Changes in Russian Leadership Provoke Little Worry Among Jews

The recent changes in the makeup of the Russian government have provoked little worry among the country’s Jewish population and are just as unlikely to have an adverse impact on the current friendly state of relations with Israel.

For once again, wild predictions of coups and upheavals in the wake of December’s session of the Congress of People’s Deputies proved unfounded.

Russian President Boris Yeltsin was forced to sacrifice reform-oriented Prime Minister Yegor Gaidar in favor of technocrat Viktor Chernomyrdin. But the rest of the Cabinet remained largely intact.

In the key area of foreign policy, Foreign Minister Andrei Kozyrev survived, suggesting that Russia’s pro-Western policies and new-found friendship with Israel will remain unchanged.

The other key foreign policy post, that of minister of foreign economic relations, changed hands. But the new minister, Sergei Glazyov, was a deputy to the outgoing Pyotr Aven, who reportedly picked his aide to succeed him.

Both men are regarded as pro-Western reformers. The Foreign Economic Relations Ministry is responsible, among other things, for Russian arms sales to foreign countries, and therefore has important implications for Russia’s Middle East policy.

Domestically, few Jews here expressed anxiety about a rightward turn in Russian society as a result of the change in prime ministers, although some worried about whether the pace of reform would slow down under Chernomyrdin.

Many will be watching to see whether Chernomyrdin is his own man, independent of both Yeltsin and the conservative parliament that voted him into power by a large margin.

In the past three years, emigration of Jews from the republics of the former Soviet Union has been linked to concern over the fate of reform here. But so far, the change in government players has not precipitated a rush among Jews to apply for visas to Israel.

The Israeli Embassy here reported no significant increase in the number of immigrant visas issued after the change. According to an embassy official, 6,000 to 6,500 immigrant visas will have been issued to Jews in the former republics by the end of December, roughly the same as November’s 6,562 and October’s 6,058.

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