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Leading Experts on Soviet Affairs Present Gloomy Analysis of Soviet Jewry Under the Andropov Regime

January 14, 1983
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A gloomy analysis of the implications for Soviet Jewry of the changes in the Kremlin was made here by nearly 50 leading experts on Soviet affairs from North America, Europe and Israel.

The experts, who included Prof. Richard Pipes, a former member of the U.S. National Security Council, agreed that there had been “a serious deterioration” in the position of Soviet Jewry, for whom emigration had recently been reduced to a trickle.

They reached their views at a three-day conference held behind closed doors at the London School of Economics and Political Science.


They agreed that although it was premature to form a firm judgment on the Jewish policy of the new Communist Party Secretary, Yuri Andropov, his first statements seemed to foreshadow a further repression of minority national cultures in the USSR.

The findings were presented to the press by Prof. Leonard Schapiro, the leading British Sovietologist, and Dr. Steven Roth and Prof. Yoram Dinstein, the respective directors of the London Institute for Jewish Affairs and the Tel Aviv Israel Diaspora Institute which sponsored the conference.

Roth said they also concluded that a relaxation of emigration controls was largely dependent on a reversal in the recent deterioration in relations between the Soviet Union and the West. The Western powers should take cognizance of this “and put the issue high on the agenda in their contacts with the Soviet Union,” he added.

Schapiro said that although the Andropov regime was likely to be “tougher” than Leonid Brezhnev’s, that was not relevant to Jewish emigration, which the Kremlin regarded as “a bargaining lever in negotiations with the U.S.”

Not all the participants shared Schapiro’s belief that Andropov was securely established in power. Some compared his position with that of Georgy Malenkov who briefly succeeded Josef Stalin only to be ousted by Nikita Khrushchev.

Particular concern was expressed about the discrimination against Jews in higher education and employment. Zvi Gitelman, director of Russian studies at Michigan University, described Soviet Jews as “resident aliens.”


There had also been a sharp rise in the number of refuseniks from 2,000 to a known total of 8,000 “But the real total could be twice as high,” Dinstein said.

This was confirmed by Prof. Grigory Freiman, who emigrated late last year. A former applied mathematics professor at Kalinin University, he had also told the conference that the number of other Soviet Jews waiting to emigrate ran into “hundreds of thousands.”

On Soviet-Israeli relations. Dr. Yaacov Ro’i of Tel Aviv University argued that there was no substance in the occasional rumors about moves towards restoring diplomatic ties between the two countries.

The conference’s conclusions. Roth announced, would be sent to Western delegations to the European Security and Cooperation Conference in Madrid.

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