Birobidzhan is a city in the Far East of Russia, an administrative center of Jewish autonomous oblast, and a station on Trans-Siberian Railway located about 75 km from the border with China.
Birobidzhan population is about 74,700 (2015), land area - 169.4 sq. km.
The phone code is +7 42622; the postal codes - 679000-679025.
The settlement was founded near Tikhonkaya station (opened in 1915) and became the workers’ settlement in 1928. In May 1928, the decree was adopted according to which the committee on the use of land was responsible for inhabiting lands in Amur region.
The Soviet government decision to make Tikhonkaya a Jewish settlement was caused by a lot of factors, the main of which was to strengthen the frontiers of the Soviet Far East.
Settling of this region became especially important for the USSR after the Soviet-Chinese conflict in 1929, and occupation of Manchzhuria by Japanese in 1931.
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At the end of 1920s and early 1930s, the USSR government tried to improve relations with the West and Birobidzhan project could influence Jewish and pro-Jewish public opinion in Europe and the US. The project was also aimed at receiving financial aid from rich Jews living abroad.
The first settlers came in April 1928. But due to hard living conditions and severe climate, this process was not even. At first, a considerable number of Jewish settlers arrived in 1928-1933s but more than half of them later left the region.
On October 10, 1931, the settlement Tikhonkaya was renamed Birobidzhan. In 1934, when the Jewish autonomous oblast was formed, Birobidzhan became its administrative center. It received the status of the city on March 2, 1937.
In early 1930s, about 1,400 Jewish migrants came to Birobidzhan from abroad: the United States, Argentina, Europe and others. Birobidzhan was a distributing railway center where goods for all the region were brought.
In the second half of 1930s, some social buildings were constructed: the House of Soviets, a teacher’s training college, a library, a Palace of Culture. By 1939, railway and medical schools were opened too.
Birobidzhan Palace of Culture
Birobidzhan street with residential houses
Birobidzhan was named after two biggest rivers of Jewish autonomous oblast. The city stands on the banks of the Bira River. The Bidzhan River flows parallel to the Bira to the west of the city (about 100 km) and flows into the Amur like the Bira.
Birobidzhan received its name from the Evenky people language. The area between the rivers Bira (meaning “river”) and Bidzhan (“permanent camp”) was called that way.
Trans-Siberian Railway and the federal highway M58 “Amur” run through the city. There are three bridges across the Bira River: two for cars and one for trains.
Birobidzhan is located in the temperate monsoon climate zone, with very cold and dry winters, hot and humid summers. The average January temperature is -22.2 degrees Celsius, in July - +21.1 degrees C.
The city has a philharmonic and a number of theaters: the Jewish musical theater, the theater-studio “Kohelet”, the puppet theater “The Wizard”, the movie theater “Rodina”.
Also, there is a children’s dance studio “Mazltov”, children’s choreographic school “Surprise”, circus school “Happy Childhood”, a children’s folk ensemble of the Jewish song “Ilanot.” Birobidzhan holds an annual international festival of Jewish song and music.
In local restaurants and cafes you can taste various dishes of Russian, Jewish, Korean, Armenian, Ukrainian and Chinese cuisines.
Birobidzhan doesn’t have a lot of hotels, here are some of them:
- Hotel “Vostok” (Sholem Aleichem Street, 1),
- Hotel “Barbaris” (Kombaynostroiteley Street, 16),
- Hotel “Bira” (Sovetskaya Street, 21),
- Hotel “Nika” (Pionerskaya Street, 75b).
The crime rate in Birobidzhan
Birobidzhan is the place with the highest rate of drug-related crimes in Russia. And it is a complex problem.
Birobidzhan, being not a large city, is a key point of transportation of drugs from the Far East of Russia and China to the western region of Russia and Eastern Europe (the only highway and railway are passing through the city).
Also, the climate of the region favors the cultivation of narcotic plants. At the same time, the region has the highest unemployment rate in the Far East.
That’s why a lot of locals and foreigners are tempted to earn “easy” money by growing, producing, transporting drugs; they also use drugs, hence the crime rate is high.
Birobidzhan entrance sign
The monument to the first settlers in Birobidzhan
Birobidzhan places of interest
The Bira River with clean and clear water divides Birobidzhan into two parts. On the right bank, there is a unique natural monument - Sopka (220 meters hill) with a TV tower (95 m). Sopka is depicted on the emblem of Birobidzhan.
The main attractions are located on the left bank of the Bira. Numerous squares, parks, squares and architectural monuments will tell you the history of the capital of the Jewish Autonomous Region.
The hallmark of the city is the Railway Station Square with a fountain and Menorah - Jewish ritual candlestick symbolizing the rebirth of the Jewish people after the long years of exile and deprivation. Also, you can find a monument to the first settlers of the region here.
Theater Square with a philharmonic, light and music fountain and flower beds made in the form of Menorah. On the square, there are sculptures of Greek gods, patrons of the arts, and the national Jewish symbol - a bronze figure of the violinist.
Victory Square opened to commemorate the 30th anniversary of the Victory on May 8, 1975. During the Second World War, about 6700 residents of Birobidzhan fought on the fronts and more than 1300 of them died in combat.
The Regional Library. In 1940, on Lenin Street, 25, the building of the regional library named after Sholem Aleichem was opened. The museum of local lore is located in the same building.
The Synagogue. Birobidzhan is a cosmopolitan city. Here you can meet people of different nationalities and religions. The city has a Jewish community center “Freud” created in 1997. In 2004, a synagogue was opened on Lenin Street.
Annunciation Cathedral. The cathedral was built near the Jewish synagogue in 2005.
Friendship Square. It was opened near the City Hall on September 14, 2002. It is a symbol of friendship between Birobidzhan and Hegang city in China. The sculpture in the center of the square symbolizes the friendship of peoples, cooperation, peace between Russia and China.
Palace of Culture is the cultural center of the city. Inside you can find a museum of contemporary fine art, modern and ballroom dancing studios, vocal groups, the circus school “Happy Childhood” and others.
The Movie Theater “Rodina” - one of the first buildings of Birobidzhan. Recently, it was renovated and equipped with new video and audio equipment.
The Waterfront. In 2010, a beautiful waterfront was built in Birobidzhan, nearby there is a new Wedding Palace.
The central street of Birobidzhan is named after the world-famous Jewish writer Sholem Aleichem (Solomon Naumovich Rabinovich,1859-1916).