NEW YORK (Feb. 1)
Almost all of the estimated 25,000 to 30,000 Jews in Baku, capital of the Soviet republic of Azerbaijan, want to leave for Israel immediately to escape ethnic strife.
That was the consistent theme of telephone reports to leaders of B’nai B’rith International and the Long Island Committee for Soviet Jewry.
A report in The Los Angeles Times on Tuesday said Azerbaijan Jews are fleeing to Moscow by the thousands, and that some of the refugees report incidents of Jews being beaten or threatened by Moslem extremists.
The reports to BBI and the Long Island Committee came from contacts in Moscow, who spoke by telephone to Yegev Sokhulotsky, a member of the Jewish cultural association in Baku, and to other Jews in Baku.
According to these sources, there are no reports of anti-Semitism, but Jews want to avoid involvement in the ethnic warfare between Azerbaijanis and Armenians in the Caspian Sea port, where thousands of Soviet troops have been sent to try to restore order.
The Jews fear being asked to choose between the mainly Christian Armenians and the predominantly Shi’ite Moslem Azerbaijanis, both their longtime friends.
Meanwhile, three Jews killed in the fighting in Baku have been identified and a fourth partially identified. There were conflicting reports of three more casualties.
Jews in Baku who provided the information by telephone stressed repeatedly that no Jews were killed because they were Jews, but that they were caught in cross fire when Soviet troops entered the city on Jan. 20.
All of the identified Jewish fatalities occurred on that day.
The first Jewish fatality to be reported was identified as Jan (Yakov) Mayerovich, an engineer.
Another Jewish victim was Dr. Alexander Marchevka, a physician who was reportedly treating a patient in an ambulance that came under fire.
A third Jewish victim was Vera Besankina, a teen-ager who was at home with her mother and brother when a stray bullet entered their apartment.
Leaders of B’nai B’rith received their information in calls to two sources in Baku, Leonard Mishne and Dimitri Korsh.
Mishne spoke to B’nai B’rith’s international affairs director, Daniel Mariaschin. Korsh, reportedly a journalist for Tass, spoke to Hillel Kuttler, coordinator of Soviet chapters of B’nai B’rith.
There were conflicting accounts in their reports. Mishne spoke of another doctor named Kosnovsky, fatally wounded by machine-gun fire while riding in an ambulance with a 3-year-old child believed to be Jewish, who was also killed.
According to Mishne, another Jewish teenager, Boris Glickman, was wounded.
Mishne said invitations from Israel, necessary to begin the emigration process, were arriving. Korsh, however, said there was no mail delivery.
Korsh told Kuttler that he has been waiting six months for an invitation even though his sister was already in Israel.