Activities of Soviet Jews, June to September 1973 (30.12)

<<No 30 : 31 December 1973>>

To protest against the grounds on which they had been forbidden to leave the USSR, seven Moscow scientists met at the home of Alexander Lunts (Moscow, 15 Garibaldi Street, building 2, flat 76) on 10 June 1973 to commence a hunger strike that lasted many days. In denying these people permission to emigrate to Israel the Soviet authorities have cited, as the basis for their decision, the “interests of the State”.

The participants of the hunger strike issued a public statement declaring that such a motive was absolutely improper in determining people’s fates. The scientists let it be known that they would sooner starve to deaths and thereby prove that they belonged only to themselves, than accept the idea that they could be considered state property.

The hunger strike was terminated two weeks later, on 24 June, after numerous scientific organizations, public figures in the West and leaders of Jewish organizations had assured the participants that world public opinion sympathized with them and understood the severity of the problem and their determination. Hence, the hunger strike had served its purpose.

Victor Brailovsky, b. 1935

Shortly afterwards, three of the participants – A. Libgover, M, Gitterman and V. Roginsky – received permission to leave the USSR and are now living in Israel. Soviet authorities have continued to withhold permission from the other four: M. Azbel, V. Brailovsky, A. Voronel and A. Lunts.

Jews in the USSR

An unofficial publication entitled Jews in the USSR, dealing with the history, culture and problems of Soviet Jews has appeared periodically since October 1972.

A. Voronel and V. Yakhot published the first two issues of the journal, and A. Voronel and M. Gitterman the two that followed (Nos. 3 and 4). The problem of Jewish national identity in the USSR is treated in the main section of the journal. The first issue considered the sociological aspect of the problem; the second and third dealt with it from the standpoint of psychology and cultural factors. The fourth issue traced the history of how Soviet Jews have lost their own language.

In a section entitled “Legal Questions” the first and third issues discussed the legal position of Jews who wish to resettle in Israel, given the absence of any published laws in the USSR which guarantee them this right. The second issue published data on Soviet citizens-Jews and non-Jews – who have been persecuted for their so-called “parasitic way of life”.

A section entitled “Who Am I?” features writings, based on personal experience, about the national self-awareness of Jews. One author [Larissa Bogoraz] writes that she regards herself as a fully assimilated Russian from the cultural viewpoint but experiences her Jewishness in terms of a racial label and a social role. Others feel a keen sense of themselves as members of a national minority in Russia. This same section also features works of fiction depicting the world view of Jews in the USSR. Other sections of the journal are entitled: “History”, “Recollections”, “Cultural life”.

Issues of Jews in the USSR appeared on the following dates: No. 1, October 1972; No. 2, December 1972; No. 3, June-July 1973; No. 4, September 1973.