Jewish Autonomous Oblast
The Jewish Autonomous Oblast is a federal subject
Federal subjects of Russia
Russia is a federation which, since March 1, 2008, consists of 83 federal subjects . In 1993, when the Constitution was adopted, there were 89 federal subjects listed...

 of Russia
Russia or , officially known as both Russia and the Russian Federation , is a country in northern Eurasia. It is a federal semi-presidential republic, comprising 83 federal subjects...

 (an autonomous oblast
Autonomous oblasts of Russia
The Russian Federation is divided into 83 federal subjects, one of which is an autonomous oblast , the Jewish Autonomous Oblast....

) situated in the Russian Far East
Russian Far East
Russian Far East is a term that refers to the Russian part of the Far East, i.e., extreme east parts of Russia, between Lake Baikal in Eastern Siberia and the Pacific Ocean...

, bordering Khabarovsk Krai
Khabarovsk Krai
Khabarovsk Krai is a federal subject of Russia , located in the Russian Far East. It lies mostly in the basin of the lower Amur River, but also occupies a vast mountainous area along the coastline of the Sea of Okhotsk, an arm of the Pacific Ocean. The administrative center of the krai is the...

 and Amur Oblast
Amur Oblast
Amur Oblast is a federal subject of Russia , situated about east of Moscow on the banks of the Amur and Zeya Rivers. It shares its border with the Sakha Republic in the north, Khabarovsk Krai and the Jewish Autonomous Oblast in the east, People's Republic of China in the south, and Zabaykalsky...

 of Russia and Heilongjiang
For the river known in Mandarin as Heilong Jiang, see Amur River' is a province of the People's Republic of China located in the northeastern part of the country. "Heilongjiang" literally means Black Dragon River, which is the Chinese name for the Amur. The one-character abbreviation is 黑...

 province of China
People's Republic of China
China , officially the People's Republic of China , is the most populous country in the world, with over 1.3 billion citizens. Located in East Asia, the country covers approximately 9.6 million square kilometres...

. Its administrative center is the town of Birobidzhan
Birobidzhan is a town and the administrative center of the Jewish Autonomous Oblast, Russia. It is located on the Trans-Siberian railway, close to the border with the People's Republic of China....


Soviet authorities established the autonomous oblast in 1934. It was the result of Joseph Stalin
Joseph Stalin
Joseph Vissarionovich Stalin was the Premier of the Soviet Union from 6 May 1941 to 5 March 1953. He was among the Bolshevik revolutionaries who brought about the October Revolution and had held the position of first General Secretary of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union's Central Committee...

's nationality policy, which allowed for the Jews
The Jews , also known as the Jewish people, are a nation and ethnoreligious group originating in the Israelites or Hebrews of the Ancient Near East. The Jewish ethnicity, nationality, and religion are strongly interrelated, as Judaism is the traditional faith of the Jewish nation...

 of the Soviet Union
Soviet Union
The Soviet Union , officially the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics , was a constitutionally socialist state that existed in Eurasia between 1922 and 1991....

 to receive a territory in which to pursue Yiddish cultural heritage
Cultural heritage
Cultural heritage is the legacy of physical artifacts and intangible attributes of a group or society that are inherited from past generations, maintained in the present and bestowed for the benefit of future generations...

 within a socialist framework. According to the 1939 population census, 17,695 Jews lived in the region (16% of the total population). The census of 1959, taken six years after Stalin's death, revealed that the Jewish population of the JAO declined to 14,269 persons.
As of 2002, 2,327 Jews were living in the JAO (1.2% of the total population), while ethnic Russians made up 90% of the JAO population.


The territory has a monsoon
Monsoon is traditionally defined as a seasonal reversing wind accompanied by corresponding changes in precipitation, but is now used to describe seasonal changes in atmospheric circulation and precipitation associated with the asymmetric heating of land and sea...

al/anti-cyclonic climate
Climate encompasses the statistics of temperature, humidity, atmospheric pressure, wind, rainfall, atmospheric particle count and other meteorological elemental measurements in a given region over long periods...

, with warm, wet, humid summers due to the influence of the East Asia
East Asia
East Asia or Eastern Asia is a subregion of Asia that can be defined in either geographical or cultural terms...

n monsoon; and cold, dry, windy conditions prevailing in the winter months courtesy of the Siberia
Siberia is an extensive region constituting almost all of Northern Asia. Comprising the central and eastern portion of the Russian Federation, it was part of the Soviet Union from its beginning, as its predecessor states, the Tsardom of Russia and the Russian Empire, conquered it during the 16th...

n high-pressure system.


The Russian census
Russian Census (2002)
Russian Census of 2002 was the first census of the Russian Federation carried out on October 9 through October 16, 2002. It was carried out by the Russian Federal Service of State Statistics .-Resident population:...

 of 2002 reported a total population of 190,915, of which the largest group are the 171,697 ethnic Russians
The Russian people are an East Slavic ethnic group native to Russia, speaking the Russian language and primarily living in Russia and neighboring countries....

 (89.93%), followed by 8,483 ethnic Ukrainians
Ukrainians are an East Slavic ethnic group native to Ukraine, which is the sixth-largest nation in Europe. The Constitution of Ukraine applies the term 'Ukrainians' to all its citizens...

 (4.44%), and 2,327 ethnic Jews (1.22%).

The following additional groups were enumerated: 1,196 Tatars
Tatars are a Turkic speaking ethnic group , numbering roughly 7 million.The majority of Tatars live in the Russian Federation, with a population of around 5.5 million, about 2 million of which in the republic of Tatarstan.Significant minority populations are found in Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan,...

 (0.63%), 1,182 Belarusians
Belarusians ; are an East Slavic ethnic group who populate the majority of the Republic of Belarus. Introduced to the world as a new state in the early 1990s, the Republic of Belarus brought with it the notion of a re-emerging Belarusian ethnicity, drawn upon the lines of the Old Belarusian...

 (0.62%), 672 Moldavians
Moldovans or Moldavians are the largest population group of Moldova...

 (0.35%), 594 Azeris
Azeris in Russia
Aside from the large Azeri community native to Russia's Dagestan Republic, the majority of Azeris in Russia are fairly recent immigrants. Azeris started settling in Russia around the late 19th century, but their migration became intensive after World War II. It rapidly increased with the collapse...

 (0.31%), 453 Germans
The Germans are a Germanic ethnic group native to Central Europe. The English term Germans has referred to the German-speaking population of the Holy Roman Empire since the Late Middle Ages....

 (0.24%), 402 Koreans (0.21%), 401 Mordovians (0.21%), 320 Chuvash
Chuvash people
The Chuvash people are a Turkic ethnic group, native to an area stretching from the Volga Region to Siberia. Most of them live in Republic of Chuvashia and surrounding areas, although Chuvash communities may be found throughout all Russia.- Etymology :...

 (0.17%), 282 Armenians
Armenian people or Armenians are a nation and ethnic group native to the Armenian Highland.The largest concentration is in Armenia having a nearly-homogeneous population with 97.9% or 3,145,354 being ethnic Armenian....

 (0.15%), 188 Bashkirs
The Bashkirs are a Turkic people indigenous to Bashkortostan extending on both parts of the Ural mountains, on the place where Europe meets Asia. Groups of Bashkirs also live in the republic of Tatarstan, Perm Krai, Chelyabinsk, Orenburg, Tyumen, Sverdlovsk, Kurgan, Samara and Saratov Oblasts of...

 (0.10%), 156 Uzbeks
The Uzbeks are a Turkic ethnic group in Central Asia. They comprise the majority population of Uzbekistan, and large populations can also be found in Afghanistan, Tajikstan, Kyrgyzstan, Turkmenistan, Kazakhstan, Russia, Pakistan, Mongolia and the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region of China...

 (0.08%), 148 Poles
thumb|right|180px|The state flag of [[Poland]] as used by Polish government and diplomatic authoritiesThe Polish people, or Poles , are a nation indigenous to Poland. They are united by the Polish language, which belongs to the historical Lechitic subgroup of West Slavic languages of Central Europe...

 (0.08%), 132 Roma (0.07%), 128 Tajiks (0.07%), 103 Mari (0.05%) and 102 Chinese
Chinese people
The term Chinese people may refer to any of the following:*People with Han Chinese ethnicity ....

 (0.05%). A total of 95 different ethnic groups was reported.

Vital Statistics for 2007:
  • Births: 2,418 (13.02 per 1000, 12.29 in urban areas & 14.46 in rural areas).
  • Deaths: 2,794 (15.05 per 1000, 16.08 in urban areas & 13.03 in rural areas).
  • Natural Growth Rate: -0.20% per year (-0.38% in urban areas & +0.14% in rural areas).

In 2007, deaths outnumbered births (-376) in urban areas, while rural areas reported a slight excess of births over deaths (+90).

Vital Statistics for 2008:
  • Births: 2,582 (13.9 per 1000)
  • Deaths: 2,851 (15.4 per 1000)

Military colonization and the advent of the Trans-Siberian Railway

In December 1858 the Russian government authorized formation of the Amur Cossacks
Amur Cossacks
The Amur Cossack Host , a Cossack host created in the Amur region and Primorye in the 1850s on the basis of the Cossacks relocated from the Transbaikal region and freed miners of Nerchinsk region....

 to protect the southeast boundary of Siberia and communications on the Amur and Ussuri rivers. This military colonization included settlers from Transbaikalia. During the years 1858–82, sixty three settlements were founded, including, in 1857, Radde settlement; in 1858, Pashkovo, Pompeyevka, Puzino, Yekaterino-Nikolskoye, Mikhailo-Semyonovskoye, Voskresenovka, Petrovskoye, and Ventzelevo; in 1860, Storozhevoye, Soyuznoye, and Golovino; later in the decade, Babstovo, Bidzhan, and Bashurovo settlements. Expeditions of scientists — including such geographers, ethnographers, naturalists, and botanists as Venyukov, Schrenck
Leopold von Schrenck
Leopold Ivanovich von Schrenck was a Russian zoologist, geographer and ethnographer.-Biography:Schrenck was a Baltic German born and brought up near Chotenj, south-west of St Petersburg. He received his doctorate from the University of Tartu, and then studied natural science in Berlin and Königsberg...

, Maksimovich, Radde
Gustav Radde
Gustav Ferdinand Richard Radde was a German naturalist and explorer.Radde was born in Danzig, the son of a schoolmaster. He had little formal education, and began a career as an apothecary...

, and Komarov
Vladimir Leontyevich Komarov
Vladimir Leontyevich Komarov was a Russian botanist.Until his death in 1945, he was senior editor of the Flora SSSR , in full comprising 30 volumes published between 1934–1960...

 - promoted the development of the new territories. Their achievements produced the first detailed "map of the Amur land".
Construction began in 1898 on the Trans-Siberian Railway
Trans-Siberian Railway
The Trans-Siberian Railway is a network of railways connecting Moscow with the Russian Far East and the Sea of Japan. It is the longest railway in the world...

 connecting Chita and Vladivostok
The city is located in the southern extremity of Muravyov-Amursky Peninsula, which is about 30 km long and approximately 12 km wide.The highest point is Mount Kholodilnik, the height of which is 257 m...

, starting at each end and meeting halfway. The project produced a large influx of new settlers and the foundation of new settlements. In 1908 Volochayevka, Obluchye, and Bira
Bira, Russia
Bira is an urban-type settlement in Obluchensky District of the Jewish Autonomous Oblast, Russia. Population: 4,176 ; 4,311 ; 4,111 .-History:The railway station of Bira was built in 1908...

, Russia stations appeared; in 1910, Birakan, Londoko, and In stations; in 1912, Tikhonkaya station. The railway construction finished in October 1916 with the opening of the 2590 m (8500 ft) Khabarovsk Bridge
Khabarovsk Bridge
Khabarovsk Bridge is a road and rail bridge built in 1999. It crosses the Amur River in eastern Russia, and connects the urban-type settlement of Imeni Telmana in the Jewish Autonomous Oblast, and city of Khabarovsk in the Khabarovsk Krai...

 across the Amur at Khabarovsk
Khabarovsk is the largest city and the administrative center of Khabarovsk Krai, Russia. It is located some from the Chinese border. It is the second largest city in the Russian Far East, after Vladivostok. The city became the administrative center of the Far Eastern Federal District of Russia...

. In the pre-revolutionary period most local inhabitants were farmers. The only industrial enterprise was the Tungusskiy timber mill, although gold was mined in the Sutara River, and there were some small railway workshops. During the civil war
Russian Civil War
The Russian Civil War was a multi-party war that occurred within the former Russian Empire after the Russian provisional government collapsed to the Soviets, under the domination of the Bolshevik party. Soviet forces first assumed power in Petrograd The Russian Civil War (1917–1923) was a...

, the territory of the future Jewish Autonomous Oblast was the scene of terrible battles. The economy declined, though it was recovering in 1926 and 1927.

Jewish settlement and development in the region

On March 28, 1928, the Presidium of the General Executive Committee of the USSR passed the decree "On the attaching for Komzet
Komzet was the Committee for the Settlement of Toiling Jews on the Land in the Soviet Union. The primary goal of the Komzet was to help impoverished and persecuted Jewish population of the former Pale of Settlement to adopt agricultural labor...

 of free territory near the Amur River in the Far East for settlement of the working Jews." The decree meant "a possibility of establishment of a Jewish administrative territorial unit on the territory of the called region".

On August 20, 1930 the General Executive Committee of RSFSR accepted the decree "On formation of the Birobidzhan national region in the structure of the Far Eastern Territory". The State Planning Committee considered the Birobidzhan national region as a separate economic unit. In 1932 the first scheduled figures of the region development were considered and authorized. The Organization for Jewish Colonisation in the Soviet Union
Organization for Jewish Colonisation in the Soviet Union
The Organization for Jewish Colonization in Russia , commonly known by its transliterated acronym of ICOR, was a Communist-sponsored mass organization in North America devoted to supporting settlement in the Jewish socialist republic of Birobidzhan in the Soviet Union...

, a Jewish Communist organization in North America, successfully encouraged the immigration of some US residents, such as the family of George Koval, which arrived in 1932.

On May 7, 1934, the Presidium of the General Executive Committee accepted the decree on its transformation into the Jewish Autonomous Region within the Russian Federation. In 1938, with formation of the Khabarovsk Territory, the Jewish Autonomous Region (JAR) was included in its structure.

According to Joseph Stalin
Joseph Stalin
Joseph Vissarionovich Stalin was the Premier of the Soviet Union from 6 May 1941 to 5 March 1953. He was among the Bolshevik revolutionaries who brought about the October Revolution and had held the position of first General Secretary of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union's Central Committee...

's national policy, each of the national groups that formed the Soviet Union would receive a territory in which to pursue cultural autonomy in a socialist framework. In that sense, it also responded to two supposed threats to the Soviet state:
  1. Judaism
    Judaism ) is the "religion, philosophy, and way of life" of the Jewish people...

    , which ran counter to official state policy of atheism
    Atheism is, in a broad sense, the rejection of belief in the existence of deities. In a narrower sense, atheism is specifically the position that there are no deities...

  2. Zionism
    Zionism is a Jewish political movement that, in its broadest sense, has supported the self-determination of the Jewish people in a sovereign Jewish national homeland. Since the establishment of the State of Israel, the Zionist movement continues primarily to advocate on behalf of the Jewish state...

     — the advocacy of a Jewish national state in Palestine — which countered Soviet views of nationalism
    Nationalism is a political ideology that involves a strong identification of a group of individuals with a political entity defined in national terms, i.e. a nation. In the 'modernist' image of the nation, it is nationalism that creates national identity. There are various definitions for what...


The Soviets envisaged setting up a new "Soviet Zion", where a proletarian Jewish culture could be developed. Yiddish, rather than Hebrew
Hebrew language
Hebrew is a Semitic language of the Afroasiatic language family. Culturally, is it considered by Jews and other religious groups as the language of the Jewish people, though other Jewish languages had originated among diaspora Jews, and the Hebrew language is also used by non-Jewish groups, such...

, would be the national language, and a new socialist literature and arts would replace religion as the primary expression of culture.

Stalin's theory on the National Question regarded a group as a nation only if it had a territory, and since there was no Jewish territory, per se, the Jews were not a nation and did not have national rights. Jewish Communists argued that the way to solve this ideological dilemma was by creating a Jewish territory, hence the ideological motivation for the Jewish Autonomous Oblast. Politically, it was also considered desirable to create a Soviet Jewish homeland as an ideological alternative to Zionism and the theory put forward by Socialist Zionists such as Ber Borochov
Ber Borochov
Dov Ber Borochov was a Marxist Zionist and one of the founders of the Labor Zionist movement as well as a pioneer in the study of Yiddish as a language....

 that the Jewish Question
Jewish Question
The Jewish question encompasses the issues and resolutions surrounding the historically unequal civil, legal and national statuses between minority Ashkenazi Jews and non-Jews, particularly in Europe. The first issues discussed and debated by societies, politicians and writers in western and...

 could be resolved by creating a Jewish territory in Palestine
Palestine is a conventional name, among others, used to describe the geographic region between the Mediterranean Sea and the Jordan River, and various adjoining lands....

. Thus Birobidzhan was important for propaganda purposes as an argument against Zionism which was a rival ideology to Marxism
Marxism is an economic and sociopolitical worldview and method of socioeconomic inquiry that centers upon a materialist interpretation of history, a dialectical view of social change, and an analysis and critique of the development of capitalism. Marxism was pioneered in the early to mid 19th...

 among left-wing Jews.

Another important goal of the Birobidzhan project involved increasing settlement in the remote Soviet Far East, especially along the vulnerable border with China. In 1928, there was virtually no settlement in the area, while Jews had deep roots in the western half of the Soviet Union, in Ukraine
Ukraine is a country in Eastern Europe. It has an area of 603,628 km², making it the second largest contiguous country on the European continent, after Russia...

, Belarus
Belarus , officially the Republic of Belarus, is a landlocked country in Eastern Europe, bordered clockwise by Russia to the northeast, Ukraine to the south, Poland to the west, and Lithuania and Latvia to the northwest. Its capital is Minsk; other major cities include Brest, Grodno , Gomel ,...

 and Russia proper. In fact, there had initially been proposals to create a Jewish Soviet Republic in the Crimea
Crimea , or the Autonomous Republic of Crimea , is a sub-national unit, an autonomous republic, of Ukraine. It is located on the northern coast of the Black Sea, occupying a peninsula of the same name...

 or in part of Ukraine but these were rejected because of fears of antagonizing non-Jews in those regions.

Birobidzhan had a harsh geography and climate: the landscape largely swampland, and any new settlers would have to build their lives from scratch.

By the 1930s, a massive propaganda campaign developed to induce more Jewish settlers to move there. The campaign partly incorporated the standard Soviet propaganda tools of the era, and included posters and Yiddish-language novels describing a socialist utopia there. Other methods bordered on the bizarre. In one instance, leaflets promoting Birobidzhan were dropped from an airplane over a Jewish neighborhood in Belarus. In another instance, a government-produced Yiddish film called Seekers of Happiness told the story of a Jewish family that fled the Great Depression
Great Depression
The Great Depression was a severe worldwide economic depression in the decade preceding World War II. The timing of the Great Depression varied across nations, but in most countries it started in about 1929 and lasted until the late 1930s or early 1940s...

 in the United States
United States
The United States of America is a federal constitutional republic comprising fifty states and a federal district...

 to make a new life for itself in Birobidzhan.

As the Jewish population grew, so did the impact of Yiddish culture on the region. Settlers established a Yiddish newspaper, the Birobidzhaner Shtern
Birobidzhaner Shtern
The Birobidzhaner Shtern is a newspaper published in both Yiddish and Russian. in the Jewish Autonomous Oblast of Russia. It was set up in the November of 1930 in Birobidzhan to cater for the newly arrived Jewish immigrants. Henekh Kazakevich was first editor of the newspaper. Emmanuil Kazakevich...

(Russian: Биробиджанер Штерн; Yiddish: , "Star of Birobidzhan"); a theater troupe was created; and streets being built in the new city were named after prominent Yiddish authors such as Sholom Aleichem
Sholom Aleichem
Sholem Aleichem was the pen name of Solomon Naumovich Rabinovich, a leading Yiddish author and playwright...

 and Y. L. Peretz. The Yiddish language was deliberately bolstered as a basis for efforts to secularize the Jewish population and, despite the general curtailment of this action as described immediately below, the Birobidzhaner Shtern continues to publish a section in Yiddish.
Valdgeym , also referred to as Waldheim, is a rural locality in Birobidzhansky District of the Jewish Autonomous Oblast, Russia. Valdgeym was the place where the first collective farm was established in the Jewish Autonomous Oblast...

, a Jewish settlement within the Jewish Autonomous Oblast, dates from 1928 and formed the first collective farm established in the oblast. In 1980 a Yiddish school was opened in the settlement. Amurzet
Amurzet is a village in the Jewish Autonomous Oblast, Russia, located from Birobidzhan. It is the administrative center of Oktyabrsky District. The population of amurzet is 5,213 .-History:...

 also has a history of Jewish settlement in the JAO. For the period 1929 through 1939, this village was the center of Jewish settlement south of Birobidzhan. The present day Jewish community members hold Kabalat Shabbat
Shabbat is the seventh day of the Jewish week and a day of rest in Judaism. Shabbat is observed from a few minutes before sunset on Friday evening until a few minutes after when one would expect to be able to see three stars in the sky on Saturday night. The exact times, therefore, differ from...

 ceremonies and gatherings that feature songs in Yiddish, Jewish cuisine
Jewish cuisine
Jewish Cuisine is a collection of the different cooking traditions of the Jewish people worldwide. It is a diverse cuisine that has evolved over many centuries, shaped by Jewish dietary laws and Jewish Festival and Sabbath traditions...

, and broad information presenting historical facts on Jewish culture. Many descendants of the founders of this settlement, which was established just after the turn of the 20th century, have left their native village. Those who remained here in Amurzet, especially those having relatives in Israel
The State of Israel is a parliamentary republic located in the Middle East, along the eastern shore of the Mediterranean Sea...

, are learning about the traditions and roots of the Jewish people. The population of Amurzet, as estimated in late 2006, is 5,213.
Smidovich is an urban-type settlement and the administrative center of Smidovichsky District of the Jewish Autonomous Oblast, Russia. Population: 5,720 ; 5,905 ; 6,646 ....

 is another early Jewish settlement in the JAO.

World War II era (1930s and 1940s)

The Birobidzhan experiment ground to a halt in the mid-1930s, during Stalin's first campaign of purges
Great Purge
The Great Purge was a series of campaigns of political repression and persecution in the Soviet Union orchestrated by Joseph Stalin from 1936 to 1938...

. Soviet authorities arrested and executed Jewish leaders, and Yiddish schools were shut down. Shortly after this, World War II
World War II
World War II, or the Second World War , was a global conflict lasting from 1939 to 1945, involving most of the world's nations—including all of the great powers—eventually forming two opposing military alliances: the Allies and the Axis...

 brought to an abrupt end to concerted efforts to bring Jews east.

After the war ended in 1945 the idea of Birobidzhan as a potential home for Jewish refugees revived slightly.

The Doctors' Plot and its aftermath

According to Nikolay Nikolevitch Poliakov, Stalin purportedly created a special "Deportation Commission" to plan the deportation of Jews to these camps. Poliakov, the purported secretary of the Commission, stated years later that, according to Stalin's initial plan, the deportation was to begin in the middle of February 1953, but the monumental tasks of completing lists of Jews had not yet been completed. "Pure blooded" Jews were to be deported first, followed by "half breeds" (polukrovki). Before his death in March 1953, Stalin allegedly had planned the execution of "Doctors Plot" defendants already on trial in Red Square in March 1953, and then he would cast himself as the savior of Soviet Jews by sending them to camps away from the purportedly enraged Russian populace. Further purported statements from others describe some aspects of such a planned deportation.

The some scholars outside the Soviet Union agree with what Nikita Khrushchev
Nikita Khrushchev
Nikita Sergeyevich Khrushchev led the Soviet Union during part of the Cold War. He served as First Secretary of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union from 1953 to 1964, and as Chairman of the Council of Ministers, or Premier, from 1958 to 1964...

 said in his "Secret Speech": Joseph Stalin intended to use the resulting doctors' trial to launch a massive party purge. Gennady Kostyrchenko, also concluded that there is no credible evidence for the alleged deportation plans, and there is much evidence against their existence. Some other researchers disagree, asserting that the question is still open.

Regardless of whether the purpose of the Doctors' Plot was a party purge or deportation of Jews, efforts to relocate Jewish refugees to Birobidzhan ended with the Doctors' plot, the establishment of Israel as a Jewish state, and Stalin's second wave of purges shortly before his death. Once again, the Jewish leadership was arrested and efforts were made to stamp out Yiddish culture—even the Judaica collection in the local library was burned. In the ensuing years the idea of an autonomous Jewish region in the Soviet Union was all but forgotten.

Events from 1991 to present

In 1991 the Jewish Autonomous Oblast moved from the jurisdiction of Khabarovsk Krai
Khabarovsk Krai
Khabarovsk Krai is a federal subject of Russia , located in the Russian Far East. It lies mostly in the basin of the lower Amur River, but also occupies a vast mountainous area along the coastline of the Sea of Okhotsk, an arm of the Pacific Ocean. The administrative center of the krai is the...

 to the jurisdiction of the Federation, but by that time most of the Jews had gone and the remaining Jews now constituted fewer than two percent of the local population. Nevertheless, Yiddish is once again taught in the schools, a Yiddish radio station is in operation, and as noted above, the Birobidzhaner Shtern includes a section in Yiddish.

L'Chayim, Comrade Stalin!, a documentary on Stalin's creation of the Jewish Autonomous Region and its settlement, was released by The Cinema Guild in 2003. In addition to being a history of the creation of the Jewish Autonomous Oblast, the film features scenes of contemporary Birobidzhan and interviews with Jewish residents.


The Birobidzhan Jewish National University
Birobidzhan Jewish National University
The Birobidzhan Jewish National University is a university in Russia.-Overview:The university works in cooperation with the local Jewish community of Birobidzhan and the Birobidzhan Synagogue. It is unique in the Russian Far East. The basis of the training course is study of the Hebrew language,...

 works in cooperation with the local Jewish community of Birobidzhan. The university, uniquely in the Russian Far East
Russian Far East
Russian Far East is a term that refers to the Russian part of the Far East, i.e., extreme east parts of Russia, between Lake Baikal in Eastern Siberia and the Pacific Ocean...

, uses as the basis of its teaching the study of the Hebrew language, history and classic Jewish texts.

In recent years, the Jewish Autonomous Oblast has grown interested in its Jewish roots. Students study Hebrew and Yiddish at a Jewish school and at the Birobidzhan Jewish National University. In 1989, the Jewish center founded its Sunday school, where children study Yiddish, learn Jewish folk dances, and memorize dates from the history of Israel. The Israeli government helps fund the program.

Birobidzhan has several state-run schools that teach Yiddish, a Yiddish school for religious instruction and a kindergarten. The five to seven year-olds spend two lessons a week learning to speak Yiddish, as well as being taught Jewish songs, dance and traditions. Today, the city’s 14 public schools must teach Yiddish and Jewish tradition. The school Menora was created in 1991. It is a public school that offers a half-day Yiddish and Jewish curriculum for those parents who choose it. About half the school’s 120 pupils are enrolled in the Yiddish course. Many of them continue on to Public School No. 2, which offers the same half-day Yiddish/Jewish curriculum from first through 12th grade. Yiddish also is offered at Birobidzhan’s Pedagogical Institute, one of the few university-level Yiddish courses in the country.

In 2007 Yiddish studies professor Boris Kotlerman of Bar-Ilan University
Bar-Ilan University
Bar-Ilan University is a university in Ramat Gan of the Tel Aviv District, Israel.Established in 1955, Bar Ilan is now Israel's second-largest academic institution. It has nearly 26,800 students and 1,350 faculty members...

 launched "The First Birobidzhan International Summer Program for Yiddish Language and Culture".


The Jewish Autonomous Oblast is part of the Far Eastern economic district; it has well-developed industry and agriculture and a dense transportation network. Its status as a free economic zone increases the opportunities for economic development. The region's rich mineral and building and finishing material resources are in great demand on the Russian market. Nonferrous metallurgy, engineering, metalworking, and the building material, forest, woodworking, light, and food industries are the most highly developed industrial sectors.

Agriculture is the Jewish Autonomous Region's main economic sector owing to fertile soils and a moist climate.


The region's well-developed transportation network consists of 530 km of railways, including the Trans-Siberian Railway; 600 km of waterways along the Amur and Tunguska rivers; and 1900 km of roads, including 1600 km of paved roads. The most important road is the Khabarovsk-Birobidzhan-Obluchye-Amur Region highway with ferry service across the Amur. The Zhelty Yar airport located in the center of the region connects Birobidzhan with Khabarovsk and outlying district centers. There are also plans to establish international air service between Birobidzhan and Jiamusi in China.

Amur Bridge Project

Valery Solomonovich Gurevich
Valery Solomonovich Gurevich
Valery Solomonovich Gurevich a Russian politician, is the vice-governor of the Jewish Autonomous Oblast.-Leadership in the Jewish Autonomous Oblast:...

, government vice-chairman of Russia’s Jewish Autonomous Oblast said that China and Russia will start construction of the Amur Bridge Project
Amur Bridge Project
The Amur Bridge Project was announced in 2007 by Valery Solomonovich Gurevich, the vice-chairman of the Jewish Autonomous Oblast. He stated that China and Russia might start construction of the first railway bridge over the Amur River at the end of 2007...

 at the end of 2007. The bridge will link Nizhneleninskoye
Nizhneleninskoye is a village in Leninsky District of the Jewish Autonomous Oblast. Located on the Amur River, Nizhneleninskoye is the location for the Amur Bridge Project which will cross over the river to China. Nizhneleninskoye will be joined by a railway bridge to Tongjiang in Heilongjiang...

 in the Jewish Autonomous Oblast with Tongjiang
Tongjiang is a city of 160,000 in eastern Heilongjiang province, People's Republic of China, located at the confluence and on the right banks of the Songhua and Amur Rivers, the latter which marks the border with Russia...

 in Heilongjiang Province. The 2,197-meter-long bridge, with an estimated investment of nearly US$230 million, is expected to be finished by the end of 2010, Gurevich said. Gurevich said that the proposal to construct a bridge across the river was actually made by Russia, in view of growing cargo transportation demands. "The bridge, in the bold estimate, will be finished in three years," Gurevich said.

See also

  • Israel
    The State of Israel is a parliamentary republic located in the Middle East, along the eastern shore of the Mediterranean Sea...

  • Beit T'shuva
    Beit T'shuva
    Beit T'shuva is a synagogue also known as "Birobidzhan's old synagogue." The structure, located in the Russian city of Birobidzhan, is a Siberian-style wooden house. The Jewish community is led by Rabbi Boris "Dov" Kaufman...

  • Boris "Dov" Kaufman
  • History of the Jews in Russia and Soviet Union
  • In Search of Happiness
    In Search of Happiness
    In Search of Happiness is a 2005 Russian documentary film that poetically follows the lives of Boris and Masha Rak, Soviet Jews who in 1934 moved to the Jewish Autonomous Oblast created by the order of Joseph Stalin in Russian Far East...

  • Jews and Judaism in the Jewish Autonomous Oblast
    Jews and Judaism in the Jewish Autonomous Oblast
    The history of the Jews in the Jewish Autonomous Oblast , Russia, began with the early settlements of 1928.Yiddish, along with Russian, are the two official languages in the JAO.-Early settlement:...

  • Territorialism
    Territorialism, also known as Statism , was a Jewish political movement calling for creation of a sufficiently large and compact Jewish territory , not necessarily in the Land of Israel and not necessarily fully autonomous.-Development of territorialism:Before 1905 some Zionist leaders took...

  • Yevsektsiya
    Yevsektsiya , , the abbreviation of the phrase "Еврейская секция" was the Jewish section of the Soviet Communist party. Yevsektsiya was established to popularize Marxism and encourage loyalty to the Soviet regime among Russian Jews. The founding conference of Yevsektsiya took place on October 20,...

  • Proposals for a Jewish state
    Proposals for a Jewish state
    There were several proposals for a Jewish state in the course of Jewish history between the destruction of ancient Israel and the founding of the modern State of Israel. While some of those have come into existence, others were never implemented. The Jewish national homeland usually refers to the...

External links

Official website Information Site Stalin's Forgotten Zion: Birobidzhan and the Making of a Soviet Jewish Homeland: An Illustrated History, 1928-1996 Official website of the new musical "Soviet Zion" set in Birobidzhan Birobidzhan: Dream of a Jewish Homeland That Never Came True by Eve-Maria Stolberg (Russian Archipelago)
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