Petition to Move to the Soviet Union

In early 1978, leaders of Peoples Temple in Georgetown and San Francisco began making overtures to foreign embassies about the possibility of relocating the entire Jonestown community to another country. Ranging from Albania to Cuba, from North Korea to Zambia, the countries which the Temple approached were all socialist and/or Third World.

One information packet compiled for a January 1978 campaign included a letter on Temple stationery which deleted the note of affiliation with the Disciples of Christ and the quote from Matthew 25:35-40.

Even though Jones discussed other unnamed options for emigration as late as a few weeks before the end of Jonestown, the focus of a projected move quickly fell on the Soviet Union. Jonestown residents were encouraged to take Russian language classes and to greet each other as “Comrade” or by its Russian word “tovarisch.” Jones went so far in one tape from late August 1978 as to insist that everyone was required to say “One phrase in Russian” to be fed that night, and “[i]f you can’t say it, back to the end of the line you’ll go.”

In addition, most of the news which Jones read over the Jonestown loudspeakers came from Eastern Bloc sources, if not Radio Moscow itself. His lengthier analyses – the articles beyond the daily headlines – mostly dealt with the history of the Soviet Union, including its stand against the Nazis in World War II.

Most of the efforts to teach the people of Jonestown some elementary Russian phrases and a general history of  Soviet Russia were geared towards the October 2, 1978 arrival of  Soviet consular Feodor Timofeyev in Jonestown. The community wanted to showcase its strength and vitality, its allegiance to socialism, and its familiarity with the Russian people whom they said they aspired to join.

Sometime in the late summer or early fall of 1978 – possibly in anticipation of Timofeyev’s visit – the people of Jonestown signed a petition which expressed the “desire to emigrate to the Soviet Union.”

The possibility of a move to the Soviet Union as an escape valve was raised as late as November 18, when Christine Miller is heard on the death tape asking, “Is it too late for Russia?”

The question of whether Jones seriously considered the option of emigrating to the Soviet Union is open to debate. It is also unknown whether the Soviet Union would have actually allowed the entry of a unified group of 1000 outsiders.

Petition to Move to the Soviet Union, RYMUR 89-4286-G-1-c, pp. 1-10a.
PDF

Last modified on October 22nd, 2013.
Skip to main content