22.6 The Movement to Leave for Israel

No 22 : 10 November 1971

On 16 September a group of 36 Moscow Jews went to the premises of the [CPSU] Central Committee and handed in a letter demanding to be received by a member of the Politburo, in order to discuss the question of emigration to Israel. The letter quoted instances of the violation of legality.

Tikhomirov, head of the Central Committee office [see CCE 20.//, p. 249], promised to give an answer the following day. On 17 September representatives of the group were told that the letter had been passed on to the Ministry of Internal Affairs, but they continued to insist on being received on the premises of the Central Committee.

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On 20 September five members of the group [23] were received by A. I. Ivanov, an official of the Central Committee staff [a section chief in the Administrative Organs Department]; General [T.M.] Shukayev, Deputy Minister of Internal Affairs, and Colonel Ovchinnikov (of the Department of Visas and Registrations) were also present. [24]

Those received stated that they had not come for a decision on their own individual cases. They said: “We consider that Jews have the right to leave for Israel whether or not they have been sent invitations by friends or relatives”. In cases where invitations had been sent, they had often failed to reach those to whom they were addressed; and Jews who had submitted applications to leave were subjected to extra-judicial persecution. As a rule this began with the “problem”, which defied common sense, of obtaining references from one’s place of work. The consideration of applications submitted was subject to arbitrary delay. There were many unsubstantiated refusals.

I. Ivanov stated: “Since March 1971 hundreds of Jews have left the Soviet Union for Israel, but the question of emigration must be decided in each individual case by representatives of the Soviet State, taking the interests of the State into account – a ‘brain drain’, for example, would be inadmissible”.

Representatives of the MVD gave assurances that organs of the Ministry would help to eliminate difficulties in obtaining references, and agreed that the anti-Semitic atmosphere at meetings held to discuss applications to emigrate was intolerable.

Ivanov gave a warning that any collective actions would be regarded as attempts to exert pressure on the state, and could only complicate the resolution of the problem. In any case the power to decide questions of emigration was vested in the MVD, and there was therefore no point in pestering all governmental departments.

The Jews taking part in the discussion pointed out that the right to appeal to any governmental or  Party body on any subject was guaranteed by law.

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On 28 September a statement signed by 120 Jews from Moscow, Riga and Vilnius was submitted to the Politburo of the Central Committee of the  Party. It expressed complete dissatisfaction with the “explanations” given by A. I. Ivanov; the signatories to the statement again insisted on being received by a member of the Politburo or of the Central Committee secretariat. There has been no reply to the statement.

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On 25 October, 92 residents of Moscow, Gurzuf [Crimea], Vilnius, Riga, Kaunas [Lithuania], Leningrad and Kishinyov [Moldavia] submitted a statement to the Politburo, pointing out that during the preceding one-and-a-half months no changes had been made in the direction of eliminating the violations of legality listed in previous letters.

At mid-day the authors of the statement approached the premises of the Central Committee reception room and submitted the statement. Immediately after submitting it they were apprehended, placed in buses and taken away to sobering-up station No. 9 at the Voikovskaya metro station. About four hours later questioning began. They were all accused of petty hooliganism (hampering the work of government bodies and non-compliance with the demands of the police). All those questioned refused to sign records of the interrogations and protested at the charge made against them. Shortly afterwards all the Jews were released, with the exception of those from the Baltic; these were taken to the railway station and despatched to their places of residence. [25]

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On 17 October 1971 the film director Mikhail Kalik [see CCE 18.//] returned to the Presidium of the USSR Supreme Soviet the “Medal of Honour” decoration, which he had been awarded on 8 June 1960 for services to the development of Soviet cinematography. In a letter addressed to Podgorny, Kalik writes:

“… My attempts to capture on the screen the national character of my long-suffering people, the subjects and themes associated with their life and history, have met with indifference, incomprehension and on occasion even malice . . . Regarding this as immoral, I decided to realise my creative plans further in the land of my fathers, with which I have never lost spiritual contact. Almost a year ago I submitted documents for emigration to the State of Israel – on the basis of the Soviet constitution and the Declaration of Human Rights. But I met with arbitrary official behaviour, deceit, and even an attempt to fabricate a criminal charge against me … I am returning my decoration to you as a vigorous protest against tyranny, as a sign of my unshakable will to continue the struggle for my rights as a man, as an artist and as a Jew”.

[On 14 November Kalik’s efforts succeeded and he left for Israel.]

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The Chronicle is in possession of a transcript of a meeting, held on 26 October 1971, of the Department of Higher Mathematics of the Kuibyshev Institute of Engineering and Construction in Moscow. On the agenda was the question of giving a reference to OVIR [the Department of Visas and Registration of the M.V.D.] for a member of the department – V. A. Gaukhman, senior lecturer and Master of physico-mathematical sciences. [26]

These brief excerpts from the speeches of V. A. Gaukhman’s colleagues do not require comment:

“He has committed an anti-patriotic, anti-Soviet act deserving the severest condemnation … an act incompatible with the exalted title of lecturer at an institute of higher education” (Prof. S. Ya. Khavinson, Doctor of physico-mathematical sciences, Head of Department). [27]

“The mainstay of his position is nationalism. It is well- known that nationalism leads to fascism and ends with gas-chambers and crematoria” (V. V. Zorin).

“This act re-echoes the murderous shots at children on the premises of the Soviet delegation to the UN” (L. Ya. Tslaf).

And one woman present at the meeting: “I consider that V. A. Gaukhman’s action displays high principles, honesty and civic courage”.

A. Gaukhman’s reply was as follows : “I am a Jew, I wish to live among my people in the Jewish state and to share in constructive labour for the good of my motherland . . . My heart and my conscience tell me that I must live and work in Israel, in my historic and national motherland.”

The meeting made the following decisions: (1) Angrily to condemn V. A. Gaukhman’s action as anti-patriotic and anti-Soviet. (2) To dismiss V. A. Gaukhman from his job as an ideologically alien element, and to petition for him to be stripped of the title of senior lecturer and teacher. (3) Unanimously to expel him from the trade union.

NOTES

[23. Two of those received on 20 September were Gavriel Shapiro and the literary historian Pavel Goldshtein, who was dismissed from his post at the Main Literary Museum on 1 October 1971.]

[24. A 1,900-word samizdat summary of the 21-hour meeting on 20 September was reported in various press dispatches from Moscow of 6 October.]

[25]. For further accounts of this episode on 25 October and extracts from the statement see The Times, 26 and 30 October 1971, and Reuter and U.P.I. dispatches of 25 October.]

[26. See four of Gaukhman’s articles in Doklady AN SSSR, 1961-62.]

[27. See twelve of Khavinson’s articles in ibid., 1958-67.]