Soviet Officials Say Jewish Emigration Will Rise if Diplomatic Ties Improve

Highly placed Soviet officials told three visiting members of the Canadian Parliament last week that the Soviet Union might allow more Jewish emigration and take other human rights action if its relations improve with Israel and the U.S.

The MPs — Conservative William Attewell, chairman of the Canadian Parliamentary Committee for Soviet Jewry; New Democrat Howard McCurdy; and Liberal Lucy Pepin — were accompanied by Janet Goldman of the Toronto Committee of Soviet Jewry.

They were told by Vadim Zagladin that about 22,000 applications for emigration, mostly by Jews, are pending. The Canadian delegation also met with Viktor Afanasyev, editor-in-chief of the newspaper Pravda; and Alexei Glukhov, first deputy chief of the Foreign Ministry’s Directorate for Humanitarian Affairs.

McCurdy said that Soviet officials pointed to the rise in Jewish emigration this year and suggested that the West should be more patient and remember that the Soviet bureaucracy is sluggish.

Barbara Stern, chairman of the National Committee for Soviet Jewry of the Canadian Jewish Congress, told JTA that “we hope this is the beginning,” but noted that new Soviet emigration codes only “institutionalize the existing procedure, making it even more difficult for Jews to apply for exit visas to Israel … Should the Soviets introduce a definite policy, I am sure that we’ll see more than a million applications for emigration from Soviet Jews.”

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