A Half-Century of Jewish Emigration from the Former Soviet Union: Demographic Aspects

Seminar on Russian and Eurasian Jewry
Event Format
In person

For many years, Soviet Jews, like all other citizens of the USSR, had no real possibility to emigrate in sizeable numbers, but this changed in the 1970s. Based on collected data, it is estimated that almost two million Jews and their relatives have emigrated from the former Soviet Union since 1970. Most of this mass emigration occurred since 1989—about 1.7 million. Hence, the mass migration of Jews from the former Soviet Union has a history of about half a century. The dynamics of this emigration fluctuated, characterized by successive waves. The analysis clearly shows the decisive role of the “push factor” in the migration movements in the last three decades. Data shows pronounced selectivity of Jewish migration by age and sex. This emigration caused the size of the “core” Jewish population remaining in the former Soviet Union to dramatically shrink from 2,168,000 in 1970 to 1,480,000 in 1989, and to 248,000 by the beginning of 2019. At the same time, the emigration led to the resettlement of ex-Soviet Jews primarily in three destination countries—Israel, the United States, and Germany. The largest group went to Israel, and the positive demographic transformation of this group—a sizeable increase of fertility and fast decrease of mortality—occurred there. As a result of a half-century's mass migration, Russian-speaking Jews now are a worldwide phenomenon. Today, there are about 1.6 million “core” Jews worldwide who originated from the former Soviet Union.

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Cosponsored by the Davis Center for Russian and Eurasian Studies and the Center for Jewish Studies at Harvard University. The Project on Russian and Eurasian Jewry has been made possible with the generous support of Genesis Philanthropy Group.


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