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Sympathy Hunger Strikes with Jailed Soviet Jews Widespread in USSR

December 29, 1971
See Original Daily Bulletin From This Date

This past weekend’s solidarity hunger strike across the Soviet Union in sympathy with Soviet Jewish prisoners was more widespread than expected, according to sources there. The three-day fast–Friday, Saturday and Sunday–was reportedly observed by 34 Jews in Moscow, 21 in Kishinev, 11 in Wilna and seven in Odessa, in addition to the earlier-reported 29 in Riga, 19 in Kiev, 12 in Leningrad, eight in Tashkent and one in Rostov.

Earlier reports said there were 22 strikers in Moscow and did not indicate figures for Kishinev, Wilna or Odessa. Thus, the total, according to the sources, was 142. (In New York, the National Conference on Soviet Jewry reported the same total. In Los Angeles, the Southern California Council for Soviet Jews put it at 158.)

The hunger strike was called in solidarity with 22 sentenced Jewish political prisoners in the Potma jail in central Mordovia. The fast by the prisoners themselves was supposed to last one day–Friday–but it is reported that Aleksei Murzhenko, a 29-year-old non-Jew sentenced to 14 years in a specially strict-regime camp at the first Leningrad trial, fasted for 27 days. He had to be force-fed five times during that period. After the first 12 days he was joined by Edvard Kuznetsov, 30, and Yuri Fedorov, a 28-year-old non-Jew, who fasted with Murzhenko for 15 days.


The first anniversary of the sentencings at the first Leningrad trial was marked Friday by a letter smuggled out by prisoners, the text of which has reached Lordon. The letter signed by the “Potma 22,” is one of the strongest protests ever issued publicly by Soviet Jews. The signers demanded “a reexamination of our files” and the release of Silva Zalmanson, the wife of Edvard Kuznetsov. In the meantime, the prisoners wrote, they wanted to be transferred to the foreign-nationals sector of the jail, since as “Israeli citizens” they “do not wish to be together with people who have sullied their hands with Jewish blood during the Second World War”–a reference to former Nazis also imprisoned in Potma.

The petitioners concluded: “In connection with the cruel treatment meted out to us by the administration of the camps, we demand the presence of representatives of the International Red Cross. We appeal for support to world public opinion and to Jews everywhere.”

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