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The Orthodox Nationalist: The Historical Riddle of Birobidzhan – TON 071217


The picture used for this is the official flag of Birobidzhan. Does it look familiar?

Dr Matthew Raphael Johnson looks at the mystery of why the Jews chose this part of Russia in which to live.

The Jewish Autonomous region of Birobidzhan is one of the most curious historical riddles of the USSR. Almost 4000 miles away from Moscow, it seems a curious place for Stalin to create his Zionist state.

In 1850, an American company first explored the area and decided that it will soon become one of the world's centers of gold production.

This was repeated again in 1925 from the work of A. Ahnet, the representative of America's most powerful mining conglomerates. While the notion of a Jewish state had been considered before, this changed the picture considerably.

Founded in 1934 as a Jewish state based on the Yiddish language, it was a comic failure. At no point did Jews make up more than 16% of the area. In 1939, 18,000 Jews lived in that region, about half of whom would soon leave. It had a 50% turnover rate.

Once it became clear that the mining utopia was not going to occur (the expeditions were exaggerated and false), it became a comic curiosity.

While gold was the primary reason for the creation of the Jewish state, another was the notion of assimilation. Even in the very Jewish USSR, there was a fear of gentiles. The revolution existed solely by force and Anti-Jewish thought was punishable by death. This didn't mean gentiles were pro-Jewish

Without the gold rush, Birobidzhan was nothing more than a few Jews speaking Yiddish. Several libraries were opened and an entire "culture" created, but it served no purpose other than to be a place where Jews could run to if things got too heavy domestically. This was nullified in 1948 regardless.

The gold expeditions had been kept secret until 2002. The work on the subject is very obscure and, quite possibly, this is the first time the Birobidzhan project has been fully understood.

Presented by Matt Johnson

The Orthodox Nationalist: The Historical Riddle of Birobidzhan – TON 071217


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