parative simplicity, the industrial development of the region is unthinkable without an agricultural foundation providing a base of food supply at least for the local population, as it would be utterly impossible to depend in this respect on other farming sections located at a distance of hundreds and even thousands of kilometres.
Briefly stated, the agricultural and industrial development of the Biro-Bidjan region is quite feasible and possible but requires a tremendous investment and presents incomparably more difficulties than any similar work in the Ukraine or in the Crimea. But granted that the government will absorb the heavy initial expenses and will complete through its own agencies the hardest tasks of road construction and land drainage and clearing, the opportunities for the compact settlement of large numbers of Jewish masses from Russia and from abroad are doubtlessly greater in Biro-Bidjan than in both the above-mentioned districts.
There is, of course, the question of the “war cloud” overhanging the Far East. But with the present political situation in Europe it is not easy to say where the danger for the Jewish masses is greaterâ€”in the Far East or in the Near West.
We are particularly pleased to notice that none of the government officials or representatives with whom we discussed various matters during our trip have made the slightest attempt to try to minimize the difficulties connected with the settlement and development of the country. On the contrary, they have invariably made it a point to underline these difficulties and handicaps.
Numerous conversations we have had with responsible central and local government officials leave no doubt that the Soviet government is determined to go ahead vigorously with the development of the project in spite of all difficulties. It is vitally interested in the settlement and development of the Far Eastern territory, of which the Jewish autonomous region is only a small fractional part. It has already appropriated very substantial amounts for this purpose and has accomplished a great deal of work.
It must be frankly stated that whatever substantial work has been done in the Biro-Bidjan region was accomplished by the various government departments directly, not by the Jewish organizations, the Ozet and the Icor, which have been active there during the last few years. In a spirit of friendly criticism it must be stated that the work of these organizations was not always properly planned nor expertly executed.
There are at present about 10,000 Jews living in the autonomous region. The majority of them are not yet really settled, and are engaged mostly in the various cooperative and government shops. The regional and district government offices are now being organized and are not as yet functioning properly. They will be put in shape in the near future. The capacity of the region is of course much larger than the present population, and the government, being anxious to expedite the settlement, would naturally welcome participation in this work of foreign Jewish organizations which have had valuable experience along these lines. It would welcome the settlement of considerable numbers of foreign Jews along with the Russian Jews, and is naturally prepared to grant much greater privileges to settlers in Biro-Bidjan than in other sections of the country.