Jewish Autonomous Oblast


Jewish Autonomous Oblast
   An administrative region of the Russian Federation. The only autonomous oblast in the Russian Federation, the Jewish Autonomous Oblast, or Birobijan (Birobidzhan), is part of the Far Eastern Federal District and Economic Region. It borders Amur, Khabarovsk, and northeastern China. The well-forested and mountainous region covers 36,000 square kilometers and has a population of just under 200,000.
   The region was originally created as an ethnic homeland for Russia’s Jewish population, where the Yiddish language and Eastern European Jewish culture could flourish within a Soviet framework. It was also meant as an ideological foil against Zionism. However, the region never attracted a large percentage of Soviet Jews (reaching a peak of one-quarter of the population in the 1940s), and an antiSemitic political shift in Moscow resulted in Yiddish being banned after 1949, though it is one of two official languages of the oblast today. In 1991, the region was granted status as a federal subject, though it remains simultaneously subordinate to Khabarovsk. Since 1991, the Yiddish language has experienced a modest renaissance, returning to the schools, airwaves, and newspapers. However, in the mid-1990s, the region only accounted for approximately 2 percent of Russia’s Jewry, and Jews—the titular minority—make up less than 2 percent of the oblast’s population. Furthermore, this number is declining rapidly, with Birobijan being the leading sending region in Russia of Jewish emigrants to Israel. Ethnic Russians are the majority, accounting for 90 percent of the inhabitants, with small minorities of Ukrainians, Tatars, and other nationalities forming the remainder.
   Mining, agriculture, timber, and light manufacturing are the major economic activities. The region leads the country in per capita arrest for narcotics trafficking. The regional governor is Nikolay Volkov; he was appointed to head the region in 1991 and won elections in 1886 and 2000, before being nominated by Vladimir Putin in 2005 to continue his tenure. Under his watch, the gross regional product has risen dramatically since 2000, partly as a result of the resolution of long-standing insecurities about the status of the RussianChinese border. The improvement of the economic situation has reduced Jewish emigration from the region. Volkov also supported the refurbishment of a 100-year-old synagogue that opened in Birobijan in 2004. Volkov maintains good relations with the leadership of Khabarovsk Krai and has publicly supported full merger with the territory.

Historical Dictionary of the Russian Federation. . 2010.

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  • Jewish Autonomous Oblast — Admin ASC 1 Code Orig. name Jewish Autonomous Oblast Country and Admin Code RU.89 RU …   World countries Adminstrative division ASC I-II

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