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Korchnoi's family wins permission to emigrate

MOSCOW -- The family of self-exiled chess Grand Master Viktor Korchnoi, including a son who went to prison for refusing military service, has received permission to emigrate from the Soviet Union, his wife said Wednesday.

Mrs. Bella Korchnoi said she and her son, Igor, and her mother-in-law were notified by telephone by the Soviet visa agency on Monday that they will be allowed to leave the country after a six year wait.

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'I was not surprised, I was only happy,' she said in a telephone interview from her Leningrad home. 'Igor is glad, too. He has always dreamed of seeing his father again after six years.'

She said she did not have an exact departure date, pending the filing of necessary documents and payment of visa fees. But she said they might be able to leave before the end of the month and join her husband in Switzerland.

Korchnoi, 50, used world opinion to force the Soviets to release his family, writing letters to leaders of the Soviet Union, the United States, the pope asking for help in winning their release. The Soviets called him 'the Devil.'

Igor, 22, completed a 2 year prison term last month. He said he would not serve in the Soviet military because it could delay his emigration by 10 years if the government said he had important military information.

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The week he returned home he received another draft notice.

Since defecting, the elder Korchnoi twice has failed to unseat Soviet Grand Master and world champion Anatoly Karpov.

Korchnoi's 1976 defection came as a surprise not only to the Soviet authorities but to his wife and son, who later applied for immigration to Israel since Korchnoi's mother was Jewish.

In January 1979, Korchnoi was stripped of his Soviet citizenship along with his titles and decorations, and efforts were made to blacklist him internationally.

But Western countries blocked the move. Korchnoi sought political asylum in Switzerland where he alleged that his family's emigration troubles were part of Moscow's 'psychological pressures.'

He played in tournaments under the Swiss flag but refused to look at the Soviet flag, so whenever he played against Russians he insisted that no flags be shown at all.

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