The sudden influx of emigrants from the Soviet Union, Iran and elsewhere bring the total applicants registered in HIAS’ European offices to 8,000.


There is a dramatic increase in emigration despite a new law that limits viable invitations from abroad to those from “first-degree” relatives (parents, spouses, children, siblings) and forbids exit visas to those with knowledge of “state secrets.” In an interview on U.S. television, Mikhail Gorbachev insists that exit visas are denied to applicants only because of security reasons and complains that Jewish emigration is a “brain drain.” In May, prisoner of Zion Yuli Edelson is released from a labor camp.


The day before the summit at which Ronald Reagan and Mikhail Gorbachev sign the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty, more than 250,000 demonstrators gather in Washington, D.C. to protest ongoing emigration restrictions and other human rights abuses in the Soviet Union.


  • Jewish emigrants from the USSR: 8,155
  • Soviet Jewish immigrants to US: 3,811
  • Soviet Jewish immigrants to Israel: 2,072

Looking Back

Though the new more open atmosphere in the Soviet Union allows for unprecedented displays of political expression, the authorities are inconsistent about allowing demonstrations, marches and other public events. Permission to hold a demonstration against anti-Semitism in Moscow is denied, but hundreds of human rights activists from abroad are permitted to come to the Soviet Union for a human rights seminar organized by Press Klub Glasnost. U.S. Secretary of State George Shultz hosts a Passover seder for refuseniks in Moscow.

A few weeks before the superpowers hold a summit meeting, several high-profile refuseniks are permitted to emigrate, including Ida Nudel (denied a visa for 16 years), Vladimir and Maria Slepak (17 years) and Alexander Lerner (17 years). Yosif Begun, Viktor Brailovsky, Arkady Mai, Lev Sud, Lev Ovsishcher and Simon Yantovsky also are permitted to leave.

Glasnost leads to the emergence of right-wing organizations such as Pamyat (Memory), which promotes the idea of a “Zionist-Masonic conspiracy.” Though the official press condemns the group, 400 of its members hold a rally in Moscow that culminates in a meeting with the city’s party head, Boris Yeltsin. A paramilitary offshoot of Pamyat is believed to be responsible for the murder of Naum Nechenko, a Jewish cultural activist in Leningrad.