top of page
This month in history
This month in Histoy
Graf - USSR Jewish Emigration


TIMELINE - 30 major events in the Freedom For Soviet Jewry movement

Information based on Kosharovsky's timeline

Jewish Emigration from the USSR chart gr


The Bolshevik Revolution, or "October Revolution" of 1917 liberates the Jews of Russia from the anti-Jewish measures of Imperial Russia. But has the time of the nightingale really come?



Hebrew and Yiddish schools are being closed by government order.


Hebrew school, Lithuania 1924

Source: Beit Hatfutsot



A penal system was established through "Gulag" forced labor camps. These camps were intended for criminals of all kinds, but in practice the Gulag was known primarily as a means of suppressing political opponents and opponents of the Soviet regime.
Over time, Zionist, religious, and other Jewish activists perished or suffered in the Gulag system.

גולאג מורדוביה צילום יוסף שניידר.tif


Jews and other national minorities are marked with individual identification documents.



A wave of arrests of Jews. Some of them were heads of the Gulag system and the secret police.
People are deported to camps they built themselves.
They were not called political prisoners, but the enemies of the people.
The Gulag prisoners received a very small food ration (30 g per day) and worked hard. Mortality rates were high.



World War II and the Holocaust. The deaths of nearly 30 million Soviet citizens were documented, of which 2.5 million were Jews.



The Declaration of Independence of the State of Israel was held on Friday, May 14, 1948, in the city of Tel Aviv.

"We call on the Jewish people in all the Diaspora to unite around the Yishuv in Aliyah and in the building and to stand to this day in the great battle for the fulfillment of the generations' aspiration for the redemption of Israel."

After the end of the Israel's Independence War, Israeli relations with the Soviet Union began to gradually cool down.



Golda Meir, visiting Moscow, dances with about 50,000 Jews on Rosh HaShanah (Jewish New Year)

Jewish gathering was unprecedented in Stalin's Moscow, whose residents didn't even concider holding spontaneous demonstrations. The response was not long in coming; Most Jewish institutions in the USSR were closed, and it was made clear to the Jews that Israel would remain a distant dream for them. But the Jews decided otherwise. Golda's visit to the synagogue actually started the struggle for USSR Jewry Who carried her portrait.



The first official announcement beginning the Struggle for Soviet Jewry

During the celebrations of the half-jubilee of Kibbutz Afikim, Prime Minister David Ben-Gurion addressed his audience, most of them members of the kibbutz came from the Soviet Union (this was also the kibbutz's first name - "Kibbutz Hashomer Hatzair from USSR") and said openly for the first time, that the State of Israel "will fight for the right Soviet Jews to leave the USSR for Israel."

בן גוריון.png


The Doctors Plot

An antisemitic campaign accusing Jewish doctors of plotting to kill Stalin and other officials.

Stalin died on Purim 1953 after suffering a stroke. Soon after, it was declared to have been fabricated.



Funding "Nativ" Israeli secret unit

The Government of Israel, led by David Ben-Gurion, is establishing a secret unit that will deal with the issue of the Jews of the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe, within the framework of the intelligence services of the State of Israel. It was tasked with establishing contact and trying to provide aid to Jews beyond the Iron Curtain and in countries that were under the influence of the Soviet Union. At first the body was called BILAN and then its name was changed to Nativ (= path).

Nativ's logo: And I gathered you and saved you from all places


Nativ organization sent an Israeli youth delegation to participate in the Festival of Socialist Youth Organizations from around the world, that was taking place in Moscow, July 1957.

The delegation was under Soviet surveillance.


The first group of activists for Soviet Jewry in the United States is established.

The first Soviet Jewry activist group is formed In Cleveland, Ohio by a NASA scientist. It later becomes the Union of Councils for Soviet Jews. Over the next decade, many other advocacy groups are formed.



Eli Wiesel's book, The Jews of Silence, is published and emphasizes his journey in the USSR (secretly supported by the Israeli government) and his encounters with the Jews there and the silence of Western Jews in the face of their plight. The book causes a worldwide uproar and brought the plight of Jews behind the Iron Curtain to the free world in general and to the land of Israel in particular.



Israel wins the Six Day War

The victory of the small country Israel in the face of an attack by a number of large Arab states, is an inspiration to many Soviet Jews, who now feel that they can fight against Soviet oppression.



Letter of the 18 Georgian Jewish Families

An appeal to the UN by 18 Jewish Georgian Jewish families calls for their right to leave the Soviet Union.

Their appeal caught the attention of the Western media.
A secret committee was established in the Soviet Union by Jewish activists in the Soviet Union to coordinate activities and efforts to leave the Soviet Union from Israel.

"We believe that our prayers have reached God. We know our appeals will reach people.

For we are asking: let us go to the land of our forefathers."

The Elashvili family.webp


The Soviet government organizes a television broadcast showing the "Jewish state" speaking out against Zionism and emigration.

Left to right: Aron Vergelis (Poet),
Elina Bystritskaya (Actress),
Colonel General David Dragunsky
and Arkady Raikin (Actor).


Operation "Wedding"
and The first Leningrad trial

The arrest and trial of 16 young Refuseniks who tried to "hijack" a small empty plane in an act of despair in order to reach Israel.
The event ignited great international support for the Soviet Union's Jewish struggle for free exit, and the pressure led to the Soviet Union exchanging death sentences and allowing hundreds of thousands of Soviet Jews to leave.



Brussels Conference

The first world conference on Soviet Jewry is being held in Brussels on behalf of the Nativ liaison bureau, with 800 representatives, including prominent Israeli leaders David Ben-Gurion and Menachem Begin.


Jewish activists in the USSR issue "The White Book of Exodus" with scores of personal letters and appeals, contained 2,800 serial titles. It was smuggled out and then published in the free world.

הספר הלבן.jpg


In August 1972, the Soviet Union decided to impose a "diploma tax" on those with academic degrees who had studied at the expense of the state and sought to emigrate from it. The tax was so high that it prevented degree holders from leaving. It is considered a "ransom" tax designed to deter Jews.

מס השכלה ברוסית 1973-3.jpg


Following the Diploma Tax in the USSR, Senator Henry Jackson in the US is proposing legislation linking trade benefits to communist countries that grant freedom of exit. It becomes the Jackson-Vanik Amendment in 1975, which imposed restrictions on trade with countries restricting the exit of citizens. The most effective legal tool in the struggle for Soviet Jewry.

No trade no aid poster Student Struggle

Student Struggle for Soviet Jewry

Yeshiva University Archive


The "Final Helsinki Act" has been signed by 35 countries including the Soviet Union at an international summit. The law, among other things, focused on human rights. The document becomes a global tool for human rights pressure in the Soviet Union, especially Jewish emigration.



The Soviet television presents an hour-long anti-Zionist documentary "Soul Traders." The film details the names and addresses of Zionist activists Vladimir Slepak, Yosef Begun, Natan Sharansky and Yuli Kosharovsky.
They were arrested and imprisoned shortly thereafter.

Morey Schapira collection

Image courtesy of

Morey Schapira



The Third World Conference for Jews of the USSR of Nativ Liaison Bureau, was held at the Nation's Buildings in Jerusalem, March 15 to March 17, 1983.
Nearly 2,000 delegates and 200 radio and television journalists, from the Western world, attended the conference.
A special communication center was established that transmitted information in four languages: Hebrew, English, French and Spanish. Radio stations from Europe, which broadcast beyond the "Iron Curtain", sent increased teams to Jerusalem.


The Anti-Zionist Committee of the Soviet Public was established in Moscow to combat Jewish immigration activities.

Ethnic Jews formed the heart of the committee.
One of the members of the committee, the ballerina Maya Plisetskaya, was under threats from the authorities that if she did not become a member of the committee she would be denied a passport and would not be able to appear outside the Soviet Union.
The use of Jews to destroy Jewish institutions and culture was to prevent accusations of anti-Semitism by the authorities.

הוועד האנטי ציוני.jpg


The "Third International Book Fair in Moscow" was being held with the participation of an Israeli delegation. The censors confiscate several books of Jewish interest. The Israeli pavilion is very popular among the Jews of the Soviet Union.



A record 250,000 people attend the largest rally ever organized in the United States on behalf of a Jewish cause. The event marks the culmination of an information campaign for Soviet Jewry in the United States.


American Jewish Historical Society



  • The Soviet government approves a declaration of human rights that includes the right to leave according to the principle of family reunification.

  • For the first time in 21 years, an Israeli Consul delegation arrives in Moscow.


On December 25, 1991, Mikhail Gorbachev resigned as Soviet president; The flag of the Soviet Union was lowered from the Senate Palace in the Kremlin and replaced by the three-color flag of Russia.
The Soviet Union ceased to exist.
Everyone is free to choose whether to go out or stay.

1991 USSR dissolved


The Israeli government organizes direct flights to Israel and establishes a consulate in Moscow. The wave of Jews leaving the Soviet Union is reaching its peak.

אריה לוין ושמעון פרס בטקס הפתיחה של שגרי

* We tried to give credits accordingly. If you find an error or no credit is written, please contact us


Let My People Go was created and designed by Anat Zalmanson-Kuznetsov for Nativ - Issraeli Prime Minster Office

bottom of page