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Birobidzhan


            BIROBIDZHAN: THE FAILED SOVIET JEWISH AUTONOMOUS REGION.
             With the annexation of Polish territory to Russia between the years 1772 to 1815, Jews would become for the first time, a formal minority within Russia (1). Suffering from constant persecutions and pogroms during the years of the Tsarist governments, the majority of Jews were not allowed to live within most major cultural and industrial centers (2). Confined within an area roughly the size of modern day Belarus and the Ukraine, over 90% of Russia's five million Jews were forced to live within the area known as the "Pale of Settlement" (3). It is of little surprise then that with the Bolshevik's rise to power in 1917, many Jews within Russia looked upon the change with optimism and hopefulness. Prominent Jews in the first Council of Commissars, men such as Trotsky, Zinoviev and Kamenev were seen as inspirational leaders for the Jewish population (4). The Bolsheviks talked of a commitment to the rights of national minorities, and cultural diversity was seen as accepted as long as it was socialist in content (5). The sense of hope that surrounded the Bolshevik government during 1917 within the Jewish population, quickly passed with the impending civil war, which would last until 1921. Few Russian Jews were not to be affected by the war, massive pogroms in the Ukraine alone left over 200,000 dead (6). By 1921 the overwhelming poverty of the Jewish population forced the Soviet government to take action. The "normalization" of the Jewish population was proposed in a response to further integrate Jews into the socialist economy and society. Jews involved in commerce and retail had been economically ruined by the civil war, and it was believed that agricultural resettlement was the best option available to reintegrate Jews into Soviet society (7). From 1924 on, the pace accelerated quickly to resettle the Jews through agriculture. Fruition was to be seen on March 28th/1928 when the area of Birobidzhan in the eastern USSR, was declared to be the Jewish Autonomous District (8).


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