Knesset Speaker, former Soviet prisoner, will address Russian parliament

Edelstein, who fought the Soviets to immigrate to Israel, will now address their heirs as an Israeli leader. 

Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein, who fought the USSR for the right to immigrate to Israel, will on Wednesday become the first Israeli to speak at the Russian parliament.

Symbolically, Edelstein`s first official visit to the Russian capital as Knesset Speaker will be held 30 years after his release from a Soviet prison in July 1987. He is expected to speak in both Hebrew and Russian.

Edelstein was born in Ukraine, and in the late 1970s applied for an exit visa to immigrate to Israel.

Rejected, he became involved with clandestine efforts to teach Hebrew. He was eventually expelled from school, arrested, and sent to a Siberian gulag for three years.

After his release and immigration to Israel, Edelstein entered politics, eventually becoming Minister of Immigrant Absorption.

Ahead of the visit Edelstein said that “obviously it will be a special and moving visit.”

He said the goal of his visit is to further develop “the excellent relations between the countries, particularly the ties we have developed between the Knesset and the Russian parliament, which are better than ever.”

“But clearly one cannot ignore the symbolism of the visit – which could have seemed like a mirage only a few years ago – in which someone, who was a prisoner in the Soviet Union, will stand at the podium of the parliament in Moscow and deliver a speech as the Speaker of the Israeli Knesset,” he said.

Edelstein’s three-day Moscow visit is part of a Knesset delegation. He will meet with Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, parliamentarians, and prominent Jewish community members.

Edelstein will also take a personal tour of the Russian capital, visiting sites that are personally significant: places where he was active as a Refusenik, the site of his arrest, the courthouse where his trial took place, the prison in which he was incarcerated, and more.

By: World Israel News Staff