Moscow (Nov. 8)
On September 12, upon instructions from the Central Board of Ort-Verband, we left on a tour through Biro-Bidjan, the Jewish autonomous region, and in the course of twenty-five days we traversed the whole region, having visited all of the more typical pointsâ€”the new Jewish settlements in various parts of the region and on the Amur river, the old Cossack villages, one Korean village, and a number of township settlements situated along the railway trunk line. The general impression we obtained as to the present and the possible future were the following:
In Biro-Bidjan there are vast vacant areas of land available which, after due preliminary treatment, may be utilized for agricultural purposes both under field and garden crops. There are also considerable possibilities for the development of cattle and dairy farming there, in view of the abundance of pastures. The presence of a great number of rivers abounding in fish affords possibilities for the development of fisheries. There are also extensive forest areas with valuable species of wood which furnish excellent ground for the development of lumber and woodworking industries. Lastly there is also mineral wealth contained in the soil of the Hingan highland portion of Biro-Bidjan: iron, copper, coal, graphite, gold, etc., which may furnish possibilities for the development of some branches of heavy industry. Due to the huge demand for consumers’ goods in the Far East, Biro-Bidjan may positively become in the very near future the regional centre for medium and minor industries, (furniture, fancy goods, footwear, clothing, etc.,) relying both on raw material supplies furnished by the government for industrial needs of the Far East and partly also on local raw material supplies.
WAIT ON INITIATIVE
All these potential possibilities of Biro-Bidjan are waiting for live initiative and for considerable human forces which are rather scarce there at present.
At the same time it is necessary to point out the difficulties which will have to be overcome in the development of extensive colonization activity in Biro-Bidjan. The remoteness of Biro-Bidjan from the center of the country complicated the problem of supplies and services for the colonists. The main difficulty consists, however, in the fact that the lowlying lands of Biro-Bidjan, in view of super-humidity of the soil, will require considerable labor, money expenditure, and technical means in the matter of drainage operations to be rendered suitable for agriculture. On the other hand, the dry land of the more elevated localities, which were previously covered by forests, will become available for agriculture only after thorough uprooting.
Furthermore, extensive development of colonization in Biro-Bidjan will necessitate also the building of a sufficient number of roads to link up the new settlements with the district and regional centers, as well as for connection with the railroads and waterways of the region.
Moreover, in choosing sites for new settlements it will be necessary particularly to bear in mind the question of protecting the latter against possible overflowing of rivers which takes place sporadically in some sections of the region.
Naturally, the said basic operations to prepare the regions for the reception of considerable numbers of settlers can be efficiently handled only by the State and such operations are already being undertaken by the corresponding governmental departments on funds granted by the State. Definite operations in this direction are already in progress and we were able to observe them in Biro-Bidjan
One of the most vital and urgent tasks of the moment in connection with the accommodation of new settlers is to build houses on a large scale to supply the settlers with cows vegetable gardens for direct consumption and also with most indispensable household goods.
In view of the specific climatic and soil conditions of Biro-Bidjan, particular stress must be laid on the importance of training a qualified agro-technical apparatus to organize and to look after the agricultural undertakings. None the less essential is the organization of qualified technical instruction for the industrial enterprises that are being set up in Biro-Bidjan in view of the absence of trained technical forces in that region.
As for the participation of Jewish public organizations abroad in the colonization of Biro-Bidjan, it stands #o reason that their participation, with the utilization of their accumulated experience in colonization and the application of technical, financial and organizational means, would be of tremendous benefit both to the Jewish population already settled in Biro-Bidjan and to the future development of the settlements.
The work so far accomplished in Biro-Bidjan, although it was not free from defects in the past â€”which is pointed out by the local workers themselves â€” nevertheless has a good many achievements, which we were able to establish on the spot. A number of supporting points both for agriculture and industry have been successfully created in Biro-Bidjan. Schools have been built in all the villages. A network of medical establisnments in being created. The building of a theatre is near completion. Consumers’ cooperative stores and restaurants are gradually developing operations. Particularly noticeable is the growth of the administrative centre of the regionâ€”the town of Biro-Bidjan which is becoming a point of attraction for the settlers.
We were also able to observe in Biro-Bidjan a fair number of Jewish settlers who have lived there already for several years and are employed in state farms, collective farms, and in industrial enterprises and working on the railway line, who have already gotten accustomed to the region and are satisfied with their lot. While telling about their past privations, all of them declared that life in Biro-Bidjan has considerably improved at the present time.
Before leaving Biro-Bidjan, we held conversations with representative people of the Biro-Bidjan region and with the chairman of the Executive Committee of the Far Eastern region, Mr. Kritov, and they told us that the settling of industrious Jewish people in the Biro-Bidjan region constitutes an important and urgent problem for the administration of the region. They told us also that the cooperation of foreign Jewish organizations active in agricultural colonization work in the U.S.S.R., is highly desirable in this matter. Among other things, Mr. Krutov pointed to the possibility for Biro-Bidjan to receive, the requisite conditions having been created, considerable numbers of industrious Jewish settlers from other countries.