News Conference on Nationalities Ends Abruptly After Reporter Raises Issue of Jewish People
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News Conference on Nationalities Ends Abruptly After Reporter Raises Issue of Jewish People

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Leaders of the Soviet Union’s two principal news organizations abruptly ended a press conference on nationalities in the USSR yesterday after a reporter suggested that equal attention be paid to Soviet and American intellectuals regarding Jewish matters. The correspondent for the Jewish Telegraphic Agency asked if the Soviet government would allow distribution of American publications on Jews, pointing out that Soviet literature on the same subject is freely distributed in the US. He also suggested televised discussions on the Jewish question between Soviet and American intellectuals in Moscow and New York.

The Soviet spokesman for the summit conference, Leonid O. Zamyaten, Director General of Tass, the Soviet news agency, looked at the question with Ivan I. Udaltsov. chairman of the board of the Novosti Press Agency, and announced the conference was concluded. It was the last in a series of four long sessions designed to disseminate information on Soviet life to foreign correspondents here for the American-Soviet summit conference.

Prof. Boris Bielek, a specialist on Soviet literature, was among the intellectuals who had responded to reporters questions. A short, slightly built Jew, he suggested that the JTA correspondent facilitate publications in the US of Soviet literature to end the “non-existent Jewish question” in the Soviet Union. Bielek was responding to a question on the absence of schools for Soviet Jews.

(Other stories from Moscow P. 2,3.)


As this conference demonstrated a stark element of the Soviet Jewish tragedy is the tendency for some Soviet Jews to be the principal apologists for the Soviet policy on Jews and often the most vitriolic spokesmen in attacking American Jewry. Asked why Jews, Germans and other nationalities are deprived of a continuous territorial base possessed by other Soviet citizens. Bielek referred to the “Jewish Autonomous Region of Birobidjan” in Eastern Siberia which he said was created for Soviet Jews. He said only 15,000 have settled in Birobidjan while 240,000 live in Moscow, 170,000 are in Leningrad and 150,000 in Kiev. Bielek did not explain why then a remote Eastern Siberian area lacking a Jewish tradition and settlement should have been selected for Jews instead of an area in Russia proper close to their centers of population for many generations.

He said the Soviet government did not close down Jewish schools, but that “they closed down themselves. Jewish parents naturally want their children to attend the best universities and conservatories, and in these the language spoken is Russian. Only three or four children would attend a Jewish school,” he said.

Bielek’s contentions contradicted statements by the head of the Soviet Chamber of Nationalities, Mrs. Yadgar Nasretdinova, an Uzbek from Tashkent. Earlier in yesterday’s session she pointed out pridefully how people who had no written language or literature before the Revolution now have their own culture. language and schools. Similarly, Mrs. Ekaterina Furtseva, Minister of Culture, had said all Soviet nationalities have their own language. She did not say Russian was a requirement in the best universities.

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