MOSCOW — Former Soviet refusenik Alex Goldfarb, ending a weeklong visit to his homeland after 12 years in the United States, said Monday that he believes Soviet leader Mikhail S. Gorbachev "is a real, genuine phenomenon."
After meeting with both dissidents and supporters of the Communist system, Goldfarb also said that many Jews--for the first time since the 1920s--believe organized Jewish life is possible again in the Soviet Union.
In addition, Goldfarb, an assistant professor and microbiologist at Columbia University, said he is changing his mind about opposing East-West scientific cooperation.
Goldfarb left Moscow on Monday for a stopover in West Germany before returning to New York today. He said he traveled to the Soviet Union on an Israeli passport to test Gorbachev's much vaunted glasnost, or openness, reform program.
"I have met with a very broad spectrum of the Moscow intelligentsia, from dissidents to establishment figures," Goldfarb said in an interview. "I got a sense of what is going on here. The sense is Gorbachev is a real, genuine phenomenon."
Goldfarb, 40, arrived last week for his first visit in 12 years and a reunion with family members. Since then, he said, he has gotten only three or four hours' sleep a night and has met at least 200 friends, most of them Jewish intellectuals and activists.
Last week, Goldfarb addressed colleagues at the Academy of Sciences Institute for Molecular Genetics. Goldfarb said he previously had been opposed to scientific exchanges with the Soviet Union.
"Now I am changing my mind, and I am starting a cooperative research project between my lab at Columbia University and a laboratory at the Institute of Molecular Genetics," he said.
Asked why, he said: "Because I think that linking cultural and scientific exchanges will help influence the development toward a more relaxed and tolerant society in the Soviet Union."