Soviet Emigration DBQs

In the 1980s, issues of human rights abuses in the Soviet Union continued to raise concerns among westerners.  Most Soviets were locked behind the “iron curtain” with very few options or opportunities to emigrate.  At the same time, relations between U.S. and Soviet leaders stalled.

When it was announced that President Reagan and the new Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev would be meeting and holding the first such summit in eight years in 1985, many Americans were cautiously optimistic.  Those concerned with issues of Soviet emigration wrote President Reagan to share their stories, express concerns, and push for relief efforts.

Featured Documents: Soviet Emigration Documents

Activity: Read the featured documents and answer the following questions:


  1. What role does the person who wrote the initial letter play in the United States government?
  2. What state is the letter writer from? How do you know?
  3. What was President Reagan’s response to the letter?

Thinking Questions:

  1.  Discuss how the issue of divided spouses has been addressed between the years of 1980 and today.  Discuss economic, political, social issues, and legislation.
  2. Explain the ways in which totalitarian regimes limit the freedom of their citizens. Include the issue of emigration in your discussion.
  3. Presidents do not make personal notations in response to every letter they receive. Why do you think President Reagan made a personal notation in response to this letter?




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