A provisional government for the Jewish autonomous region known as Biro-Bidjan, Siberia, has been established by the Central Executive Committee. According to the report from Moscow, six Jews and one non-Jew will constitute the government, which is to be headed by M. Heller, who is designated as President. A Jewess, Anna Alperovitch, is to be a member of the Cabinet.
Plans are being elaborated in this country for a good will tour to Soviet Russia and Biro-Bidjan. It is understood that an American Jewish commission of experts is planning to visit Biro-Bidjan in the near future for the purpose of ascertaining the possibilities of that region as a settlement for Jewish refugees from Germany and other countries.
President Kalinin’s address announcing the creation of a Jewish autonomous region in Biro-Bidjan was a remarkable utterance. But the reports from Biro-Bidjan during the past two years have been so contradictory and confusing that it is quite impossible to form an adequite idea of whether Biro-Bidjan is really suited for Jewish settlement or not. Lord Marley, during his stay in this country last winter, delivered an enthusiastic talk on the advantages, possibilities and beauties of that Siberian region for Jewish settlement. He had visited Siberia the year before and gave his impressions of Biro-Bidjan. He was hunting near Biro-Bidjan and he described the many varieties of beautiful flowers and the fine honey to be found there. He also assured his audience in New York that the fears expressed by some people that Biro-Bidjan might become extremely dangerous territory in the event of a conflict between Japan and Soviet Russia, were unfounded. He declared that as a former member of the General Staff he was convinced that from a strategic point of view, Biro-Bidjan would be the last place that Japan would attempt to invade, and he presented his reasons for this viewpoint.
Lord Marley’s report on Biro-Bidjan gives the impression of being quite superficial, even though it may be well-intentioned. Other reports that have reached us from American and Russian observers have presented conflicting accounts of the achievements, possibilities and opportunities of the Jewish settlers in Biro-Bidjan. Some have praised it as a new paradise of Jewish hope, while others have depicted it as lacking almost all the elements that could make it a desirable and successful Jewish settlement. The stories of the Lithuanian Jews who had gone to settle in Biro-Bidjan and returned disillusioned and embittered, must be taken into consideration. The reports of Viktor Fink, the Russian Jewish publicist who visited that region a few years ago, gave a picture of Biro-Bidjan that was entirely different from the one presented by Lord Marley.
A few American Jews, who went to Biro Bidjan to settle there, have returned with tales of woe that are heart-rending. Some of them are convinced that the enterprise is doomed to imminent failure. They report that the soil is unfit for successful farming, that the climate is bad, and that up to the present the treatment of the Jewish settlers has been almost inhuman. It is quite likely that some of these disillusioned men and women had gone there with high hopes but unequipped with the pioneering spirits, and it was natural that they could not resist the unexpected hardships and discomforts.
Biro-Bidjan may prove of great importance and significance to Russian Jewry. Since almost all other nationalities in Soviet. Russia have their autonomous states and governments, the Jews of Russia may also want it, for the sake of imploring the economic situation and of preserving Jewish culture, as advocated by President Kalinin. But if Biro-Bidjan is to be offered as an asylum for Jewish refugees from other lands, and if the aid of Jews in other lands is to be enlisted for the development of the Biro-Bidjan region, it is essential that an authoritative, non-partisan and unprejudiced commissio# of experts go there to investigate thoroughly and depict objectively the entire Biro-Bidjan project in order that the whole truth about the Jewish autonomous region in Siberia may be known