Posted by Nat Bernstein
One of my favorite nonfiction writers has a new book coming out at the end of the month that addresses the bizarre history of Birobidzhan, a Russian region granting autonomy to its Jewish settlers along the border with China:
Envisioned as a stronghold of Jewish culture, Birobidzhan became home to thousands of Jews within a couple years of its establishment in 1929 before it was plundered for intellectuals and elites in a wave of arrests in the late 1930s. Following World War II, refugees from the Jewish Pale of Settlement reinforced the remote region’s population, only to succumb once more to the Soviet purges which effectively silenced Birobidzhan’s inhabitants and their story — until now.
Those stories forming Where the Jews Aren’t: The Sad and Absurd Story of Birobidzhan, Russia’s Jewish Autonomous Region could not be left to a more capable custodian than Masha Gessen, whose previous books on Russian history and current events range from biographies of mathematicians to the love stories of LGBT Russians to the fate of the Soviet intelligentsia under Communism to the Pussy Riot revolution.
Nat Bernstein is the former Manager of Digital Content & Media, JBC Network Coordinator, and Contributing Editor at the Jewish Book Council and a graduate of Hampshire College.