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Jewish Autonomous Region

Jewish Autonomous Region or Birobidzhan (bērōbējänˈ) [key], autonomous region (1995 pop. 211,900), c.13,800 sq mi (35,700 sq km), Khabarovsk Territory, Russian Far East, in the basins of the Biro and Bidzhan rivers, tributaries of the Amur. The capital is Birobidzhan. The region is bounded on the south by China (Heilongjinag prov.) and on the north by the Bureya and Hinggan (Khingan) mts., which yield gold, tin, iron ore, and graphite. Mining, agriculture (chiefly on the Amur plain), lumbering, and light manufacturing are the major economic activities.

Formed in 1928 to give Soviet Jews a home territory and to increase settlement along the vulnerable borders of the Soviet Far East, the area was raised to the status of an autonomous region in 1934. The Jewish population peaked in 1948 at about 30,000 (one fourth of the total population). Despite some remaining Yiddish influences—including a Yiddish newspaper—Jewish cultural activity in the region has declined enormously since Stalin's anticosmopolitanism campaigns and since the liberalization of Jewish emigration in the 1970s. Jews now make up less than 2% of the region's population.

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.

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