I got the sense in Birodbizhan that the Soviets tried hard. There are public monuments to Communism, as usual:
But they also built a town hexagon on Bauhaus principles, with buildings at every apex. They built a broad street with two-storey classical blocks housing a newspaper and printing presses, where they published not only the news but cultural books as well in Yiddish, the non-religious language of the Jews. They put on plays; they had visiting scholars and authors:
So what if their town professor and expert on Jewish proletarian culture died at the ripe old age of 39 in 1937? Lots of people were dying prematurely in those days:
Perhaps, during WW2, some of the local residents were grateful to be living far away from Europe, though many of course died there:
Today the synagogue is well-kept, just down the street from the new Russian Orthodox Church and looking considerably more inviting:
I like the crone-shot:
The museum emphasized the region’s Jewish history, along with natural history and – finally! – stuffed animals.
Not so scary when he’s trapped in a tree-trunk:
I quite like my old-and-new pics:
Diorama in Russian is… Diorama!
If you look closely, it appears that someone’s painted a Russian flag over the Soviet flag, as I doubt in a WW2 battle they’d be fighting for Russia:
Here are Jewish kids learning in a secular school about how great the USSR is:
A rare Marx-head protecting industry:
The coolest radio ever:
Lenin with a collar, dressed like Kraftwerk from The Man Machine:
1980s Birodbizhan music, again with the fake Hebrew writing:
Beautiful poster-art from the Afghanistan invasion:
And Birodbizhan’s future:
This became abundantly clear to us on Sunday, so I’ll leave it there. Also tomorrow – where Jews come to collect their children.