The Jewish Soviet Republic

Commentary by Dr. Gerhard Falk




   The first Jewish nation to be established after the Romans destroyed ancient Judea in 135 was Birobidzhan. That must seem strange to all of us who have believed all these years that it was the restoration of Israel in 1948 which constituted the first and only Jewish commonwealth after 1813 years of exile.

    Twenty years before the liberation of Israel, the Central Executive Committee of the Supreme Soviet declared Birobidzhan a new Jewish country. The land was set aside for Jewish colonization with a view of having Yiddish be the official language alongside Russian.

     The idea of creating a Jewish state within the Soviet Union came about in the 1920’s when Vladimir Ulanov, also known as Lenin, proposed that Russian Jews be given a land in which they could join the community of nations, with their own language and own institutions, similar to the Ukraine or Belarus  or Kazakhstan or any of the other so-called Soviet Republics. All of these “republics” spoke their ethnic language, except the Jews. At first the Central Executive Committee tried to settle all 3 million Soviet Jews in the Ukraine or on the Crimean Peninsula. That, however, failed because the natives did not want Jews to move into their territory.

    Therefore Birobidzhan was chosen. That territory is located in Siberia and borders on the northern edge of China. It is near Vladivostok, the most remote Russian city, located on the Sea of Japan, at  the Pacific.  

      Seeking the autonomy the Soviet government promised, about 43 thousand Jews moved there between 1928 and 1938. Nevertheless only about 19,000 Jews stayed there. The others left soon because the government did not provide the housing and agricultural machinery promised. The harsh winters and extreme summers also led to a diminution of the Jewish population.

    The Soviet government had envisioned this “Jewish autonomous region” as a buffer against China, a competitor with Zionism and an attempt to hoodwink the West into believing that the Soviets, unlike the Czars, were kind to Jews.

    By the mid 1930’s Bidobidzhan had a Yiddish theater, Yiddish press, and a Yiddish school system.  All street signs were in Yiddish and Yiddish became the official language of Birobidzhan. Hebrew was prohibited because it was viewed as a religious language in a country which prohibited all religions.

     When Joseph Djugashvili, also known as Stalin, purged his enemies or presumed enemies in 1936, the entire region was declared “out of bounds”, as thousands were arrested and murdered on the orders of the dictator. This included many Jews from Birobidzhan.

     After the end of the Second World War, Jewish migration to Birobdzhan increased, so that by 1948 the total Jewish population reached 30,000. These were almost all survivors of the Holocaust, who wanted to live in an all Jewish area at any cost. The belief was that a Yiddish Soviet Socialist Republic could yet become reality. Some American Jews even moved there, as did non-Russian European Jews.

     All this came to an end when Stalin decided that all Jews were subversives. Jews in Birobidzhan were sent to horrible prison camps in Siberia and elsewhere. Many were murdered. The Stalinist persecutions died with him in 1953 but the idea of a Jewish nation inside the Soviet Republics was finished.

      Furthermore, Israel became independent in 1948, so that 1.5 million Russian Jews could move there. Unlike the Soviet haters and their “liberal” allies in the U.S., our president, George W. Bush, supports Israel and the rights of Jews in this country and elsewhere. Judging by the public opinion polls recently announced, 68% of Republicans support the right of Israel to live in peace. Only 50% of Democrats believe that Israel should exist. The other 50% support Arab terrorism.

      Therefore, those who want Israel to survive will vote for the party which agrees with that position.

Shalom u’vracha.

Dr. Gerhard Falk is the author of numerous publications, including The Restoration of Israel (2006).

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