MOSCOW, SEPT. 5 -- Travel and emigration from the Soviet Union to the United States have increased in recent weeks as a result of progress in U.S.-Soviet arms talks and the promise of a summit meeting in Washington this year, American diplomats here said.
After nine years of fighting for permission to leave the Soviet Union, Soviet scientist Matvey Finkel and his American wife, Susan Graham, flew to the United States today, thus settling one of several cases of couples divided.
Hundreds of other Soviets are being granted visas for shorter trips to the United States, a western diplomat said, marking a dramatic increase from a year ago. Last week alone about 200 Soviets received visas for family or work visits to the United States, the diplomat said, adding that "a year ago, there would have been one or two or none in one week."
The number of Soviets being allowed to emigrate to the United States also is rising gradually, according to western figures. So far this year, about 4,500 Jews have left the Soviet Union. The majority have gone to the United States. The number of Armenians allowed to emigrate is running at an all-time high of 400 to 500 a month, diplomats said. Armenians who leave the Soviet Union traditionally go to the United States.
Although the current emigration rate is well below the rate of 4,200 a month allowed in 1979, it is still several times higher than last year's.
The Soviet Union traditionally keeps strict control over the number of visas granted for permanent or short-term trips to the United States.
Assistant Secretary of State Richard Schifter said in a recent interview that U.S. officials raised the issues of divided couples and emigration, among other human rights subjects, during talks held here to prepare for the Sept. 15-17 meeting of Secretary of State George P. Shultz and Soviet Foreign Minister Eduard Shevardnadze. Schifter, who is in charge of the human rights bureau at the State Department, headed the American delegation discussing human rights issues.
He said that human rights will be an agenda item for the Shultz-Shevardnadze meeting, but also appealed to Moscow to resolve cases before the meeting in order to preclude discussion of them.
Besides being motivated by the arms control and summit meeting factors, western diplomats said, the Soviet Union appears to be seeking to improve its human rights image in order to justify its appeal for a major human rights conference to be held in Moscow, the diplomats said.
One U.S. priority is for the resolution of divided couple cases, Schifter said. Aside from Finkel and Graham, about a dozen prominent cases of divided couples or blocked marriages remain unresolved, U.S. officials here have said.
Despite increased emigration this year, some longstanding cases of Soviet citizens who have waited for emigration to the West for years also remain unsettled.
Naum Meiman, a 76-year-old Jewish scientist, has been refused permission to emigrate despite appeals on his behalf by several U.S. congressmen and other politicians.
Ida Nudel, who like Meiman is a human rights activist, also has been refused permission to leave.