Dymshits-Kuznetsov hijacking affair

Dymshits-Kuznetsov hijacking affair

Dymshits-Kuznetsov aircraft hijacking affair ( _ru. Ленинградское самолётное дело, or Дело группы Дымшица-Кузнецова) Or The Leningrad Process was an attempt to hijack a civilian aircraft on May 15, 1970 by a group of Soviet refuseniks in order to escape to the West. Even though the attempt was unsuccessful, this was a notable event in the course of the Cold War because it drew international attention to human rights violations in the USSR and resulted in temporary loosening of emigration restrictions.


In the wake of Israel's victory in the Six-Day War in 1967, the USSR broke off the diplomatic relations with the Jewish state. Anti-Zionist propaganda campaign in the state-controlled mass media and the rise of Zionology were accompanied by harsher discrimination of Soviet Jews.Fact|date=May 2007

This new wave of state-sponsored anti-SemitismFact|date=May 2007 on one hand, and the sense of pride for victorious Jewish nation over Soviet-armed Arab armies on the other, stirred up Zionist feelings among some Soviet Jews, the majority of whom were assimilated and non-religious.

The incident

In 1970, a group of sixteen refuseniks (two of whom were non-Jewish), organized by a dissident Eduard Kuznetsov (who already served a seven-year term in Soviet prisons), prepared to hijack an aircraft and fly it to Sweden. One of the participants, Mark Dymshits, was a former military pilot. Under the guise of a trip to a wedding, they bought up all the tickets for the local flight Leningrad-Priozyorsk on a small 12-seater aircraft Antonov An-2 (colloquially known as "кукурузник", "kukuruznik").

On June 15, 1970, after arriving at the airport "Smolny" near Leningrad, the entire group of the "wedding guests" was arrested by the MVD.

The aftermath

The accused were charged for high treason, punishable by the death sentence under the Article 64 of the Penal code of the RSFSR. Mark Dymshits and Eduard Kuznetsov were indeed sentenced to capital punishment but after international protests it was appealed and replaced with 15 years of incarceration,
Yosef Mendelevitch and Yuri Fedorov - 15 years, Aleksey Murzhenko - 14, Silva Zalmanson (Kuznetsov's wife) - 10, Arieh-Leib Khanokh - 13, Anatoli Altmann - 12, Boris Penson - 10,Israel Zalmanson - 8 years,Wolf Zalmanson (brother of Sylva and Israel) - 10,Mendel Bodnya - 4 years.

The affair was followed by crackdown on Jewish and dissident movement throughout the USSR. Activists were arrested, makeshift centers for study Hebrew language and Torah were closed and more trials followed.

At the same time, strong international condemnations caused the Soviet authorities to significantly increase the emigration quota. In the years 1960 through 1970, only 4,000 people (legally) emigrated from the USSR. In the following decade, the number rose to 250,000ref|alexeyeva, to fall down again by 1980 .

On May 20, 1978, three Soviet foreign intelligence officers were arrested in New Jersey while collecting an agent's report from a secret cache. One of them, the attaché of the Soviet mission to the United Nations Vladimir Zinyakin, had diplomatic immunity and was released. Two others, Rudolf Chernyaev and Valdik Enger, were employees of the UN secretariat who did not have such status and in October were sentenced to 50 years in prison each. After long negotiations, on April 27, 1979, they were exchanged for five Soviet political prisoners: Aleksandr Ginzburg, Eduard Kuznetsov, Mark Dymshits, Valentin Moroz, and Georgy Vins.

After immigrating to Israel, Kuznetsov headed the news department of the "Radio Liberty" (1983-1990), and was the chief editor of the largest Israeli newspaper "Вести" (1990-1999), the most popular Russian language newspaper outside of Russia.

"The Committee to Free the Leningrad Three" headed by the US Senator Tilman Bishop was instrumental in organizing grassroots and diplomatic campaigns to release the remaining prisoners.

In February 1981, Mendelevitch was released and joined his family in Israel. He urged continuance of the campaign to free two Russian members of the group, Fedorov and Murzhenko: "The fact that both are non-Jewish is the worst example of Soviet discrimination and must not pass without protest".

On June 15, 1984, Aleksei Murzhenko was released, only to be rearrested for "parole violation". In June of 1985, after serving 15 years, Yuri Fedorov was released under the 101st kilometre settlement restriction. He was denied an exit visa until 1988 when he left for the USA. In 1998, he founded The Gratitude Fund in order to commemorate the Soviet dissidents "who waged a war against Soviet power and sacrificed their personal freedom and their lives for democracy".


* "ИСТОРИЯ ИНАКОМЫСЛИЯ В СССР" (The History of Dissident Movement in the USSR) by Ludmila Alekseyeva. Vilnius, 1992 [http://www.memo.ru/history/diss/books/ALEXEEWA/alexeeva_toc.htm]

See also

* Jackson-Vanik amendment
* Collapse of the Soviet Union

External links

* [http://www.jerrykopel.com/c/leningrad-three.htm The role of Sen. Tilman Bishop in "The Committee to Free the Leningrad Three"]

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