LOS ANGELES (Oct. 6)
Noted Soviet physicist Andrei Sakharov urged the Soviet Union to open its borders for any Soviet citizen wishing to emigrate, including those now in jail for “illegal” attempts to leave the country. The appeal was made in an open letter to the Presidium of the Supreme Soviet, it was reported yesterday by Los Angeles Times Moscow correspondent Harry Trimborn. According to Trimborn, “the letter, dated September 29, was made available to western newsmen Sunday under circ instances that left little doubt about its authenticity.” In his letter, Sakharov declared “freedom of immigration which few ‘Soviet citizens’ would in reality take advantage of, is an essential condition for the spiritual freedom of all.”
Although Sakharov did not mention emigration of Jews specifically. Trimborn claims that “his reference to Jewish emigration was clear.” This apparently marks the first time that Sakharov has actively appealed on behalf of the Soviet Jews. Further evidence that Sakharov was referring to Jews was evident in his reference to the Leningrad hijacking trials that began in Dec. 1970. According to Trimborn, “Sakharov noted that some of the defendants had been sentenced to death but that the sentences were later commuted to fifteen year terms. Nevertheless. he said, all the sentences remain exceptionally severe. He indicated that the defendants undertook the “illegal” actions in desperation.”
Further referring to the Jewish fight for emigration, Sakharov declared: “With the prejudices, traditions and conformism existing in our country, the people trying to emigrate end up in the position of second-class citizens, with reduced or eliminated opportunities for continuing their education or advancing in their work.” This unprecedented letter comes at a time when Jewish pressure within the Soviet Union for emigration has reached a peak, a pressure so great that Sakharov saw fit to involve his extra-legal Committee on Human Rights in the struggle for Soviet Jews.
The aim of the committee, according to a manifesto issued by its founders last Nov, is to seek “constructive ways of securing human rights in accordance with Soviet laws,” It was not immediately clear what effect the letter would have on Soviet Jews. Last month, Valery N. Chalidze, another Soviet physicist and founder of the Soviet Committee on Human Rights, also called on the Presidium to pardon all Jews imprisoned for wanting to go to Israel and “an end to all persecution of Jews seeking repatriation.”