The Russian government has announced a plan to offer US $8,000 to any immigrants—who don’t even have to be Russian nationals—who would be willing to relocate to the far eastern region known as the “Jewish Autonomous Region” of Birobidzhan.
Potential immigrants also don’t have to be Jewish, as the name of the region is a historical anachronism dating from the time when the heavily Jewish-dominated 1920s government of the former Soviet Union tried to establish an exclusive Jews-only homeland in the region as part of an attempt to strike a final deal with the Marxist Zionists, who made up an important component of the early Communist movement.
The Jewish population in the region peaked in 1948 when about 30,000 Jews, or 25 percent of the Oblast’s population, were officially counted as Jews. The attempt to create a Jewish homeland in the area came to nothing when the Zionists created the state of Israel.
According to the 2010 Russian census, there were only 1,628, mostly older, Jews living in the region, out of a total population of around 167,000. The official figures were 160,185 ethnic Russians (92.7%), 4,871 ethnic Ukrainians (2.8%), and 1,628 ethnic Jews (1%).
According to an article in the Israeli Haaretz newspaper, the Russian government has expressed concern that the far east of Russia is being overrun by Chinese immigrants, and has now announced the plan to encourage settlers in the region.
It is clear they mean European settlers, although it is not explicitly said.
The official announcement, called government decision No. 1361, reads as follows: “We have agreed to implement a plan of voluntary resettlement in the Jewish Autonomous Region in Birobidzhan. The initiative is designed to help the Russian expatriates and their families. Signed: Dmitry Medvedev, Prime Minister of the Russian Federation.”
The announcement, made at the end of July, has received little or no coverage in the controlled media in the West, but has received some airtime in Russia. The old Jewish connection to Birobidzhan is the only reason why the story popped up in the Israeli newspaper.
In terms of the plan, a sum equal to $8,000 will be given to anyone willing to move to eastern Russia in “order to halt what is termed an impending demographic disaster,” theHaaretz claimed.
The mineral-rich region lies in the far east, pressed right up against the Chinese border, and is therefore literally on the front line of the Asiatic invasion of eastern Russia.
The government offer includes an “absorption basket” which provides direct financial assistance, airline ticked, coverage of moving expenses and health insurance.
This $8000 translates to around Russian 264,784 Rubles, which is just slightly below the average annual income in Russia, where the average salary (outside of Moscow) runs at about $800 per month.
According to Alexander Zhuravsky, director of the Department of Interethnic Relations of the Ministry of Regional Development, anyone accepted to the place will be able to be an independent worker, a small-business owner or can even remain without any formal work.
There is no limitation relating to the number of family members entitled to the grant or to the specific location where people can settle.
Zhuravsky said that the plan was to attract 2,220 heads of households to the 36,000 km2 (13,899.7 square miles) region within the next four years.
“There have been plans to resettle in the past, but this time we hope to be more successful,” he was quoted as saying.
“That’s why the wording of the law is flexible in its definition of eligibility. It includes not only Russian citizens but also people of ethnic Russian extraction—descendants of those who left the country many years ago—and even foreign citizens who have a profound personal or cultural connection to the country.”