Gorbachev’s Economic Policies Seen As Mixed Blessing for Soviet Jews

Mikhail Gorbachev’s policies of modernization and economic restructuring could be a mixed blessing for the 2 million Jews in the Soviet Union, an expert on Soviet affairs warned in a report released here Tuesday.

According to Dr. Lukasz Hirszowic, director of the Soviet and East European Department of the Institute of Jewish Affairs, the economic changes the Soviet leader hopes to implement could create new opportunities for Jews, particularly the high proportion of Jewish scientists, technicians and skilled professionals in the USSR.

But at the same time, Jews could fall victim to a new source of anti-Semitism generated by the powerful, entrenched Soviet bureaucracy which is opposed to reforms and is ready to make Jews their scapegoats, Hirszowic warned. “Chauvinism and anti-Semitism, paraded as Soviet or Russian patriotism may still remain ‘the last refuge of the scoundrel,’” he observed.

Similarly, he said, while democratization could bring a more liberal approach to Jewish self-expression and other concessions in the field of Jewish culture, these are likely to be restricted and slanted.

As for Jewish emigration, Hirszowic believes Soviet decisions “will no doubt depend on what they feel they can gain in their relations with the West if they let more substantial numbers of Jews go.”

But even here, the bureaucracy presents an obstacle. Hirszowic recalled that in the early 1970s “bureaucrats and apparatchiks (especially in the provinces) created considerable difficulties when a more positive attitude emerged toward Jewish emigration. Endangered bureaucrats can, and do easily exploit ethnic dissatisfaction and the use of anti-Semitism should not be excluded,” Hirszowic said.

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