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Hundreds Demonstrate Peacefully at Opening of Bolshoi Tour

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There were two performances at the Coliseum Theater last night–by the Bolshoi Ballet inside and by hundreds of demonstrators outside who forcefully but peacefully protested the repression of Jews and others in the Soviet Union. Threats to disrupt the program were averted when 15 members of the “Stop the Bolshoi Committee” were ejected. London critics found the famed Corps de Ballet from Moscow not up to its previous artistic standards. The doings outside the theater apparently generated greater interest.

They showed for one thing that Jews are not alone in protesting against the denial of human rights in the USSR and that Jews are not the only victims of the repressive regime. Joining such groups as WIZO, the League of Jewish Women, the Women’s Campaign for Soviet Jewry and the Jewish Ex-Servicemen’s Association were the Greater London Conservatives (“Dance in other countries, not on them,” their placards read); a group called Aid to the Russian Church, campaigning for the release of two Russian clerics, Georgi Vins, a Baptist and Boris Zalikvado, an Orthodox priest, with posters reading “Free Russian Christians”; and Ukrainian nationalists who carried signs saying, “Break Up the Russian Prison State.”

A group of Palestinians staged a counter demonstration, chanting “No Jews out of Russia until Palestinians are allowed to return home.” London Bobbies had their task cut out for them as hundreds of people surrounded the theater and thousands lined the narrow pavements in its vicinity. But no disorders occured. Demonstrators representing the University Committee for Soviet Jewry, led by Alex Skan, chanted “Freedom Now” and “KGB Don’t Persecute Jews.” The Women’s Campaign for Soviet Jewry passed out hundreds of pamphlets asking the Soviet Ambassador in London to “Please inform your government that peaceful relations with the Soviet people are not possible whilst Soviet Jews are persecuted and denied their human rights.” Gabe Marks, speaking for the Jewish Ex-Servicemen’s Association told the Jewish Telegraphic Agency that they were “not against the Bolshoi but against the treatment of Jews in Russia.”

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