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  • Writer's pictureAnat Zalmanson-Kuznetsov

Introduction to The Soviet Jewry Struggle for Freedom

Updated: Jul 7

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Introduction to The Soviet Jewry Struggl
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Before starting to teach about the Soviet Jewry Struggle, we recommend you give this short introduction:

The Soviet Union was one of the two superpowers in the world (along with the United States), but this power did not last and disbanded in 1991, only after 74 years of existence.

The occupying government tried to erase any non-Russian communist identity.

In the Soviet Union there were 3 million Jews, but the policy was against religion, any religion.

The Soviet regime banned Jewish life, but on the other hand prevented Jews from entering Israel.

In the eyes of the Soviet leadership – the departure of the Jews was a symbol of the failure of propaganda that the Soviet Union is a paradise on earth.

Therefore, any expression of Judaism, *Zionism, sympathy for Israel or the desire to immigrate to Israel was considered treason.

Many were arrested without actual crime, and sent to prison for espionage or treason.

The Soviet government treated citizens as state property, and it was forbidden to leave the country without special permission: not for a trip and certainly not to leave the USSR. Anyone who wanted to leave had to go through the Interior Ministry, and usually get a refusal (AKA Refusenik).

According to the USSR, the Soviet society is superior and preferable and so a sane person will not want to leave. If someone is interested in leaving, it's a sign that he needs remedial education in order to get him back on track.

In the Soviet Union, unemployment was prohibited by law.

The Refuseniks, marked as “traitors”, were often fired from their jobs after applying to leave, and thus became criminals.


Communism: Communism is an economic system in which everything belongs to everyone, that is, to the state. According to this approach all means of production in the country belong to the state and there is no private ownership of means of production. Simply put - no one owns things that produce value and money, like factories, fields and the like. Historically, a number of countries have adopted communism, or been forced upon them by the USSR, after conquering them in World War II. In all of them it has led to severe economic problems.

Soviet Union: Officially known as the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR)

Zionism: Zionism‎ (after Zion) is an ideology movement that espouses the re-establishment of and support for a Jewish state in the territory defined as the historic Land of Israel.

Refusenik: An unofficial term for Soviet Jews, who were denied permission to emigrate, primarily to Israel, by the authorities of the Soviet Union. The term refusenik is derived from the "refusal" handed down to a prospective emigrant from the Soviet authorities (OVIR).

OVIR: The Soviet government department to which one would apply for permission to emigrate and would respond with permission or refusal.


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