Back in 2009, when I wrote this post (don’t miss the Vienna/Bratislava anecdote!), I said I was “thunderstruck” that in the Jewish Autonomous Region of Russia, Birobidzhan, Yiddish written in Hebrew script is still used; as I said, I thought the whole “Jewish Birobidzhan” thing was a Stalinist initiative that failed half a century ago. Now I’ve been sent a link to the website of a local publisher whose newspaper Birobidjaner Shtern (“Birobidzhan Star”) publishes mostly in Russian but has quite a fair amount in Yiddish, as you can see using the idish tag. I wish I knew enough Yiddish to actually read the articles, but I was able to make my way through a few headlines, and perhaps some of my Yiddish-speaking readers will enjoy the link. Thanks, Paul!


  1. It appears to be in Soviet Yiddish orthography: words of Hebrew origin are spelled phonetically, not as in Hebrew.

  2. Ah yes, I forgot to mention that.

  3. It’s good to know it’s still going. I was in Khabarovsk (Birobijan, the capital of Jewish Autonomous Oblast, is in Khabarovsk Krai) in the 70s as a trainee reporter and two of my bosses were Jewish. One of the propaganda articles we prepared then, with the help of Birobidjaner Shtern was titled ‘Not a single Jew from the autonomous oblast emigrated from the Soviet Union’.

  4. One Hebrew word that isn’t spelled phonetically is “Shoah.” Perhaps this is because it isn’t really a Yiddish word (the normal Yiddish word for this is “khurbn”); it may even be that it is pronounced the Israeli way by readers, so that spelling it phonetically would be doubly strange.
    It’s also strange to see “Lvov” in Yiddish. It makes sense, though, that that would be the name familiar to readers.

  5. David Eddyshaw says

    Rosh-haShoneh gets proper Hebrew spelling too, though immediately after “yontev” spelt Sovietically.
    I seem to remember that the Soviet system also abolished the distinctive word final forms of letters, which doesn’t seem to be the case here, anyhow.

  6. Final letters were indeed banned in 1932, but they were reintroduced around 1961 (though a book I have from 1961 does not use them). In many ways this brackets a discrete period: from Stalin’s ascension to the Khrushchev Thaw.

  7. That makes sense, since K. made a point of changing as many of Stalin’s decisions as he could (not to mention things named after Stalin); what’s surprising is that Brezhnev, who made a point of reversing as many of K’s changes as he could, didn’t change it back. Probably too minor to attract his attention.

  8. I was puzzled for a second by the article talking about Moshe Maimonid.

  9. Birobijan, the capital of Jewish Autonomous Oblast, is in Khabarovsk Krai
    Not exactly. Birobijan is in the JAO, itself one of the 83 constituent federal subjects of the Russian Federation. Which is to say, the JAO is no longer controlled administratively by Khabarovsk Krai (a change that went into effect in 1991) nor surrounded by it, so there is no sense in which Birobijan can now be said to be “in” Khabarovsk Krai. (I was there myself sometime around ’97. A sleepy, pleasant-enough town in the summer, but I wouldn’t want to go in the winter.)

    That article has Ohio written in Hebrew the way it’s spelled in Russian:
    שטאט אָגײַאָ
    штат Огайо
    Do all the articles come with a Russian translation?

Speak Your Mind