The Soviet Union has at least 2,268,999 Jew and 20,8 percent of them–nearly half a million Soviet Jews–claim Yiddish as their native language, according to the latest Soviet census figures reaching here this weekend. The census was taken in the USSR in 1959.
The figure of 2,268,999 Jews is a minimum, since the census report makes it clear that Russian Jews were permitted, in response to questions by census takers, to identify themselves under any national classification that suited them. Under Soviet law, Jews are considered a nationality–like Russians, Ukrainians or Armenians–without reference to religious identification or practice.
Many other Jews, besides the 2,268,999 enumerated as such in the census, are known to have claimed other nationalities. An official Soviet report made recently to the United Nations linted the number of Jews in the USSR as 3,000,000. There were 5,000,000 Jews in the Soviet Union in 1941. Large numbers of them were killed by the Germans during the Nast invasion of the USSR.
The fact that 20,8 percent of the Jews officially claimed Yiddish as their “native tongue” awas seen here in sharp contrast to the fact that the publication of Yiddish newspapers or books, and the Yiddish theatre, have been virtually non-existent in the USSR in recent years. The Soviet Government claims that Soviet Jews are no longer interested in Yiddish.
The Archive of the Jewish Telegraphic Agency includes articles published from 1923 to 2008. Archive stories reflect the journalistic standards and practices of the time they were published.