensified assimilation) is an overt state-sponsored discriminatory policy which has struck at the central functional role of Jews in Soviet society. That functional role had been related to the scientific-technological apparatus. If Jews had been excluded since the mid-1940s from party and state leadership positions, from diplomacy, foreign trade, military affairs and any other security-sensitive fields, they nonetheless occupied a prominent position as specialists and scientific workers in the economy.

The 1970 census showed, for example, that 68 percent of all Jews in the Russian Republic were defined as "specialists" while only 19 percent of Russians were defined in this way. In the Ukraine, Byelorussia and Latvia, approximately 50 percent of all Jews were defined as "specialists," greatly outranking in this category every other nationality in these republics. Especially illuminating were data about Moscow's scientific community, which contained one-quarter of all "scientific workers" of the U.S.S.R. As of January 1971, approximately 11 percent of the Moscow scientific community were Jews-a striking figure. Nationwide, the same proportion stood at six percent.

What made possible the functional role of membership in the country's technological elite was a higher education system which, though circumscribed by quotas since the early 1940s, was nonetheless sufficiently flexible and open to talent to permit the entrance to Soviet universities of great numbers of Jews. The 1970 census showed that more than one-third of the Jews of the Russian Republic had completed a higher education while but four percent of Russians had attained the same. In the Ukraine, Byelorussia and Latvia, one-quarter of the Jewish community acquired a university degree, far exceeding the percentages of other nationalities inhabiting the respective areas.

The results were especially impressive at the highest educational level. As of January 1974, nine percent of all holders of the Candidate of Science degree-approximately similar to an American Ph.D.-were Jews, who numbered less than one percent of the entire population. In absolute figures, Jews were outdistanced only by Russians and Ukrainians. On the even higher level of Doctor of Science, 14 percent of degree holders were Jews. They were exceeded, in numerical terms, only by Russians.

Higher education with the consequent entrance into the intelligentsia became a way of life for Jews. To realize this aspiration in Soviet society they were prepared, as an acute observer noted, to "sacrifice" their Jewish heritage and forego their "national distinctiveness." Frustration would be all the greater when the path to higher education was blocked. The result would be a personal and family crisis that was, in the words of the prominent Soviet writer and physicist Alexander Voronel, "tantamount to the loss of the meaning of life."


A fundamental change in Soviet policy toward Jews came about in 1967-68 as a consequence of both the Six Day War in the Middle East and reformist trends in Czechoslovakia and Poland which had stirred a sympathetic response among Soviet intellectuals. Poland's top communist ideologist, Andrzej Werblan, in a major essay published in June 1968, defined the character of the new policy by stating that Jews have a "particular susceptibility to revisionism" (i.e., reformism or liberalism) and to "Jewish nationalism in general and Zionism in particular." The formulation, with its finding of anti-communist diseases genetically inherent among Jews, was clearly racist; certainly it drew upon no classical Marxist tradition.

Werblan found that a "bad political atmosphere" flowed from a "concentration of people of Jewish origin" in universities and other cultural institutions. What was required was a "correction of the irregular ethnic composition" through discriminatory devices and ultimately-in 1969-expulsion of Jews, even the most assimilated, from Poland.

The Werblan thesis, even though applied to the Polish student uprisings in March 1968, was written on the "initiative" of the Soviet Party Central Committee in Moscow. This was revealed by a knowledgeable Polish dissident source at an academic conference last year. Poland was to be "the first laboratory of official anti-Semitism in the Eastern bloc," he added. The experiment would almost simultaneously find an echo in Moscow. Not surprisingly, the brilliant Soviet humanist, Andrei D. Sakharov, noted at the very same time as the publication of the Werblan article that the Soviet Academy of Sciences was beginning to apply anti-Semitism in its "appointments policy." Indeed, from the academic year 1968-69 onward the admission of Jews to Soviet universities began declining for the first time in Soviet history.

From 111,900 enrolled Jewish students in 1968-69, the number fell to 105,800 in 1970-71. By 1972-73, it plunged to 88,500, and by 1976-77, to 66,900. In the course of an eight-year period, Jewish enrollment was down by an incredible 40 percent. Especially tight was the admission to Moscow State University. A highly knowledgeable source reported that no more than two to four Jews would be admitted annually to this flagship institution. In 1977-78 it was rumored that not a single Jew was admitted. At the prestigious university in Novosibirsk, a somewhat similar, highly restrictive policy also has prevailed. Jews are kept out of the best higher educational institutions, according to recent samizdat disclosures, by specially selected examiners who give members of this ethnic group unusually difficult oral entrance examinations in mathematics and physics.

At the postgraduate level, the effect of discriminatory quotas was even sharper-from 4,945 Jewish students in 1970 to 2,841 in 1975-well over 40 percent during a more compressed time frame. Professor Gregory Freiman, a prominent Soviet mathematician, has very recently provided us with details of how the discriminatory mechanism operates at the postgraduate level, including the bracketing of Jews into a distinctive group which is subjected to special handling and the assignment of much tougher questions to Jews than to non-Jews in examinations.

How far Jewish enrollment in higher education will plummet cannot be determined. A Soviet ideologist, Vladimir Mishin, in an important work published in 1970, justified limiting the number of students of each nationality in higher education to the percentage the nationality constitutes in the total population. This would suggest that fairly soon (perhaps already in the 1977-78 or 1978-79 university enrollment figures) the number of Jews will drop from 66,900 (about 1.4 percent) to approximately 44,000 to coincide with their percentage (0.9) in the population as a whole. (Such proportional representation deliberately excludes Russians, whose enrollment, both absolutely and by percentage, continues to rise.) But the deepening of bias against Jews flowing from the emigration process may push the quota limitation beyond precise percentages to a point verging on near-exclusion. Georgi Arbatov, a leading adviser to the Politburo, warned several years ago that pressure for emigration would place those "who want to stay [in the U.S.S.R.] in an unfavorable light."

The sharpening of quotas is already affecting future career opportunities for Jews. Prior to 1972, the number of Jews who entered the scientific-technological intelligentsia was two to three thousand a year. Since then it has dropped to about one thousand a year. The percentage of Jews in the intelligentsia has been cut in half from the early 1960s (from 11 to 5.5 percent). If absolute figures of Jewish participation in the technological elite continue to remain fairly high, it is because many are holdovers from a previous era. A striking feature of Jewish scientific workers is the fact that their average age is far higher-perhaps by as much as ten years-than the general average age of Soviet scientific workers.

Discrimination extends to top administrative levels in higher institutions and specialized research institutes. A secret 1970 Party directive discourages the employment of Jews at "responsible levels" in various closed and security institutions. Indeed, such institutions, Roy Medvedev revealed, will exclude even those listed as Russian in their internal passport but whose mother or father is Jewish.

But it is the drastic restriction in education that exerts the strongest impact upon Soviet Jews. The most frequently reported reason for emigrating that interviewers from the Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society (HIAS) hear from refugees in Rome is the sharp limitation upon educational opportunities for Jewish children and young people in the U.S.S.R. A typical comment recorded by an HIAS official goes like this: "My son (or daughter) was refused admittance to the university or to a technical institute because he (or she) was Jewish. That is why we left."


The new racism was not restricted to university admission and job opportunities. It entered into a massive propaganda program directed presumably against Zionism but which incorporated all of the basic anti-Semitic stereotypes. The assault was, in fact, upon Jewish tradition, Judaism and Jewry itself. Zionism, like "cosmopolitanism" in 1948-49, became the code word for Jewry, thereby legitimizing the new racism, spurring it forward and generating an atmosphere that augured an even more threatening future for Soviet Jews, including the potentiality of open violence.

The propaganda campaign was launched two months after the Six Day War. As reported in considerable detail in various published studies, the principal themes of that hoary forgery dating from turn-of-the-century czarist times, "The Protocols of the Elders of Zion," were distinctly recognizable in the vast outpouring of vituperation that would follow in newspapers, journals, books and on radio and television, and from lecture halls. What emerged from the calculated perception of Zionism is the enormity of the power and evil with which it is presumably endowed. Its power, as in the "Protocols," is cosmic, bordering on the divine, although a divine that is satanic in character. Diabolical and displaying transcendent conspiratorial and perfidious talents, Zionism strives for domination over all other peoples and nations in keeping with the Biblical "chosen people" concept. That concept, whether consciously or unconsciously distorted, was the centerpiece of the virulent propaganda drive.

The years 1977 and 1978 constituted both the apotheosis of the decade-old drive and the point of departure for an even more ominous future. On one level, the audience for the media campaign was increased to the fullest extent possible. Anti-Semitic volumes were published in massive editions two to three times the size of even the fairly large editions of previous years. Saturation of the media, including television programming, made the U.S.S.R. the world's principal center for anti-Semitic propaganda. On a second level, the campaign catered to and exploited the deepest public fears and traumatic memories of the Soviet public. Zionism was equated with espionage, war and even Hitlerism. On a final level, and most significantly, the campaign provided for the first time a Leninist rationale carrying the imprimatur of the prestigious Soviet Academy of Sciences. If the campaign, much of it Nazi-like, nourished bigotry among the populace, it also deepened fears and anxieties among Jews.

With the force of anti-Jewish discrimination buttressed by intensified and vitriolic propaganda, driving broad segments of Soviet Jewry toward emigration, it is scarcely surprising that Soviet Jews want to get out. Some 200,000 have already left, and the average monthly rate in 1979 of about 4,000 suggests that 50,000 will have emigrated by the end of the year. But these figures only touch the surface. Approximately 16,000 affidavits for exit visas have been sent monthly during this past year to Soviet Jews from relatives in Israel responding to the formers' requests. This first step in the emigration process emboldens the recipient and virtually predetermines an exodus after an indeterminate time period elapses.

The greatly stepped-up number of affidavit requests testifies to the distinguishing feature of Soviet Jewry today-a people on the move. Estimates place the total number of unused affidavits currently in Jewish hands in the U.S.S.R. at well over 300,000. Even if overstated-precision in estimates is impossible for reasons that are too complex to examine here-still the potential for emigration is vast. An important additional consideration is the possibility of a change in the Kremlin's attitude toward the "refuseniks" (that is, people who have been refused exit visas more than once). Should apparent promises, given in May 1979 to Australian Labor leader Robert Hawke, be kept-that rational procedures on exit visas will be established and that no one will be denied a visa after a five-year wait, even on security grounds-then a major bottleneck affecting the emigration process will be removed.1 The stigma and torment of a refusenik's life, reinforced by uncertainty about ever being allowed to leave, have made even the most determined among Jewish scientists hesitant about applying for a visa.


Soviet policy toward the emigration of Jews is determined by a variety of factors only one of which is the intensity of the desire to emigrate. If the door for emigration was opened slightly in 1971 and even wider in 1972-73, it was due in large measure to other critical factors. The ardent Soviet pursuit of détente and trade with the West, especially the United States, was of decisive importance during those years, for it made the Kremlin take account of Western public opinion and pressure, which helped shape the context within which negotiations for détente and trade would take place. Since 1968, U.S. Administrations along with congressional sentiment-as in previous epochs-had made the treatment of Russian Jewry a serious concern of U.S. policy. While the impulse to emigrate within the U.S.S.R. was crucial, it would have found no outlet within a powerful totalitarian state unless the latter's external interests as well as other domestic interests were also satisfied by its fulfillment.

Lagging productivity rates within the U.S.S.R. enhanced the drive for détente and trade. The Soviet Union sought to acquire from the West large-scale advanced technology, including computers and electronics in addition to a variety of other goods and equipment, in order to achieve the objectives of its faltering economic plans. And the acquisition of these commodities required massive credits from the West, an aspiration which was ineluctably linked to the reduction of tensions which détente would bring about. Thus, a certain degree of Jewish emigration was finally allowed in order both to diminish a potentially explosive situation within the U.S.S.R. generated by a disaffected and alienated activism among various categories of Jews, and to pacify an outraged Western public opinion that would have certainly circumscribed and possibly even prevented negotiations for détente and trade.

Under circumstances of détente, Soviet trade-offs for perceived benefits, whether atmospheric or substantive, became possible, provided the costs to the Kremlin were not of a vital nature. The essential marginality of the Soviet Jewish problem is crucial here. The activist movement sought no internal change and therefore posed no challenge to the fear-ridden holders of Kremlin power. What the movement sought was the right to opt out of the Soviet system, which may very well have been supported by segments of the police apparatus who, like Werblan, sought to excise a perceived dangerously indigestible element from the body politic. If, initially, security organs feared that the Jewish exodus could exert some sort of uncontrollable domino effect upon other Soviet nationalities and, therefore, might have been inclined to exercise a restraining force upon it, experience over time would suggest that such fears were completely unwarranted. This may explain why emigration procedures have been eased in recent months.

While the Soviet authorities have, since 1971, accepted the principle of Jewish emigration, they have nonetheless imposed brutal and callous restraints designed to limit and manage the emigration process in order to soften any internal negative impact and increase potential benefits for the Soviet state. Eased emigration procedures, later effected, became a bargaining chip for realizing Soviet desiderata. The central issue was not the principle of emigration, but rather the harassment and intimidation that kept the rate of emigration low. The 1973-74 Jackson-Vanik Amendment, with its linkage of trade and credits to the removal of such obstacles, had precisely this objective in mind.

Its advocates assumed correctly that Kremlin policymakers always weigh the gains to be derived from a particular action against losses. In the case of the Jackson Amendment, the losses of currently available Jewish skills would be weighed against (and outweighed by) an increase in trade (through the granting of most-favored-nation tariff treatment) and, far more important, large-scale credits. Secretary of State Henry Kissinger acknowledged to the Senate Finance Committee on December 3, 1974, that the Kremlin had agreed to accept the Jackson Amendment. Assurances were given at the highest levels of both governments. And these assurances were made despite the fact that Soviet officials had repeatedly denounced the amendment as an intrusion into its domestic affairs. What wrecked this initial understanding was the Stevenson Amendment (to the Export-Import Bank Bill) which placed a ceiling of $300 million on credits to the U.S.S.R. over a four-year period.2

The Stevenson Amendment carried a seriously damaging provision, from the Soviet viewpoint. It stipulated that the U.S.S.R. could seek above-ceiling Eximbank credits, which might then be extended on grounds of a presidential declaration of national interest. But such action would also require congressional approval, and Senator Adlai Stevenson explained that approval would depend not merely upon eased emigration procedures, but upon Soviet moderation with respect to Middle East questions, arms control and force reduction talks. Any request for above-ceiling credits could subject Kremlin policy to interminable congressional debate with the outcome clearly uncertain.

On December 12, 1974, a Senate-House conference accepted the Stevenson Amendment (the House version of the Eximbank Bill had not carried the amendment). The Senate considered the conference report for several sessions, running until December 16. By then, there was little doubt that the amendment would pass. On that day, the Kremlin hastily assembled a one-day closed meeting of the Party Central Committee. It is reasonable to speculate that the then Soviet President Nikolai Podgorny led a strong attack upon the understandings reached between Washington and Moscow. He had earlier strongly warned that it would be "intolerably shortsighted" not to take "full account" of attempts at interference in "internal state policy." When Kissinger had been asked in his testimony whether Podgorny was among those who had given assurances on the Jackson-Vanik provisions, he had answered in the negative. (Leonid Brezhnev, Foreign Minister Andrei Gromyko and Ambassador Anatoly Dobrynin were those mentioned by Kissinger as having taken a positive stance on the issue in various discussions with Presidents Nixon and Ford and himself.)

Two days after the Central Committee meeting, Ambassador Dobrynin met with Secretary Kissinger and, in a reportedly stormy session, lashed out at the credit ceiling. At approximately the same time, the Soviet news agency TASS issued a vigorous denial that the Kremlin had offered any "assurances" regarding emigration. The two initiatives were undoubtedly designed to prompt vigorous Administration lobbying against the Stevenson Amendment. It was too late for a reversal in the House, as it had already accepted the conference report on December 18. The Administration made a last-minute desperate effort to halt the amendment in the Senate. But on December 19, that chamber also approved the conference report.

The failure to blunt the congressional drive for credit ceilings inevitably produced a hostile Soviet reaction. Beginning on December 21, 1974, the Soviet media mounted a vast propaganda attack not only against the Stevenson initiative but against the Jackson-Vanik legislation as well. The delicate balance of under-standings reached with the Kremlin was apparently perceived as having been seriously tilted in a direction hostile to Soviet interests. Kissinger later commented: "I think what may have happened is that the Soviet Union looked at the totality of what it could gain in this trading relationship as against the intrusions in its domestic affairs." With the balance sheet seen as unfavorable, the U.S.S.R., on January 10, 1975, unilaterally scrapped the October 1972 trade agreement with the United States that had promised most-favored-nation status. The action in effect constituted a rejection of Jackson-Vanik. During the next three years, the emigration rate remained fairly low, running at an annual rate of about 15,000, half that of 1972-73.


Specific current aspects of U.S.-Soviet détente throw light upon the acceleration of the emigration rate to its present level that began in mid-1978. Rapprochement between the United States and China, even as Soviet relations with China have worsened, no doubt has encouraged the Kremlin to seek to improve its political links with the United States and the West. Of great significance, too, for Soviet policy-makers is U.S. ratification of the SALT II agreements. The Kremlin, sensitive by now to the legislative processes in the United States, including ratification procedures in the Senate, could certainly be expected to enhance its public image by easing earlier emigration practices.

In recent months, the U.S.S.R. has resumed its pursuit of a much higher level of trade with the United States. The desire for most-favored-nation tariff status and trade credits ineluctably brings to the fore the Jackson-Vanik Amendment with its requirement of eased emigration procedures. While linkage between emigration and trade is the core of the amendment, flexibility in the application of the linkage principle is the key to avoiding a challenge to the self-esteem of a great power. The waiver provision appended to the amendment could become the focal point of such flexibility, for it does not obligate initially unrestricted emigration.

What is required under the waiver provision are assurances about future performance concerning eased emigration procedures. And to make certain that such performance is realized, the annual-review requirements of the waiver clause must be firmly upheld. It is also essential to restore the careful balance between costs and benefits initially contemplated in 1974 before the Stevenson Amendment was adopted. Insistence upon low and sharply restrictive credit ceilings is scarcely helpful in winning Soviet acceptance of the waiver provision's conditions. Senator Stevenson has recently proposed raising the ceiling to two billion dollars. While welcome, his related proposals would seriously weaken the purpose and effectiveness of the Jackson Amendment, most notably by changing the annual review to a five-year review, thereby striking at the critical issue of performance.

Weighing gains against losses is not only an activity that operates in the sphere of economics. It also applies to the area of world opinion. At stake is prestige and the image a government strives to project. In this context, the Helsinki Final Act takes on particular meaning. Its "Basket Three" provisions incorporate critically important standards with respect to emigration. Signatories are obligated to "deal in a positive and humanitarian spirit with persons who wish to be reunited with members of their family." Applications for exit visas are to be dealt with "as expeditiously as possible." The signatories are to ensure that the fees charged in connection with exit visas "are at a moderate level." Most vital is a section that goes to the heart of the question of harassment. Signatories are to treat exit visa applications in such a way that they do "not modify the rights and obligations of the applicant or of members of his family."

With the Madrid conference of the Helsinki signatories scheduled for November 1980, virtually on the heels of the Moscow Olympics (in which the U.S.S.R. has invested heavily for obvious cosmetic purposes), the Soviets would appear to be anxious to avoid the further tarnishing of their image. The Kremlin's earlier trials of Helsinki Watch Committee members and the imposition of harsh sentences upon them, most notably upon Yuri Orlov and Anatoly Shcharansky, have aroused intense public anger. Criticism has centered on a fundamental abridgment of the Helsinki provision legitimizing the right of citizens of signatory powers to "know and act upon" their rights. Additional public airing of the violations of the Helsinki Final Act can be expected well before the Madrid conference, especially if the violations are egregious. Under the circumstances, continued Kremlin tolerance of a higher level of Jewish emigration is not unlikely.


The Jewish people who are currently "on the move" are strikingly, if not unexpectedly (given the nature of Soviet discriminatory practices), comprised of the younger, more vigorous elements of the population. In 1975, for example, 49 percent of the emigrants to Israel were under 30, and 33 percent were in the 30-59 age bracket. In 1977, 50 percent were under the median age of 31. An analysis of the emigrants who came to the United States during 1978 shows that 27 percent were 20 and under, and almost 50 percent were between 21 and 50 years of age. (For the much smaller sample of 1977, the percentages were about the same.) Only 15 percent were 61 or older.

The contrast between these percentages and the age structure of Soviet Jewry reflected in the 1970 census is especially telling. Approximately 15 percent of the Soviet Jewish population is under the age of 20 (a percentage which is somewhat less than one-half of the same age bracket in the emigration group). And approximately 25 percent of the Soviet Jewish population is over 60, and therefore beyond "working age" (as compared with 15 percent of the emigrant population).

Even before the emigration of the 1970s began, Ivor T. Millman, a British specialist on Soviet demography, believed that Soviet Jewry was in "a state of physical decline." He based this on several considerations. First, 43 percent of Soviet Jewry was over the child-bearing age of 50 years (as compared with only 21.5 percent of Russians who were over 50). Second, because the Nazi genocidal program had been particularly oriented against Jewish children and women, the average age of Jews was generally and significantly higher than Russians. Third, Jews tend to marry later than Russians and Ukrainians, leading to reduced fertility rates. Finally, Jews have a lower reproduction rate than the overall Soviet population.

With the exodus of the younger, more vigorous element, the physical decline of the remaining Jewish population in the U.S.S.R. will be speeded up. Its numbers, as will no doubt be reflected in the 1979 census data when published, will be far smaller than the 2,150,000 of 1970. To those who have gone into exodus there must be added a sizable aging, fear-ridden group who will desperately strive to suppress all traces of Jewish identity by claiming that they are Russian. It may not be at all easy. The problem of internal passport identification cannot be effectively hurdled. And Soviet anti-Semites are not inclined to accept even the assimilated Jew. A leading Soviet hate-monger, Vladimir Begun, some months ago, was asked: "What is the future of the Jewish people, then? Assimilation?" He responded: "I don't believe in assimilation. There always remains something Jewish in a Jew anyway." When queried as to what Jews should do, Begun replied: "Live quietly and that's it."

The unusually variegated Soviet Jewish community will have become rather extensively homogenized, largely Russian. The bulk of the Jewish population from Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia and Georgia have left and the beginning of significant inroads have been made among Bokharan and Dagestani Jews. Considerable Ukrainian Jewish emigration has also developed. Most of those who remain will reside in Moscow and Leningrad, with sizable numbers in Kharkov and Kiev. The Jewish autonomous region of Birobidzhan will become an increasing anomaly with less than a five percent Jewish population.

With the large-scale exodus of Baltic and, to a lesser extent, of Western Ukrainian and Moldavian Jews, the percentage of Jews speaking Yiddish (and daring to tell the census taker) is certain to drop to a very modest figure of perhaps five. (That was the percentage in Leningrad in 1970; the figure was slightly higher in Moscow.) Remaining Yiddish publications and repertory groups will largely be designed as showcases for foreigners, certainly not for a viable Jewish culture. Since the base of the Jewish population and especially of its Yiddish-speaking element will have shrunk, the authorities will all the more reject any call for restoration of Jewish cultural institutions.

This does not mean that the demand for Jewish culture should not be raised in international forums; on the contrary, it should and must. That there still remained, as late as 1976, a fairly sizable constituency seeking a Jewish heritage and identity even as it also rejected emigration has reportedly been demonstrated by Professor Veniamin Fain. He based his conclusions, designed for a Moscow seminar in 1976, upon a limited random sampling. Moreover, international standards, as well as laws, provide a sanction for demands which appeal on behalf of cultural and linguistic rights of minorities. Such rights are clearly spelled out in the UNESCO Convention on Discrimination in Education and in the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights-both of which the U.S.S.R. has ratified-and in the Basket Three provisions of the Helsinki Final Act. It is even possible that, in view of continuing emigration, the Soviet authorities might tacitly accept the teaching of Hebrew on the grounds that it is linked to the emigration process.

Yet reality cannot be blacked out. The trends scarcely generate a sanguine perspective about the preservation of Jewish identity even over the fairly short run of several decades, let alone the perpetuation of a remnant of Jewish culture. The direction of the dynamic trends, reinforcing each other, is toward the fulfillment of the Pobedonostev prophecy.

1 As of summer 1979, no breakthrough has occurred in this area.

2 Kissinger rightly described the amount as "peanuts." Credits could be obtained elsewhere. Moreover, 1974 turned out to be a bonanza year for the U.S.S.R. As a result of the quadrupling of oil prices which the U.S.S.R., as an exporter of oil, could exploit advantageously, it ended the year with a rarely achieved surplus of one-half billion dollars in its balance of payments.



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  • William Korey is the Director of B'nai B'rith International Policy Research. He is the author of The Soviet Cage: Anti-Semitism in Russia, and numerous articles.
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