Statements by U.S. and Soviet leaders clarify that fluctuations in the free movement of Soviet Jewry are related to détente and have little to do with emigrants’ choice of final destination. After participating in a trial program to increase emigration to Israel by providing migration assistance only to Soviet Jews with close relatives in the U.S., HIAS reaffirms its commitment to the American Jewish community’s position of freedom of choice. It now returns to its policy of assisting all emigrants, regardless of whether or not they indicate a preference for destinations other than Israel or have relatives in those countries.


After the arrest of almost its entire membership, the Moscow Helsinki Watch Group is forced to disband. Andrei Sakharov, in exile in Gorky, issues an open letter to Soviet scientists asking them to take part in the struggle for human rights. Amnesty International reports that more than 200 dissidents have been incarcerated in mental institutions during the 1975-1982 period.

In November, Leonid Brezhnev dies and is succeeded by Yuri Andropov as leader of the USSR.


In response to attacks on northern Israel and the assassination of Israel’s ambassador in London, Israel invades southern Lebanon.


  • Jewish emigrants from the USSR: 2,688
  • Soviet Jewish immigrants to US: 1,327
  • Soviet Jewish immigrants to Israel: 731

Looking Back

Jewish emigration from the Soviet Union slows to a trickle. The breakdown of East-West détente and the authorities’ fear that the emigration movement is playing a strong role in fomenting unrest lead them to clamp down harshly. After the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, bilateral relations between the superpowers are all but frozen. The authorities begin revoking the academic degrees of those who have applied to leave the country. Invitations to join relatives in Israel are sometimes confiscated and sent back, stamped “addressee unknown.”

Refuseniks Vladimir Slepak and Ida Nudel are released from Siberian exile. Nudel is not permitted to return to Moscow. Mikhail Tsipin is arrested when he displays a placard in Red Square demanding the right to emigrate to Israel. Anatoly Mirkind, a professor of history at Kishinev University, commits suicide after repeated rejections of his emigration application.