1978

HIAS

HIAS and the JDC strain their resources to capacity in order to deal with a growing flow of emigrants from the Soviet Union. They ask the U.S. State Department to waive usual visa requirements in order to move the emigrants quickly through Rome, where the influx is causing housing shortages and other problems.

SOVIET UNION

Dissident Anatoly Shcharansky is convicted of espionage and receives a 13-year sentence. By mid-year, 20 other members of Helsinki monitoring groups in the Soviet Union are under arrest.

A group of refusenik women stage demonstrations in Moscow. In June, refuseniks Vladimir and Maria Slepak and Ida Nudel unfurl protest banners from the balconies of their Moscow apartment buildings. Arrested and charged with malicious hooliganism, Vladimir Slepak and Nudel are sentenced to exile in Siberia. Maria Slepak is given a suspended sentence.

U.S./WORLD

The arrest and trial of Anatoly Shcharansky becomes a cause célèbre in the West. The Soviet Jewry movement is galvanized and mounts a public campaign to garner support for Shcharansky. The U.S. regards Shcharansky’s arrest as a challenge to both the Helsinki Accords and détente. Avital Shcharansky, Anatoly’s wife, travels to the U.S. to meet with Vice President Walter F. Mondale and congressional leaders in Washington.

STATISTICS

  • Jewish emigrants from the USSR: 28,865
  • Soviet Jewish immigrants to US: 12,265
  • Soviet Jewish immigrants to Israel: 12,090

Looking Back

Despite the continued harassment of refuseniks, the authorities grant more exit visas than ever before. Valentin Levich, the most prominent scientist among the refuseniks, is allowed to leave for Israel after six years of waiting.

Soviet Jewish dissidents, in addition to struggling for the right to emigrate, continue to resist in other ways. Hebrew teachers secretly instruct small groups of students in private apartments, and underground samizdat publications, such as Jews in the Modern World and Jewish Thought, are passed from person to person. A questionnaire about Jewish identity is distributed clandestinely by activists, and over 1,200 responses are smuggled out of the country.