Colonists’ Unwillingness to Go to Bira-bidjan Endangers Work in Jewish Republic

The serious danger that Bira Bidjan in the Far Eastern Region, where an autonomous Jewish Republic had been planned by the Soviet authorities, may remain completely unsettled is openly admitted here today in circles concerned with Bira Bidjan. Because of the hope that the situation in the small towns may now improve following the decree reinstating most of the declassed not a single Jew can be found who is willing to go to Bira Bidjan.

Those who had registered to go to Bira Bidjan as settlers are now declining to go except as laborers with guaranteed earnings. The Comzet, government department for settling the Jews on the land, has wired its branches in White Russia and Ukrainia to send at once 1,000 Jews to Bira Bidjan as laborers and settlers. In response to this urgent request the branches replied that it was hopeless to try to get anyone now to go to Bira Bidjan.

Because of a lack of laborers the Comzet fears that it will be impossible to do any housebuilding in Bira Bidjan this Spring. The timber mill there, whose machinery was furnished by the American Icor, is also likely to be in difficulties.

To get people to go to Bira Bidjan, the Ozet, society for settling the Jews on the land, which together with the Comzet had had joint direction of the Bira Bidjan project, today announces its readiness to register any Jew no matter what his social status is. This is a great compromise for the Ozet’s discrimination against the former traders has prevailed until the very end.

In 1929 Michael Kalenin, president of the U.S.S.R., announced that the Soviet Union would establish an autonomous Jewish Republic in Bira Bidjan. It was to be a territory built up by Jews for Jews. Some settlements were made but criticism began to be heard. The Bira Bidjan management, particularly the Ozet, was sharply taken to task by the settlers, by travelers and by Soviet officials sent to investigate. The Far Eastern Regional Communist Party adopted resolutions protesting against the way the Ozet was handling the work in Bira Bidjan.

In response to the criticisms a special government commission was set up last January to build up Bira Bidjan and to colonize it. At the time the commission was named its composition was seen by many as to all practical purposes an abandonment of the plan for a Jewish Republic. The commissioners were largely representatives of the different government trusts interested in Bira Bidjan from purely commercial points of view and not from the view of a Jewish Republic.

NEXT STORY