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Birobidzhaner Shtern

Yiddish-language social and political newspaper established in 30 October 1930 in the future city of Birobidzhan. When Birobidzhan was formally declared a Jewish Autonomous Region (JAR) in 1934, the approximate circulation of Birobidzhaner shtern (Birobidzhan Star) was 500 copies. These numbers rose to 1,500 in 1939, but fell to less than 1,000 in 1950. In 1970 circulation numbered 12,000 (according to official data), and in 1991, after the newspaper’s partial shift to Russian (in September 1990), the maximum totals were 4,000.

The frequency of Birobidzhaner shtern’s publication varied: it was a daily from 1934 to 1941, and from 1971 to 1993. From August 1939 Birobidzhaner shtern and the local Russian-language paper Birobidzhanskaia zvezda became almost identical in content. During World War II, from 1 September 1941 until 31 August 1944, publication of Birobidzhaner shtern was suspended, but from September 1942 Birobidzhanskaia zvezda regularly included articles and whole pages in Yiddish. From 1949 to 1961, it was the only Yiddish periodical appearing in the USSR. In 2004, it was issued twice each week in Russian, with a few poorly printed pages in Yiddish appearing once a week, as the organ of the JAR.

The newspaper’s editors included Henekh Kazakevich (1932–1935), Buzi Goldenberg (1936–1937), Buzi Miller (1941, 1944–1948), Naum (Nokhem) Fridman (1949–1950), Naum Korchminski (1956–1984), Leonid Shkolnik (1984–1988), and Inna Dmitrienko (from 1994).

The newspaper’s Yiddish has retained from Soviet days the phonetic spelling of words of Hebrew and Aramaic origin. Use of the special final form of five consonants, dropped in May 1932, was restored in December 1994.

Publication of Birobidzhaner shtern was initiated by OZET (Society for the Settlement of Jewish Toilers on the Land) to serve Jewish settlers in Birobidzhan and also for propaganda purposes. From 1936 to October 1970 it was not available outside the Soviet Union. In the periods when Birobidzhan experienced upsurges in national identity (1930–1938, 1944–1949, 1988–1992), Birobidzhaner shtern was more of a general Jewish than a regional newspaper; it had its own correspondents in Moscow and in the 1980s–1990s in Israel.

Birobidzhaner shtern has reflected all stages of the Birobidzhan project: the beginning of resettlement there by Soviet and foreign Jews; the proclamation of autonomy; the efforts to turn the region into the center of Soviet Jewish culture; the postwar emigration of Jewish refugees; the freezing of the project at the end of the 1940s; and the mass repatriation of Jews to Israel at the beginning of the 1990s. A number of Soviet Yiddish writers were among its staff while they lived in Birobidzhan, including Luba Vasserman, Khayim Beider, Salvador Borzhes, Arn Vergelis, Itsik Bronfman, Hershl Vinokur, Emmanuil Kazakevich, Yoysef Kerler, Khayim Maltinski, Yosef Rabin, Heshl Rabinkov, Yisroel Emyot, and Buzi Miller.

In 1991–1993 Birobidzhaner shtern had a commercial weekly supplement in the Russian newspaper Di vokh (The Week).

Suggested Reading

Vladimir Karasik, Evreiskie periodicheskie izdaniia: Rossiia, 1960–1994 (Tel Aviv, 1994), pp. 12–13; Jacob Lvavi, Ha-Hityashvut ha-yehudit be-Birobijan (Jerusalem, 1965), pp. 322–328.



Translated from Russian by I. Michael Aronson; edited and abridged by Avraham Greenbaum