Soviet Jewish Emigration: Second Thoughts in Moscow?

By Asfour, John | Washington Report on Middle East Affairs, November 3, 1991 | Go to article overview

Soviet Jewish Emigration: Second Thoughts in Moscow?


Asfour, John, Washington Report on Middle East Affairs


Soviet coup survivor Mikhail Gorbachev made plain in his poignant message to survivors of the infamous Babi Yar massacre in the Ukraine that he hoped anti-Semitism was dead enough in the Soviet sovereign states and republics that Jews would not feel compelled to emigrate. President Gorbachev made plain that the new Soviet sovereign republics would not tolerate anti-Semitism, that he personally wanted Jews and other minorities to stay and build a new society, and that he would actively work to persuade them to remain.

Meanwhile, President Bush announced that 11,000 refugee visas allotted and never used in 1991 would be rolled over into 1992, permitting up to 61,000 Soviet refugees to come here. During the past year, the number registered at the US Embassy in Moscow for refugee status has grown at 10,000 a month and now stands at 360,000. Eighty percent of Soviet refugees approved to enter identify themselves as Jews. Some 39,000 Svoiet refugees came to America in the fiscal year ending Oct. 1, and more than 30,000 of them were Jewish.

The 1.7 million officially registered Jews of the old Soviet Union have been reduced by close to 500,000 in the past 30 months ... 300,000 to Israel, 80,000 to the United States, and the remainder spread among Australia, Canada and various European countries. In fact, it is estimated that at least another million Jews ducked registration as members of a Semitic minority and that there still may be more than 2.5 million who could conceivably claim citizenship in Israel, one way or another.

The Think Tank Needs Them

One of Gorbachev's chief planners in the abortive 500-day plan to privatize the economy, Leonid Grigoriev, was in Washington in October with the conservative Heritage Foundation. His task upon returning is to form a Western-style think tank, and he admitted one of his main problems was the fact that so many private sector-oriented economists are leaving the country, including Jews, Armenians and other minorities.

"We used to have all of them meeting together on this subject or that. Now it is difficult to get anyone but Russian economists and planners to meet together and work on the huge problems of privatizing the economy," he said, citing this as a significant factor in dealing with problems facing the 12 republics.

Everyone admits that most emigrants are leaving to escape chaos and seek better economic opportunities, not because of a real threat to their existence individually or as a people. …

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