Future of Jewish Colonisation in Siberia: White Russian Government Issues Decree Taking over Respons

The Jewish colonisation work in the region of Bureya, in Siberia, has again taken a new turn, by the action of the Government of the Soviet Republic of White Russia (whose territory contains a large Jewish population, constituting a large proportion of the inhabitants of the chief towns like Minsk, Mozir, Vitebsk, Bobruisk, Homel, etc., and of many of the townships) to take over responsibility for the further promotion of the Jewish settlement work in Bureya.

The issue to-day of an official decree to this effect by the White Russian Government is hailed in Jewish Communist circles and in the Jewish Communist press as an event of far-reaching importance.

The White Russian Soviet Republic, the decree proclaims, is making it its object to assist the development of Bureya, which has been allocated by the Government of the Russian Socialist Federated Soviet Republic for the settlement of toiling Jews. All the People’s Commissariats (Ministries) in White Russia and all White Russian Government institutions are recommended to give effect to this assumption of responsibility for the work in Bureya by engaging in active work to further the Jewish settlement there by sending out to Bureya for the permanent work there agricultural, technical and industrial specialists, qualified labour teachers, physicians and co-operative workers, and by supplying the settlers in Bureya with Yiddish literature, and with works on economics, polities and art, including the works of Lenin and Stalin, with cinematograph films, etc. The Government Commission for Jewish Land Settlement (Comzet) and the Jewish Settlement Society (Ozet) are also recommended to engage in a systematic and continuous Jewish settlement work in Bureya. The results achieved by this work are to be made the subject of regular bi-monthly reports to be submitted to the Presidium of the Central Executive Committee of the White Russian Soviets.

All the Commissariats and Departments of the White Russian Republic and their central institutions, particularly the Ministries of Agriculture, Education, Health and Labour, the White Russian Federation of Artisans, the White Russian Cinema Centre, and the White Russian State Publishing House, have been instructed to prepare definite plans within the course of the next two weeks for carrying their part of the work into effect.

THE EVOLUTION OF THE BUREYA SCHEME.

Since the Bureya Jewish settlement plan was first put forward in January 1928, the scheme, proclaimed originally as a great movement to create “a Jewish land in the Far East”, “the Jewish land of the future”, “our Canada or America”, with “an area as large as the whole of Palestine within its historic frontiers”, has several times been subject to setbacks and disappointments. M. Rykov, at that time Chairman of the Council of People’s Commissaries of the Soviet Republic, once dwelt in an official address on the prospect of Bureya becoming a Jewish autonomous territory, and announced that Bureva was included in the Soviet Five-Year Plan, which provided for 12,000 Jewish families being settled in Bureya within five years.

M. Smidovitch, the Vice-President of the Soviet Union, declared at a Moscow meeting in July 1929, that very soon the official name of Bureya would be the Y.S.S.R., meaning the Jewish Socialist Soviet Republic.

The work carried on in Bureya, so far, has been repeatedly described, however, by leading Communist authorities, as extremely disappointing, and many of the Jewish settlers who went out there, have gone back to their old homes, unwilling to stay there under the unpromising conditions obtaining there. M. Larin, a leading Communist, has contended that the Bureya plan is impracticable. The Communist Party in the Far East adopted a formal resolution in June 1929 declaring that the first year of work of settling Jews in Bureya had not yielded any tangible results. In November 1929 the Government Commission for Jewish Settlement (Comzet) adopted a resolution declaring that the Bureya Settlement Administration was not fitted for the work and must be reorganised. In January 1930, the Comzet decided to reorganise the work in Bureya, by turning it over to a special independent Government Commission.

The authorities have, nevertheless, found it increasingly difficult, in spite of all their efforts, to induce Jews in the Soviet countries to go out to Bureya, and recently a new movement was started to recruit unemployed Jews in Lithuania, Latvia and other countries, as emigrants to Bureya.

Small groups have come from the Argentine, and this month there was a party of 300 Jewish immigrants who came from Lithuania.

The purpose of bringing over Jewish workers from other countries to settle in Bureya, M. Merezin, the responsible Secretary of the Comzet, said in an interview with the J.T.A. representative in Moscow when these 300 immigrants arrived in Moscow, is to provide for the region the skilled and unskilled labour which it requires. We shall admit immigrants according to the existing need for workers, and our capacity to provide the immigrants with houses, cultural services and other needs. At the same time, he announced that there would be no further Jewish immigration invited to Bureya from abroad.

According to the latest figures available last week, there are less than 4,000 Jewish souls in Bureya, most of them engaged in the State farms (Sovchoses), and various productive co-operatives, the rest working in the Kolchoses.

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