Soviet Describes His Defection As Experiment to Test ‘glasnost’
Menu JTA Search

Soviet Describes His Defection As Experiment to Test ‘glasnost’

Download PDF for this date

Jacob Kogan, the Soviet Jewish computer scientist who defected to Israel from Paris this week, has become something of a mystery man.

He insists he did not defect, but only carried out an experiment to test glasnost, President Mikhail Gorbachev’s policy of openness.

Although described by the local news media as a distinguished mathematician and member of the Soviet Academy of Sciences, he is unknown to the Soviet emigre community here or to Israeli academicians.

Mathematicians and computer scientists at Israeli universities, including newcomers from the Soviet Union, have said they know nothing of Kogan, his work or academic qualifications.

Kogan, 48, applied for an immigrant visa at the Interior Ministry’s Tel Aviv office Thursday. He arrived in Israel on Sunday with a tourist visa issued by the Israeli Embassy in Paris.

Interviewed on television and the Israel Defense Force radio station, Kogan provided a version of events considerably different from earlier accounts.

He was a member of a Soviet delegation attending an international conference on computers in Paris. It was his first trip outside the Soviet Union and he decided to “try an experiment,” Kogan told his interviewers.

He said he telephoned the Israeli Embassy last Friday and was given complete instructions.

He said when he phoned back Saturday, he was told to take a taxi to Orly Airport on Sunday, not before 12:30 p.m., to catch an E1 A1 plane leaving at 12:35.

But according to an earlier version, Kogan went out jogging one morning last week and sprinted directly to the embassy, where he asked for asylum.

The later story did not mention a visit to the embassy. He said he spent Sunday morning at a museum, caught a taxi, got lost, but arrived at the airport in time to find a tourist visa in his name at the EI AI counter.

He said an EI AI official took his Soviet passport through the passport control station.

Kogan said he did not apply for an exit visa at home, because he was afraid he would lose his job and become a refusenik for many years.

Kogan left his wife and two sons, 7 and 10 years old, in Moscow. He said he hoped to send them an official invitation so they could apply for exit permits on the basis of family reunification.

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