|- Town -|
Birobidzhan train station
Location of the Jewish Autonomous Oblast in Russia
|Town Day||Last Saturday of May|
|Administrative status (as of July 2011)|
|Federal subject||Jewish Autonomous Oblast|
|Administratively subordinated to||town of oblast significance of Birobidzhan|
|Administrative center of||Jewish Autonomous Oblast, Birobidzhansky District, town of oblast significance of Birobidzhan|
|Municipal status (as of November 2004)|
|Urban okrug||Birobidzhan Urban Okrug|
|Administrative center of||Birobidzhan Urban Okrug, Birobidzhansky Municipal District|
|Head||Andrey Parkhomenko|
|Representative body||Town Duma|
|Area||169,027 km2 (65,262 sq mi)|
|Population (2010 Census)||75,413 inhabitants|
|- Rank in 2010||215th|
|Density||0 /km2 (0 /sq mi)|
|Time zone||VLAT (UTC+11:00)|
|Town status since||1937|
|Dialing code(s)||+7 42622|
Birobidzhan (Russian: Биробиджан, IPA: [bʲɪrəbʲɪˈdʐan]; Yiddish: ביראָבידזשאַן) is a town and the administrative center of the Jewish Autonomous Oblast, Russia, located on the Trans-Siberian Railway, close to the border with China. Population: 75,413 (2010 Census); 77,250 (2002 Census); 83,667 (1989 Census).
Name and geography
The town is named after the two largest rivers in the autonomous oblast: the Bira and the Bidzhan, although only the Bira flows through the town, which lies to the east of the Bidzhan Valley. Both rivers are tributaries of the Amur.
Administrative and municipal status
Birobidzhan is the administrative center of the autonomous oblast and, within the framework of administrative divisions, it also serves as the administrative center of Birobidzhansky District, even though it is not a part of it. As an administrative division, it is incorporated separately as the town of oblast significance of Birobidzhan—an administrative unit with the status equal to that of the districts. As a municipal division, the town of oblast significance of Birobidzhan is incorporated as Birobidzhan Urban Okrug.
The chief economic activity is light industry.
Jewish and Yiddish culture
According to Rabbi Mordechai Scheiner, the former Chief Rabbi of Birobidzhan and Chabad Lubavitch representative to the region, "Today one can enjoy the benefits of the Yiddish culture and not be afraid to return to their Jewish traditions. It's safe without any anti-Semitism, and we plan to open the first Jewish day school here." Mordechai Scheiner, an Israeli father of six, was the rabbi in Birobidzhan. He also hosted the Russian television show, Yiddishkeit. His student, actually born in Birobidzhan, Rabbi Eliyahu Reiss, has taken over the reins since 2010.
The town's synagogue opened in 2004. Rabbi Scheiner says there are 4,000 Jews in Birobidzhan, just over 5 percent of the town's population of 75,000. The Birobidzhan Jewish community was led by Lev Toitman, until his death in September, 2007.
Jewish culture was revived in Birobidzhan much earlier than elsewhere in the Soviet Union. Yiddish theaters opened in the 1970s. Yiddish and Jewish traditions have been required components in all public schools for almost fifteen years, taught not as Jewish exotica but as part of the region's national heritage. The Birobidzhan Synagogue, completed in 2004, is next to a complex housing Sunday School classrooms, a library, a museum, and administrative offices. The buildings were officially opened in 2004 to mark the 70th anniversary of the founding of the Jewish Autonomous Oblast. Concerning the Jewish community of the oblast, Governor Nikolay Mikhaylovich Volkov has stated that he intends to "support every valuable initiative maintained by our local Jewish organizations.". In 2007, The First Birobidzhan International Summer Program for Yiddish Language and Culture was launched by Yiddish studies professor Boris Kotlerman of Bar-Ilan University.  The city's main street is named after the Yiddish language author and humorist Sholom Aleichem.
One result of the revivial of Jewish and Yiddish community life in Birobidzhan has been increasing calls from extremists such as Christopher Bollyn and Michèle Renouf to have the area replace Israel as the Jewish state. These calls—based around the idea that Palestinians will control the entire area of current Israel, the West Bank and Gaza once Israeli Jews relocate to Birobidzhan—are similar to past proposals for Jews to be relocated (non-voluntarily) to Madagascar (see Madagascar Plan), Uganda (see British Uganda Programme), or Alaska (see Slattery Report). Between those historical echoes and the entrenchment of the State of Israel, there is little present interest or movement in such a proposal for Jews around the world.
|Climate data for Birobidzhan|
|Average high °C (°F)||−16.6
|Average low °C (°F)||−29.4
|Precipitation mm (inches)||6
|Avg. precipitation days||2||2||4||6||10||12||13||13||10||5||4||3||84|
|Source: World Meteorological Organisation (UN) |
The Birobidzhan Jewish National University works in cooperation with the local religious community. The university is unique in the Russian Far East. The basis of the training course is study of the Hebrew language, history and classic Jewish texts. The town now boasts several state-run schools that teach Yiddish, as well as an Anglo-Yiddish faculty at its higher education college, 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. The school menorah 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 is also offered at Birobidzhan’s Pedagogical Institute, one of the only university-level Yiddish courses in the country. Today, the city's fourteen public schools must teach Yiddish and Jewish tradition.
L'Chayim, Comrade Stalin!
A documentary film, L'Chayim, Comrade Stalin! on Stalin's creation of the Jewish Autonomous Oblast and its partial settlement by thousands of Russian and Yiddish-speaking Jews was released in 2003. As well as relating the history of the creation of the proposed Jewish homeland, the film features scenes of life in contemporary Birobidzhan and interviews with Jewish residents.
According to The New York Times, Stalin promoted the city as a home for secular Jews.
Twin towns and sister cities
Birobidzhan is twinned with:
- Beaverton, Oregon, United States
- Hegang, Heilongjiang, China
- Ma'alot-Tarshiha, Israel
- Niigata, Japan
- In Search of Happiness, a documentary about modern day Birobidzhan
- Organization for Jewish Colonization in the Soviet Union (IKOR)
- History of the Jews in the Jewish Autonomous Oblast
- Beit T'shuva
- Boris "Dov" Kaufman
- Charter of the Municipal Formation of the Town of Birobidzhan, adopted on July 24, 1997, with subsequent amendments
- Law #982-OZ
- Law #226-OZ
- "Всероссийская перепись населения 2010 года. Том 1" [2010 All-Russian Population Census, vol. 1]. Всероссийская перепись населения 2010 года (2010 All-Russia Population Census) (in Russian). Federal State Statistics Service. 2011. Retrieved June 29, 2012.
- The value of density was calculated automatically by dividing the 2010 Census population by the area specified in the infobox. Please note that this value may not be accurate as the area specified in the infobox does not necessarily correspond to the area of the entity proper or is reported for the same year as the population.
- Правительство Российской Федерации. Постановление №725 от 31 августа 2011 г. «О составе территорий, образующих каждую часовую зону, и порядке исчисления времени в часовых зонах, а также о признании утратившими силу отдельных Постановлений Правительства Российской Федерации». Вступил в силу по истечении 7 дней после дня официального опубликования. Опубликован: "Российская Газета", №197, 6 сентября 2011 г. (Government of the Russian Federation. Resolution #725 of August 31, 2011 On the Composition of the Territories Included into Each Time Zone and on the Procedures of Timekeeping in the Time Zones, as Well as on Abrogation of Several Resolutions of the Government of the Russian Federation. Effective as of after 7 days following the day of the official publication.).
- Энциклопедия Города России. Moscow: Большая Российская Энциклопедия. 2003. p. 47. ISBN 5-7107-7399-9.
- Почта России. Информационно-вычислительный центр ОАСУ РПО. Поиск объектов почтовой связи (Russian)
- "Численность населения России, субъектов Российской Федерации в составе федеральных округов, районов, городских поселений, сельских населённых пунктов – районных центров и сельских населённых пунктов с населением 3 тысячи и более человек" [Population of Russia, its federal districts, federal subjects, districts, urban localities, rural localities—administrative centers, and rural localities with population of over 3,000]. Всероссийская перепись населения 2002 года (All-Russia Population Census of 2002) (in Russian). Federal State Statistics Service. May 21, 2004. Retrieved February 9, 2012.
- Demoscope Weekly (1989). "Всесоюзная перепись населения 1989 г. Численность наличного населения союзных и автономных республик, автономных областей и округов, краёв, областей, районов, городских поселений и сёл-райцентров." [All Union Population Census of 1989. Present population of union and autonomous republics, autonomous oblasts and okrugs, krais, oblasts, districts, urban settlements, and villages serving as district administrative centers]. Всесоюзная перепись населения 1989 года (All-Union Population Census of 1989) (in Russian). Institute of Demographics of the State University—Higher School of Economics. Retrieved February 9, 2012.
- FJC | News | Far East Community Prepares for 70th Anniversary of Jewish Autonomous Republic
- FJC | News | From Tractors to Torah in Russia's Jewish Land
- Far East Jewish Community Chairman Passes Away Federation of Jewish Communities
- NCSJ - Profiles: Birobidzhan Jewish Community
- FJC | News | Birobidzhan - New Rabbi, New Synagogue
- Governor Voices Support for Growing Far East Jewish Community Federation of Jewish Communities
- Back to Birobidjan. By Rebecca Raskin. Jerusalem Post
- Breaking News - JTA, Jewish & Israel News
- "World Weather Information Service – Birobidzan". United Nations. Retrieved December 31, 2010.
- Kulanu: Birobidzhan: Soviety-era Jewish homeland struggles on
- NCSJ - Profiles: Birobidzhan Jewish Community
- L'Chayim, Comrade Stalin!
- William J. Broad, "A Spy’s Path: Iowa to A-Bomb to Kremlin Honor", The New York Times (November 12, 2007), p. A19
- Законодательное Собрание Еврейской автономной области. Закон №982-ОЗ от 20 июля 2011 г. «Об административно-территориальном устройстве Еврейской автономной области». Вступил в силу через 10 дней после дня официального опубликования. Опубликован: "Биробиджанская звезда", №54, 29 июля 2011 г. (Legislative Assembly of the Jewish Autonomous Oblast. Law #982-OZ of July 20, 2011 On the Administrative-Territorial Structure of the Jewish Autonomous Oblast. Effective as of the day which is 10 days after the day of the official publication.).
- Законодательное Собрание Еврейской автономной области. Закон №226-ОЗ от 26 ноября 2003 г. «О статусе и границе городского округа "город Биробиджан"», в ред. Закона №340-ОЗ от 2 ноября 2004 г «О внесении изменений в некоторые законы Еврейской автономной области о статусе и границе муниципальных районов, городского округа». Вступил в силу через 10 дней после официального опубликования. Опубликован: "Биробиджанская звезда", №93, 23 декабря 2003 г. (Legislative Assembly of the Jewish Autonomous Oblast. Law #226-OZ of November 26, 2003 On the Status and the Border of the Urban Okrug of the "City of Birobidzhan", as amended by the Law #340-OZ of November 2, 2004 On Amending Several Laws of the Jewish Autonomous Oblast on the Status and the Borders of the Municipal Districts, an Urban Okrug. Effective as of the day which is 10 days after the official publication.).
- Weinberg, Robert (1998). Stalin's Forgotten Zion: Birobidzhan and the Making of a Soviet Jewish Homeland: An Illustrated History, 1928-1996. University of California Press. ISBN 978-0-520-20990-9.
- Birobidjan, Birobidjan !, documentary by writer Marek Halter.
- Birobidzhan from 1929 to 1931 - photo album (Digitized page images), at the US Library of Congress
- Atlas: Birobidzhan
- Birobidzhan government homepage (official)
- Birobidzhan Photo Gallery (official)
- The Jewish story about Birobidzhan (Birobidjan) 1928-1970 (from Encyclopaedia Judaica 1971 a.o., with photos added)
- The Jewish Autonomous Region, by D. Bergelson (1937) - Soviet pamphlet
- Pictures of Birobidzhan