The Birobidzhan Paradox

Jewish Autonomous Oblast



Originally designated by Soviet authorities as a ‘safe refuge’ for Jews fleeing persecution in Europe (also as an attempt to anticipate Japanese regime’s attempt to expand  its puppet state Manchukuo’s territory and to gain endorsement from overseas Jews already influenced by NAZI’s anti-Semitic sentiments and American financial support), Jewish Autonomous Oblast – a once promised land compatible with Israel largely favored by numerous Zionists – instead suffers from more melee imposed by its own contrivers.

These Jews’ aspiration, as hardly as it seems, largely depend on the deviser’s, Joseph Stalin, mood. In the beginning of 1930s, tens of thousands of Jews were given opportunities to settle in the oblast (pictured above, in stark red), with relative freedom and slightly better economic latitude. Nevertheless, nearing 1940, Jews were again subject to suppression imposed by the authorities when their leaders were captured for ‘ideological treason’. During the peak periods of World War II, again the leader favored evacuating European Jews into this region from the perils of Holocaust, and the exodus climaxed until 1948, when Israel proclaimed its independence and fully supported United States. That was a hard blow for virtually all the Jews already living a stable life in the oblast. Since then, the Jews again fell prey into Soviet’s harsh oppression. The situation even deteriorated after Stalin’s death in 1953.

Albeit its name is, as yet, Jewish Autonomous Oblast, Jews no longer constitute a majority of the population. Once climaxing to 30,000 in 1948, the figure has fallen very steeply to no more than 2000, only one percent of the oblast’s total citizens. It is, in conclusion, a by-product of a dictator’s voluptuous mood, combined with global policies gone awry and last but not least, once-in-a-lifetime contretemps.


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