Soviet Jewish Emigration Climbs to Highest Level in 10 Years
Menu JTA Search

Soviet Jewish Emigration Climbs to Highest Level in 10 Years

Download PDF for this date

The highest monthly total of Jews in nearly a decade emigrated from the Soviet Union in March, according to figures provided Tuesday by Soviet Jewry groups.

In Washington, the Union of Councils for Soviet Jews reported that 4,240 Jews emigrated on Israeli visas last month. Of these, 462, or 10.9 percent, went to Israel — 347 on direct flights from Bucharest and 115 by way of Vienna.

The remaining 3,778 emigrating Jews left for Rome to be processed for immigration to other countries, most to the United States, some to Canada and a handful to Australia.

The National Conference on Soviet Jewry did not provide specific numbers, but said that “slightly more than 4,000 Jews left the Soviet Union in March.”

The Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society reported slightly highter figures than the Union of Councils, saying that 460 had gone to Israel and 3,783 had stayed in Vienna in the hope of immigrating to other countries. This would bring the total for the month to 4,343 Soviet Jews.

In any case, the number of Jews who left in March is the highest monthly total since October 1979. The March figure also represents a 75 percent increase over February’s total. And it reverses a steady decline in emigration since the December high of 3,652.

Meanwhile, the number of Soviet Jews waiting in Rome for permission to emigrate to the United States and other countries is climbing rapidly. As of March 31, HIAS had a caseload of 8,050 Jews stranded there. Most are being housed in the nearby seaside town of Ladispoli.


In other Soviet Jewry news, ailing long-term refusenik Georgi Samoilovich has received permission to travel to London for medical treatment, the Union of Councils reported.

The Soviet government also has lifted Samoilovich’s “secrecy” classification, which prevented him from emigrating on the grounds that he allegedly possessed state secrets.

Samoilovich, who received a telephone call from the OVIR emigration authorities, was told that he could pick up his travel visa Wednesday.

A prominent cultural activist, Samoilovich reportedly suffers from large-cell lymphoma.

The Union of Councils pointed out that the decision on the Samoilovich case coincides with meetings to take place later this week in London between Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev and British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher.

“This is a further example of the importance of keeping the spotlight on refusenik cases and on Soviet violations of the human rights agreements they have signed,” Pamela Cohen, president of the Union of Councils, said from her Chicago office.

“For almost nine months, Samoilovich has had pending invitations from both the Hackensack Medical Center in New Jersey and the Royal Marsden Hospital in London for treatment. We can only hope that it’s not too late to still save his life,” she said.

Since August 1988, when the Soviets denied Samoilovich an emergency visa to travel to the West for treatment, there has been an intensive international campaign to save his life.

Founding Funders

The digitization of the JTA Archive would not have been possible without the generous support of the following donors:
  • The Gottesman Fund
  • Righteous Persons Foundation
  • Charles H. Revson Foundation
  • Elisa Spungen Bildner and Robert Bildner, in honor of Norma Spungen
  • George S. Blumenthal
  • Grace and Scott Offen Charitable Fund