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JEWS

in the

SOVIET UNION
Citizens and Builders
by PA UL NOVICK and J. M. BUDISH

New Century Publishers New York

A Note About th e Au th o r
Paul Novick is editor of the Morning Freiheit,
progressive Jewish daily, and one of its founders
(1922). He is the author of a number of pamphlets
on Zionism and other Jewish problems. and of the
following books: Palestine, the Arabs, the Jews
(1932 ); The Socialist Party (1934) and Europe-:
Between War and Peace (1948). Mr. Novick
visited Europe including the Soviet Union in 1929,
1932, 1936, and 1946, also Palestine in 1932, and
Birobidjan in 1936. For many years associate editor
of the Morning Freiheit, he became its editor-inchief after the death of M. J. Olgin in 1939.
He is a member of the . National Executive Board
of the Jewish Peoples Fraternal Order. the National Executive Board of the Committee of American Jewish Writers, Artists and Scientists, and the
National Executive Board of the Ykuf, of Ambijan,
of Morning Freiheit Association .

THE NEW .JEl" IN THE SOVIET UN ION


By PAUL NOVICK
H E Soviet Unio n is th e onl y cou lIlr)' in Europe wher e,
in sp ite of all th e e tlons of Hitler to exter m inate th e
J ew ish p eopl e, m il lions of Jews h ave survived.
T h is is a p rim ar y fact in relation to the dev elopment of thc
J ewish peo p le in th e U.S.S.R . since th e birth of Soviet power
i n 1917. The su rv ival of m ill ion s' of J ews in th e U.S.S.R. is a
most imp ort ant feature of th e life of world J ewr y in th e
p resclll p er iod . This surv iva l thr ows in to relief th e relati on
0 1 the Soviet gov ernment tow ard the J ews as well as all
m iuoritv nationalities.
It is amazing and distressing to realiz e that th ere ar e j ewish lead ers who try to avoid mention of the fact that in th e
Soviet Un ion millions of J ews were saved . Som e even ar e
annoyed. Certain "sta tisticians," who ar e forc ed to tou ch
upon th e number of J ews in th e U.S.S.R. , invariably redu ce
it by h alf a million to a mi llion short of the rea l figur e.
The trav eler in pres ent -da y Europe, who so often comes
up on th e heartrending sight of rem nan ts of J ewri es in var ious lands, particularly in Poland, is exh ilara ted by th e siglu
of big J ewi sh communities in Mo scow, Leningrad, and th e
Ukraine . Thi s is frightfull y importan t lor th e devel opm ent
of th e J ewish people as a whol e. No hi storian worth y of th e
nam e will fail to record this fa ct in em p h atic chapters.
The fact (hat the proportion of living Jews is so mu ch
h ighe r in th e Soviet Union th an in other countries of Europe
is the resu lt of the policy of true eq u ali ty and fri end shi p
amo ng races and nationalities.

EVALUATION OF JEWISH DEVELOPMENT


I N THE U.S.S.R.
H owever. the war pla yed h avo c with th e r econstructi on of
(he eco no m ic and cultural lif e o f th e J ewish people in th e
:i

U.S.S.R. At pres ent, an y evaluation of this de velopment


must of necessity stop at th e year 1939. Nevertheless, the
accomp lish ment s betw een 1917 and 1939 ar e worth record - .
ing not mer ely for hi storical reasons . They show the meth od
- how Jewish life was reconstructed.
Wh at wa s th e social com p ositio n and gen eral sit u a tion of
J ews in Ru ssia ?
The last cens us in tsari st Ru ssia was taken in 1897 and
it serves as a gu ide to th e socia l com p osit io n of J ews in old
Ru ssia. T here is no reaso n to assume any ma rked ch ang es
in that composition wh en World W ar I broke out. If an ything, the situation became wor se, with pogroms in 1903, 1905
and other years prior to \\'orld \V ar 1, and during th at war,
becom ing ever bloodier.
Accord ing to th e 1897 census , "gain fu lly employed" J ews
were distributed as fol lows."
Per Cent
Agri culture
24
Sma ll and b ig in d ustry
36,3
Com me rce
3 1.0
Tran sport
3.0
H ou se an d ot her servants
11.5
Profession al , socia l and government servic e
47
{.6
U npro ductive and ind efinit e prof essions
Ot hers
35
T he fu ll mean ing of th ese figures emerges when we classify
them accor d ing to socia l stra ta and re la tio n to eco nomic product io n. Accor d ing to such classification the social composition of .Jews in old R ussia was as follows:
PerCen t
Workers in big industry
4.0
11.0
\ \' ork ers in small shop s
Artisans
18,4
1 T hese and ot he r figur es in this chapter, as well as quota tions , un less
otherwise in dicated , are ta ken from th e hook of th e well -known Soviet
J ewi sh srarisrician . L. Singer , The R enovated People , Mosco w. 1911.

Peasants
Clerks, office workers
Traders, emp loye rs, i nd efin ite . .
Over 54 per cent ol the Jew s in old Ru ssia wer e e ng aged
in comme rce or belon ged to gen erally unproductive g rou ps.
" \Ve sh all presentl y see how the Jews classified as "a rt isa ns"
a nd " traders" mad e th eir living. Most striking is th e sma ll
number of workers employed in big industry. Upon exa min ing ea ch of th e cat egories sep ara tel y we shall realiz e the
u tt er h op el essn ess of the J ews in o ld Russia from the econo m ic stand po in t.

OPPRE SSIO N I N THE " PALE"


It was th e ge ne ral political situ a tio n prevailing in tsari st
Ru ssia tha t h ad such a disastrous effect on Jewish lif e. On e
res u lt of th e ge ne ra l p ersecution of Jews in old Rus sia was
the creation of th e so-call ed Pale of Settl em ent , composed of
' 5 g u ber nias, or sta tes, mo stl y a t a low level of industri al
development, including that part of Poland under Rus sian
ru le . For th e most part J ews wer e not p ermitted to live ou tside th is " Pa le." Into the Pal e 94 p er cen t of the six million
Ru ssian J ews were crowded, mostly in the cities. Aft er a seri es
of law s, ed icts, regulations and ukases, Jews were banish ed
from Mo scow and other citi es o u tside th e Pale, restri cted ,
sub jec ted to special " attention." The oppressions culminat ed
in th e regulations of 1882 (whe n a wave of pogroms took
pla ce) prohibiting Jews from obtaining land and gen erally
mov ing into villages. J ews who had been living in vill ages
for ge nera tions were banished to the cities (as portrayed , "fo r
inst an ce, by Sholom Aleichem in T evye the Dai ryman ). Hence
the number of peasants as well as workers in big industry
was insi gnificant among Russian Jew s, who wer e for ced to
beco me a city people, a people mostly of trader s and artisans ,
su b ject to innumerable restrictions and unpreced en ted persecu tio n.

Wh at kind of trad ers and art isan s? It will suffice to qu ote


the following from a report of a commission of the tsar ist
govern me n t h ead ed by Count Pall en :

I
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" T he J ews who wer e pushed out of other occu pat ions
h ave unwillingly begun to eng age in trading. Co m peti tion among th e trading Jews was sharpen ed as a resul t
of th e regu la tions of May 3, 1882, after which man y J ews
from oth er pla ces mov ed into th e cities and town s and
compe tition among them becam e more int ens e. Good s
which wer e form erl y sold in on e or two stor es began
selling in five, ten and even 20 stores and petty shops.
All this brought about bitter competition amo ng th e
J ews, who began to press upon each other."

The sam e is tru e of th e artisans-tailors, shoe makers and


ot he rs. Their "workshops" were situated in crowd ed primitive dw ellings which oft en consisted of on e room , used as
bedroom and living-room . In certain parts of the Pale of
Settlement th e artisans comprised as high as '60 per cent of
the total J ewish population. Their earnings wer e miserably
low. An investigation by th e J ewi sh Colonization Societ y in
1888-9 among Jewish tailors in Poland show ed th at of tho se
inv estigated 80 per cen t earn ed less than 25 rubles a month
with some earning as little as 8-9 rubles a month. The
ye ar ly ear n ings o f th e majo rit y of tailors and carp enters
in two gub ernias of th e Ukraine (Volin and Podol) were
betw een 120 and 2 0 0 rubles. (A. Kirzhnitz in Jews in the
U.S.S.R., p. 186.)
Competition was murderous . Un employment was chronic.
The -sk ill of man y of the ar tisans was low . No more th an
4.000 J ewish you ths att ended trade schools in o ld Ru ssia
(of a J ewish population of six million).
No wonder paup erization was widespread . In som e lo cal it ies
of th e Pale as many as 30 per cent of the Jewish popul at ion
were in need of charity. Bobrowski, in his work on J ews in
the gu be rn ia of Grodno, stated : "Quite oft en you find as
many as 12 families in 3-4 rooms . . . . The meal of ent ire

families consists of on e pound of br ead , a herring and a few


on io ns." (Q uoted in th e Mo scow Ein ikeit , Feb. I, 1 9~7 ' )

"A NATION OF PAUPERS"


The classi c Yiddish writers, Mend ele Mochel' Slorim, J. L.
Peretz, Shal om Al cichern, portrayed th e mis er abl e existe nce
of the J ewish pe op le in old Ru ssia. On e of Sh a lom Al eicheru's
cha rac ters, Men achern Mendl, typifi ed the wid espr ead IlIftmentch, lit er all y " living on air. " A. F. Sub otin, in hi s book
on the Pal e of Settl ement (St. Petersburg, 1888) tells a weird
story of th e city of Min sk, and giv es a gla r ing exa m p le 01
J e,\"ish parnoses (me ans of liv elih ood ). This tsarist muni cipal ity sold perm its to J ews, en ti tling th em to wander abo ut
the mark et pla ce during fairs , sack in hand or on sh ou lde r.
to pick u p h ay dropped from peasant s' wagons ....
T he ma jor ity of J ews form ed a " na tion of paupers," subjected to tsarist p ersecuti on s too numerous to recoun t h er e.
All J ews, even the handful of well-to -do, were, with very few
exce p tions, persecuted and oppressed. There was a numerlls
claus us for J ewish student s in universities , hi gh sch ools, tr ad e
schoo ls (insid e the Pal e, J ews wer e admitted on a rat io of
10 pe r cent of all stude n ts; outside th e pal e in St. Pet er sburg
:J per cen t, and in Mo scow 3 per cen t). Ther e wer e op pressive res tr ictio ns on book s and n ewsp ap ers in Yiddish, th e
theater, schoo ls. Reli giou s institutions wer e not exem p t from
persec u tion. L ife it self was not safe. From tim e to tim e the
tsar ist gove rn me nt or gani zed mass looting accompanied by
h lood shed- p ogro ms. In O ctob er 1905 pogroms took pl ace in
0 0 0 cities and towns . N earl y 1 .000 J ews were kill ed and close
to 2.000 wounded . Ov er 200 ,000 Jews su ffered. Ther e was
the horrible pogrom in Ki shin ev, . Bessarabia, in 19 3 . And
the re wa s the ritual murder fr ame -up against the Kiev J ew,
Mend el Beilis s, in 1912 . Jews liv ed under constant terror.
" No o the r nati onalit y in Ru ssia, " Lenin wrot e in 1914.
"is as oppressed and persecut ee! as ar e th e J ews. An ti9

Semitism is taking ever deeper roots among the well-t o-do


elements. Jewish workers are groaning under a double
yoke, as workers and as Jews. The persecutions again st
J ews have in r ecent years acquired enormous scope. It is
enough to mention the anti-Jewish pogroms and th e
Beiliss trial. Under such circumstances the organized
Marxists must giv e proper attention to the Jewish qu e<tion.
" It is self-evident that the Jewish question can be seriously solved together with the basic questions now on the
agenda in Russia. The working class must raise its voice,
and particularly loud must be the voice of the Russian
workers in protest against national oppression." (Lenin,
Co llecte d TfTorks, Vol. 17, p. 291 , Russian edition.)

THE D AWN OF A NEW ERA


T he oppressive regime of old Russia was overthrown by
he org an ized workers in the triumph of the Revolution of
Xovcmb er 7. And only eight days later, on November 15,
(he week-old Soviet government issued over the signatures of
Lenin and Stalin, a historic declaration, written by Stalin,
Th e Decla ration of the Rights of Nationalities, heralding th e
rebir th of peoples and nationalities in a country whi ch hererof ore had born e th e nam e of " pr ison of nationalities."
The Declaration proclaimed: (1) equality for all nati onal ities; (2) the right of self-determination; (3) the abolition of
all national and religious privileges and restrictions; (4) free
development of all national minorities and ethnic groups. As
an immediate result of the revolution, the rebirth of th e
pa u per ized, pers ecuted Jewish people began.
i

ERAD ICATI ON OF ANTI-SEMITISM I N U.S.S.R.


Things began to happen under the Soviets. The stru ggle
to eradicate anti-S emitism, the struggle against pogroms were
ser ious matt ers. Anti-Semitism was deeply rooted among th e
re act iona ry strata of th e Russian people . The number of
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tsarist henchmen and their collaborators ran into the mil lions. In addition, Denikin, Kolchak, Yudenitch, Petlura and
other "white" generals and counterrevolutionaries and interventionists used anti-Semitism as their instrument. A horrible
wave of pogroms took place. Over 200,000 Jews were slaughtered, mostly in the Ukraine. During the struggle against these
forces of intervention and counterrevolution much effort was
exert ed by the young Soviet state against the pogromists, the
an ti-Sem ites.
On July 27, 1919 a special decree against anti-Semitism
was issued by the Soviet government. Lenin delivered his
historic phonograph record speech against anti-Semitism:
"Shame on cursed tsarism,' Lenin shouted into the recor d ing machine, "which tortured and persecuted the Jews !
Shame on those who spread animosity to Jews, who spread
ha tred against other nations."
But these measures against anti-Semitism and pogroms, no
ma tte r how much effort they required, were merely the first
ste ps. There was the hard, long-range job of reconstructing
th e social composition of the Jewish people, as well as of
de veloping Jewish culture. This job was started by the People's
Com m issar ia t for Nationalities and its subsidiaries headed by
Sta lin. This Commissariat among others devoted its efforts to
the development of Jewish culture-literature, the theater, the
press, ch ildren's homes and schools.
But "with schools alone you will not go far," Stalin said ,
an d it will be well to remember this fundamental aspect of
the solution of the national and Jewish question in the
Soviet Union.

"ACTUAL INEQUALITY IS BASIS OF ALL


FRICTION"
In his report, "National Factors in Party and State Developme nt," delivered April 23, 1923 at the r sth Congress of the
R ussian Communist Party, Stalin said :
"T he trouble is that some nationalities have no proleII

tar ians of their own, hav e n ever pass ed thr ough th e sta ge
of industrial development, or even entered that stage , are
frightfull y backward culturally and are entirel y un abl e to
ta ke advant age of the rights granted th em by th e revolution . T h is, com rad es, is a question of gre ater importance
th an the question of sch ools. Some of our comrades h er e
th in k that the knot can be unravelled b y stres sing th e
qu esti on of sch ools and language. That is not so, comra des. Schools will not get you ver y far . The schools are
de velo p ing, so ar e the languages; but actu al inequali ty
is th e basis of all discord and friction." (Joseph Stalin,
Ma rxi sm an d th e National and Colon ial Qu estion , N . Y.,
p. 156.)
This gi ves an idea how the Soviet government approach ed
the pr obl em of reconstruction of the Jewish people. N ati on al
cu lture? O f course. Prior to World W ar I , Stalin, in his cla ssic,
Ma rxi sm and the National Question, wrote:
" L imi tat ion of freedom of movement, disfranchisem en t,
sup pressio n of language, restriction of schools, and oth er
form s of repression affect the workers no less, if riot mor e,
th an th e b ourgeoisie. Such a state of affairs can only sen e
to r et ard th e fr ee development of th e int ell ectual for ces
o f th e proletariat of subject nations. There can be n o
poss ibility of a full development of the intellectu al facul t ies of the Tartar or Jewish work er if he is not allow ed
to use his n ative language at meetings and lectures, and
if hi s schools are closed down" (p. 17).

BUILDING FOUNDATIONS OF CULTU RE


. As a result of th e views outlined abov e, th e work of d evelo ping the culture of all nationalities within the Sovi et Unio n
went ah ead at full speed. But this was mer ely the beginning of
the work of national reconstruction. There was th e hard task
of tr ansforming the luftment chn into productive citizens, of
putting the J ewish peopl e on a sou nd econ omic foundatio n,
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o l d ev eloping a J ew ish prole tariat and peasantry with out


wn ich no lull -blooded national existen ce is possible.
Alread y carIy in 1919 th e Central Couuuit tce of th e Russian
Communist Part y co nside r ed the qu esi ion 01 utiliz in g u nse tt led lands lor J cwish co lo n iza tio n. As a resul t, in JUl y 0 1
that ycar m ea sures wer e tak en b y the So vie t gO\-ernlll CnL lor
su ch colonization in the Crimea and th e Ukrain e. This wo rk
eve n t ua lly cu lm in a ted in th e years 1927-1930 in the cstablishmcnt of the following Jewish nationa 1 districts : Kah nindod, i\' cw -Zlatopol and Stalindorf in th e Ukraine, a n d one
in th e Crimea . By th at time Birobidjan wa s alr ead y d csign a ted
as a sp ecial d istri ct for J ewish se t tlc rue n t (M a rch ~ 8 . 1928).
In th e Jewish national distri cts, wh er e Yiddish wa s a n official
language and the school systcm and cu l tu r al ins titut ion s
mainly Jewish , a certain limited Iorm of national self-d et ermination was realized.
Simultaneously, another process LOok place, that of industrialization. Pcu y artisans and form er traders (wh o preferr ed
not LO seu lc on the land) ,~erc organized into produ cin g co operatives. Trade schools wer e establish ed for J ewish yo u th.
\Vith the b eginning of the first Five-Y ear Plan in 19~8 a con sta nt str eam of Jews flowed into shops, factories and mines.
T en s of thousands of J ews entered gO\'ernment se rv ice. inst itu tions of higher edu cation, laboratories, etc. The resul ts o f th is
d evelopment appeared in the censuses of 1926 and 1939.
, According to the census of 1926 there were in th e th en
territory of the Soviet Union 2,672 ,000 J ews, an increas e of
n early 100,000 compared with the number of J ew s on th e
sa me territory in 1897 (th a t is, minus Poland, W est ern
U kr a ine, Western Belorussia, Bessarabia, Lithuani a , Latvi a
and Estonia, which were all part of Russia in 1897). In vi ew
of th e em ig ra tio n of 600 ,000 Jews from the same territory
sin ce 1897 and th e murder of nearly 200 .000 in tsari st
po groms, th e sm a ll increase is not surprising.
The cens us o f January 1939 showed a Jewish popul ati on
o n th e sa me territory of 3.020,000, a growth of 348 ,000 . or If)
per cent in 12 years . The social composition revealed b y that
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censu s shows a comp le te transformation of th e eco nomic str uctu re of th e J ewish peopl e.

A TRA NSFORMED PEOPLE


The census of 1926 had already showed that 11..1 per cent
of the gainfully emp loyed J ews were engaged in large scale
industry; in small industry, 3.7 per cent; as clerks, 24.7 per
cent; as co-operative and independent artisans, 22.6 per cent :
as peasants, 8.3 per cent; while the tnumber of traders dropped
to 8.8 per cent. Ten per cent were classified as "unemployed ."
Compared with the figur es of 1897 the trend of redistribution
is striking, but the census of 1926 could record mer ely th e
beginnings of recon struction. The national agricultural di stricts were yet to be established. The first Five -Year Plan wa s
still in the offing.
Quite a differ ent picture appears from the census of 1939 ,
th e secon d year of the third Five -Year Plan. The Jewish
peopl e, like all Soviet peopl es. alr ead y con sisted m ainly of
workers , collective farm ers and the int ellig entsia. classified
as follow s:
Per Cent
'Vorkers and clerk s
71. 2
Co llectiv e farm ers
:').8
Artis ans in co-ope rat ive enter pr ises
16. 1
Artisans running' small ind ep end ent en te r4.0
prises
Others
2.9
These figur es truly reflected a historic turn in th e develop ment of the Jewish peopl e in th e U .S.S.R. , whi ch was part of a
general historic development . th e industrialization of th e
cou ntrv. This is one reason for th e decli ne in th e relative num ber of ~oll ec t i ve farm er s since the census of 1926 , though it was
not the on ly reason . Another factor in th e reduction of the
proportion of th e rural J ewish population was the lack of
mor e free land for colon iza tion in th e Ukraine and Crim ea.
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The approximately 250,000 Jews 011 land in 1!J26 were scattered over five districts, th ree in the Ukraine and two in the
Crimea. The possibilities lor colonization in the Ukraine and
the Crimea were almost exhausted. In addition there were,
prior to the turn to industrialization, a number of J ews who
engaged in "near-town" farm ing, tilling the soil on the outskirts of the towns. The wave of industrialization swept th is
element off the soil in which it was not rooted, and into the
factories. These developments mainly accounted for the reduction of the Jewish farming population by over two per cent
between the two census.
In spite of this shortcoming, i.e., the comparatively small
proportion of farmers, the over-all picture is that of a reborn
people. Gone are the "traders" of old who, together with other
unproductive elements, comprised over 50 per cent of the
Jewish population! Gone are the "artisans" of old! Gone are
the parnoses of the paupers of Minsk! Gone are the paupers,
the luitmentchn. Menachern Mendl became a character of a
bygone period, to be seen only in Sholom Aleichern's works
and on the stage.

JEWISH WORKERS I N LARGE SCALE


I ND USTRY
As shown by the above-table, artisans still comprised a large
p ercentage of the Jewish population, over 20 per cent . But
b y 1939 this artisan element was quite different from that of
th e period covered by the census of 1926. The overwhelming
majority of these artisans were employed in industrial cooperatives. Their standards of living and importance in th e
general economy of the country differed considerably from
that of 1926, not to speak of pre-revolutionary days .
One may be justified in complaining that while the figure
of 71.2 per cent for "workers and clerks" may be too general,
other figures compiled in 1936 classifying "workers and clerks"
in industry according to their special functions shed more
light on this category of th e 1939 census. In that year (1936)
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lilt disui oution of Jewish work ers and


industry ran as fo llows:

others engaged in

U'kra i n e

Wor kers
Apprentices
Engineers, technicians
Clerks
Service personne l

PerCent
6,p
35

Belorussia
PerCellt

i3 8

13i

33
y.8

It~

29

I t can therefore be safe ly stated that the majority of thos e


e m p loyed in industry as per the census of 1939 were workers.
Whilc the cens us of 1926 shows a J ewish pro letariat of
m erely u yo.ooo, this category ha d grown in the 1939 census to
ioo ,ooo ! The traders of 1926 (8.8 per cent) , the unemployed
( 10 per cen t), many of the clerks (24.i per cent), the people 01
, indefinite professions, part of th e art isans and mainly th e
yo u th were drawn into productive labor. The problem pos ed
by Stalin in 1923, when he pointed out that some nationali tie s "have no proletarians of their own," was solved .
What hind of pro letariat? The statistics for 1936 also classiIied th e J ewish workers according to ind ustries. This showed
tha t in th e Ukraine, metal wor kers, including workers in
m ach ine tool industrics , occupied first pl ace (28'3 per cent).
Needl e workers carn e sccond ( 16. 2 pt!r cent ). There wer e entire ly new itcms -Jewis h work ers engage d in mining (3.3 pCI'
ce n t), in che m ical industrics (2.8 pCI' cent) . Not only did th e
J ews of th e U .S.S.R . become a productiv e people, b ut this produ ctivit y it self was of a high cr quality. Th e proletariat of
form er years was not only small but also engaged primarily in
light industri es. in the needle trades and pctty industry.

GRO WTH OF JEWISH I NTELLIGENT SI A


The J cwish intelligentsia had grown tremendously. Prior
to th e revolution there were on th e territory of th e U.S .S.R. (as
co nst itu ted in 1939) 1 -;",00 wrircrs and artists, 4,!>00 per son s:
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cn g aged in medi cine and s.uuuu iou. 500 lawy er s. etc. Almost
a ll of them made their Jiving by serving th e pauperized
Jewish population. The picture for the period prior to
\\ 'odd \Var I I changed beyond recognition. as will be seen
from th e following statistics on the composition of th e Jewish
inl elligelltsia in 1936 :
En gin eers . a rc h itec ts and co ns tr uc to rs
T echni cal personnel
Agronom s
Other agro-rechnical personnel
Science workers (professors. teachers in higher
schools of learning)
i.oOU
Teach ers in elementary and high schools
'lti.ooo
C u ltu r a l and ed uc a t io n a l workers (journal
ists , librarians. dub directors)
3 .0 0 0
Art ' workers
li o OO
Doctors
Other m edical personnel
3 1 0 0 0
\\lith the 1Il1llll:ruS clausus a thing of the " past , with full
eq ua li ty not merely on paper but in actuality, the number of
J ew ish pupils in public and hi gh schools r eached th e figur e
of 425.000. In 1936 there wer e 62,000 J ewish students in all
hi gh er in stitutions of learning a nd 32,000 in th e technical
schoo ls a n d co lle ges.
J ewi sh cu lt u re flourish ed. During m y visit to th e U .S.S.R . in
that yea r ( 1936) I visited Jewish elementary schools and tech ni cum s in Od essa . Minsk. Berd irch ev and other cit ies. Scor es
of tho usa n ds of J ewish children were getting th eir ed uc a t io n
in J ewi sh sch oo ls. Ther e wer e ten Jewish sta te th eat er s in
1939. wi th [ " ' 0 dr amatic school s (o n e in Moscow and another
in Ki e\ )
The p u bl ica t io n of Yiddish books gr ew by leaps and bounds.
\\'h ile in 1913 onl y i 3 titles wer e published on th e territory
whi ch was p art of the U .S.S.R . prior to th e last war, 339 wer e
pu b l ished in 1938 in 1, ~151 .000 copies. In 1940, aft er west ern
Lk ra in e a nd Belorussi a wer e r eturned to th e U. S.S.R ., th e

vt

Emes Ver lag (the Tru th Pu bl ishing H ou se) in Moscow alone


issued a book every day ; there were also o ther important J ewish p ub lishing h ou ses in Kiev, Khark ov and Min sk.
Bot h eco no mica lly and culturally the transformation of the
Jewish people in the course of approximately 15 to 18 years
was phenomenal.

WAR , EVACUATION, RE.EVACUATION;


DESTRUCTION AND RE CONSTRUCTION
After \ '\Torl d War II broke out, the foundations of the
Jewish people in the U.S.S.R. were shattered. It is estimated
that b June 1941, when Hitler attacked, there were five
million Jews in the U.S.S.R ., the increase resulting from the
return of western Ukraine and Belorussia as well as Bessarabia, Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia to the Soviet Union in
1939-1940. With the exception of Mo scow and Leningrad,
where large masses of Jews reside, the overwhelming majority
of Soviet Jews lived in the territories which were in the course
of the war overrun by H itler. Nearlv two million of them
perished in the area wllich fell to th e Nazis in the first impact
of the attack, before the rapidly organized evacuation of the
J ewish people before the onrush of the Nazi war machine
could become full y effective. If there ar e nevertheless now
about three million Jews in the U.S.S.R. , including over one
million Jews in the Ukraine, hundreds of thousands in Belo russia , Bessarabia, tens of thousands in L ithu an ia, etc. , it is
a result of the superhuman effort on the part of th e Soviet
gO\'er nme n t in evacuating th e J ews from the regions about to
be occupi ed by th e Nazis to Uzb eki stan , Kazakh stan , Bashkiria,
th e Kuibishev region , western Siberia, and other 'regions of
safety.
It is worth rem embering th at almo st all Jews now living in
the U .S.S.R., about thre e million of them , were evacuated ,
including the J ews of Moscow and Leningrad, and were moved
hundreds and even thousands of mil es away from th e battl efront. The story of this eva cuation has yet 't o be told. It is a
18

story of pain and sacrifi ce, of shattered families, of mothers


and children "living" on trains for many weeks, watching
other trains speed westward toward th e front. It is a story of
heroism, of enormous sacrifice on the part of the Soviet govern me nt , which need ed th e trains to move armies, factories.
All measur es were taken to prev ent Jews from falling pr ey
to th e hordes of Hitler. Hundreds of thousands of Polish Jews ,
who flocked across the Soviet border when Hitler invaded
Pol and , wer e al so eva cuat ed int o th e int erior of the U.S.S.R.
Aft er th e war ended, 160,000 of th ese Polish Jew s wer e helped
to return to Poland, to look for th e remnants of their families;
many of the Jews who wanted to remain in the U.S.S.R. were
asked by the Committee of Polish Patriots to return hom e to
help build a new Pol and. The Ukraine and other ar eas tempora rily occupied by Hitler , whi ch pra cti call y had no J ews left
at the time of liberation, again became the hom e of teemin g
J ewi sh communities (Kiev and Od essa, over 100,000 ea ch ;
Kh ark ov, go,ooo; Dniepropetrovsk, 70,000, etc.).
The Soviet Jews, together with th e Ukrainians, Belorussians ,
and oth er Soviet peoples, are now working at the harel, painful task of rebuilding their cit ies, towns, collective farms and
mines devastated by the ene my. I saw the destruction on my
trips through th e Ukraine, Belorussia, Lithuania and central
part s of th e U.S.S.R. This destru ction , this sacrifi ce on th e
pa rt of th e U.S.S.R ., a sacrifi ce which saved the citi es and
tow ns of Ame r ica and oth er count r ies, must be rem embered .
It mu st be remembered wh en qu esti ons of reparations are
conside red, wh en th e subj ect of real , friendl y rel ations between the U .S.A. and th e U .S.S.R. is approached .

VEST IGES OF HITLER'S ANT I -SEM ITIC


PROP AGAND A
R econ stru ction meant-and mean s-more th an th e rebuilding of hou ses, factori es, min es, hospitals. etc. There had to
take pla ce spir itual reconstru ction as well.
The Nazi-fascist propaganda of the Hitlerites mad e an irn19

print her e and th er e. The pr opa ganda against Sociali sm,


against coll ectiviza tion, gained some recruits, particularly
among former factory owners, kulaks or their famili es. T he se
eleme n ts were re ceptive to anti-Semiti c propaganda. .
Ev en in thos e parts of th e Ukrain e and Belorussia wh ich
enjoyed Sovi et power for twent y years or mor e prior to the
N azi onslaught (it was onl y after 1~ 21 that Sov iet Ukraine
and Bel orussi a wer e rid o f th e co u n terrev olu ti onary a nd
white guardist bands) th er e wer e in all p robability re mna nts
of a nt i-Sem itic sentiments of th e da ys o f tsar ism , th e P ilsud sk y,
Pet lura, Denikin and oth er whit e guard ist and int erv entioni st
hordes. In western Ukraine and Belorussia , in Lithuania,
Latvia, Bessarabia, th e situ ation was wors e. Up un til 19391~40 these parts wer e rul ed by fascist and semi-fas cist ant iSemitic governments . The short period during whi ch th ese
territories wer e u nder Sovi et r ul e was bar elv sufficient for
erad ica ting anti-Semitism, just as there was no time to overcome , by edu cation and oth er means (such as colle ctivization)
capitalistic and ku lak influences left by the old regime. H ere ,
the Nazis came upon fertile ground.
Quite naturally, they made extensive use of anti-Semiti c
propaganda. In all occupied territories, as well as all along
th e front , and even in the Soviet hint er land close to th e front
there was a constant ban-age of such propaganda. The millions
of prisoners of war and civilians taken to G ermany for slave
labor were con tam in a ted by it. Obviously, the problem of
erad ica t ing the effects of Nazi propaganda-against Sovieti sm ,
against collectivization, against Sociali sm gen erally, as well as
ant i-Sem itic propaganda-posed itself as on e of the most
ser io us task s of postwar recons tru cti on.

THE TR UTH v s. SENS AT I ONA LISM


Sovi et lead ers publicl y recogniz ed it as such and were pr epared for this task even prior to th e defeat of Hitler.
Ant i-Scmit ism was a part of th e gen eral problem of postwa r
re-ed uca tion. This evil was, in Iart , one of th e first th e Sovi et

gOHTlllllcnt went after. l nuucdiatelv alter liberai iou a "igorous campaign against anti-Semitism bcgan.

Before I left for Europe, in 1946, there appeared in the


Jewish Daily Forward and other anti-Soviet publications
stories about pogroms in Kiev, Kharkov and other localities,
particularly in the Ukraine. It was clear from the outset that
no such things could have taken place under Soviet rule,
even immediately after liberation. Nevertheless, while I
was in Kiev, at the end of that year, I made inquiries about
these reports. I spoke to people in Moscow and to intimate
Friends arriving from Kharkov, There was, of course, no
truth in the stories about pogroms! No such things occurred!
The anti-Semites remembered too well that under Soviet rule
one is severely punished for such acts.
The vestiges of Hitlerism were expressed in "mild" forms.
Sometimes one would make an insulting remark, even though
the word "Jew" would rarely be mentioned. In the long lines
before food shops some one would pass a remark that it was
all "their" fault. Some individuals would try to create animosity toward Jews without openly admitting being antiSemitic. On rare occasions an anti-Semitic insult was hurled.
Most Jews hardly encountered any expression of anti-Semitism.
SOllie, however, came in contact with this evil.
That is how the situation presented itself immediately alter
liberation. Again, such anti-Semitic expressions as were encountered were part of the general legacy of Nazism.
In a rclat ivelv short t ime even thc "milder" fo rms of
anti-Semitism began to disappear, too. Soviet life returned
to its old self. The process was faster in the central parts of
the country. in the Russian R e p u b lic. or in those parts of the
Ukrainian and Belorussian R ep u bl ics which enjoyed Soviet
rule since 19:?O and 192 1, as I had the occasion to witness
when I was there at the end of 1946. It took longer in western
Ukraine and Belorussia. in Lithuania and Latvia . ;'\0 doubt
there are still hidden anti-Semites in these latter parts and it
will take time before they are smoked out or die a natural
death.
.

The bands that were roaming the woods along the SovietPolish frontier were out to kill Jews, as they were out to kill
representatives of the Soviet government. They were fought
and exterminated by the Soviets as enemies of the State. The
successful struggle against these bands was another blow at
anti-Semitism.

FRIENDSHIP-A BASIC TENET


Naturally, alongside sterner measures, or warnings, Soviet
education, in schools, universities, clubs and factories is taking effect.
One must constantly be aware of one of the basic tenets of
Soviet life, one of the foundations of Soviet power-friendship
among nationalities. Anti-Semitism is simply an anachronism
under Soviet rule. There might be hidden remnants here and
there, just as there might be former capitalists or kulaks
lying low, masking themselves. Such characters are either
unmasked when put to test, or are assimilated. But just as
anti-Sovietism is incomparable with Soviet life. so is antiSemitism.
One of the features of the struggle against anti-Semitism is
that this evil is rarely singled out. The struggle is against
racism generally, as the enemy of the State. It is constantly
pointed out that the Soviet Union consists of many nationalities and races and that this Union held together and was
victorious because it is built on friendship among nationalities and races. One hears and sees these slogans during parades,
in speeches of Soviet leaders and army commanders, in the
classroom, the club, the army barrack. And of course there
is article 123 of the Soviet constitution outlawing discriminations of, as well as privileges for, any nationality or race.
Last but not least, there is the unified effort of Jews and
non-Jews to rebuild, to make life easier.

REBUILDING JEWISH CULTURE


Soviet Jews, together with all Soviet citizens, are now en-

gaged in peaceful rcconstruct iou. are bending their efforts for


the success of the preselll, the fourth, Five Year Plan. Slowly
their economic and cultural life is being restored.
Conditions generally are by Jar not the same as they were in
1941. This naturally is equally true about facilities for Jewish
culture. For instance, while the publishing house of National
Minorities in the Ukraine before the war issued hundreds of
thousands of Jewish books (over 840,000 in 1936), there was
not one Jewish print shop after liberation. The building of
the Jewish State Theater in Kiev was destroyed, and the
theater company has its home now temporarily in the city of
Chernovits.
The Jewish State Theater of Belorussia, which recently
returned to Minsk from evacuation in Siberia, is minus a playhouse; it plays twice a week in the only theater left in the
Belorussian capital which belongs to the main Belorussian
state troup e. These examples indicate that it will take some
time to restore cultural life to what it was before the war as
the basis for its continued development. But Jewish life is
being built.
There is vibrant Jewish life in the U.S.S.R. Cultural activities of broad scope go on. I witnessed these activities myself
during my stay in the Soviet Union from the middle of September 1946 to the early part of January 1947. Upon my
return to America I stated that thes e activities are on the
upgrade, on the evidence of my own eyes and on what I knew
about the plans of the various cultural institutions, the Jewish
theaters, publishing houses, writers' groups, children's schools,
etc. I also knew about the plans for the intensified building
of Birobidjan. Subsequent developments substantiated these
predictions.
Finally, and most important, I became convinced that in
the Soviet Union, as everywhere, the interest of the Jewish
masses in Jewish affairs was heightened as a result of the war.
This estimate was proved accurate by developments this year,
both in the building of Jewish culture in the U.S.S.R. generally, and in Birobidjan.

CULTURAL ACTIVIT}'
Du r ing th e tw o m ouths 1 SPC Ilt in M osco w ill th c win ter of
194{i, 1 wi tnessed m or e J ewi sh cu ltural eve n ts tha n are availab le in Ne w York, wi th it s 0 \'e1: two m ill io n J ews, A n evc ui ng
of Yiddish lit er atur e took pl ace in t he most prom in en t co ncert
an d lecture h all in Mo scow , th at of the Pol yt cchn ical Mu seum .
Posters in Ru ssian th rough ou t th e city h er ald ed "A n Ev ening
of j ewish Literature." D avid Ber g elson, Itzik F effer , Aa ron
Ku shn irov , L eon Kwitko, Samuel Halkin a n d o the rs r ead fro m
the ir work s, while P rof. 1. D obrushin read a sho rt p ap er (i n
Yidd ish ) on the ro le of Yiddish liter ature in th e p rese n t p eri od .
T he re was n o mu sical progr am - onl y th e reading o f Yiddish
l ite ra turc. O ver 1,000 p eopl e ca me , including man y youn g
peo ple a n d stu de n ts.
The J ewi sh State T he a te r in M oscow , whe re a bo ut :!:,o, ooo
J ew s live, is o ne o f th e b est in the Sovie t U n io n. It is a in ost
importa nt J ew ish nation al in stitution for th e e nt ire ./c,, ish
peo p le. It ha s au a r tist ic a n d technical per sonnel of close to
4 0 0 people-which g ives a n idea o f the scope of this am azin g
cu lt u ra l o rga n iza t io n. Attach ed to it and und er it s di rection
is a d ram ati c sch o o l w ith a b o u t 60 stu de nts whi ch is tr ain ing
you ng pe op le for th e J ewi sh st age. The th eat er - cond u cts
co u rses in J ewish lit erature for the ge ne ra l public. 011 M on days (whe n there are no p erforman ces) th e th eat er orga nizes
eve n ings .o f J ewish lit erature, J ewish folk songs and so ngs o f
mod ern J ewi sh po et s and co m p osers .
The J ewi sh n ew sp ap er , E inik eit , whi ch appea rs in M osco w.
also arra nges " l ite ra ry M onda ys" wh en J ewi sh writ er s read
the ir n ewl y cre a te d work s, p articipated in by J ewish singers
of the Bol shoi Theat er (eq u ivale n t, say, to th e M etropolitan
Op era House of N ew York ), or the cantor of th e main syna gog ue (I att ended sev eral suc h eve n ings). The Union of J ewi sh
writer s (sec tio n of th e All -Sovi et 'Vriter s Union) a rra nges
regula r eve n ings wh en J ewish writers r ead th eir works.
It would tak e too mu ch sp ace to e n u me ra te th e J ewi sh
cultu r al a ffa irs I witn essed in M oscow. Ki ev (ca p ita l o f th e
:!,l

Ukraine), Minsk (capita l ol Bclorussiu), a nd Viln a (cap ita lo[


L ith uan ia). 1 a tte n de d a ga the r ing in th e j ewish ch ild re n's
schoo l in Viln a, a sta te sch ool, of cours e. During m y sta y in
the U.S.S.R . 1 also clip ped from Einik eit items rcgarding
J ewish cu lt ura l even ts in scores of ci ties in th e Ukr ain e, Bel oru ssia, L ithuan ia, as well as in th e Ru ssian Sovi et Fed erat ed
Socialist R ep u bl ic, ou tside of Moscow (L en ing rad, Kuibishev,
Gorki, l\I agni wgorsk, etc.). It is impossible to list th em here.
1 will, h ow ever, d well u pon on e affair which is of p articu lar
significance . It will g ive an id ea of how diff er ently J ew ish
culture is be ing d evelop ed in a Socialist country. It will al so
a nswer th e qu estion about assimilation in the U.S .S.R.
In October 1946 th e J ewish Anti-Fascist Committee arranged
a receptio n for the ed itor of the N ew York Morning Freih eit.
Pre-cut a t th is rece p tio n wer e, besides the abov e mention ed
and ot her J ewi sh writ ers, th e foll owing: David Saslavsky, o nc
of the editors of P ravda ; Dr. L ena Stern, ph ysicist of int ern ational fame; Dr. Boris Shimelevit ch , h ead of the lar gest ho sp ital in th e U .S.S.R ., the Moscow Botkin Hospital : Acad emi cia n Boris Zb arsky, hero of Socialist Labor (it was he wh o
preserved L en in 's bod y); Aaron Trainin, int ernationally promincnt jurid ical ex pe rt, member of th e Sovi et legal staff a t th e
Nuremberg tri al ; Gen eral A. W er shigora, hero of th e Sov ie t
Union, a R ussian ; Colonel L. Linkow-Batia, a Belorussian :
Maxim R ylsky, one of the for emo st Ukrainian po et s, depu ty
of the Supreme Sovie t, and oth er s, " 'h at was the p articular
significa nce of thi s gathering?

FALLAC IOUS THEOR Y OF ASSI M I LAT I ON


I) Jewish lea de rs. cu lt u ral work ers , ar e not isolated fro III
leaders a nd cu lt ura l work ers of oth er nationalities. It wa s for
this reaso n tha t non -Jews attend ed a fun ction of th e J ewis h
..\ n ti -Fascist Co m m ittee for th e ed itor of a J e\\'ish pro gr essive
n c\\"sp ap er in the U .S.A.
~) At th at ga thc r ing the Ukrainian pa ct aJ1(~ deput y. Rylsk v.
chided th e Moscow J ewish writ ers for negl ecting to send th ei r
25

writings to Kiev , where a Jewish Almanac was in prepar at ion.


1 thought how unlikel y it would be for some of th e best kno wn
Ameri can IXlets to chide Jewish writ ers in New York for
negl ecting to send th eir writings to a . J ewish publica tion in,
say, Chi cago . . . . I was able to sec, as I saw afte rwards in
Minsk , Kiev, Vilna, that the development of Jewi sh culture
is not merely the job of J ewish cultural lead ers; tha t such
J ewish lead ers ar e being encouraged by non -Jews in th e developm ent of Jewish cultural values .
3) The th eory of "assimilation through equ alit y" is fallacious. An article in Congress W eekly prior to my d ep art ur e
for Europe, was thus captioned: "Assim ilation Through
Equality." The writer drew an analogy between th e U.S.A.
a nd the U.S.S.R. and cam e to the conclusion th at in both
cou n tries this type of assimilation is taking place. I rem embe red that article well while I observed th e peopl e at th at
rece p tion and list ened to the spee ches . I saw and felt " 'hy
the writ er of that article was wron g.
That som e Soviet Jews get assimilated, as is the case wit h
m all)' American Jews , is quite tru e, though, I am not sure
that th e term " assimilation" can be applied th ere . 'Vho is an
assim ilated Jew in in th e U .S.S.R.? Is a general of th e Soviet
Ar my who do es not sp eak Yiddi sh assimilated ? M aybe. But
yon oft en meet such a gen eral in the Jewish th eat er, and as
a citizen of the Soviet Union, which pro vid es for the developme nt of th e culture of th e v ario us nationalities, he is int erested
in J ewish culture, as in the dev elopment of Birobidjan.
Assimilation, in the U.S.A. and other coun tri es, takes pl ace
because of in equality, becaus e some Jews ar e afraid to read
J ewish newspapers in public. A J ewish gen eral in the Ameri can army (if there is one in pea ce tim e) would cert ainly be
a[raid to read a J ewish newspaper; or to go to the Jewi sh
th eat er . That would be "improper " indeed! A J ewish genera l
in the U.S.S.R. (and ther e ar e man y of them ) is not afr aid ,
and can not be.
At that rec eption ther e was pr esent, as alr ead y me ntioned .
the head of th e larg est Soviet hospital . Dr . Sh irn el evi tch . Hi s
26

counterp art in New York would cert a in ly hesitate to come to


a reception for an ed itor of a Jewish newspaper. It would
mo st certa in ly have been " im pr ope r" for him to sing Yiddish
songs in p u blic. But Dr. Shim elevit ch was not afraid to sing
for everyone to hear! T eiere Malk e, gesu n t solstu sei n (dear
Malk e, keep in good health), and it was in "good ton e," too .
N ay, it was th e natural thin g! As to the non-J ewish participants, th ey not only consider Jewish culture one of the Sovi et
cu ltu res, th ey ar e interested in its deve lopment!

ASPECTS OF JEWISH LIFE IN THE U.S.S.R.


T h e position of the Jew in the U.S.S.R. is differ ent from
tha t in our own country. The term "assimilation" do es not
exac tly apply in the U.S.S.R . though some Sovi et J ews ar e
not parti cipating in J ewish activities and do not sp eak or read
Yiddi sh. Generally, however, there is an intensified na tion al
conscio usnes s among Soviet Jews. And inasmuch as Jewi sh
act ivit ies and Jewish culture are part of general Sovi et lif e;
inasm uch as Birobidjan is being built by the J ewi sh peopl e
wit h ge nero us assistance of the government and the non-Jews,
the in terest am ong the Jewish people for the se things is wid esprea d .
The fac ts are that, although there are now about th e same
nu mber of J ews in th e U.S.S.R. as th ere were at th e beginning
of 1939, J ewish books are having a greater circulation. Th e
fact is tha t J ewish theaters in Moscow , Minsk, T ch ernovitz,
Tashke nt, Ri ga , Od essa, etc., are well attended and ticke ts for
certa in performances ar e hard to get. The sam e is th e case in
Kiev, Kharkov, Vilna, Kuibishev and oth er citi es in whi ch
J ewish th eaters tour. Traveli ng dramatic groups are organized
by govern me n t cu lt ur al agen cies to visit small towns , as are
conce rts of J ewish folk songs, lit erar y even ings, etc. Shalom
Aleichem affairs in th e various cit ies and town s invariably
tur n int o mass demonstrations for Jewish cu lture participated
in by repr esentatives of the government and cultural and
party in stitutions.

J ewi sh lile in th e U.S.S.R. is co nce n trated in, and is gi n.:n


expre ssion by, the following institutions:
J) The Jewish Anti-Fascist Committee in Mo scow, whi ch
may be considered th e leadership of Jewish life in th e U.S.S.R.
The Committee keeps in touch with th e variou s J ewi sh
cu ltu ral a nd o the r activities throughout th e U.S.S.R . both
direc tly a nd throu gh it s newsp ap er Einik eit;
2) The J ew ish Stat e Theat er h ead ed by th e Moscow theater
an d dr amati c scho o l;
:l) The J e" 'ish \Vriters Associations, one in each of the six
re p u blics: Russia, Ukraine, Belorussia, Lithuania, Latvia an d
Moldavia . Jewish literary magazines ar e now publish ed in
Moscow , Kiev , Minsk, Vilna;
4) Publishin g houses h ead ed by th e Eme s Publishing H ou se
in Moscow ;
5) The Division for J ewi sh Culture at th e Ukrainian Acad emy of Sci en ce in Kiev and the J ewish Mus eum in Viln a, both
institutions of n ational scop e;
fi) Jewish children's schools which are to be found now in
Vilna, Kalmus, Tchernovitz, and other pla ces.
This doe s not exh a ust J ewish activities in th e various CO Ill mu n ities and coll ectiv e farm s. And th er e is Bir obidj an, whi ch
is a ch ap te r by its elf-an ex tre mely important cha p te r. ind eed .
Then , the re ar e J ewish re lig io us activities. I visit ed the
ma in synag og ue in Moscow during Yom Kippnr. It wa s over cro wde d . with people outsid e list ening to th e ca nt or through
loud sp eak ers. I spoke 10 the Chief Rabbi Solomon Shliffer,
a nd th e th en head of th e ;\[OS(O\\ k eliilla , Samuel Chobrutskv.
I visit ed synag og ues in Kiev , Viln a. Berdit ch ev, Zhytomir.
There are ab o u t :l0o organized reli gious com m u n ities in th e
U .S.S.R . with a budget running into scor es of millions of
ru b les.
Ther e arc no Jewish ch ar it ies- be ca use there a re no ch ar ities
in gen eral. The;'e ar e no separate J ewish hospitals becaus e all
ho sp itals are non-sectarian and non-religious. There ' are no
re lief activities. These forms of "J ewish activities" whi ch
do m ina te J e" 'ish lif e in th e U ,S.A. wer e render ed obsol et e
28

in th e U.S.S.R ., as they will be in every country wher e un employ me n t and discrimination are abolished .

JEW ISH STA T EH OOD


H owever , the development of Jewish culture, the changes
in th e social composition of the jewish people, and oth er
ach ieveme n ts, tr emendous as the v were , were still not sufficient
to place the Jcws on a basis of ft;1l equality with other nationa lities. The J ews still lacked-statehood.
On March 28, 1928, a territory in the Far East of the
U.S.S.R . in the general domain of Khabarovsk, lying between
the Amur Riv er to the south and the Khingan Mountains
to th e north, was designated by the Soviet governmellt for
J ewish settl em ent , and in 1934 it became the Jewish Auron o mo us Region with full self-government.
I sh all not go into details of Birobidjan's development."
I merel y wish to quote from an editorial in the Moscow
Einik eit of May 31, 1947, where the reasons for the pr escnt
stepp ed-up Birobidjan activities are given. The editorial points
o ut that J ews have equal opportunities in all part of th e
.S.S.R . Why , then , should they go to Birobidjanr The an swer . Ei ni ke it states, is as follows:
"The new settlers had their opportunities in Vinnitza ,
Bershad , Kiev, Bobruisk, but they , as Soviet patriots, fccI
tha t they are needed in Birobidjan . . . in the Jewish
Autonomous Region. Thereby the sense of national dig nit y plays a great role; they desire to actively participat e
in the upbuilding of the only j ewish Soviet State in th e
world. "
.4ct iv el y participate. For in a general way all Jews in th e
U.S.S.R . are interested in the Birobidjan development. Jewish
stat ehood there will enrich th eir life, too, will give them a
sens e of full equality with other nationalities. Jewish culture
1

T'h is topic is bein g trea ted hy

J.

,I. Budi sh .

29

throughout the U.S.S.R. will derive strength from Birobidjan,


where Yiddish is the language of the state and all its institutions. In the technicums and universities, in the laboratories,
as well as in the mines, factories and fields of Birobidjan new
terms for the Yiddish language are being coined. As stated
in a recent article A. Bachmutsky, Deputy to the Supreme
Soviet of the U.S.S.R from Birobidjan, the goal is that Yiddish
should in the immediate future be the language of institutions
of higher learning. Already, Yiddish is obligatory for nonJewish children as well.
A full-blooded Jewish nation is being developed in the
U.S.S.R., a nation with its own language and culture, its own
economy, participated in by Jewish workers in factories and
mines and Jewish farmers, a nation enjoying full equality
among the numerous peoples of the U.S.S.R., equal among
equals. A Jewish nation-truly reborn-or born.

A JE \\ . , H ST AT E RI SES 11'\ BIROBIDJAN

A No :e About the Au h or

.J.

M. Budish is Exe cutive Vice P resident 0 1 til e


Am erican Committee for Birobidjan (A m h ijan ),
an . orga n iza tio n de vot ed to tile settlement a nd
rehabilitation in Birobidjan of th e Jews who sur vived the war of annihilation waged aga ins t th em
by th e Nazis .
Mr. Budish is an eco nom ist and expert on So vie t
a ffa irs.

A JEWISH STATE'RISES IN BIROBIDJAN


By J. 1\'1. BUDISH

H E thirtiet h an niversarv of th e Un io n of Sovi et Sociali st


R epu bli c ; has special sig n ifica n ce for th e J ewish people.
IL is in that co u lll ry th at a n ew era dawned for th e J ew s
bringing them ho pe, enco urage m e n t and promise a t th e tim e
of their greates t d istress .T hc new d a y had its crowning
achievement in the es ta blis hment and dev elopment o r th e
Jewish Autonomous R eg io n . Birobidjan has become a n
anchor for our ho pes, ren ewing o u r faith in ma n's progress
and th e certainty t hat nation al an d ra cia l equ a lit y will co nquer all forms of n a t io n al and r acial di scrim inat ion a nd
oppression,
The designation in 1928 of th e territory of Birob idj a n for
Jewish settlement ha d a twofold purpose. I n t he European
part of the Soviet U n io n, the fund of un occupied, cu ltivable land that cou ld be m ad e avai lable for J ew s desiring
to take up 'far m ing was practica lly ex ha us ted. Biro bid ja n p rovided opportunities for ad d itio n a l su bs ta nt ial number s of
Jews to settle on la nd a nd eng age in ag r icu lt u re . for estr y.
fishing. etc. But. above a ll, Birobidjan pr esent ed th e J ew s o f
the Soviet Unio n wit h th e opportu nit y to d eve lop th eir o wn
statehood.
The late president of the U.S. S.R. , Mi cha el I. Ka lin in , explained these purposes in a n ad d ress to th e work er s o f the
i\f O.5COW industries o n M ay zR. 1934. Said Ka linin :

"Three m illion Soviet J ew s are th e onl y na tionality in


the U.S.S.R. that has no sta te hoo d . . . . In th e Jewish
Auto nomous R eg ion , Birobid jan, th ere will d evelop a
great socialist co nstruc tio n a nd h and in hand with it a

~~:;~I:~~(~?C~II:~\ J~~v~S!;'C~l~:~~"~~;e~I ' 1~)~~~';l~;:t P\~.~g~e tl;~~


33

hard, almost virgin nature of the region, through the


great creative effort that it demands. . . . Just like the
early American cowboys, the Birobidjan people will have
to conquer nature. Naturally, the development of a great
region is a time-consuming process . . . . I consider Birobid jan as a Jewish national state. The elevat ion of Birobidjan to the status of an Autonomous R egion [in 1934]
is a result of the will of the Jewish masses to strengthen
the work in Birobid j an and deve lop J ewish national
statehood. . . . As to the transformation of this region
into a Republic, it is merely a matter of time . . . . To
create a republic out of a region will be easier than it was
to transform a district [county] into a region. The elevation of the Region to the status of R ep u blic depends on
the efforts of the toiling Jews themselves."

A RICH AREA
Birobidjan is located in the Far Eastern territory of thc
Soviet Union, in the bend of the Amur R iver above Manchuria. Its area is fifteen thousand square miles. It extends
from the city of Ob luchie in the west almost up to the
city of Khabarovsk on the east-a distance of 200 mi les along
the Trans-Siberian Railroad. It is bounded on the south
by the Amur River which separates the region from Manch uria for a distance of over four hundred miles. Although
it lies about five thousand miles east of Moscow, it is no
further from the equator than Duluth, Minnesota, Paris, or
Montreal, Its climate is similar to that of the states of Maine
and Minnesota, but has much more sunshine. This climate
is quite favorable for such crops as spring wheat, early varieties of maize, po tatoes, oats, soy beans, rice, grapes and . all
vegetables. The ab undance of fine flowers make it one of the
leading honey-producing areas of the Soviet Union. Its climate and vegetation make the region adaptable for larg escale livestock-raising.
Heav y woods cover about 32 per cent of the en tire are a
and the timber resources are estimated at two and one-half
34

billion cubi c Ieet. This form s an exce llen t basis for the building and furniture industries and for the production of pulp
and paper. The forests teem with fur-bearing animals, including some valuable species such as sables, foxes, bears, racoons,
sq uirrels, d eer , etc.
The northern part of the Jewish Autonomous Region is
co vered by th e foothills of the Khingan Mountains abounding
in r ich dep osit s of useful minerals: coal, iron ore , molybdenum,
lead , magnesite, dolomite, gold and graphite. Recently, larg e
deposits of tin were discovered in Birobidjan. The region ha s
pr actically inexhaustible supplies of construction minerals,
suc h as lim estone, marble, clay and sand, and some 40,000
acre s of peat deposits.
T he region derives its name from the two rivers, Bira and
Bidj an , running from north to south and emptying into the
Am ur Riv er. The total length of all rivers and lakes of th e
[ewish Au tonomous Region is some 2,000 miles . The lak es
a nd rivers of Birobidjan abound in fish, supplying the basi s
for a th ri vin g fishing and canning industry. The hardy,
hea lthy clima te a nd rich natural resources of Birobidjan
have mad e possible for the new Jewish settlers, with the assista nce of the U. S.S.R . as a whole, to develop in a comparativel y sho rt tim e agriculture and industries which have made
th e reg ion not only self-sustaining but also enabled it to pro "id e sur pluses for the Red Army during World War II and
to offer a have n for thousands of Jewish war orphans, eva cu ees
an d ref ugee J ews in th e pr esent period of postwar rehabilitatio n.

JEWS RO OTE D I N THE LAND


Ther e ar e abou t 2,000,000 acres of tillable soil in the region .
Up to th e establishme nt of th e J ewish Autonomous R egion ,
the ar ea und er cultivation was so small that th e average
a n nual incr ease in the cultivated areas amounted to onlv a
few hundred acres. In th e past ten year s, howev er, mor e than
Ii .000 acres of for est land hav e been cleared and 84.000 acres
3:;

ol \'irgin land were br uu ght under cult iva tio n. During the
same period, 27,000 acres 01 marshland wer e dr ain ed. At pr esem, me rcgion has a LOLaI culuvatcd ar ea ol 12:kj50 acr es,
and it is increasing rapidly.
\lust sig n ifica n t is tne transformation of th e new J ewish
settlers, former artisans and trading p eople into hi ghl y skilled
farmers. One of the oldest JewIsh corlectivc farms in the
region, \\ 'a ldheim, was represented at th e .-\ 11 U n io n .-\ g ricuu .ual Exhibition in Mos cow in 19:18-19-11 a nd receiv ed
premiums for many of its excellent crops.
Cattle-breeding has also made record gailb . Almost two.hi rds of th e six ty-six collective farms in th e regi on have three
r a tt le-far m s each; onc-quarter have four each and te n p er ce n t
two each. There are :100 head of cattle in each kolkho z farm
and up to 600 cattle in ea ch of the five state farms 01 the
region. A beginning has also been made in hors e-raising and
the region has five horse-breed ing farms .
Another important branch of agriculture is apiculture:
there is hardly a kolkhoz in Birobidjan without a be ehive.
At prcsent there are 84 beehouscs in the colleci ive farms,
with 1O,0no hives. The prescnt piau provid es for . increasing
the number of bcehouses to 2,50 , with 25.000 hiv es which
would provide 5,000 tons of honey a year.
It is important LO emphasize that the new J ewish settlers
in their struggle LO conqucr this virgin land have succ eeded
not only in developing a large cultivated area a nd cs ta h lish ing
many successfu l collective farms, but have also developed
outstanding J cwish agricu lturists well -known throughout th e
cnt ire Far East.

INDUSTRI AL CENTER RISES


The progrcss of industrial development has paralleled that
of agricu lture. At the time Biro b id jan was designated for
Jewish settlement there were practically no industries th ere .
The only railroad station within the region at which th e
Trans -Siberia n express wo u ld stop fo r a m inute was Tikhon36

kaya (in En gli sh it mean s " ' q ~ ie t")-a little village of a ~ew
h undred peop le. Out of this village gr t:w the present capital
of the J ewish .\ ULOnomOUS R egion , Bi robidj an Cit y, with a
..
.
.
.
po p u lat ion of 5.,0.0 .
Biro bidj an City IS a thr iving, industr-ial, agr icultura l and
cultu ral cen ter of th e region. It ha s many fine buildings, paved
stree ts. aspha lt side walks, and in 1946 it also got a system
of water supp ly and sewage disposal.
The well-kno wn J ewish writ er, S. Gordon , in th e summer
of 1946 visi ted ll irobidj an aft er an abs en ce of ten years. H er e
is hi s ow n descr ip tion of hi s impression s:
" I was u nab le to r ecogni ze it ," says Mr. Gordon. " Biro bidjan is at present a term design ating exce lle n t hi ghw ays, asphalted sidewal ks, b ig bu ild ings, wat er su pp ly, sewerage,
squares and stree ts lin ed with tr ees a nd shr u bs." H e describ es
the various streets start ing from the gre a t bri ck railroad sta tio n, one of the mo st beautiful in th e en tire Far Ea st, on th e
October Street-"an exce p tionally beautiful street, with two
an d th r ee-sto ry brick buildings, and with tree-lined asphalt
side wa lks." T he n, pa ssing to Kalininsk and Waldheim Str eet s
where the major public in stitutions are concentrated, such as
the Birobi djan M achin e Tractor Station, the Mu sic school,
the R ad io Br oad castin g sta tion , the Medical school, the Normal school, th e Coll ege for Railroad Technicians, th e buildings of the R egion al and County go vern me n ts, th e Moving
Pictu re house at th e cen tr al sq u are, and start ing from th er e.
the Sholom Ale ichern Stree t, an d th e Lenin Str eet with its
fu rnitu re pla n t, wagon and wh eel plant, the four -stor y building of the newspap er , Bir obidjan Sht ern , the Jewish Stat e
thea ter, the large building of the Ten-Year school, th e hot el
with teleph on e serv ice in each room and a central heating
syste m. and th e side str eets with th eir factories including the
pl vwood Factory, th e til e plant, the ma chine shop, th e several
bri ck pla nts . the saw a nd lumber mill and th e pl ant for the
produ ct ion of doors, windo ws and o ther pr efabricated parts
fo r hou ses. th e lar ge clo th ing factory em ploying over 1.000
people . the dep artmen t sto res, th e "g astron orn" (gr ocery,

37

delicatessen store) , numerous other sto res, the Pa rk of Culture


and Rest with its stadium for sports, th e numerous small factories and co-operatives, en terprises produ cin g kit chenware,
food products, soft drinks, etc. All of this made th e impression upon Mr. Gordon, "of a big city. "
"The more I walk the streets of Birobidjan, the mor e I have
the feeling," continues Mr. Gordon, "that I am not in the Far
East but somewh ere in the South. The center of the city, wit h
its brightly-lit brick buildings and thickly-treed la nes is very
sim ila r to that of the center of Evpatoria, Feodo sia, and
J ankoy . You have the feeling that these streets will bring you
to th e seashore."
Among the older industrial establishment s in the city
are the large clothing factor y, furniture factor y, lea the r factory, sawmill , plywood plant, barrel plant, wagon plant, brick
work s, mechanized bakery, printing shop, electri c pow er station and several food and beverage producing plan ts. The
large machine and automobile repair shops which service
the eigh t machine tractor stations of the region are rapidly
becoming the initial units for a machine producing and repairing industry. 'W or ld War II retarded th e ra p id indu str ial development of Birobidjan. However, immediatel y after
the war , new industrial construction began again on a large
scale. On the Birofeld Highway, not far from the Ci ty of
Birobidjan, a new tile factory with a capacity of 350,000 tiles
a year has just started.
The building of a large textile mill was started in Mar ch.
t945, and the first completed section of this mill was put int o
operation in 1947. The production capacity of thi s comb ine
when completed with 6,7&0 spindles and 190 loom s, will be
five million meters of fabrics a year . It will al so prod uce large
quantities of felt and yarn for the knit-goods in dustry. A n ew
shoe factory began production in August, 1946. It s to tal initial
capacity will be 15;000 pairs a year. However, th e plant pro"ides for the extension of it s capacity to 100,000 pairs a year.
:\ large confectionary factor y is in operation now .

38

EXPANDING THE INDUSTRIAL AREA


Birobidjan City is not the only industria l center of the
Region. Near Londoko at Teploye O zer o (Wa r m Lak e) th e
construction of a large cement p la nt h as begun. This will bc
the biggest cement p lant in the ent ire Far East . In th e
town of Birokan th e first pulp and pap er plant of Bir obidj an
has ju st bee n put in operation.
T here are, in th e J ewi sh Au ton omous Region, 60 su bsta ntial industrial enterpr ises, not cou n t ing th e numerou s co-ope rat ive factor ies. It is a m att er of ge ner a l knowledge that th e
u-rm "Sta kha no vite work er " is used in the U.S.S.R. to desi gnate the most highly skillf u l a nd pr odu ctiv e industrial work er s
who make up only a few per cen t of th e total number. The
total n um ber of workers in th e various industrial ent erprises
of Birobidj an who h ave merited the titl e "Stakhanovite work ers " exceeds 2,000. The cit y of Obluchie, and the town s of
lzvcstkovaia, Teploye-Ozero, Londoko, Khingan, Kimk an ,
Biro ka n, In n, Sta li nsk and Bir o ar e also important industrial
renters of the J ewish Autonomou s Re gion. All towns ha ve
producers co-operatives in th e lumber and woodworking in.lustries, the production of tar , and fishing and canning, et c.
In addition, most of th e town s hav e also important la rge-scale
in d ustria l enterprises.
Obluchie has great ra ilroad shops: it is th e cen ter for th e
nearby Sutari Go ld Wor ks. has a school for locomotive en gineers, severa l h igh scho ols. a th eat er, several clubs, libraries,
hosp itals, a Par k of Culture and Rest , a sports stadium ,
motion picture theater, etc.
Londoko is the center of th e lim e industry. The lime plant
has a capacity of 80, 0 0 0 tons a year.
Kh ingan is the cente r of the re cently di scover ed ri ch tin
deposits: it is a bOOnHO\\'n pl ann ed for abo u t 3 0, 0 0 0 work er s
to be employed in th e tin min es and smelt ers .
Teploye-Ozero is th e cente r of the cement indu str y with
the bigges t cemen t pl ant in th e en tire Far East .
Biro ka n is the cen ter of th e m arble and pap er industri es.

39

The marbl e produ ced in Birokan is of green-re d colors, alllon g


th e best in th e U.S.S.R ., and was used for th e construction 01
th e beautiful ' Belorussian station of th e Mo scow subway. In
, 1947, there was put in to ope ra tio n in Birokan th e first pap er
mill of the Region.
N o t fa r fro m Birokan is th e fam ou s resort to wn of Kuldu r
with it s h ot spr ings, kn own for their curative effects for rh cu matism and dige stive troubles, with its mod ern hospital buildin gs. Th e town of Inn is the center of locomotive r epair shop s
a nd auxiliary industries, and a lso th e cent er for tr aining rail road tr an sport ati on work er s a nd technicians . The town 01
S ta linsk is di stin guished by its modern Agri cultural Coll ege
with it s Exp erim ental R esea rch Stations th at are su p plying
t he R egion with an increasing number of scientific agri cul
t uri sts,
The Ush um a n coal mines have started to produce coal during th e prese n t year. A pencil factor y from local 'gra ph ite and
ceda r wood is bein g built. During th e war th e Re gi on start ed
th e produ ction of parachutes and trailer s for military vehi cles.
These war industries are now being conv ert ed to peac etim e
produ ction.
The const r uc tion an d r ailroad industri es ar e making r apid
st r ides . The building of improved hi ghways , hou sin g facili ties.
schools and public buildings is one of the major ta sks of th e
J ewi sh Aut on omous Re gi on at pres ent. While Birobidjan h as
all th e necessary raw materials and can easily obtain th e
n eed ed labor force , since tens of thousands of n ew settl er s
arc a pp lying dail y for admission to Birobidjan, th e R egion
suffers from an acute shortage of construction ma chiner y.
Ther e ar e twenty railroad stations within th e geographi cal
limits of Birobidjan. There are large railroad depots and
shops at Oblu chie, Tnn and Birobidjan City . While th er e
were no J ewish railroad work ers among th e original J e\\'ish
settlers of Birobidjan a substantial number of hi ghl y skilled
lo como tiv e engineers. for em en and condu ctors . sta tio nmaster s. etc.. hav e been train ed in th e R egion . A number of new
railroad branch lines ar e under constru ction. con nec t ing such
40

JEWISH SELFGOVERNMENT
llirobidjan enjoys full self-goverument in all local affairs,
including regional agriculture and industrial planning and
development, police, militia, health and sanitation, local
taxation and the collection of federal taxes. The local authorities are elected by the local population, and the Region is
represented on the Council of Nationalities of the Supreme
Soviet of the U.S.S.R. Elections of Deputies to local Soviets
and regional Legislature of the Jewish Autonomous Region
were held in December, 1947. All citizens eighteen years of
age and over have a right to vote. About 2.000 candidates
had been nominated for the various regional and municipal
offices throughout the Region. A candidate must receive an
absolute majority of all the votes cast to be elected. In case
no candidate gets an absolute majority, a run-oil election is
held. Birobidjan is the only place in the world where all
ballots are printed in Yiddish. In individual cases, ballots
printed in Russian are provided for voters of other nationalities who do not know the Yiddish language.
The Municipal Council of Birobidjan City consists of 73
members. Out of these 73 Deputies elected in December, 1947,
45 are Jews and 28 are non-Jews, representing the various
other nationalities of this capital city. Among the members
of the Municipal Council there are I I with a university education and 25 with a secondary education. There are 29
women Deputies.
The budgetary income of the Jewish Autonomous Region
in I~H6 reached 43,555,000 rubles, and the expenditures
amounted to 41,452,000. The budgetary appropriations for
I~H7 are 52 ,266,000 rubles, an increase of 29 per cent as against
19-16. The savings of the residents of Birobidjan were, besides. large enough to enable them to purchase Soviet State
oj!

Bonds of the May, 19 '!7, Loan to the amount of 18,;$i;$,OOO


rubles.
'
By the establishment of the Jewish Autonomous Region,
the Soviet Union presented the Jews with the opportunity
of acquiring all the attributes of a nation, thus enabling them
La develop their own culture, national in form and Socialist
in content, on the basis of the historic continuity of the
cultural heritage of the Jewish people.
The sound economic, social and political foundations have
made possible for the Jewish Autonomous Region to develop
within the short time of only thirteen years into one of the
most important centers of Jewish culture in the world . " 'c
shall briefly describe its major cultural achievements.
The cultural development of Birobidjan is of special historic significance. At present Birobidjan is the only Jewish
community where Yiddish culture embraces every human
endeavor - as the superstructure of the production relation ships of the Region. It is the only center where Yiddish culture is developing on the sure foundation of the entire economic, social and political life. Here Yiddish isthe language
of the community in its everyday life: in the marketplace ,
in government institutions, in the schools as the language
of instruction, in the courts, in industry, trade and transportation ,

DEVELOPING JEWISH CULTURE


The Yiddish school system of Birobidjan has no parallel
anywhere in the world. There are nurseries, kindergartens,
elementary schools, high schools, four colleges, a music school,
a school for physical culture, courses of kindergarten teachers,
agricultural experimental and research stations, evening and
day schools for adults, schools for civics, libraries, reading
rooms and' clubs. The writer had the opportunity to visit the
public schools, high schools and colleges of Birobidjan. It
was a real thrill to watch the classes in mathematics, physics,
chemistry and natural sciences conducted in the Yiddish
42

language, and examine the student's notebo?ks .i~. the same


language. The educational standards of the Birobidjan schools
and colleges are second to none. They would do credit to
similar educational institutions anywhere. Even though the
Region still lacks adequate school equipment and supplies
and is short of textbooks, the school educational level compares favorably with that prevailing in most civilized countries.
The four-year normal school for teachers in the City of
Birobidjan has already . supplied the Region with several
hundred teachers. Of the four experimental research stations
in the various districts of the Region, one is devoted to all
crops while the other three specialize respectively in seeds,
vegetables and fruits . In this connection, we should mention
the Yiddish scientific publications of the staff of the college
and experimental stations, including B. Gottlieb, Zolotnitzky
and D. Sokol sky on such subjects as the various crops -of the
Jewish Autonomous Region.
The Medical College in the City of Birobidjan offers a fouryear course for assistant physicians. The railroad college has
already given the Region 625 railway technicians. The sevenyear music school graduated 80 students in 1947 and its present enrollment consists of some 100 students of violin, piano,
clarinet and bayan (a local musical instrument). In 1947, a
beginning has been made for the establishment of an art
school for children. The well-known Leningrad Jewish painter,
Tsimerinov, has settled in Birobidjan and conducts two art
schools for talented children, one at the House of Pioneers
and the other at the Children's Home for war orphans. Some
fifty children attend these two schools. At this writing, we
have received word that first steps have been taken to establish a full-fledged Jewish State Unive:sity in Birobidjan City.

STUDY OF YIDDISH OBLIGATORY


Last year the study of the Yiddish language was made
obligatory for the non-Jewish schools of the Region. This
43

year , a sp ecial textbook, Yiddish f ur Non-J ew s, has been published by H . Rabinko, It seems to us that this is the only
case where a textbook of that nature ha s become a ne cessit y
for units of th e regular sch ool system an ywh er e in the world.
Among other cu l tu ral in stitutions ar e th e J ewish State
Theat er, whi ch is the pride of th e R egion ; th e Central Library
bearing the name of Sholorn Al cich em in Birobidjan Cit y,
whi ch h as a tota l of 150,000 volumes ( 1 10, 0 0 0 titl es), including so me 2 9. 0 0 0 on judaica : 29 libraries throughout the
R egi on , -14 reading rooms, 24 clubs, six hou ses o f cu ltu re,
2 7 sta tio na ry a nd 10 p ort abl e movin g pi cture hou ses, 15
ra d io sub-s tatio ns, numerous ch or uses and musi c ense m bles,
severa l voca tional schoo ls, p ark s o f rest a nd cu ltu re and the
R egi o n al m use u m devoted to the flora, fauna and p al eon tology o f Birobidjan and th e histor y of R egional d evelopment ,
to exh ibits of J ewi sh cu lt ure, fr om a nc ie nt times to th e pr ese n t, in cluding a sp ecial d epartment - "The j ew a nd Human
C u l tu re' t-sdevo tcd to th e co n tr ibu tio ns of suc h ou tsta nd ing
J ews as Spi noza, Marx, H ein e, Mend el ssohn, Ruben stein, etc.
The ra p id d evelopment of educational institutions in Birobidjan is re flected in a gro w th of th e ed u ca tio na l budget :
2, 4 0 0, 000 r u b les in 19 34 ; 18,400,000 in 1946 ; th e appropria tio n for 1947 is over 22 ,000,000 rubles.
Bir ob idjan press and lit er ature d eserve mu ch more sp ace
t ha n we ca n give it h er e. The R egi on h as one Yiddish n ewspap er in the Cit y of Birobidjan, Der Stern (T he Sta r), a nd
severa l i n the va r ious di stri ct cen ters. A number o f talent ed
writ er s a n d poet s, dramatists and pla sti c ar tists has grown
up d uri ng thi s shor t p eri od of time in th e J ewi sh Autonom ou s
R egi on an d hav e a prominent pla ce am on g th e J ewi sh writers
o f the Sovi et U n io n a nd throughout th e world . The sma ll
gro u p of Bir obidjan p ainter s-L. Sevin, N. Gor shm an, Sism an
a nd Ro senblit- ar e d istinguished by th eir full appreciation
of th e spec ific cha rac ter of th e Biro bidj an land scap e and th e
natural. ind us tr ia l and social lif e of th e Re gion. Their stu d ies.
sketc hes a nd paintings reflect the pi on eer in g lif e and ra p id
co nstructio n o f th e J ewi sh Au ton om ou s R egi o n .
4-l

NEW IMMIGRATION FACILITATED


Early in 1947 the Council of Ministers of the Soviet Union
issued instructions to all Soviet Republics to facilitate in
every possible way the immigration of new Jewish settlers te
Birobidjan. In 1946, 600 Jewish families arrived in Birobidjan
from other parts of U.S.S.R. In 1947, 1,500 Jewish families
arrived in Birobidjan in six large contingents, in addition to
hundreds of Jewish war orphans and numerous Jewish fami lies who arrived in small groups. During the month of December, three additional contingents of new Jewish settlers
left for Birobidjan; on December 6, 255 Jewish families
from Crimea left the city of Evpatoria for Birobidjan; on
December 14, 248 Jewish families left Kherson, and on
December 28, 114 Jewish families left the city of Nikolaiev
for the same destination, making a total of 617 families in
the month of December alone. According to the available
latest official data, 20,000 Jews from the war ravaged regions
of the U.S.S.R . were settled in Birobidjan during the 18
months up to the end of 1947. (See U.S.S.R. Information
Bulletin, published by the Soviet Embassy in Washington,
D.C., April 28, 1948, p. 256.)
The latest report of the new Governor, M. Levitin, just
elected by the Legislature of the Region, dated February
10, 1948, states that in the month of January, 1948 alone, the
number of new Jewish arrivals in Rirobidjan reached 2,000.
The Jewish Autonomous Region has, since the conclusion of
the war , accepted thousands of refugee and evacuee Jewish
war orphans and is maintaining them with the co-operation
of the American Birobidjan Committee. Four special children's homes in Rirobidjan City, Londoko, Waldheirn and
"
Bira have been organized for that purpose.
There is an increasing popular desire among the Jewish
masses of the Soviet Regions that had been occupied and
largely destroyed by the Nazis to go to Rirobidjan and participate in the upbuilding of this .Jf~wish state. To quote only
two instances: Efraim Granovsky, a Crimean farmer, writes
4S

in the name of fifty farm families: "We are envious of the


fortunate Jews who have already arrived in Birobidjan; our
aspiration to. settle in the Jewish Autonomous Region is very
great." Another Jew, Haim Heis, states: "My strongest desire
is to go to Birobidjan and contribute with my own labor to
the building up of the Jewish Autonomous Region. I am not
afraid of any difficulties. I know how to work."
.
The natural resources of Birobidjan make possible for it to
absorb hundreds of thousands of new settlers and provide a
high standard of living. The real difficulty arises from the
lack of housing facilities and marginal machinery and tools.
Under present conditions, keeping in mind the unprecedented
destruction suffered by the Soviet Union in the war, these
marginal facilities can be provided locally only relatively
slowly. The great number of Jews seeking an opportunity to
go to Birobidjan are thus unable to be received immediately.
The co-operation of American Jews would play an important
part in facilitating and hastening the development of the
Jewish Autonomous Region.

BIROBIDJAN AND PALESTINE


It is impossible to overestimate the historic significance of
the Jewish Autonomous Region to the Jews of the world. It
has supplied an unchallengable answer to all anti-Jewish
calumnies slandering the Jews as unfit for anything but trading, brokerage and similar "unproductive" operations. But
here is Birobidjan-a land built up by the hardihood and
labor of Jewish pioneers. Here is a self-governing Jewish community that has developed thriving industries and agriculture
as well as splendid cultural institutions, highways, transporration, that. has built cities, towns and villages by its tireless
and efficient labor. The historic accomplishment of the Jewish
people in the Jewish Autonomous Region has added to the
dignity of the Jews everywhere, and has becom e a factor in
their struggle for recognition and equality.
The Fact that the jews have gained all the attributes of a
46

nation in Birobidjan ha s contributed enormously to the obtaining of th e de cision of t?e Unite~ Nations in favor of an
independ ent J ewish sta te III Palestine, The warm support
g iven to tha t decision by the delegation from the Soviet Union
undoubtedl y was based on the same philosophy of that country whi ch m ad e it extend every facility to its own Jews to
ena ble them to establish a state-unit. For, if it is the inherent
rig h t of the J ews of the Soviet Union to build up a Jewish
sta te, and the y have shown their capacity to do so, there is
cer tainly no reason why the same right should be denied to
the Jew ish people of Pal estine, who have shown the same
pio n eer ing spirit and capacity, and the same devotion and
asp ira tio n to develop a Jewish state there.
Bir obidjan is a convincing example to every civilized country th at fu ll equality for the Jewish people, as well as for all
national minorities, is within the reach of the democratic
forces of the com m u n ity. What has been achieved in one
grea t coun try can and must be achieved in every democratic
cou ntry. Jewis h equ ality, the development of Jewish cultufe
on a basis of the historic continuity of the Jewish cultural
heritage, has bee n proved by Birobidjan to be of benefit not
only to the Jews b u t to the country as a whole. It lends encouragement and confidence in the struggle of all progressive
forces for the elim ina tion of bigotry, discrimination and antiSemitism. Birobid ja n has provided the Jews with all the
attributes of a nation. It ha s opened a new era in the history
of the Jewish peo ple .

To Secure Jewish Rights, the Communist Position,


I~

by Alexander BiHelman
Jewish Culture in America, Weapon for Jewish Survival and Progress. by Nathan Ausubel

_.._...

15~

Constitution of the U.S.S.R.

15~

Soviet Democracy, by Harry F. Ward

15~

The Soviet Union and World Peace, by Joseph


Stalin and V. M. Molotov

IO~

The Soviet Power, by HewleH Johnson.................... 60~


The Soviet Spirit, by Harry

F. Ward ........................

NEWCENTURY PUBLISHERS
832 Broadway, New York 3, New York

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