Birobidzhan is a territory, in the Soviet Far East, near the Sino-Soviet border, which became a location of Soviet-sponsored colonization by Jews. (For map, see p. 15). The JAR (or J.A.R.), for Jewish Autonomous Region, was established in 1934. Although arrivals were mostly Soviet Jews, there were also some arriving Jews from places as diverse as the USA and Argentina. The JAR became a showcase of Soviet propaganda over much of the west. The JAR had its vicissitudes throughout Soviet rule, but soon began a steady decline. A remnant of the Jewish population has survived to this day.
This work provides statistics on the Jewish population at different times. (p. 21, 43, 69, 85, 87). In no sense was the JAR a totally Jewish state-within-state in the sense of being mostly or entirely Jewish. In fact, the Jewish share of the population never exceeded about 16.5%. (p. 43, 69). [For purposes of comparison, Congress Poland under tsarist Russian rule had reached a proportion of nearly 15% Jews just before WWI.] Most of the peoples living in JAR were Great Russians, Cossacks, Koreans, and Ukrainians. (p. 21).
Although Jews always were a decided minority in the JAR, the Soviet authorities privileged them with such things as the pre-eminence of Yiddish in public life. (pp. 59-61). The Soviets also clearly appointed the Jews as the ruling class. Weinberg writes: „Jews also served prominently in government and party posts…” (p. 60).
IMPLICATIONS FOR A POTENTIAL JUDEOPOLONIA
The informed reader may realize that many Poles had feared a Judeopolonia. This Judeopolonia could be de jure, that is, a JAR-like Jewish state, carved out of subjugated Poland, under Russian (or German) rule, with Jews serving as a privileged ruling class that would be added to their preexisting status as privileged economic overclass.
But why build a Jewish state-within-state from scratch in Siberia, when there is already a huge Jewish population and vast in-place Jewish infrastructure in foreign-ruled Poland? Ironically, in fact, Jewish Communists originally had opposed the Birobidzhan project precisely because it was located too far from Jewish-populated areas! (p. 21).
It could also be a de facto Judeopolonia caused by a new Jewish ruling class over foreign-ruled Poland, created as a passive outcome of erstwhile Polish Jews progressively becoming more and more detached from Polish national aspirations, more and more pro-Russian and/or pro-German, and–especially–more and more politically powerful.
The potential for some kind of Judeopolonia, was, at very least, certainly there. It was no anti-Semitic imagination!
NOT ONLY POLAND: RETURNING HOLOCAUST SURVIVORS FACE HOSTILITY
This work touches on other aspects of Soviet life. Consider, for example, what happened when Holocaust-surviving Jews returned to their domiciles. Weinberg comments: „Not only did tens of thousands of Soviet Jews find themselves displaced by the devastation wrought by the Germans, but many Jews returning to their homes sometimes faced hostile welcomes from their Ukrainian and Belarusian neighbors.” (p. 72). [Obviously, the selective attention paid by Jan T. Gross to occasional Polish hostility towards returning Jews is misplaced.
- Source: GoodReads.com , August 14, 2018
Published with the author’s permission.
Title image: Ma of The Jewish Autonomous Oblast with the administrative center of Birobidzhan underlined. Source: Wikipedia.org / selected by wg.pco