Exiting from the Soviet Union: Emigrés or Refugees?

One of the most dramatic developments in the Soviet Union during the past decade has been the mass emigration of citizens, mostly of Jewish, German, and Armenian nationality. Emigration from the USSR had not been permitted, except for a tiny handful, since the early 1920s, although in the aftermath of World War II several hundred thousand Soviet citizens managed to remain in the West. These were either prisoners of war, slave laborers, Nazi collaborators, or simply people who took advantage of wartime chaos to flee the Soviet Union. But between 1971 and the end of 1980, over 300,000 Soviet citizens immigrated to Israel, the United States, the Federal Republic of Germany, Canada, Australia, and other countries in Western Europe and Latin America. About 246,000 of the émigrés are Jews; 60,000 are Germans; 10,000 are Armenians, and there are a few thousand Russians, Ukrainians, Baltic people, and others who have emigrated. Of the Jews, about 150,000 have settled in Israel and about 80,000 in the United States; all of the Germans have settled in West Germany; most of the Armenians have settled in the United States, although some have gone to the Middle East and western countries of their birth. (Most of the emigrating Armenians were born outside Soviet Armenia and immigrated to Armenia after World War II when the Soviet Government appealed to Armenians to “return to their homeland.”)