Weekend Heller: The Jewish Autonomous Region

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The folks at PRODUCTIVE ARTS have amassed a collection of materials from the ultimately failed Soviet experiment of The Jewish Autonomous Region of Birobidzhan, which was founded in the mid-1920s in a desolate part of the Soviet Far East for the USSR’s Jewish population. Общество землеустройства еврейских трудящихся (OZET), the Association for the Agricultural Settlement of Jewish Workers, was formed to carry out this resettlement.

Jewish agricultural communities were not new to the Stalin regime. They go back to 1806 and allowed Jews certain perks, including exemption from military service and reduced land prices. These allowed for a peasant class to become established, and by 1900 over 100,000 colonists were working in different areas. Some of the colonies grew in size to become shtetls, or small market towns with primarily Jewish inhabitants. After the Revolutions of 1917 they were further expanded (and became the model for later collectivization).

OZET held lotteries between 1928 and 1933 to finance the development of that region. Primarily designed by Mikhail Dlugach (the noted designer of 1920s Russian film posters), a series of posters advertising these lotteries was created. In addition to the posters shown here (in which Yiddish was the official language of Birobidzhan), Dlugach’s lottery tickets are also for sale.

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