Birobidzhan
Population:220,000
Area:13,895 sq. miles; 36,000 sq. km
Ethnic Groups:85% Russian; 6.3% Ukranian;
5.4% Jewish
Founded:1928(Jewish National District)
1937(Autonomous Region)
1991(Autonomous Republic)
Industry:Non-ferrous metals; Building Materials; Timber; Textiles; Food Processing
Location Climate
Longitude Latitude Altitude Time Zone Temperature Precipitation
132° 57' E 48° 48'N 600 ft.
200 m
GMT +15 hours
Moscow +6 hours
January -24° C
July +20° C
20 inches
71cm

Thousands of miles east of European Russia,the Jewish Autonomous Region was founded in 1934 as a "homeland" for Soviet Jews. Given the objectives of the Soviet government at the time, this distant outpost seemed a perfect location.

Early attempts by the government to relocate the Jews to the Crimea and Ukraine had ended with a severe local backlash. To avoid local opposition the government chose an area where there weren't any locals. Unfortunately for the Jewish migrants, there was a good reason why virtually nobody lived in this region: the winters are extremely harsh, the roads were practically nonexistent, and the land was swampy.

Influenced by an effective propoganda campaign, and starvation in the east, 41,000 Soviet Jews relocated to the area between the late 1920s and early 1930s. But, by 1938 28,000 of them had fled the regions harsh conditions, There were Jewish schools and synagogues up until the 1940's, when there was a A resurgence of religious repression after World War II. The Jewish population was essentially inactive until the late 1980s an early 1990s, when there was something of a revival in Birobidzhan.

Today, students can take Hebrew and Yiddish lessons, as well as Jewish culture classes at schools and two institutes in town. Most of the Jewish population has left for Israel, Europe or the US, and by some estimates only 3,000 Jews remain in Birobidzhan.



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