Jews in Russia and the Soviet Union: Chronology of Events: 1727 - 1 January 1992



CPSU      Communist Party of the Soviet Union

EVSEKTSIA          The Jewish section of the CPSU

glasnost          policy of 'openness' initiated by Mikhail Gorbachev's rise to power in March 1985

KOMZET              the Commission for the Settlement of Jewish Toilers on the Land, established in 1924

OZET     the Society for the Agricultural Organization of Working Class Jews in the USSR, established in 1925

PAMYAT              "Memory" - a nationalist group espousing anti-Semitic views which gained popularity in the late 1980s

pogrom  of Russian origin, meaning "devastation" or "riot"; although it is most often associated with anti-Jewish violence, it in fact applies to mob attacks against the person or property of any religious, racial or national minority

refusenik         an individual who has applied to emigrate but has been refused

RSFSR    Russian Soviet Federated Socialist Republic

Soviet     Russian word for council


As detailed in the following chronology, throughout Russian and Soviet history the Jewish population was the subject of official policies of isolation, control or forced assimilation. Successive "Jewish policies" were influenced by a number of factors including general religious and nationalities policies, external considerations and the personal traits of the leaders of the time. In the late 15th century, for example, Tsar Ivan IV, "the Terrible" (1533-84), imposed a series of residential restrictions on the Jewish population (Basok and Benifand 1993, 11). This policy was echoed in Catherine II's creation of the Jewish Pale in the 1790s and, later, Stalin's efforts at population control. At the same time, because the leaders were usually unclear as to their intentions for the country's Jews, legislation was often inconsistent from regime to regime, and even during the same administration.

Popular or "grassroots" anti-Semitism has also shaped the history of Russian/Soviet Jewry, at times erupting into violent pogroms. Such episodes appear to be more likely during periods of political and economic turmoil and, according to one interpretation, when nationalist organizations are political allies of government (ibid., 6).



Catherine I orders all Jews expelled from Russia, although to what extent the order is implemented is unclear (Baron 1964, 12-13; Dubnow 1916, Vol. 1, 249-51; Skoczylas 1973, 3).


Elizabeth I re-orders the expulsion of the Jews, although she makes an exception for those willing to convert to Russian Orthodoxy. Elizabeth applies the policy more strictly than her predecessors and according to one report, 35,000 Jews were expelled between 1742 and 1753 (Baron 1964, 13-14; Dubnow 1916, Vol. 1, 254-58).


The partitioning of Poland among Russia, Prussia and Austria brings 900,000 "new Jews" into the Russian Empire. Because of the increased population, expulsion is no longer seen as a viable solution to the "Jewish question" (Sawyer 1979, 104; Skoczylas 1973, 3).


Catherine II creates the Pale of Settlement which stretches from the Baltic to the Black Sea in the western part of the Empire; Jews are forbidden to live outside this area (Insight on the News 21 May 1990b, 17; Basok and Benifand 1993, 11).


9 December

Alexander I (1800-1825) introduces the "Regulations Regarding the Jews". The existence of the Pale is re-affirmed, although some Jews are permitted to leave for limited periods (Sawyer 1979, 105). While local political rights are curtailed, Jews are permitted to send their children to any school in the Empire. Jews are encouraged to voluntarily enter the field of agriculture, but at the same time 200,000 to 300,000 Jews are ordered expelled from Pale villages. The latter order is repealed in 1808 (Pinkus 1988, 15-17).


As Alexander becomes more conservative, Jews are expelled from the countryside along the western frontier (Pinkus 1988, 17; Lowe 1993, 31-34).


Nicholas I passes a series of regulations governing Jewish life. Jews are recruited into the military for the first time (1827); the government attempts to abolish the kahal (Jewish community administration) (1844), although this proves impossible to implement (Lowe 1993, 34-35; Sawyer 1979, 105). The broadest legislative initiative, the "Jewish Regulations" of May 1835, serve as the legal basis for the direction of Jewish affairs until 1917. The Pale is reduced in size and precisely defined; Jews are required to register with authorities under fixed family names; Jews leaving the country without permission forfeit their nationality and are not permitted to return (Pinkus 1988, 18-19).


In the early years of Alexander II's reign, his regime is characterized by relatively liberal policies, including those dealing with the country's Jewish population. Some residential and educational restrictions previously imposed on Jews are removed (Basok and Benifand 1993, 12).


The assassination of Alexander II on 1/13 March 1881 [ Until the Bolshevik Revolution, Russia used the Julian calendar, which was a number of days behind the Gregorian calendar used in the West - twelve days in the nineteenth century and thirteen in the twentieth.] brings his son Alexander III to the throne and ushers in an era of repression and reaction for the entire population. At the same time, popular anti-Semitism is on the increase. Over this two year period, anti-Jewish violence is reported in more than 200 Jewish settlements (Basok and Benifand 1993, 15; Lambroza 1987, 256-59).



The government establishes a series of "Temporary Regulations" to administer the Jewish population; they remain in force until 1917. According to these regulations, later known as the "May Laws", Jews are forbidden to settle, build or purchase houses, or own or use land outside of the cities and towns of the Pale, or to conduct trade on Christian holidays (Lowe 1993, 66).


The governments of Alexander and his successor Nicholas II continue to restrict the lives of the Jewish population. A quota system is established limiting the number of Jewish entrants to academic institutions; Jews are expelled from the country's major cities such as Moscow, St. Petersburg and Kharkov (Lowe 1993, 70-75).


The residential restrictions appear to have been successful in concentrating the Jewish population. The 1897 census reveals that 94 per cent of the empire's Jews live in the Pale (Schwarz 1951, 10-11). The 4.9 million Jews in the Pale account for 11.6 per cent of the area's population; elsewhere, Jews account for less than one-half of one per cent of the country's total population of 85.1 million (ibid., 11).

The Jewish Bund (the General League of Jewish Working Men) is established. A union of Jewish socialist groups, the party is the first to lobby for general political demands as well as the interests of Jewish workers (Sawyer 1979, 111; Baron 1964, 169-70). A number of other political parties are formed by Jews around this time (Sawyer 1979, 111; Pinkus 1988, 41-43).


Anti-Jewish violence surfaces again in the Pale. One of the most violent pogroms occurs in Kishniev, Moldova, on 6/7 April; more than 40 Jews are killed and hundreds of others are wounded. Smaller towns such as Smela, Rovno, Sosnowiec and Gomel are affected, as is the major Jewish centre of Odessa (Lambroza 1987, 266; Pinkus 1988, 29).


The first of what are later to be known as The Protocols of the Elders of Zion are serialized in the publication Znamia. Claiming to prove that Jews are involved in a conspiracy to dominate the globe, they are actually forgeries prepared with the help of the Russian secret service (Baron 1964, 66-67).


A new series of pogroms erupts at the same time as the 1905 Revolution against the government of Tsar Nicholas II. The chief organizers of the pogroms are the members of the League of the Russian People; founded in 1904, its members are commonly known as the "Black Hundreds" (Baron 1964, 67).


Nicholas II is forced to establish a constitution in response to the 1905 Revolution. The short-lived October Manifesto promises to bestow civil liberties to the Russian people, although there is no mention of equality before the law or equal rights for the country's nationalities (Dubnow 1920, Vol. 3, 126-27). The "Jewish question" is not mentioned (Baron 1964, 71).



A pogrom in Bialystok, in which eighty people are killed, marks the end of three years of sporadic anti-Jewish violence (Lambroza 1987, 266; Pinkus 1988, 29).


The anti-Semitic tenor of the period is characterized by a number of blood libel cases (accusations of Jews murdering Christians for ritual purposes). One of the most famous is the two-year trial of Mendel Beilis, who is charged with the murder of a Christian boy (Lowe 1993, 284-90). The trial is showcased by the authorities to illustrate the perfidy of the Jewish population (Pinkus 1988, 30).



In the face of the oncoming German army, the government begins to expel thousands of Jews from the Empire's border areas, which coincide with the Pale of Settlement (Pinkus 1988, 31; Baron 1964, 188-91).


27 February/12 March

A popular revolution brings a liberal Provisional Government to power. On 21 March/3 April, the government removes all "discrimination based upon ethnic religious or social grounds" (Korey 1978, 90). The Pale is officially abolished. The removal of the restrictions on Jews' geographical mobility and educational opportunities leads to a migration to the country's major cities (Insight on the News 21 May 1990b, 17).

25 October/7 November

The Bolshevik Party seizes power from the faltering Provisional Government. Lenin and Stalin, the current and future leaders, both deny the concept of Jewish nationality and believe that the Jewish population should be assimilated (Problems of Communism Jan.-Feb. 1980, 20). At the same time, Lenin sees anti-Semitism as not only theoretically contrary to egalitarianism, but also as a hindrance to the assimilation process (Sawyer 1979, 23).

15 November

The new Bolshevik government proclaims its "Declaration of the Rights of the Peoples [Nations] of Russia," promising all nationalities the rights of equality, self-determination and secession. Jews are not specifically mentioned in the declaration, reflecting Lenin's view that Jews do not constitute a nation (Sawyer 1979, 14-15).


23 January

The RSFSR Council of Ministers issues a decree "On the Separation of Church from State and School from Church". The decree deprives religious communities of the status of juridical persons, the right to own property and the right to enter into contracts. The property of religious communities is nationalized; religious tuition in educational establishments is banned; religion can now be taught or studied only in private (Soviet Jewish Affairs Autumn-Winter 1990, 27).

1 February

The Commissariat for Jewish National Affairs is established as a subsection of the Commissariat for Nationality Affairs. It is mandated to establish the "dictatorship of the proletariat in the Jewish streets" and attract the Jewish masses to the regime while advising local and central institutions on Jewish issues. The Commissariat is also expected to fight the influence of Zionist and Jewish-Socialist Parties (Korey 1978, 79; Pinkus 1988, 58-59).

27 July

The Council of People's Commissars issues a decree stating that anti-Semitism is "fatal to the cause of the ... revolution". Pogroms are officially outlawed (Weinryb 1978, 306).

20 October

The Jewish section of the CPSU (Evsektsia) is established for the Party's Jewish members; its goals are similar to those of the Jewish Commissariat. The Evsektsia is at the forefront of the anti-religious campaigns of the 1920s that lead to the closing of religious institutions, the break-up of religious communities and the further restriction of access to religious education (Survey Jan. 1968, 77-81). To that end a series of "community trials" against the Jewish religion are held. The last known such trial, on the subject of circumcision, is held in 1928 in Kharkov (Rothenberg 1978, 172-73; Levin 1988, 78-80). At the same time, the body also works to establish a secular identity for the Jewish community (Pinkus 1988, 62).



The Central Jewish Commissariat dissolves the kehilahs (Jewish Communal Councils). The kehilahs had provided a number of social services to the Jewish community (Levin 1988, 81).


Jewish parties and Zionist organizations are driven underground as the Communist government seeks to abolish all potential opposition (Schechtman 1978, 113; Levin 1988, 90-91).


31 January

The Constitution of the USSR is confirmed. The USSR consists of the Russian Soviet Federated Socialist Republic (RSFSR), Ukraine SSR, Belorussian SSR and Transcaucasian SSR. (Carr 1950, 401, 413). The Commissariat for Nationalities' Affairs is disbanded (Pinkus 1988, 59).

29 August

An official agency for Jewish resettlement, the Commission for the Settlement of Jewish Toilers on the Land (KOMZET), is established. KOMZET studies, manages and funds projects for Jewish resettlement in rural areas (Levin 1988, 131; Schwarz 1951, 162-63).



A public organization, the Society for the Agricultural Organization of Working Class Jews in the USSR (OZET), is created to help recruit colonists and support the colonization work of KOMZET (Pinkus 1988, 64). For the first few years, the government encourages Jewish settlements, particularly in Ukraine. Support for the project dwindles throughout the next decade (Levin 1988, 131-51).


In an effort to establish a Jewish territorial region, KOMZET sends a number of Jews to the confluence of the Bira and Bidzhan Rivers in the Far East. Colonization of this area will help to create a buffer between the Soviet Union and the Far Eastern countries, and to stimulate development in the remote region (Baron 1964, 230-236).


8 April

The new Law on Religious Associations codifies all previous religious legislation. All meetings of religious associations are to have their agenda approved in advance; lists of members of religious associations must be provided to the authorities (Problems of Communism May-June 1973, 10-11).


The Evsektsia is dissolved (Pinkus 1988, 62), and there is now no central Soviet-Jewish organization. Although the body had served to undermine Jewish religious life, its dissolution leads to the disintegration of Jewish secular life as well; Jewish cultural and educational organizations gradually disappear (Rothenberg 1978, 177-78).


27 December

The government re-introduces the use of internal passports. "Jewish" is considered a nationality for these purposes (Pinkus 1988, 57).


7 May

Birobidzhan Province, the Far Eastern area where Jews are being encouraged to settle, is granted the status of an Autonomous Region in an effort to revitalize the settlement program. Between 1928 and 1934, fewer than 20,000 Jews migrate there; approximately 60 per cent return in the same period (Pinkus 1988, 74-75).


Stalin's efforts to consolidate power and eliminate opposition culminate in the great purges. Thousands of Jewish cultural and political leaders are among the millions of party and non-party members who are tried, exiled and murdered on various pretexts (Levin 1988, 323-29).


OZET is disbanded, following years of declining activities (Pinkus 1988, 65).


Following the signing of the Nazi-Soviet Pact in August 1939, the Soviet Union remains officially neutral for the first two years of the war. Throughout this period, the Soviet government maintains official silence on Nazi policies regarding Jews (Levin 1988, 342-43; Altshuler 1993, 83-91).


As the Soviet government annexes territory in Poland, Romania and the Baltic states (Dmytryshyn 1965, 210-14), roughly two million Jews become Soviet citizens (Rothenberg 1978, 180; Altshuler 1993, 85). Restrictions on Jews that had existed in the formerly independent countries are now lifted (Soviet Jewish Affairs Summer 1991, 53-54). [ The Baltic states had begun their brief period of independence as democracies (Schneider 1993, 181-82). Policies of "Latvianization" and "Lithuanization" also caused friction with all minorities, although the Lithuanian government at the same time supported minority-language schooling (Nodel 1974, 230-31).] At the same time, Jewish organizations in the newly-acquired territories are shut down and their leaders arrested and exiled (Baron 1964, 294). Approximately 250,000 Jews escape or are evacuated from the annexed territories to the Soviet interior prior to the Nazi invasion (Gitelman 1993, 4).


22 June

The German Army invades the Soviet Union.



The Soviet government creates a Jewish Anti-Fascist Committee, largely to foster international goodwill and to promote pro-Russian sentiments among the domestic Jewish population; at the same time, the Committee provides the Jewish population once again with a central organization (Weinryb 1978, 321).


Approximately 1.5 million Jews from the pre-1939 USSR are killed in the Holocaust and another 200,000 die in combat (Gitelman 1993, 3). Estimates of the total number of Jews under Soviet rule killed during this period range from 2.5 to 3.3 million (Gitelman 1993, 24 n.1).


14 May

The Soviet government initially welcomes the idea, and later the reality, of the State of Israel as a way of dislodging the British presence from the Middle East (Baron 1964, 312). However, it quickly grows antagonistic to the new state (Schechtman 1978, 124-25; Levin 1988, 518-19; Weinryb 1978, 321-22). Soviet Jews respond to the creation of Israel with enthusiasm; the visit by Israeli representative Golda Meyerson (Meir) is greeted with popular demonstrations and the Israeli legation begins receiving requests for assistance in leaving the USSR (Levin 1988, 483-87; Schechtman 1978, 124-25). Emigration was forbidden, however, and those who expressed pro-Israeli or pro-Zionist sentiments were arrested or deported (ibid., 124).


The government launches a campaign against "cosmopolitanism" which is generally directed against Jewish intellectuals and professionals (Skoczylas 1973, 19; Weinryb 1978, 322). The Yiddish publishing firm Der Emes which had put out the thrice-weekly Aynikayt, the Jewish Anti-Fascist Committee organ, is among the institutions that are shut down. Its Chairperson, actor Solomon Mikhoels, is murdered in January 1948 (Korey 1978, 88). The Jewish Anti-Fascist Committee is also disbanded. Many Jews in the army, universities and numerous "sensitive" occupations, including industrial planning, trade unionism and journalism are suddenly dismissed (Levin 1988, 531-33). This latest campaign is specifically aimed at Jewish secular, as opposed to religious, life (Rothenberg 1978, 183).



Twenty-four leading Jewish writers, intellectuals and artists are executed (Levin 1988, 527-28).


13 January

Pravda announces that a number of doctors have been killing top Soviet officials by deliberately providing poor medical treatment - the so-called "doctor's plot." Six of the nine arrested are Jews. Rumours begin to circulate that Stalin is planning to exile all Jews to Siberia. Historians argue that this may have been the case, or that he may have been planning to use this "plot" to begin another set of purges. Stalin's death on 5 March 1953 precludes the implementation of any long-term plans (Pinkus 1988, 179; Levin 1988, 544-50).



Khrushchev's "secret speech" before the XXth Congress of the CPSU marks the beginning of the "de-Stalinization" era. The leader exposes many of Stalin's crimes, including the fact that the "doctor's plot" was a fabrication (Skoczylas 1973, 23). The new regime does not bring an end to professional and educational discrimination against Jews (Levin 1988, 581).


Khrushchev launches a new campaign against religion in general and Judaism in particular; many of the country's remaining synagogues are closed, and a propaganda campaign is launched claiming, among other things, that the Jewish faith encourages a love of money, promulgates the hatred of other peoples, and promotes allegiance to another, reactionary state, i.e., Israel (Rothenberg 1978, 185-87; Salitan 1992, 21-22).



Khrushchev admits in an interview with French reporter Serge Groussard that the effort to establish a Jewish Autonomous Region is a failure, blaming it on "Jewish individualism" (Baron 1964, 343).



The government launches a widely publicized campaign against "economic crimes". The death penalty is introduced for such offences as speculation, bribery and blackmarketeering in foreign exchange. A large proportion of those executed are Jewish (Salitan 1992, 22; Sawyer 1979, 161-62; Levin 1988, 616; Weinryb 1978, 326).


In an effort to appease those critical of the regime's anti-Jewish policies, the government establishes the first Yiddish periodical to appear in the USSR since 1948, the bi-monthly Sovietish Heymland (Levin 1988, 631-37).


Judaism Without Embellishment, by Trofim Kichko, is published in Kiev. The anti-Semitic text depicts Judaism as "fostering hypocrisy, bribery, greed and usury"; Judaism is linked with Zionism, Israel, and Western capitalists in a global conspiracy. The book is greeted by foreign protest. Some of the statements in the book are denounced by the Party's Central Committee in April 1964, and it is later withdrawn from publication (Korey 1978, 98-99; Rothenberg 1978, 187).


Khrushchev is ousted by a Party coup. The campaigns against religion and economic crimes come to an end (Levin 1988, 627).



Andrei Sinyavsky and Yuli Daniel, two Jewish writers who try to evade Soviet censorship by sending their work abroad are put on trial; they are sentenced to seven and five years respectively. The harsh sentences spark a public protest (Levin 1988, 648-52; Gilison 1984, 4).


5-11 June

Following the victory of Israel over a coalition of Arab states in the Six Day War, the Soviet Union severs its diplomatic ties with Israel. The government launches an anti-Zionist, anti-Israeli media campaign in which, among other accusations, Jews and Israelis are compared to Nazis (Levin 1988, 652-53; Pinkus 1988, 255-56).


A number of Jews are put on trial in a series of high profile court cases. These include the May 1969 Kiev trial of Boris Kochubievsky who is sentenced to a labour camp for his openly Zionist beliefs, and the December 1970 "First Leningrad Trial," in which two of eleven defendants are sentenced to death for planning to hijack a plane to Sweden; their sentences are later commuted to terms in a labour camp. Other trials include the Second Leningrad and Riga Trials, both in May 1971, involving Jewish activists from those cities (Lewis 1978, 361-62; Levin, 672-87).


Government harassment of Jews continues. Jewish activists are harassed, exiled, jailed and sentenced to psychiatric institutions (Basok and Benifand 1993, 1).



Partially in response to growing social pressure, the government begins to permit substantial Jewish emigration (Gilison 1984, 5-6; Levin 1988, 696). Over the course of the decade, close to 250,000 Jews leave the USSR, roughly one-tenth of the Soviet Jewish population (Gilison 1984, 3; Salitan 1992, 47). At the same time, the emigration process is cumbersome and seemingly arbitrary, and those whose applications are rejected, the so-called "refuseniks", are subject to both official and public harassment (Salitan 1992, 38-40, 53-56).


In the first years of emigration, the majority of emigrants are from the areas annexed during World War II, such as the Baltics, Georgia, and Central Asia where assimilation has not been as great as in the "heartland"; many cite Zionism as a motivating factor for leaving the country, and most emigrants go to Israel (Salitan 1992, 33). Close to 80,000 emigrate in three years, peaking in 1973, when 34,733 are permitted to leave (Gilison 1984, 150).



The Jackson-Vanik agreement is passed in the United States, linking most-favoured nation trading status for "non-market economy countries" with liberalized emigration policies (Levin 1988, 703-707).


Emigration enters a new phase, and the "drop-out" phenomenon increases, whereby emigrants with exit visas to Israel change their destinations once they leave the USSR (Gilison 1984, 9-10). Those leaving at this time more closely correspond to the demographics of the Jewish population in the Soviet Union. Surveys of emigrants reveal that they are motivated to leave because of discrimination, economic considerations and for family reunification; strong Zionist and/or religious motivations are largely absent (ibid., 10-11; Salitan 1992, 49-50).



The Soviet Union signs the Helsinki Accords, which state that all signatories will abide by the Charter of the United Nations and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. The Final Act of the Accords emphasizes the right of citizens to emigrate (Sawyer 1979, 137-38).


The decade-long exodus peaks once more as roughly 80,000 are permitted to emigrate in a two-year period (Gilison 1984, 150).


Jewish emigration begins to slow for a number of reasons, including the increasingly conservative policies of the aging administration (Salitan 1992, 96). Because of the stagnating economy, the government cannot afford the loss of so many qualified people (ibid., 97; Friedgut 1989, 7). As well, emigration no longer serves as a bargaining tool in Soviet-American relations which have begun to cool (ibid., 6).


21 April

The state-sponsored Anti-Zionist Committee is established to denounce international Zionism, the United States and Israel, and to allay internal and foreign concerns about emigration (Levin 1988, 790). The Committee is also intended to defuse Western accusations that the Soviet Union's attacks on Israel are anti-Semitic (RFE/RL 8 Feb. 1990, 44).


Jewish emigration hits its lowest point; only 896 Jews are permitted to leave the country during the year (Insight on the News 21 May 1990a, 11).



Mikhail Gorbachev becomes leader of the Soviet Union. The first year of his regime does not bring a marked change in policy towards the Jewish population or emigration (Friedgut 1989, 13-14; Salitan 1992, 63-64). At the same time, as part of his policy of glasnost, all citizens gradually obtain more freedom to practise their culture and religion. The Jewish community experiences a cultural revival that continues throughout the late 1980s and 1990s (ibid., 68-69). While official persecution of Zionists and those trying to emigrate comes to an end, the new freedom of expression and of the press encourages popular anti-Semitism to rise to the surface (ibid., 69; Basok and Benifand 1993, 29-30).


1 January

New emigration regulations take effect. While they establish a legal framework for emigration, they also restrict the permissible grounds for emigration (Salitan 1992, 99; Friedgut 1989, 16-18).


The anti-Semitic nationalist organization Pamyat (Memory) first comes to public attention when several hundred sympathizers march on the Moscow City Soviet (Spier 1989, 51).


Throughout the Gorbachev era, "Prisoners of Zion," those imprisoned for wanting to leave the USSR for Israel, are released from Soviet jails, along with other political prisoners, and most are allowed to emigrate (Friedgut 1989, 20; Salitan 1992, 64-65).


8-10 September

The Ukrainian movement Rukh adopts a resolution against anti-Semitism at its constituent congress (RFE/RL 18 Jan. 1991, 14).


The Confederation of Soviet Jewish Organizations and Communities (Va'ad) is established at the Congress of Jewish Organizations and Communities. It is the first gathering of its kind since 1917 (Cohen and Naftalin 7 Mar. 1990, 4).


18 January

A meeting of the progressive "April" group of writers is broken up by a number of Pamyat members, who shout anti-Semitic slogans and attack some of the writers, forcibly ejecting some from the hall (Physics Today Mar. 1990, 128).

21 February

Literaturnaya Gazeta reports that charges are being laid by the Procurator's office against Pamyat under Article 74 of the RSFSR Criminal Code ("inciting racial hatred"). The charges are in connection with an anti-Semitic tract the group published in January (Vershbow 7 Mar. 1990, 10).

7 March

In a statement before the Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe, Alexander Vershbow (Director, Office of Soviet Union Affairs, Department of State) comments that the number of refuseniks remaining in the Soviet Union is down to approximately 100, as compared to about 500 six months earlier (Vershbow 7 Mar. 1990, 12).


Rumours spread through Leningrad that a number of pogroms are planned for 5 and 13 May (UCSJ Feb. 1990, 1). The pogroms do not occur (Basok and Benifand 1993, 44).

2 May

Following the 22 January 1990 massacre of Armenians in Baku and 12 February 1990 rioting in Dushanbe, several hundred men storm through a Jewish and Armenian neighbourhood in Andizhan, an eastern Uzbek city populated by 4,000 Jews, cutting telephone and electricity wires and vandalizing homes and shops. Jewish-owned or -inhabited buildings had been previously marked with Stars of David or other symbols (UCSJ Oct. 1990, 1).

1 October

The Soviet government passes a Law on Freedom of Conscience and Religious Organizations. Religious organizations are now legal entities and discrimination on religious grounds is illegal (Soviet Jewish Affairs Autumn-Winter 1990, 29-37).

12 October

Konstantin Smirnov-Ostashvili, a leader of the group that disrupted the "April" writers' meeting in January, is found guilty of inciting racism and is sentenced to two years of hard labour. It is the first time that a sentence has been handed down under the law banning violations of the equality of nationalities (RFE/RL 19 Oct. 1990, 42).

25 October

The RSFSR Supreme Soviet approves a Law on the Freedom of Religious Denominations. Considered more liberal than the Soviet law, it includes the right to use school premises for religious instruction outside school hours and the right to refuse military service on religious grounds, neither of which are covered in Soviet law. Since Gorbachev insists that all-Union laws take precedence, the validity of the Russian law is in doubt (RFE/RL 4 Jan. 1991, 16).

29 October

Soviet and American sponsors open what they claim to be the first independent centre established to monitor human rights in the USSR, known as the Bureau on Exit, Human Rights and Rule of Law. The office will monitor anti-Semitism in the USSR and assist people to leave the country for Israel and elsewhere (RFE/RL 9 Nov. 1990, 35).


Emigration accelerates as close to 367,000 Jews leave the country in a two-year period (NCSJ 1993, G2).



TASS reports that the Jewish Autonomous Oblast has declared itself independent of Khabarovsk Krai. Deputies from the Oblast Soviet in the capital Birobidzhan say that they would prefer the region were administered by the RSFSR. The final decision rests with the RSFSR Supreme Soviet (RFE/RL 24 May 1991, 42). There are officially 8,800 Jews remaining in the area, approximately four per cent of the population (AP 10 Dec. 1991).

New emigration legislation is passed by the Soviet government, although most of its provisions will not take effect until 1 January 1993. The legislation's sponsors estimate that up to 500,000 people will emigrate annually once the law takes effect, and that millions more will apply to travel outside the country (Los Angeles Times 28 May 1991, B4).

12 June

Vladimir Zhirinovsky, running on a strongly nationalist platform, places third in the Russian presidential elections with eight per cent of the vote (RFE/RL 28 June 1991, 40).

1 July

According to the new emigration legislation, as of 1 July 1991, Jews leaving for Israel will no longer be stripped of their Soviet citizenship (Los Angeles Times 24 May 1991, A12).

19-21 August

An attempt by eight hardline Communist Party members to overthrow the Gorbachev government is unsuccessful and the coup leaders are arrested (RFE/RL 30 Aug. 1991, 5-8).

25 December

Mikhail Gorbachev resigns as leader of the Soviet Union (RFE/RL 10 Jan. 1992, 58).


1 January

As previously agreed upon by Mikhail Gorbachev and Boris Yeltsin, the Soviet Union ceases to exist (RFE/RL 10 Jan. 1992, 57).





For information on Jews in the post-Soviet period, please consult the holdings of the Regional Documentation Centres and the REFINFO and REFQUEST databases.


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