Jewish Autonomous OblastRussia's Jewish Autonomous Oblast (Russian: Евре́йская автоно́мная о́бласть, eev-RAY-skuh-yuh ahf-tah-NOHM-nuh-yuh OH-blust') is a region in the Russian Far East, which borders Amur Oblast to the west, Khabarovsk Krai to the north, and China to the south.
- - The Jewish Oblast's sole city and principal destination
- - hot springs resort
This rarely visited province was established by Stalin in 1928 as an attempt to boost the population of the Soviet Far East as well as to counter Zionism within the USSR (as Zionism was ideologically inconsistent with Marxism-Leninism). The Oblast's Jewish "national" status has led to some odd Soviet-Jewish art, such as the menorah monument in the city center, but did not lead to mass Jewish immigration. Jews constitute only about 2% of this region's population, largely as a result of recent emigration. Some, however, did heed the call of a Siberian Zion, including the Californian family of Mary Leder, author of the fascinating memoirs "My Life in Stalinist Russia." Potential visitors should definitely try to get a hold of the recent documentary film, L'Chayim, Comrade Stalin, about the history and modern times of the Jewish autonomous oblast.
Yiddish shares official status with Russian, but you are unlikely to hear it aside from a synagogue visit or on the one Yiddish radio station. Ethnic Russians constitute 90% of the population, Jews only about 2%, and everyone communicates in Russian.
Most visitors experience Birobidzhan as a stop on the Trans-Siberian Railway. It is also possible to fly to Birobidzhan's Zhyolty Yar Airport from Khabarovsk.