Soviet Official ‘explains’ Why Yiddish Broadcasts Are Excluded in USSR

The chairman of the USSR Committee on Radio and Television said here today that, in his two years in the post, “I have not come across a request for broadcasting in Yiddish.”

Nicolai Mesyatsev, who is on a visit here as a guest of the British Broadcasting Corporation, made the statement in reply to a question from a Jewish Telegraphic Agency correspondent. The Soviet official said that the total hours of broadcasting in the USSR were 12 per each 24 hours in 123 languages.

The official said that in Birobidjan, the “Jewish Republic” in the Soviet Far East, there was regular broadcasting in Yiddish “but the problem simply does not arise elsewhere. I have many Jewish friends,” he added, “and I have never heard any of them raising this problem. You can create such a problem artificially,” he commented, “but it does not exist.”

The JTA correspondent, who was invited to continue the discussion, pointed out that 500,000 persons in the Soviet Union listed Yiddish as their native tongue in the last Soviet population census, and that it would seem only fair for that proportion to be reflected in the Soviet broadcast schedules. Mr. Mesyatsev replied that he did not know about that figure but he did know that his huge correspondence concerning program requests and suggestions did not include anything pertaining to Yiddish.

“Take Constantine Simonov, he is a Jew but his life and his culture and his writings are Russian and woven into the Russian fabric,” he said. “This applies also to the late Marshak, our greatest translator and others. Therefore, it would seem inadvisable to create an artificial problem about Yiddish where it does not exist.”

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