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Soviet News Agency Distributes Data Purporting to Show Status of Jews in Russia

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The Soviet Embassy today released what may be the most comprehensive compilation of purported data on Soviet Jewry ever to come from the Soviet propaganda apparatus. The study of Soviet Jewry, titled “Soviet Jews As They Are,” was prepared by the Novosti Press Agency, Russia’s external propaganda organization. It is intended for publication in the United States and Western Europe. The study appeared to be an effort by Soviet authorities to answer rising charges of anti-Semitism. It detailed Czarist anti-Semitism, but it omitted any mention of Stalinist atrocities against Jews and more recent anti-Jewish actions by the Soviet Government. The study included a detailed report on the current Jewish population of the USSR and demographic data. A projection based on the forthcoming 1970 census indicated a total Jewish population of about three million.

Novosti said that had it not been for World War II, “the Jewish population would have been no less than four million. About two million Jews were annihilated on USSR territory temporarily occupied by the Nazis….The number of victims would have been greater if the Soviet authorities had not taken timely and energetic measures to evacuate the population in areas adjacent to the front….About two million citizens of Jewish nationality were evacuated deep into the Soviet rear,” Novosti said.

The study traced Lenin’s efforts for equality for Jews. But it quoted Lenin as stating that “this Zionist idea is absolutely false and reactionary in its essence.” It was alleged that Zionism and Jewish nationhood merely perpetuated a “ghetto spirit” while Jews were truly liberated by Communism.

CLAIMS THAT JEWS ARE REPRESENTED IN ALL FIELDS, INCLUDING GOVERNMENT

Surveying the vocational achievements of Jews, Novosti said that Jews made contributions to all branches of the Soviet economy. “The so-called Jewish callings have long since gone out of existence,” the agency stated. It listed among such callings tailoring, medicine and law and asserted that Jews have now achieved prominence across the broad spectrum of vocations. Novosti emphasized that there was a disproportionally large number of Jews, per capita, in scientific pursuits as compared with the general population. In the total number of scientific workers, Jews ranked third after Russians and Ukrainians although Jews are far fewer in numbers and comprise only 1.2 percent of the general population, Novosti said. The latest figures available (1967) showed at least 58,952 Jews in scientific professions, it said.

The Novosti study contained long lists of Jews in executive positions in industries. Government and military service. “There are about 8,000 Jews who are deputies to the Supreme Soviet of the USSR and of the Union of Republics, as well as local Soviets,” it said. It sought to debunk charges that Jews were not given equal educational opportunities.

According to Novosti, there are 315 Jewish college students to every 10,000 Jews in the country. There are only 182 non-Jews in college for every 10,000 non-Jews, the report said. Novosti explained that Jews attended college in greater numbers because Jews tended to live in urban centers. Novosti also listed Jewish writers, artists, musicians and others distinguished in Soviet cultural life.

LISTS CULTURAL ACTIVITIES, SAYS 100 SYNAGOGUES ARE FUNCTIONING

Novosti went to some length to try to refute charges that Jewish cultural and religious life was suppressed in Russia. It mentioned the Yiddish monthly, Sovietish Heimland, and claimed that a Yiddish drama ensemble in Moscow and various musical companies offered Yiddish entertainment. It said that many books were published in Yiddish in 1968 and 1969 and listed the names of their authors. At least 50,000 Jews were said to attend Yiddish cultural programs every year.

Novosti said that “about 100 synagogues” are functioning in the Soviet Union and that 300 minyans are known to pray regularly in various places. Novosti also claimed that a yeshiva was attached to the main synagogue in Moscow to train rabbis and ritual slaughterers. It added however, “it should be remembered that most people in the Soviet Union have long turned away from religion….Jews are no exception.”

Novosti said there was “no official registration of believers” in the USSR. But selective sociological investigation has shown that the number of Jewish believers in the territory of the Russian Federation and the Ukraine is between three and six percent of the total; five to nine percent in the Baltic Republics (Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia); between seven and 12 percent among the north Caucasus and Bukhara Jews. The overwhelming majority of these are elderly people, Novosti said. It said that Jews “have every opportunity to practice religion” and maintained that “synagogue libraries have collections of books on religion running into thousands.”

Commenting on the assimilation of Jews, Novosti said “this is not a specifically Soviet phenomena.” It said there was a reduction in numbers of persons who regard Yiddish as their native tongue. Novosti observed that “hardly more than 20 percent of the Jews in the United States consider Yiddish their native language.” It said that “in the Soviet Union, the process of natural assimilation is taking place among many peoples.”

High honors bestowed on Jews were listed as disproportionately high. The highest honor, the title of Hero of Socialist Labor, was conferred on 55 Jews, four of whom won the order twice, three winning it three times. Of the 844 winners of Lenin Prizes, 96 were Jews, Novosti said. It noted that the city of Sverdlovsk was named for a Jew and that there were many streets in Soviet cities named for Jews, and that many Soviet ships sailing the seas bear the names of distinguished Jews. Novosti expressed the hope that “the facts and figures cited in the present article show how far from reality is the gloomy picture usually drawn by Western bourgeois propagandists.”

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