Robert Weinberg and Bradley Berman's carefully documented and extensively illustrated book explores the Soviet government's failed experiment to create a socialist Jewish homeland. In 1934 an area popularly known as Birobidzhan, a sparsely populated region along the Sino-Soviet border some five thousand miles east of Moscow, was designated the national homeland of Soviet JRobert Weinberg and Bradley Berman's carefully documented and extensively illustrated book explores the Soviet government's failed experiment to create a socialist Jewish homeland. In 1934 an area popularly known as Birobidzhan, a sparsely populated region along the Sino-Soviet border some five thousand miles east of Moscow, was designated the national homeland of Soviet Jewry. Establishing the Jewish Autonomous Region was part of the Kremlin's plan to create an enclave where secular Jewish culture rooted in Yiddish and socialism could serve as an alternative to Palestine. The Kremlin also considered the region a solution to various perceived problems besetting Soviet Jews. Birobidzhan still exists today, but despite its continued official status Jews are a small minority of the inhabitants of the region. Drawing upon documents from archives in Moscow and Birobidzhan, as well as photograph collections never seen outside Birobidzhan, Weinberg's story of the Soviet Zion sheds new light on a host of important historical and contemporary issues regarding Jewish identity, community, and culture. Given the persistence of the "Jewish question" in Russia, the history of Birobidzhan provides an unusual point of entry into examining the fate of Soviet Jewry under communist rule....
|Title||:||Stalin's Forgotten Zion: Birobidzhan and the Making of a Soviet Jewish Homeland: An Illustrated History, 1928–1996|
|Number of Pages||:||128 Pages|
|Status||:||Available For Download|
|Last checked||:||21 Minutes ago!|
Stalin's Forgotten Zion: Birobidzhan and the Making of a Soviet Jewish Homeland: An Illustrated History, 1928–1996 Reviews
This is an easily readable and well illustrated history of a remarkable project. Lenin's Bolshevism stressed an end to social and economic inequality as well as supporting the rights of national and ethno religious minorities. Cultural diversity was seen as positive if it was "national in form and socialist in content". With its long history of officially sanctioned anti-semitism Tsarist Russia was inevitably a recruiting sergeant for the Bolshevik cause with Jews featuring prominently in the early Bolshevik leadership. A plan aimed at integrating Jews into Russian society saw a campaign for Jews to become farmers and to at the same time address the national question. To this end a Jewish Autonomous Region was designated in the far East of Russia centered on Birobidzhan. Weinbergs book explores the issues which led to the designation of Birobidzhan, the campaign to encourage settlement, the problems settlers faced, the international solidarity campaign that supported settlers (with many arriving from outside the USSR), the contradictions that made Birobidzhan unsustainable and the stagnation and essential collapse of the ideal under Stalin as Russian nationalism and anti-semitism was once again unleashed. An interesting aspect of Birobidzhan was the attempt to make Yiddish the official language to which end services including schooling were provided in Yiddish. However, for many wishing personal advancement Yiddish was part of the problem not a cultural solution, fluency in Russian opened doors to advanced learning, a problem which was never properly addressed or overcome. The area was not solely populated by Jews, other nationalities including a Korean minority lived in the region. Anti-semitism appears to have persisted to some extent but certainly in the pre-Stalin purges period was dealt with through exemplary prosecution. While Birobidzahn survived Stalin it did so crippled by purges, lack of investment, disillusionment of many settlers and through never really having worked out what it was itself supposed to be or become. As Jews emigrated to Israel Birobidzhan became and has become little more than a footnote in history. This is a shame as it was a project and region with potential had the conditions existed for it to bloom. The fascinating history is presented here with excellent contemporary documentation and photographic records, I think it was probably the first comprehensive post-Soviet English language history of the project. Highly recommended.
Birobidzhan is an example of how, no matter how much you think you may know, there is always something that will surprise you. The Jewish Autonomous Region was established by the Soviet Union in Siberia near the China border as an alternative to the Zionist leanings of Jews. It was incredibly unsuccessful, given the schizophrenia of policy under Stalin with the purges of the '30s and the Doctors' Plot of the '50s:"During the first decade of its existence approximately 35,000-40,000 Jews moved to the region, though most chose not to remain there. The yearly drop-out rate among Jewish settlers reached 50 percent and even higher during the first several years of settlement as the Jews either left the countryside for life in one of the larger cities of the Soviet Far East, such as Khabarovsk or Vladivostok, or returned to their native homes. Those Jews who did choose to remain were more likely to gravitate to the capital city of Birobidzhan and to nonagricultural employment with which they had prior experience -- work in the retail and service sectors, for example, or in government offices. More important, Jews had no historical roots in the region and were wary of starting life anew in an unknown and forbidding part of the Soviet Union. They were understandably reluctant to pick up and move several thousand miles to endure an arduous existence as agricultural settlers. It is hard to see how the designation of a remote territory, a good portion of which was unsuitable for agriculture -- given the abundance of swamps, marshes and mountains -- could have serve as a magnet for the impoverished."
The one place on earth where Yiddish was--and still is--the official national language.Deals with a place that few are aware of, and a fascinating Soviet campaign for cultural separation.When I was there in 2002, I used this book as a great guide for things I wanted to find evidence of in Siberia.A quick read, great graphics, and seriously--Birobidzhan--who knew?!
Endearing mix of extremes of cynicism and earnestness.