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Birobidzhan railway station
Flag of Birobidzhan
Coat of arms of Birobidzhan
Coat of arms
Location of Birobidzhan
Birobidzhan is located in Russia
Location of Birobidzhan
Birobidzhan is located in Jewish Autonomous Oblast
Birobidzhan (Jewish Autonomous Oblast)
Coordinates: 48°48′N 132°56′E / 48.800°N 132.933°E / 48.800; 132.933Coordinates: 48°48′N 132°56′E / 48.800°N 132.933°E / 48.800; 132.933
Federal subjectJewish Autonomous Oblast[1]
Town status since1937[2]
 • BodyTown Duma[3]
 • Mayor[3]Yevgeny Korostelyov[4]
 • Total169.38 km2 (65.40 sq mi)
80 m (260 ft)
 • Total75,413
 • Estimate 
(January 2014)[7]
 • Rank215th in 2010
 • Density450/km2 (1,200/sq mi)
 • Administratively subordinated totown of oblast significance of Birobidzhan[1]
 • Administrative center ofJewish Autonomous Oblast[1], Birobidzhansky District[1]
 • Urban okrugBirobidzhan Urban Okrug[8]
 • Administrative center ofBirobidzhan Urban Okrug[8], Birobidzhansky Municipal District[9]
Time zoneVLAT (UTC+10:00)[10]
Postal code(s)[11]
679000, 679002, 679005, 679006, 679011, 679013–679017, 679700, 679801, 679950
Dialing code(s)+7 42622
Town DayLast Saturday of May[12]
OKTMO ID99701000001
Birobidzhan population
2010 Census75,413[6]
2002 Census77,250[13]
1989 Census83,667[14]
1979 Census68,630[15]

Birobidzhan (Russian: Биробиджа́н, IPA: [bʲɪrəbʲɪˈdʐan]; Yiddish: ביראָבידזשאַן‎, Birobidzshan) 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. As of the 2010 Census, its population was 75,413.[6]


Birobidzhan is named after the two largest rivers in the autonomous oblast: the Bira and the Bidzhan, although only the Bira, which lies to the east of the Bidzhan Valley,[citation needed] flows through the town. Both rivers are tributaries of the Amur. The city was planned by the Swiss architect Hannes Meyer, and established in 1931. It became the administrative center of the Jewish Autonomous Oblast in 1934 and town status was granted to it in 1937.[2]

Yiddish writer David Bergelson played a large part in promoting Birobidzhan, although he himself did not really live there.[16] Bergelson wrote articles in the Yiddish language newspapers in other countries extolling the region as an ideal escape from anti-Semitism elsewhere. At least 1,000 families from the United States and Latin America came to Birobidzhan because of Bergelson.[16]

Life could be quite hard in the mountainous region. In her book on the region, Where the Jews Aren't: The Sad and Absurd Story of Birobidzhan, Russia's Jewish Autonomous Region, Masha Gessen writes that

in the summer of 1928 there were torrential rains, causing flooding that washed out what little the new settlers had managed to plant, stymied by the late arrival of seeds. Their cattle arrive late too, and were felled by an anthrax epidemic that raged that first year. The settlers at Birofeld, though they managed to put up eighteen houses over the summer, faced a cold winter of relentless hunger, surrounded by their ruined fields and foreboding woods, where tiger and bears roamed.[17]

When the Stalinist purges began shortly after the creation of Birobidzhan, Jews there were likewise targeted.[16] ″Jews in Birobidzhan are targeted, and they're targeted in this very Soviet way specifically for what they came there for - for nationalism, for promoting the Yiddish language, for what they were told was a good thing just a couple of years earlier,″ explained Gessen in an interview discussing her book.[16]

Following World War II, tens of thousands of displaced Eastern European Jews found their way to Birobidzhan from 1946 to 1948.[18] Some were Ukrainian and Belarussian Jews who were not allowed to return to their original homes.[16]

However, Jews were once again targeted in the wake of World War II when Joseph Stalin embarked on a campaign against ″rootless cosmopolitans″ — a code name for Jews.[16] Nearly all the Yiddish institutions of Birobidzhan were liquidated.[19] Amongst those executed was David Bergelson, Birobidzhan's early promoter, who was killed in 1952 on his 68th birthday.[16]

Jewish and Yiddish culture[edit]

A menorah dominating the main square in Birobidzhan

While thousands of Jews migrated to Birobidzhan, the hardship and isolation caused few to stay. Shortly after World War II, the Jewish population in the region reached its peak of about 30,000.[19] As of the mid-2010s, only about 2,000 Jews remain in the region, making up about one half of a percent of the population.[19]

According to Israeli 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."[20] Scheiner also hosted the Russian television show, Yiddishkeit in the region. His student, actually born in Birobidzhan, Rabbi Eliyahu Reiss, has taken over the reins since 2010.

The town's synagogue opened in 2004.[21] Rabbi Scheiner says there are 4,000 Jews in Birobidzhan, just over 5 percent of the town's population of 75,000.[22] The Birobidzhan Jewish community was led by Lev Toitman, until his death in September, 2007.[23]

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.[24] 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.[25]

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.".[26] In 2007, the Birobidzhan International Summer Program for Yiddish Language and Culture was launched by Yiddish studies professor Boris Kotlerman of Bar-Ilan University.[27] The town's main street is named after the Yiddish language author and humorist Sholom Aleichem.[28]

For the Chanukah celebration of 2007, officials of Birobidzhan in the Jewish Autonomous Oblast claimed to have built the world's largest menorah.[29] A November 2017 article in The Guardian, titled, "Revival of a Soviet Zion: Birobidzhan celebrates its Jewish heritage", examined the current status of the city and suggested that, even though the Jewish Autonomous Region in Russia’s far east is now barely 1% Jewish, officials hope to woo back people who left after Soviet collapse.[30]

Administrative and municipal status[edit]

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.[1] 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.[1] As a municipal division, the town of oblast significance of Birobidzhan is incorporated as Birobidzhan Urban Okrug.[8]

Economy, infrastructure and Transportation[edit]

The chief economic activity is light industry, including textile and footwear. The city also has a vehicle repair factory, a furniture factory, a quicklime production factory, and several foodstuff factories. Khabarovsk is the closest major city to Birobidzhan and provides the closest major airport access to it, which is Khabarovsk Novy Airport (KHV / UHHH), 198 km from the center of Birobidzhan.


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.[31] 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.[32] 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.[33] Today, the town's fourteen public schools must teach Yiddish and Jewish tradition.



Birobidzhan experiences a harsh, monsoon-influenced humid continental climate (Köppen climate classification Dwb) that is typified by very large seasonal temperature differences, with warm to hot (and often humid) summers and severely cold (and dry) winters.[citation needed]

Climate data for Birobidzhan
Month Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec Year
Record high °C (°F) −0.4
Average high °C (°F) −15.6
Daily mean °C (°F) −22.2
Average low °C (°F) −27.4
Record low °C (°F) −43.7
Average precipitation mm (inches) 6
Average precipitation days 2 2 4 6 10 12 13 13 10 5 4 3 84
Source #1: World Meteorological Organisation (UN) [34]
Source #2: [ NASA RETScreen Database]


The bandy club Nadezhda[35] has been playing in the 2nd highest division, the Russian Bandy Supreme League, until the 2016-17 season.[36] However, in 2017-18 the team will not play in the league.[37]

Twin towns and sister cities[edit]

Birobidzhan is twinned with:

See also[edit]



  1. ^ a b c d e f g Law #982-OZ
  2. ^ a b c Энциклопедия Города России. Moscow: Большая Российская Энциклопедия. 2003. p. 47. ISBN 5-7107-7399-9.
  3. ^ a b Charter of Birobidzhan, Article 16
  4. ^ Official website of Birobidzhan. [1] (in Russian)
  5. ^ Russian Federal State Statistics Service. Economic and Social Measures of the Urban Okrugs and Urban Settlements in the Jewish Autonomous Oblast—the Town of Birobidzhan (2006, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011)
  6. ^ a b c Russian Federal State Statistics Service (2011). "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.
  7. ^ Jewish Autonomous Oblast Territorial Branch of the Federal State Statistics Service. Permanent Population Estimate as of January 1, 2014 and the 2013 Average (in Russian)
  8. ^ a b c Law #226-OZ
  9. ^ Федеральная служба государственной статистики. Федеральное агентство по технологическому регулированию и метрологии. №ОК 033-2013 1 января 2014 г. «Общероссийский классификатор территорий муниципальных образований. Код 99 605». (Federal State Statistics Service. Federal Agency on Technological Regulation and Metrology. #OK 033-2013 January 1, 2014 Russian Classification of Territories of Municipal Formations. Code 99 605. ).
  10. ^ Правительство Российской Федерации. Федеральный закон №107-ФЗ от 3 июня 2011 г. «Об исчислении времени», в ред. Федерального закона №368-ФЗ от 11 октября 2018 г. «О внесении изменений в статью 5 Федерального закона "Об исчислении времени"». Вступил в силу по истечении шестидесяти дней после дня официального опубликования (6 августа 2011 г.). Опубликован: "Российская газета", №120, 6 июня 2011 г. (Government of the Russian Federation. Federal Law #107-FZ of June 31, 2011 On Calculating Time, as amended by the Federal Law #368-FZ of October 11, 2018 On Amending Article 5 of the Federal Law "On Calculating Time". Effective as of after sixty days following the day of the official publication.).
  11. ^ Почта России. Информационно-вычислительный центр ОАСУ РПО. (Russian Post). Поиск объектов почтовой связи (Postal Objects Search) (in Russian)
  12. ^ Charter of Birobidzhan, Article 1
  13. ^ Russian Federal State Statistics Service (21 May 2004). "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] (XLS). Всероссийская перепись населения 2002 года [All-Russia Population Census of 2002] (in Russian).
  14. ^ "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). Институт демографии Национального исследовательского университета: Высшая школа экономики [Institute of Demography at the National Research University: Higher School of Economics]. 1989 – via Demoscope Weekly.
  15. ^ "Всесоюзная перепись населения 1979 г. Национальный состав населения по регионам России" [All Union Population Census of 1979. Ethnic composition of the population by regions of Russia] (XLS). Всесоюзная перепись населения 1979 года [All-Union Population Census of 1979] (in Russian). 1979 – via Demoscope Weekly (website of the Institute of Demographics of the State University—Higher School of Economics.
  16. ^ a b c d e f g Gessen, Masha; Interviewed by Terry Gross (7 September 2016). "'Sad And Absurd': The U.S.S.R.'s Disastrous Effort To Create A Jewish Homeland" (Interview). Fresh Air. WHYY. Retrieved 10 September 2016.
  17. ^ Gessen, Masha (2016). Where the Jews Aren't: The Sad and Absurd Story of Birobidzhan. Nextbook/Schocken. p. 51. Retrieved 17 October 2016.
  18. ^ Weinberg, Robert (1998). Stalin's Forgotten Zion: Birobidzhan and the Making of a Soviet Jewish Homeland. Berkeley: University of California Press. pp. 72–75. ISBN 978-0-520-20990-9.
  19. ^ a b c Pipes, Richard (October 27, 2016). "The Sad Fate of Birobidzhan". New York Review of Books. Retrieved 17 October 2016.
  20. ^ Wiseman, Michael C. (2010). "Birobidjan: The Story of the First Jewish State". Inquiries Journal/Student Pulse [Online]. 2 (4): 1. Retrieved 8 September 2016.
  21. ^ FJC | News | Far East Community Prepares for 70th Anniversary of Jewish Autonomous Republic Archived May 18, 2011, at the Wayback Machine.
  22. ^ FJC | News | From Tractors to Torah in Russia's Jewish Land Archived April 11, 2013, at the Wayback Machine.
  23. ^ Far East Jewish Community Chairman Passes Away Archived June 5, 2008, at the Wayback Machine. Federation of Jewish Communities
  24. ^
  25. ^ FJC | News | Birobidzhan - New Rabbi, New Synagogue Archived September 27, 2007, at the Wayback Machine.
  26. ^ Governor Voices Support for Growing Far East Jewish Community Archived May 18, 2011, at the Wayback Machine. Federation of Jewish Communities
  27. ^
  28. ^ Back to Birobidjan Archived August 13, 2011, at the Wayback Machine.. By Rebecca Raskin. Jerusalem Post
  29. ^ Breaking News - JTA, Jewish & Israel News Archived June 5, 2008, at the Wayback Machine.
  30. ^ FJC | The Guardian | Russia | Revival of a Soviet Zion: Birobidzhan celebrates its Jewish heritage | 27-September-2017
  31. ^ Religion Archived August 6, 2011, at the Wayback Machine.
  32. ^ Kulanu: Birobidzhan: Soviety-era Jewish homeland struggles on Archived August 7, 2007, at the Wayback Machine.
  33. ^ NCSJ - Profiles: Birobidzhan Jewish Community Archived January 12, 2008, at the Wayback Machine.
  34. ^ "World Weather Information Service – Birobidzan". United Nations. Retrieved December 31, 2010.
  35. ^
  36. ^ ""Надежда" Биробиджан" (in Russian). Retrieved 20 July 2015.
  37. ^


  • Городская Дума. Решение №242 от 30 июня 2005 г. «Об уставе муниципального образования "Город Биробиджан" Еврейской автономной области», в ред. Решения №166 от 24 сентября 2015 г. «О внесении изменений и дополнений в Устав муниципального образования "Город Биробиджан" Еврейской автономной области, утверждённый Решением городской Думы от 30.06.2005 №242». Вступил в силу после государственной регистрации через 10 дней со дня официального опубликования (11 декабря 2005 г.). Опубликован: "МИГ", №47, 1 декабря 2005 г. (Town Duma. Decision #242 of June 30, 2005 On the Charter of the Municipal Formation of the "Town of Birobidzhan" in the Jewish Autonomous Oblast, as amended by the Decision #166 of September 24, 2015 On Amending and Supplementing the Charter of the Municipal Formation of the "Town of Birobidzhan" in the Jewish Autonomous Oblast, Adopted by the Decision No. 242 of the Town Duma on June 30, 2005. Effective as of after the registration with the state 10 days after the day of the official publication.).
  • 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.).

Further reading[edit]

  • S. Almazov, 10 Years of Biro-Bidjan. New York: ICOR, 1938.
  • Henry Frankel, The Jews in the Soviet Union and Birobidjan. New York: American Birobidjan Committee, 1946.
  • Gessen, Masha. Where the Jews Aren't: The Sad and Absurd Story of Birobidzhan, Russia's Jewish Autonomous Region (Jewish Encounters Series). Schocken Books. ISBN 978-0805242461.
  • Nora Levin, The Jews in the Soviet Union Since 1917: Paradox of Survival: Volume 1. New York: New York University Press, 1988.
  • James N. Rosenberg, How the Back-to-the-Soil Movement Began: Two Years of Blazing the New Jewish "Covered Wagon" Trail Across the Russian Prairies. Philadelphia: United Jewish Campaign, 1925.
  • Jeffrey Shandler, "Imagining Yiddishland: Language, Place and Memory," History and Memory, vol. 15, no. 1 (Spring/Summer 2003), pp. 123–149. In JSTOR
  • Henry Felix Srebrnik, Dreams of Nationhood: American Jewish Communists and the Soviet Birobidzhan Project, 1924-1951. Boston: Academic Studies Press, 2010.
  • Robert Weinberg, "Purge and Politics in the Periphery: Birobidzhan in 1937," Slavic Review, vol. 52, no. 1 (Spring 1993), pp. 13–27. In JSTOR
  • Robert Weinberg, Stalin's Forgotten Zion: Birobidzhan and the Making of a Soviet Jewish Homeland: An Illustrated History, 1928-1996. Berkeley, CA: University of California Press, 1998.

External links[edit]