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Encyclopaedia Judaica

3  Numerus clausus against the Jews in "Soviet Union"

How national policies wanted quotas according to the population proportion - and the effects
from: Numerus clausus; In: Encyclopaedia Judaica 1971, vol. 12

presented by Michael Palomino (2007)

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Numerus clausus against Jews in the "Soviet Union"

[1917-1948: No numerus clausus for Jews in the "Soviet Union"]

<In the Soviet Union. There are no indications of any official or unofficial numerus clausus existing in the Soviet Union until the last "Black Years" of Stalin's rule (1948-53). Even then discrimination against Jews seeking admission to Soviet universities seems to have been related to the general atmosphere of distrust and enmity, engendered by the anti-Jewish trend of official policy, rather than the result of a regulated system of limited percentages. Though legally and openly there has never been a numerus clausus for Jews in the U.S.S.R., young Jews seeking admission to certain prestige universities, or to studies leading to positions entailing use of classified information or representative status in the state or on its behalf, increasingly encountered unexpected artificial difficulties in the 1950s and 1960s.

Many young Jews complained of having been rejected despite brilliant achievements in the entrance examinations in favor of non-Jews with fewer scholastic qualifications.

[Soviet statesmen and Soviet journals confirm national regulations and quotas in the Soviet system]

A number of statements were made by Prime Minister Nikita Khrushchev (for instance to a French socialist delegation in 1957; see Réalités, May (col. 1265)

1957) or by the minister of culture, Yekaterina Furtseva (to a correspondent of the pro-Communist American magazine, National Guardian, June 25, 1956) confirming the existence of a general policy to regulate cadres according to nationality particularly and explicitly by reducing the proportion of Jews in the intelligentsia and in government departments.

These statements seemed to validate the assumption of many Soviet citizens as well as of scholars abroad that, as W. Korey affirms in his study on the legal position of Soviet Jewry (1970), "unpublished governmental regulations appear to have been issued, whether in written or oral form, which establish quotas limiting educational or employment opportunities for Jews."

In 1959 the minister for higher education, U.P. Yelyutin, vehemently denied the existence of such quotas, and in 1962 the U.S.S.R. ratified the UNESCO Convention against Discrimination in Education. However, some evidence to the contrary was found in 1963 in Soviet journals such as Kommunist and, particularly, the "Bulletin of Higher Education", which acknowledged the existence of "annually planned preferential admission quotas".

An American specialist on Soviet education, N. de Witt, reached the conclusion in 1961 that a quota system existed "to the severe disadvantage of the Jewish population". According to de Witt the principle applied makes "the representation of any national or ethnic grouping in overall higher education enrollment" proportional to its size in the total Soviet population. He presented statistical data which showed that between 1935 and 1958 "the index of representation (in higher education) rose for most nationalities, but fell for Georgians and all national minorities, with a very drastic decline for the Jews."

[Official Soviet statistics]

The official statistics on the number of Jewish students, which apparently contradicted this assertion, were misleading (as some scholars, like Alec Nove and J.A. Newth, have found after a meticulous analysis, published in 1970), mainly because these overall numbers included not only students in every kind of "institute" and field of study, but also external (i.e., correspondence) students. The question whether Jews were "able to get into universities of their choice on equal terms with competitors of other nationalities" remained open. The percentage of Jewish students (including evening and correspondence students) fell from 14.4% in 1928-29 to 3.2% in 1960-61. Though the official percentage of Jews in the total population was in 1960-61 approximately 1.1% and in the urban population 2.2%, the above-mentioned percentage of Jewish students should be considered, according to A. Nove and J.A. Newth, to be proportionately low.

[High Jewish proportion in white-collar jobs during World War II]

The majority of the Jewish proletariat perished during the German invasion in World War II, and there seems to be no doubt that, as a purely urban element consisting of white-collar workers, professional men, engineers, scientists, and people occupied in retail trade "a much larger proportion of Jews than of other nationalities endeavors to obtain higher education. It is this fact that may well give rise to discrimination.

Some officials may feel that it is wrong for Jews to be so overwhelmingly non-proletarian in their composition. Others, particularly in the national republics, are concerned to provide special educational advantages for the relatively backward peoples of their own nationality". This conclusion of A. Nove and J.A. Newth seems to be borne out by a large number of case histories related by Soviet Jews themselves.

[B.E.]> (col. 1266)


-- W. Korey, in: L. Kochan (ed.): the JEws in Soviet Russia since 1917 (1970), 90, 94-95
-- A. Nove and J.A. Newth, ibid., 145, 154-6> (col. 1270)

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Encyclopaedia Judaica: Numerus clausus, vol.
                    12, col. 1265-1266
vergrössernEncyclopaedia Judaica: Numerus clausus, vol. 12, col. 1265-1266

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