1970s Soviet Union aliyah

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A Type 2 Soviet Exit Visa given to those who received permission to leave the USSR permanently and lost their Soviet citizenship

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


In 1967, the USSR broke off diplomatic relations with Israel in the wake of the Six-Day War. During this time, increased popular discrimination against Soviet Jews led by an anti-Zionist propaganda campaign in the state-controlled mass media brought on popular discrimination of Jews. 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 atheist movement denied Jews the similar ethnic-cultural rights of other Soviet ethnic groups.[1]

Changing Soviet Emigration Policy[edit]

After the Dymshits–Kuznetsov hijacking affair in 1970 and the crackdown, strong international condemnations caused the Soviet authorities to increase emigration quotas. Between 1960 and 1970, only 4,000 people 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. In some cases, the fee was as high as twenty times an annual salary.[citation needed] 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.

Increasing Jewish Emigration[edit]

Prior to the Six-Day War, there was hardly any Soviet-Jewish emigration to Israel. Israel's decisive victory in the war changed the opinion of many Soviet Jews towards Israel. After the war, many Soviet Jews began to demand the right to immigrate to Israel from Soviet authorities. Nevertheless, when given a choice Russian Jews chose to emigrate to the US.[3]

Absorption of New Immigrants in Israel[edit]

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, and 3,033 followed in 1969. From that point on, the USSR began granting exit visas in growing numbers. During the late 1960s and the 1970s, about 163,000 Soviet Jews emigrated to Israel; the majority of the emigration occurred between 1969 and 1973.

While many Jews emigrated to Israel, a number of Soviet Jews began choosing to emigrate to the United States instead. Known as "dropouts," the emigres would apply for US refugee visas while waiting at transit centers in Europe. 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 already done so by 1973; from then on, most Soviet-Jewish emigrants were motivated by primarily economic opportunities. 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. [4]

Most of the Soviet Jews who continued emigrating to Israel were those with stronger Jewish identities from the Baltics, Moldova, and Georgia, while the "dropouts" were mainly assimilated Jews from the Russian heartland.[4] Overall, between 1970 and 1988, some 291,000 Soviet Jews were granted exit visas, of whom 165,000 immigrated to Israel, and 126,000 immigrated to the United States.[5]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ http://www.foreignaffairs.com/articles/23494/moshe-decter/the-status-of-the-jews-in-the-soviet-union
  2. ^ History of Dissident Movement in the USSR by Ludmila Alekseyeva. Vilnius, 1992 (in Russian)
  3. ^ http://cis.org/RefugeeResettlement-SovietJewry
  4. ^ a b http://www.cis.org/RefugeeResettlement-SovietJewry
  5. ^ Post-Soviet Aliyah and Jewish Demographic Transformation. Mark Tolts