Here is one more measure of Mikhail Gorbachev's success as a public-relations expert: The West has been giving him more credit for allowing fewer than 20,000 Jews to emigrate than it gave Leonid Brezhnev for releasing more than 50,000.

About 19,000 Jews were allowed to leave the Soviet Union last year, says the Washington-based Union of Councils for Soviet Jews. This number is the highest since 1980, and more than twice the figure for 1987.The Soviet Union should start behaving like civilized countries and treat emigration as a basic human right - not just for Jews but for all religious and ethnic groups.

Until then, it will continue to deserve the label that Lenin pinned on the czarist empire: the "prison of nations."