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Was it easy or normal for Soviet citizens in 1925 to get a visa to visit the USA? If not, why did Ayn Rand get her visa?

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According to Wikipedia, Ayn Rand got her visa in 1925 and left in 1926.

Lenin died in 1924. Stalin was the main leader in 1925 and 1926, but I believe Stalin had not yet consolidated his dictatorial powers yet (that happened in 1927, according to Wikipedia).

Nevertheless, I had thought it was always hard to escape the Soviet Union. I always thought that the Soviet Union was like George Orwell's novel "1984," with no one free and everyone afraid and a slave.

And yet, Ayn Rand apparently escaped the USSR with great ease.

She got on a ship and got off in New York City. From there she made a stop in Chicago before heading to Hollywood.

How many Soviet citizens got on a boat to Hollywood?

Not many, I suspect. 

That makes me wonder:

How did Ayn Rand escape the Soviet Union with such great ease?

Were Soviet authorities trying to get rid of her because she was known in her university as being anti-collectivist?

Wikipedia says this about Ayn Rand: "Along with many other bourgeois students, she was purged from the university shortly before graduating. After complaints from a group of visiting foreign scientists, many of the purged students were reinstated in the university. Rand was among these reinstated students and she completed her studies at the renamed Leningrad State University in October 1924."

Or is is possible that that some Soviet official, perhaps a relative of Ayn Rand's, or a friend of the family in the pre-Soviet days, broke the Soviet rules to give Ayn Rand her visa to visit the USA?

I just watched the 1965 movie "Dr. Zhivago," and early in that story (based on true events) the main character, Dr. Zhivago, is granted a travel visa due to the intervention of a Communist Party member and police office who was Dr. Zhivago's half-brother and childhood pal. That visa allowed Dr. Zhivago and his wife and father-in-law to leave Moscow and resettle somewhere past the Ural Mountains, at the family's country estate near a very tiny village. Later in the movie, Dr. Zhivago's wife and father-in-law (who were very wealthy in the pre-Soviet era) seem to gain permission from Soviet authorities to permanently resettle in France. 

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15 hours ago, Reidy said:

Vocabulary question:

I thought a visa was an authorization to enter a country. If you're trying to leave your home country, don't you want a passport?

In a Communist country nothing works as you would think it should...

In order to leave such a country, even for a short time, you need a passport and an exit visa in it. Nobody had an a priori right to either. 

In order to get the travel passport and an exit visa you have to be a special person - a normal one had no chance. You had to be a "trustworthy" and "deserving" person, a very flexible concept... And various instances had to certify this...

The procedures to apply for an exit visa were long and complex. The first decision of the authorities was usually a refusal, with no justification given, of course... Etc.

And after coming back, you had to return the passport to the authorities within 3 days and get back your ID card (or internal passport).

If anyone is interested in details of the application procedure and of the follow-ups, please ask. The ordeal of getting an exit visa depended on the specific Communist country and on the specific epoch.  I know well the ordeal in Romania.

PS: if meanwhile someone reported on you to the police that, for example, you did not intend to return to the country, all the border points were immediately informed, your exit visa was canceled and the passport confiscated. It happened to me once (1981) and I took care that it never happens again 😁



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I suppose the broader question of interest, to me, is whether any researcher or biographer, who is fluent in Russian and lives in Russia or has traveled to Russia, has conducted searches in the government document archives of the old USSR, to see what, if anything, can be found about Ayn Rand.

Ayn Rand's 1925 application for a travel visa to leave the USSR for a visit to relatives in the USA might still exist in some file somewhere.

As a point of general comparison, regarding the discoverability of old government documents, I have seen an online scan of an original letter written in German by Friedrich Trump (Donald J. Trump's grandfather), in which he appeals the decision by the German government to deport him. The year of that letter was 1905, I believe. Some researcher found that letter in the archives of the German government. 

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The following excerpt seems to explain how Ayn Rand obtained from the Soviet government a travel visa to visit the USA. The following excerpt is from a 2004 biography titled Ayn Rand,  by Jeff Britting.

Page 29
“With the fear constantly in mind that Rand's vocalization of her frustration could put her in prison, Anna Borisovna [Ayn Rand’s mother] — to Rand's eternal gratitude — proposed a visit to Chicago by her oldest daughter. The timing of this suggestion was fortunate: Lenin's "War Communism" had been replaced by the more liberal New Economic Policy (NEP), and travel restrictions for students wishing to study abroad had been temporarily eased. In addition, the Rosenbaums learned that their American relatives owned a theater exhibiting silent films. The official purpose of Rand's visit would be to study the film industry first-hand and then to return and contribute the fruits of this research toward the advancement of Soviet film. This stated purpose, however, was a ruse; Rand planned to make her American visit permanent, "crossing over the lake" (in the words of her mother) to Canada, if necessary, to avoid returning to Russia. Her goal was first to establish herself as a screenwriter, thereafter "graduating into literature" — as she would later put it in her 1936 unfinished "An Attempt at the Beginning of an Autobiography"…”

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