Jewish Autonomous Oblast, Russia

The Jewish Autonomous Region is located in the Far East. In the west it borders with the Amur region, in the north and east with the Khabarovsk Territory. In the south, the state border with China runs along the Amur River.

The Jewish Autonomous Region is one of the strangest Russian regions, as can be seen from its name. In Russia there are national republics, there are autonomous okrugs, there are territories, there are simply regions, but the autonomous region is the only one, and its autonomy is very conditional and comes down to its own national language, which no one speaks today, and even representatives of the titular nation in There is almost no republic left. Perhaps these facts are enough to captivate an inquisitive traveler, because you will not find anything like this either in Russia or abroad. Others may be interested in natural attractions: in a small region by Far Eastern standards, there are mountains, swamps, and beautiful rivers, although, frankly, from the point of view of nature, the Jewish Autonomous Okrug is not the most interesting part of the Far East.







Russian, Yiddish possible.

At railway stations and on administrative buildings, the traveler will see signs in two languages.


How to get there

By plane
There are no operating passenger airports in the region. The nearest major airport is in Khabarovsk. An alternative may be Blagoveshchensk, but getting from there is less convenient.

By train
The Trans-Siberian Railway runs through the region with very long-distance trains such as Moscow-Vladivostok and shorter ones, such as Vladivostok-Blagoveshchensk. Only 5-6 trains per day in each direction. With their help, go to the west, to Chita, Irkutsk and further throughout Siberia, as well as towards the BAM - to Tynda, Neryungri, Chegdomyn. To the east, trains go to Khabarovsk or Vladivostok.

By bus
The night bus Khabarovsk-Blagoveshchensk passes through Birobidzhan and Obluchye, there are also several buses to Birobidzhan from Khabarovsk. There is no international bus service. If you are coming from China, you will first have to cross the border somehow, and then use local transport.

By car
The M58 Amur federal highway runs through the region, connecting the region with the Khabarovsk Territory in the east and the Amur Region in the west.

The border with China runs along the Amur River, where there are three border crossings. All of them have international status, but are not equipped with bridges, and therefore operate in a seasonal mode: ferries in summer, ice crossings in winter, the border is closed in the off-season.
Pashkovo (Obluchye) - Jiayin
Amurzet - Lobey
Nizhneleninskoe (Leninskoe) – Tongjiang

The operating mode of the crossings is tied to the schedule of ferries and crossings. They seem to operate in a fairly relaxed manner, with only a few flights a day. There are also weekends when there is no transport across the border at all.

On the ship
With the exception of ferry crossings, there is no passenger service within the borders of the Jewish Autonomous Region along the Amur River. A “water bus” runs from Khabarovsk to the village of Vladimirovka, Jewish Autonomous Region, but only summer residents go there.



By train
Passenger traffic is entirely dependent on the Trans-Siberian Railway. On the side line to Leninskoe there is only freight traffic.

Electric trains: 3 times a day on the Khabarovsk-Birobidzhan section and twice a day from Birobidzhan to Obluchye.

Long-distance trains: always stop in Birobidzhan and Obluchye, other stations can pass without stopping. In any case, only trains with shared carriages are justified for short distance travel. In the Far East, these are slow, most often mail and luggage trains, making stops wherever possible: No. 325 Khabarovsk-Neryungri, No. 385 Vladivostok-Blagoveshchensk and No. 663 Khabarovsk-Chegdomyn.

By bus
From Birobidzhan buses go to all districts of the region; there are practically no other routes.



From the point of view of food, the Jewish Autonomous Okrug is almost no different from other regions of the Far East: the only difference is that the standard of living here is not very high, so you can’t count on expensive and beautiful restaurants - but inexpensive canteens are ubiquitous, and many of them are not so bad as it seems at first glance. In addition to the obvious Russian/Russian cuisine, there are Chinese and, less often, Korean restaurants, but there are few of them in Birobidzhan compared to Vladivostok and even Khabarovsk.

If you are looking for traditional Jewish dishes in the Jewish Autonomous Region, then most likely you are wasting your time: in Birobidzhan there are two restaurants with conventionally Jewish cuisine, but in both cases it only complements the main menu and is certainly not kosher, and dishes like hummus and It is better to try falafel in Israel or somewhere else in the Middle East.



In the Russian Empire, Jews were a national minority, forced to live in the Pale of Settlement and deprived of a significant part of civil rights. This led to a significant portion of Jews supporting the October Revolution.

The Committee on the Land Organization of Jewish Workers under the Presidium of the Council of Nationalities of the Central Executive Committee of the USSR (KomZET) was formed by a resolution of the Presidium of the Central Executive Committee of August 29, 1924 with the aim of transferring the Jewish population of Soviet Russia to agricultural activities.

KomZET's goals also included cooperation with international Jewish organizations (primarily the Joint) and the creation of an alternative to Zionism. He was in charge of Jewish agricultural settlements in Ukraine (southern regions and Crimea). On a smaller scale, KOMZET operated in Belarus, as well as in Uzbekistan, Georgia, Dagestan, Azerbaijan and the North Caucasus. On March 28, 1928, the Presidium of the Central Executive Committee of the USSR adopted a resolution “On assigning to KomZET for the needs of the complete settlement of free lands by working Jews in the Amur strip of the Far Eastern Territory” - in Birobidzhan.

On August 20, 1930, the Central Executive Committee of the RSFSR adopted a resolution “On the formation of the Biro-Bidzhan national region as part of the Far Eastern Territory.”

By a resolution of the All-Russian Central Executive Committee of May 7, 1934, this national region received the status of an Autonomous Jewish National Region. On December 18, 1934, the First Regional Congress of Soviets completed the formalization of the new national state formation, approved a plan for economic and cultural development and elected the governing bodies of the region. Three weeks later, Chairman of the All-Russian Central Executive Committee of the USSR M.I. Kalinin, at a meeting with Jewish workers in Moscow, emphasized that the Soviet government sees autonomy as a national Jewish state - the basis of the Jewish nation, but for this to happen, at least 100 thousand people must be concentrated in this territory.

In April 1931, the Amuro-Tungussky district was annexed to the original area of 35 thousand square kilometers of the then Birobidzhan region (thereby increasing the area to 72 thousand square kilometers), but in 1934 the Jewish Autonomous Region returned the Amuro-Tungussky region to the Khabarovsk Territory and in return received in the west the village of Obluchye with its surroundings.

On July 20, 1934, the All-Russian Central Executive Committee decided to “form as part of the Autonomous Jewish National Region:
Birobidzhan district with its center in the working village of Birobidzhan;
Birsky district with its center in the working village of Bira;
Stalinsky district with its center in the village of Stalinsk (formerly Stalinfeld);
Blyukherovo district with its center in the village of Blyukherovo (formerly Mikhailovo-Semyonovskoye);
Smidovichsky district with its center in the working-class village of Smidovich (formerly In).”

Resolutions of the Council of People's Commissars of the USSR dated October 1, 1934 “On measures for the economic and cultural development of the Jewish Autonomous Region” and the Presidium of the Central Executive Committee of the USSR dated August 29, 1936 “On the Soviet, economic and cultural construction of the Jewish Autonomous Region” laid down the development program for the region. Party and economic workers and specialists came here on vouchers from the Central Committee of the All-Union Communist Party of Bolsheviks and the Dalkray Committee of the All-Union Communist Party of Bolsheviks.

M. Khavkin (first secretary of the regional committee of the CPSU(b)) and I. Liberberg (chairman of the regional executive committee - previously director of the Institute of Jewish Proletarian Culture at the Academy of Sciences of Ukraine) were promoted to leadership positions. A former senior official of the party apparatus of the All-Union Communist Party of Bolsheviks of the Byelorussian SSR, I. Levin, was appointed first secretary of the Birobidzhan district party committee.

Despite the fact that according to the 1939 census, the Jewish population was 17,695 people (18.45%) out of a total population of 108,400 people, Yiddish received the status of a state language on an equal basis with the Russian language, it began to be taught in all schools, newspapers were published and magazines in Yiddish, in 1934 the Jewish State Theater and the regional library were opened. Sholom Aleichem, which had a significant body of literature on Jewish topics.


Resettlement policy

The Birobidzhan project aroused great interest among the Jewish community, including abroad. This determined the uniqueness of the region, created as a national-territorial entity for migrants who went there already during the years of Soviet power, on a territory that had never previously been a place of compact residence of this people. The feature film “Seekers of Happiness” (1936) directed by V.V. Korsh-Sablin is dedicated to the resettlement process. The Soviet government actively sought sponsors for the new region among the Jewish community abroad. The American-Birobidzhan Committee (Ambidzhan), created in the USA in 1935, was particularly active.

The settlement of Jews in Birobidzhan coincided with increased anti-Semitism and repression in Nazi Germany. Therefore, it is no coincidence that in the early 1930s, about 1.4 thousand Jewish emigrants from Europe, the USA, Argentina, and Eretz Israel arrived in Birobidzhan.

Plans for the creation of a Jewish republic were disavowed by Stalin in November 1936 in his speech “On the Draft Constitution of the USSR.”

In 1945–1948 alone, the region received food worth 6 million rubles from the United States. The post-war period was marked for a short time by support for the Jewish national movement - in 1947, a synagogue was opened in Birobidzhan, the teaching of the Jewish language was expanded, and since 1948, workers of the Birobidzhan garment factory were allowed not to work on Yom Kippur.


After 1991

After the transformation of all other autonomous regions of Russia into republics in the early 1990s, the Jewish Autonomous Region remained the only autonomous region in Russia. After the adoption of the new Constitution of the Russian Federation in 1993, the Jewish Autonomous Region was separated from the Khabarovsk Territory and became an equal subject of the Russian Federation.

Due to the low HDI (in Russia it is lower only in Tyva and Chechnya (see the list of Russian subjects by HDI level), the Jewish Autonomous Region ranks first in Russia in the number of people who left for Israel relative to the total number of the local Jewish population (for example, in the period from 1994 to In 1998, 59.6% of the expanded Jewish population of the Jewish Autonomous Region of the 1994 population left for Israel. At the same time, in the Jewish Autonomous Region in 1994, only 1.9% of the total Jewish population of Russia lived and the region in 1996-1998 took first place among subjects of Russia in terms of the number of migrants to Israel or 13 - 14% of the total migration from Russia to Israel during this period. Nowadays, more than 15 thousand repatriates from the Jewish Autonomous Region live in Israel (which is smaller in area than the Jewish Autonomous Region), of which about five thousand live in city of Ma'alot, accounting for almost a quarter of the city's population.An all-Israeli meeting of repatriates from the Jewish Autonomous Region is regularly held in Israel.


Physiographic characteristics


Due to its natural and climatic conditions, the autonomous region belongs to one of the favorable corners of the Russian Far East. Its territory is represented by two types of relief - mountainous and flat. Mountain regions are the southern part of the vast Khingan-Bureya mountain system, occupying approximately half of the entire area of the region in the north and west. The highest point is Mount Studencheskaya (1421 m). The flat part, stretching in the south and east, represents the western edge of the Middle Amur Lowland, above the surface of which three remnant-type ridges rise: the Daur ridge (674), the Bolshiye Churki ridge (831) and the Uldur ridge (630). The territory is approximately comparable to Moldova, Guinea-Bissau and Bhutan.

From the southwest, south and southeast, for 584 km, the territory of the region is washed by the waters of one of the greatest rivers in Eurasia - the Amur. The width of the channel at the western borders of the region (near the village of Pashkovo) is 1.5 km, at the eastern borders - 2.5 km. The Amur is covered with ice for 5 months - from the end of November to the twentieth of April. In winter, the ice thickness reaches 2 m, which allows freight and passenger transportation along the river. Navigation lasts on average 180 days. The Amur basin includes a number of large (more than 10 km long) and 1146 small (less than 10 km long) rivers - these are the Bira, Bijan, Birakan, In, Urmi, Ikura and others. The total length of the river network is 8231 km. The upper reaches of the Bira and Bidzhan rivers serve as spawning grounds for Far Eastern chum salmon.

The Jewish Autonomous Region is located in the MSK+7 time zone. The applied time offset relative to UTC is +10:00.



The climate is moderate. Winters are light and cold (the average January temperature is from −19 °C in the extreme southwest in Amurzet to −25 °C in the mountains), summers are warm and humid. The terrain has a significant influence on the climate. During the year, 600–700 mm of precipitation falls, with about 75 percent of precipitation occurring between May and September.


Flora and fauna

The region's territory is covered with dense forests. The flora of the region includes 1,392 species of plants, including more than 200 honey-bearing plants, about 300 medicinal species. The forests are rich in berries, mushrooms and nuts. Of the 1.7 million hectares of forest land, 165 thousand hectares are occupied by cedar-broad-leaved forests, 250 thousand hectares by spruce-fir, 165 thousand hectares by larch, 347 thousand hectares by oak. The timber reserve is 202 million m³ (State Forest Register, 2009).

Meadow vegetation in the south of the Russian Far East is divided into two classes. The first includes steppe dry meadows occupying above-floodplain river terraces, mountain slopes and ridges (hills). The second class is represented by wet and swampy meadows, which are found mainly in river floodplains. Noteworthy are the ornamental grass species growing in the steppe meadows, for example: lactiferous peony, xiphoid iris, Pennsylvania lily (Daurian), Siberian speedwell and others. Langsdorf's reed grass and meadowsweet are common in both dry and wet meadows.

The fauna is diverse: brown and Himalayan bears, Amur tiger, Nepalese marten, fox, weasel, sable, wild boar, elk, red deer, pheasant, and various breeds of ducks are found here. The mammal fauna includes 59 species.

The reservoirs of the region are home to 73 species of fish, including white and black carp, silverfish, yellow-cheeked salmon, kaluga, chum salmon, lenok, Amur bream, sturgeon, carp, burbot, taimen, silver carp, grayling, pike and others. Seven species that require special protection are listed in the Red Book of Russia. To reproduce the Far Eastern salmon stock, there are two fish hatcheries in the region with a capacity of laying 64.5 million eggs per year.


Protection of Nature

The Bastak State Nature Reserve was established by Decree of the Government of the Russian Federation on January 28, 1997 No. 96 (Collected Legislation of the Russian Federation, 1997, No. 6, Art. 744). Located on the territory of Obluchensky, Birobidzhansky and Smidovichsky districts of the Jewish Autonomous Region. The total area of the reserve is 127,094.5 hectares, including in the Obluchensky district 72,662 hectares, Smidovichsky - 35,323.5 hectares and Birobidzhansky - 19,109 hectares.

Five state natural complex reserves occupy 225 thousand hectares, which is 7% of the region’s territory.

The dynamic development of trade relations with China after the collapse of the USSR led to changes in the environmental situation in the region. Based on ten years of observations, it was concluded that the volume of felling is many times greater than permitted and declared. This has caused concern to the World Wildlife Fund. Chinese-owned sawmills and timber yards play a key role in the spread of illegal logging (page 17). Moreover, representatives of organized crime groups occupy not the last place in this business. Poaching contributes to the decline of rare animal species; and the main direction of smuggling was the export of parts and derivatives.


Mineral resources

On the territory of the Jewish Autonomous Region, deposits of more than 20 types of minerals have been identified and explored, including large deposits of iron, manganese, tin, gold, graphite, brucite, magnesites, zeolites, and there are sources of mineral waters.

In terms of the saturation of deposits and ore occurrences, the concentration of minerals, the region is one of the richest territories in Russia.

However, the potential of its natural resources has not been fully studied and explored. In addition, the overwhelming majority of the products of the mineral raw materials complex are exported; there are very few processing enterprises.

The most promising manifestations of mineral resources can and should attract the attention of domestic and foreign investors. This would make it possible to more fully use the mineral resource base of the Jewish Autonomous Region.



Since the end of July 2013, the south of the Russian Far East and northeast China have been subject to catastrophic floods caused by intense, prolonged rainfall, which has led to a consistent increase in water levels in the Amur River. At the peak of the flood, on September 3 and 4, the water flow in the Amur reached 46 thousand m³/s, with the norm being 18-20 thousand m³/s. A flood of such magnitude occurred for the first time in 115 years of observation, and, according to models, the probability of such an event occurring again is once every 200-300 years.