Jewish Autonomous Oblast

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The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

Jewish Autonomous Oblast


part of Khabarovsk Krai, RSFSR, bordering on the south with China. Formed on May 7, 1934. Area, 36,000 sq km. Population, 176,000 (Jan. 1, 1971). The oblast has five raions, two cities, and 12 urban-type settlements. The administrative center is the city of Birobidzhan (population, 57,000; 1971).

Natural features. The Jewish Autonomous Oblast is located in the southwest of Khabarovsk Krai, RSFSR. It is divided into two roughly equal parts: the mountainous northwest and the low-lying southeast. The northwestern part is occupied by the Lesser Khingan, Sutar, Shchuki-Poktoi, and Pompeevskii ranges, with prevailing altitudes from 600 to 700 m. The north is occupied by spurs of the Bureia Range, with altitudes from 800 to 1,000 m; the south and the southeast, east of the Bira River, by the highly swampy Central Amur Lowland, with altitudes from 40 to 150 m.

The oblast has a monsoon climate. The winter is cold and dry, with little snowfall; the average January temperature ranges from -2°C to -26.5°C. The summer is warm and humid; the average July temperature ranges from 18°C to 2PC. The annual precipitation ranges from 750 to 800 mm in the mountains and from 500 to 700 mm in the plain, over 80 percent occurring in July and August. The growing season is 170–175 days in the plain and 155–165 days in the mountains. The most important river is the Amur with its tributaries the Efira, the Bidzhan, and the Tunguska. Flash floods are common in summer.

The mountainous parts of the oblast have mainly brown mountain-forest soils; the Central Amur Lowland, meadowbog, meadow-gley, and alluvial soils; and the plateaus, brown forest soils. Forests covered 36 percent of the area, or 1,303,000 hectares (ha) in 1966. Of the forest area, 205,000 ha are mainly spruce and fir, 192,000 cedar, 150,000 larch, 327,000 oak, 202,000 birch, and 87,000 linden. The forests are found mostly in the mountainous part of the oblast. The Central Amur Lowland has meadow, meadow-bog, and bog vegetation, in combination with thin oak, birch, and larch forests. Inundation meadows, especially the reedgrass meadows of the Amur floodland west of the mouth of the Bira River, are of great economic importance.

The fur-bearing animals of the oblast include squirrel, sable, kolinsky, raccoon dog, mink, and otter. The most important of the ungulates are the elk, the Manchurian wapiti, and the wild boar. Tigers are found in the Lesser Khingan. The fish most commonly found include crucian carp, pike, catfish, common carp, grass carp, silver carp, and whitefish. The upper courses of the Bira and the Bidzhan are spawning grounds of the dog salmon.

Population. The Jewish Autonomous Oblast is inhabited primarily by Russians, Jews, and Ukrainians. The population increased 4.9 times between 1926 and 1971. The average population density is 4.9 persons per sq km (1971), the highest density being found in the oblast’s zones along the Trans-Siberian Railroad and the Amur, west of the Bira River. The urban population amounts to 68 percent of the total.

Historical survey. The development of what is now the territory of the Jewish Autonomous Oblast began in the 1640’s. The Russian explorers V. D. Poiarkov and E. P. Khabarov secured this part of the Amur region for Russia, and intensive settlement began in the middle of the 19th century (beginning in 1856 by Transbaikal cossacks, and beginning in the late 19th century by workers and employees of the Amur Rail-road, which was then under construction). Stanitsy (large cossack villages), settlements, and railroad stations arose, such as Bira, Birakan, and Tikhon’kaia. Between 1920 and 1922 the area was part of the Far East Republic and the scene of battles against the White Guards and the interventionists. On Mar. 28, 1928, the Presidium of the Central Executive Committee of the USSR resolved to set aside the Birobidzhan region for settlement by Jewish working people. In 1930 the Birobidzhan National Raion was formed as part of the Far East Krai and on May 7, 1934, the Jewish Autonomous Oblast was formed, with the settlement of Birobidzhan as administrative center. Soviet citizens of Jewish nationality, as well as Jewish working people of other countries voluntarily went to live in the Jewish AO. The First Oblast Congress of Soviets was held in Birobidzhan on Dec. 18, 1934, and the first party conference on June 4–6, 1935. The combined labor of the inhabitants of the Jewish AO—Jews, Russians, Ukrainians, Koreans, and other ethnic groups—laid the foundations for a socialist industry and a collectivized agriculture.

By 1940 the Jewish AO had become an oblast with a developed agriculture and industry (building materials, light industry, and food).

During the Great Patriotic War of 1941–45 more than 10,000 inhabitants of the Jewish AO went to the front, and nine became Heroes of the Soviet Union. On Sept. 30, 1967, the Order of Lenin was awarded to the Jewish AO for advances made by its working people in the development of the economy and culture.

Economy. The Jewish AO is an economically developed part of Khabarovsk Krai. Diversified industry, large-scale agriculture, and a dense transportation network have been created here during the years of Soviet power. The economy specializes in machine building and light industry, branches of industry connected with the processing of mineral raw materials and lumber, and agriculture.

Industry. The Jewish AO accounts for 9 percent of the industrial output of Khabarovsk Krai. Some industries are of interregional significance; these include the production of farm machines and power transformers in Birobidzhan, cement in Teploozersk, and lime in Londoko, the woodworking industry, including furniture making, in Nikolaevka and Birobidzhan, and the production of footwear, knitted wear and textile clothing, and hosiery. Tin is mined in the oblast. The industrial output of the oblast increased by 11 times between 1940 and 1970. All of the major enterprises of the oblast have been built during the postwar years. The city of Birobidzhan is the chief industrial center.

Agriculture. The Jewish AO is the vegetable, potato, dairy, and meat base for Khabarovsk and partly for the central and northern regions of the krai. In addition, the oblasf s agriculture specializes in soy and grain farming and apiculture. Agricultural fields cover 250,400 ha, of which 52,600 ha are hayfields and 56,800 ha pastureland (1970). The oblast has two kolkhozes, 25 sovkhozes, (including four bee-raising sovkhozes), and one poultry farm. The sowing area amounted to 140,200 ha in 1971. The chief crops are soybeans (50,000 ha), grain crops, including wheat, oats, and barley (51,200 ha), potatoes and vegetables (9,600 ha), and fodder crops (29,400 ha). In 1971 there were 73,300 head of cattle, including 28,400 cows and 56,900 pige. There were 32,000 bee colonies by the beginning of 1972. Large-scale land-draining projects are under way.

Fishery is developed on a small scale, with two dog-salmon hatcheries and one general hatchery (cyprinids and percids).

Transportation. The basis of the oblast’s transportation system is the Trans-Siberian Railroad and the Amur waterway. There are 520 km of railroad (1970), about 500 km of navigable river, and 1,110 km of general-purpose roads.


Public health. As of Jan. 1, 1971, the Jewish AO had 304 doctors, or one doctor per 579 population, and 31 hospital institutions with more than 2,000 beds, or 12.1 beds per 1,000 population. The resort of Kul’dur is known throughout the Soviet Union.

Education and cultural affairs. There were no educational institutions in the territory of the oblast before the, October Revolution. In the 1970–71 academic year the oblast had 142 schools of general education of all types with 37,000 students, as well as seven specialized educational institutions (pedagogical, medical, agricultural) with 5,300 students. In 1970 there were 159 preschool institutions serving 11,700 children. As of Jan. 1, 1971, the Jewish AO had 101 public libraries with 943,000 copies of books and magazines, 113 clubs, an oblast museum of local lore (in Birobidzhan), a memorial museum devoted to the Volochaevka battles, two Russian people’s theaters and one Jewish people’s theater, and 222 motion picture projectors. Extracurricular institutions include three schoolchildren’s and Pioneers’ palaces, six children’s music schools, and a nature center for youth.

Press and radio. The oblast’s two newspapers, Birobidzhaner shtern (Yiddish)andBirobidzhanskaia zveida, have been published since 1930. The oblast’s radio station broadcasts two programs each in Yiddish and in Russian and re-transmits broadcasts from Khabarovsk and Moscow.


Evreiskaia avtonomnaia oblast’. Khabarovsk, 1959.
V sem’e edinoi, druzhnoi: Evreiskaia avtonomnaia oblast’. [Khabarovsk] 1968.
Voprosy geografii Priamur’ia: Evreiskaia avtonomnaia oblast’. Khabarovsk, 1967.
Kurentsova, G. E. Ocherk rastitel’nosti Evreiskoi avtonomnoi oblasti. Vladivostok, 1967.
luzhnaia chast’ Dal’nego Vostoka. Moscow, 1969.
Dal’nii Vostok. Moscow, 1966.
The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.
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