Russian Defender of Jews Threatened

The running battle between a Leningrad non-Jewish Russian academic who renounced his degree to protest official anti-Semitism and the authorities has escalated with a barrage of articles, a joint letter and a telephoned KGB threat, according to the Student Struggle for Soviet Jewry.

Dr. Ivan Martinov had announced recently he was giving up his Candidate of Pedagogical Sciences degree (equal to a Ph.D) because a Candidate status was still held by Lev Korneyev of Moscow, a notorious and prolific anti-Semitic writer, and Jewish exit applicants were harassed. Soon thereafter, he and refusenik Yakov Gorodetsky, who helped him collate data on anti-Semitism, were told by the authorities to apply to emigrate. The pair told friends they smelled a trap.

The Leningrad paper, Smina, published an article denying that anti-Semitism was printed in the Soviet press, asserting this was all anti-Soviet propaganda by foreign “Zionists”. Other press articles attacked refuseniks and claimed that those who sought to leave had no jobs or no work in their professions.

According to the SSSJ, the KGB phoned Martinov and told him that the Smina article was the authorities’ answer to him and Gorodetsky. Martinov was also told that there had been some thought of giving the pair exit visas, but to do so now would make them into heroes. Not only were they refused permission to exit but were warned that they could be imprisoned, the SSSJ, reported.

Martinov responded with a hunger strike and an open letter to the Soviet press co-signed by 43 Jewish supporters. Having been confined to a mental institution four years earlier for speaking out on other matters, the SSSJ said that Martinov knows the threats of punishment for discussing Jewish rights are real, indeed.

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