1970s Soviet Union aliyah

Aliyah was the mass emigration of Soviet Jews during the 1970s to Israel after the Soviet Union lifted its ban on Jewish Refusenik emigration.

Soviet Exit Visa Forever
A Type 2 Soviet Exit Visa given to those who received permission to leave the USSR permanently and lost their Soviet citizenship. This visa belonged to 24 year old Elena Kassel who left via Leningrad airport on 24 January 1979


In 1967, the USSR broke diplomatic relations with Israel in the wake of the Six-Day War. During this time, popular discrimination against Soviet Jewry increased, led by an anti-Semitic propaganda campaign in the state-controlled mass media. By the end of the 1960s, Jewish cultural and religious life in the Soviet Union suffered from a strict policy of discrimination. This state-sponsored atheism persecution denied Jews the ethnic-cultural rights experienced by other Soviet ethnic groups.[1]

Emigration policy

After the Dymshits–Kuznetsov hijacking affair in 1970 following the crackdown, international condemnations caused the Soviet authorities to increase emigration quotas. Between 1960 and 1970, only 4,000 people had left the USSR. The number rose to 250,000 in the following decade.[2]

In 1972, the USSR imposed a so-called "diploma tax" on would-be emigrants who had received higher education in the USSR. The fee reached as high as twenty times an annual salary. This measure was designed to combat the brain drain caused by the growing emigration of Soviet Jews and other members of the intelligentsia to the West. Following international protests, the Kremlin soon revoked the tax, but continued to sporadically impose various limitations.[3]


Prior to the Six-Day War, few Soviet Jews emigrated to Israel. Israel's decisive victory changed the opinion of many Soviet Jews towards Israel. After the war, many Soviet Jews began to demand the right to move to Israel. However, given a choice, many Soviet Jews chose to emigrate to the United States.[4]

Absorption of new immigrants in Israel

Flickr - Government Press Office (GPO) - A Tearful Reunion
1972. A tearful reunion after 20 years between a brother and sister, who just arrived from Russia, at Lod Airport

In 1968, 231 Jews were granted exit visas to Israel, followed by 3,033 in 1969. From that point on, the USSR began granting exit visas in growing numbers. During the late 1960s and the 1970s, some 163,000 Soviet Jews emigrated to Israel; mostly between 1969 and 1973.

While many Jews emigrated to Israel, others chose the United States instead. Known as "dropouts", the emigres applied for US refugee visas while waiting at transit centers in Austria and Italy. In March 1976, the "dropout rate" rose to over 50%. Most of the Soviet Jews who wanted to emigrate to Israel out of religious and/or ideological reasons had done so by 1973; from then on, most Soviet-Jewish emigrants were mostly motivated by economic concerns. Many were non-religious and saw themselves as Jews by nationality only, and thus they had little religious or ideological motivation to move to Israel, which they saw as having fewer opportunities than the United States.[5] There were even thousands of non-Jews who used the opening to escape the Soviet Union.

Most Soviet Jews who emigrated to Israel who had stronger Jewish identities came from the Baltic states, Moldova, and Georgia, while the "dropouts" were mainly assimilated Jews from the Russian heartland.[5] Overall, between 1970 and 1988, some 291,000 Soviet Jews were granted exit visas, of whom 165,000 migrated to Israel, and 126,000 migrated to the United States.[6]

See also


  1. ^ Decter, Moshe. The Status of the Jews in the Soviet Union. Foreign Affairs. January 1963.
  2. ^ History of Dissident Movement in the USSR by Ludmila Alekseyeva. Vilnius, 1992 (in Russian)
  3. ^ "Declassified KGB Study Illuminates Early Years of Soviet Jewish Emigration", Sana Krasikov, December 12, 2007
  4. ^ Lazin, Fred. Refugee Resettlement and 'Freedom of Choice': The Case of Soviet Jewry. Center for Immigration Studies. July 2005.
  5. ^ a b [1]
  6. ^ Tolts, Mark. Post-Soviet Aliyah and Jewish Demographic Transformation. 15th World Congress of Jewish Studies, Jerusalem. August 2–6, 2009.
1990s Post-Soviet aliyah

The 1990s Post-Soviet aliyah began en masse in late 1980s when the government of Mikhail Gorbachev opened the borders of the USSR and allowed Jews to leave the country for Israel.

Between 1989 and 2006, about 1.6 million Soviet Jews and their non-Jewish relatives and spouses, as defined by the Law of Return, emigrated from the former Soviet Union. About 979,000, or 61%, migrated to Israel. Another 325,000 migrated to the United States, and 219,000 migrated to Germany. According to the Israeli Central Bureau of Statistics, 26% of the immigrants who arrived in Israel were not considered Jewish by Orthodox interpretations of Jewish law (which only recognizes matrilineal descent), but were eligible for Israeli citizenship under the Law of Return due to patrilineal Jewish descent or marriage to a Jew. The majority of the immigrant wave were Ashkenazi Jews; however, a significant proportion were Mizrahi groups such as the Mountain Jews, Georgian Jews, and Bukharan Jews – with each ethnic group bringing its own distinctive culture to Israel. The group successfully integrated economically into Israel: in 2012, the average salary of FSU (Former Soviet Union) immigrants was comparable to that of native-born Israeli Jews.

Bukharan Jews in Israel

Bukharan Jews in Israel, also known as the Bukharim, refers to immigrants and descendants of the immigrants of the Bukharan Jewish communities, who now reside within the state of Israel.

History of the Jews in Moldova

The history of the Jews in Moldova reaches back several centuries. Bessarabian Jews have been living in the area for some time. Today, the Jewish community living in Moldova number less than 4,000 according to one estimate while local estimates put the number at 15-20,000 Jews and their family members.

Mountain Jews in Israel

Mountain Jews in Israel, also known as the Juhurim, refers to immigrants and descendants of the immigrants of the Mountain Jewish communities, who now reside within the state of Israel.


Refusenik (Russian: отказник, otkaznik, from "отказ", otkaz "refusal") was an unofficial term for individuals, typically, but not exclusively, Soviet Jews, who were denied permission to emigrate, primarily to Israel, by the authorities of the Soviet Union and other countries of the Eastern bloc. The term refusenik is derived from the "refusal" handed down to a prospective emigrant from the Soviet authorities.

In addition to the Jews, broader categories included:

Other ethnicities, such as Volga Germans attempting to leave for Germany, Armenians wanting to join their diaspora, and Greeks forcibly removed by Stalin from Crimea and other southern lands to Siberia.

Members of persecuted religious groups, such as the Ukrainian Greek-Catholic Church, Baptists and other Protestant groups, Russian Mennonites, and Jehovah's Witnesses.A typical pretext to deny emigration was the real or the alleged association with state secrets.

Applying for an exit visa was a step noted by the KGB, so that future career prospects, always uncertain for Soviet Jews, could be impaired. As a rule, Soviet dissidents and refuseniks were fired from their workplaces and denied employment according to their major specialty. As a result, they had to find a menial job, such as a street sweeper, or face imprisonment on charges of social parasitism.The ban on Jewish immigration to Israel was lifted in 1971 leading to the 1970s Soviet Union aliyah. The coming to power of Mikhail Gorbachev in the Soviet Union in the mid-1980s, and his policies of glasnost and perestroika, as well as a desire for better relations with the West, led to major changes, and most refuseniks were allowed to emigrate.

Over time, "refusenik" has entered colloquial English for a person who refuses to do something, especially by way of protest.

Russian Jews in Israel

Russian Jews in Israel are immigrants and descendants of the immigrants of the Russian Jewish communities, who now reside within the State of Israel. They number around 900,000. This refers to all post-Soviet Jewish disaspora groups, not only Russian Jews, but also Ashkenazi Jews, Mountain Jews, Crimean Karaites, Krymchaks, Subbotniks, Bukharan Jews, and Georgian Jews.

Soviet Census (1979)

In January 1979, the Soviet Union conducted its first census in nine years (since 1970). Between 1970 and 1979, the total Soviet population increased from 241,720,134 to 262,084,654, an increase of 8.42%.

Timeline of antisemitism in the 20th century

This timeline of antisemitism chronicles the facts of antisemitism, hostile actions or discrimination against Jews as a religious or ethnic group, in the 20th century. It includes events in the history of antisemitic thought, actions taken to combat or relieve the effects of antisemitism, and events that affected the prevalence of antisemitism in later years. The history of antisemitism can be traced from ancient times to the present day.

For events specifically pertaining to the expulsion of Jews, see Jewish refugees.

In the late 19th and early 20th centuries, the Roman Catholic Church adhered to a distinction between "good antisemitism" and "bad antisemitism". The "bad" kind promoted hatred of Jews because of their descent. This was considered un-Christian because the Christian message was intended for all of humanity regardless of ethnicity; anyone could become a Christian. The "good" kind criticized alleged Jewish conspiracies to control newspapers, banks, and other institutions, to care only about accumulation of wealth, etc. Many Catholic bishops wrote articles criticizing Jews on such grounds, and, when accused of promoting hatred of Jews, would remind people that they condemned the "bad" kind of antisemitism.

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