Soviet officials, trying to polish their human rights image, said Tuesday that only one of every 10 Soviet citizens who applies to emigrate is being refused permission to leave the country.
One of the officials, Deputy Foreign Minister Anatoly L. Adamishin, told reporters that a total of 15,000 people have left the Soviet Union in the first seven months of this year for permanent residence abroad--more than four times the number in the same period of 1986.
A majority of those who have been turned down on security grounds and have appealed the denial have also been allowed to emigrate, he said.
Another Foreign Ministry official, Yuri B. Kashlev, said that a handful of Soviets married to Americans, who have been trying for years to emigrate to the United States, may soon get their wish.
Kashlev said the percentage of people denied permission to emigrate is decreasing.
"So far as I know," he told the press, "only about 10% of applications receive a negative decision."
Representatives of Jewish organizations have said that harsh retaliation against anyone who asks to emigrate--loss of one's job, for example--have made many people extremely reluctant to apply for an exit visa.
Many so-called refuseniks, denied permission to leave the country for a decade or more, have said that Soviet officials often cite their knowledge of "state secrets" as a reason for turning them down.
More than 250,000 Jews left the Soviet Union in the 1970s, but emigration has declined sharply in the 1980s. Fewer than 1,000 Jews left last year, compared to more than 51,000 in 1979, the peak year.
Jews, ethnic Germans and Armenians are the three national groups in the Soviet Union that account for most of the emigration.
Deputy Foreign Minister Adamishin said that 200 emigres have returned to the Soviet Union under a re-migration program. Of these, he said, 36 have since left the Soviet Union again to go to their adopted country, and without any problems.
He said there is a "new tendency" for Americans to apply for permanent residence in the Soviet Union. Such applications are being screened thoroughly, he said.
As for Soviet-American couples who have been unable to live together in the United States, Kashlev said, there are only about 15 couples affected by Soviet emigration restrictions.
"This problem is now being resolved," Kashlev said, without providing any additional details.
Some Soviet citizens have been waiting as long as nine years for permission to join their wives or husbands in the United States. Most cases now involve issues of "state secrets," Adamishin said.
In one celebrated case, Matvei Finkel, a Soviet citizen, has been denied permission to go to the United States to be with his wife, Susan Graham, and their 8-month-old daughter because he served in an air defense unit in 1971.
The two Soviet officials reiterated their government's case for holding an international human rights conference in Moscow. The idea was put forth by Foreign Minister Eduard A. Shevardnadze at a conference in Vienna, and U.S. officials have raised the question of whether critics of Soviet human rights policies would be allowed to come to Moscow and publicize their views.
Kashlev said the Soviet Union will apply the same rules for granting visas that have been used at other European conferences on humanitarian issues.
"Terrorists and sick persons" will be excluded, he said, along with anyone who collaborated with Germany during World War II.
Adamishin indicated the limit of Soviet tolerance of dissent in his reply to a question about the U.S. Communist Party convention being held in Chicago, with a top Kremlin official in attendance. A reporter asked whether a group of Soviet citizens who wanted to overthrow the government would be allowed to meet in Moscow and be addressed by a high U.S. official.
"I don't think it would be good for such persons to say they want to overthrow the Soviet government," Adamishin said. "It's necessary to take account of public opinion in each country. . . . We have our own traditions. We have our own way of expressing dissatisfaction with our government, and those feelings are expressed."