[Marxism] Fwd: Birobidzhan | Louis Proyect: The Unrepentant Marxist

Louis Proyect lnp3 at panix.com
Tue Nov 8 16:00:03 MST 2016

Thirteen years ago I had the good fortune to review a documentary titled 
“L’Chayim, Comrade Stalin” by Klezmer musician Yale Strom that served as 
an introduction to the Jewish Autonomous Region of the USSR that Stalin 
declared in 1934. My review began:

When he was a young boy, Yale Strom noticed two “sidukah” (charity) 
boxes in his father’s shop. One was the omnipresent blue Jewish National 
Fund box intended for Israel that my own father kept in his fruit store. 
The other was targeted for Birobidzhan, the Jewish Autonomous Region 
that Stalin decreed in 1932. His curiosity about the lesser-known Jewish 
homeland became the seed for his documentary “L’Chayim Comrade Stalin,” 
now showing at the Quad Cinema in NYC.

  Based on interviews with current and past residents and archival 
material, including a altogether charming Soviet feature film of the 
period promoting settlement, the film not only sheds light on an 
under-documented aspect of Stalinist rule, it also inspires a variety of 
reactions to the “Jewish Question.” (Strom utilizes a graphic of these 
two words writ large in red repeatedly through the film as a kind of 

  Most of the older veterans of Birobidzhan make clear that the project 
tapped into youthful idealism. Combining a belief in communism with a 
desire to create a cultural homeland for the Jews, they came to the 
Siberian hinterland with great hopes. Despite the fact that 
anti-Semitism prompted Stalin to create the settlement in a 
geographically remote area, the settlers did not necessarily view this 
as a kind of internal exile. Stephen F. Cohen points out eloquently in 
his biography of Bukharin that Stalin’s despotic “revolution from above” 
did not preclude a kind of egalitarian zeal from bubbling to the 
surface. Despite repression, many people felt that they were on a great 
adventure to build a new society, including the Jews who came to 

Clearly, Birobidzhan continues to grip the imagination of filmmakers, 
artists and scholars based on recent works I have had a chance to examine.

full: https://louisproyect.org/2016/11/08/birobidzhan/

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