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.


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 , led by an anti-Zionist 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 movement denied the 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 thing to emigrate to the US.  [4]

Absorption of new immigrants in Israel

In 1968, 231 Jews were granted visas to Israel, followed by 3,033 in 1969. From that point, the USSR began granting 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 thing the United States instead. Known as “dropouts”, the emigres applied for US refugee visas while waiting for transit centers in Austriaand Italy . In March 1976, the “dropout rate” rose to over 50%. Most of the Soviet Zionists 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, 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 have been 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 visas, from which 165,000 migrated to Israel, and 126,000 migrated to the United States.  [6]

See also

  • Refusenik (Soviet Union)
  • Dymshits-Kuznetsov hijacking affair
  • Jackson-Vanik amendment
  • History of the Jews in Russia and the Soviet Union
  • 1990s Post-Soviet aliyah
  • Russian Jews in Israel
  • USSR anti-religious campaign (1970s-87)


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

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