Price: $310.00

    Code: 1885

    Directed by Yale Strom
    2001, 90 minutes)
    Purchase: $310 Rental: $125

    This video traces the history of Birobidzhan, the capital of the Soviet Union's Jewish Autonomous Region, from 1928 to the present. Joseph Stalin encouraged Jewish settlement in this vast wilderness of eastern Siberia where young idealists built a homeland rich in Jewish culture. Heeding the slogan "To a Jewish land,"·Jews from the U.S.S.R. as well as Canada, the U.S., Poland, France and Argentina, among other countries, made the arduous trek, by boat and train, to Siberia. The region, rife with disease and deprivation, was a crushing disappointment to these first pioneers. In subsequent years, despite encouragement from organizations such as AMBIJAN and IKOR, Jewish immigration steadily declined.

    In March 2000, American filmmaker Yale Strom flew to Moscow to begin a seven-day trip, via the Trans-Siberian Railroad, to Birobidzhan. Accompanying him was interpreter-bodyguard (and former KGB agent) Slava Andreovich, grandson of Mikhail Kalenin, first president of the U.S.S.R. and architect of the Jewish Autonomous Region. Fascinating footage from Russian archives and scenes from the Soviet propaganda film, Seekers of Happiness, are woven into the journey. In Birobidzhan, his interviews with early Jewish pioneers of the J.A.R. and young proponents of the revival of Yiddish culture, paint a vivid portrait of contemporary Jewish life in Russia—a compelling tale of the perseverance of Jews and their Yiddish culture in the face of forced migration, anti-Semitism, and great privations—as well as the circumstances surrounding this unique chapter in Soviet, and world, history.

    Subjects & Collections

    Festivals & Awards

    Official Selection, Berlin International Film Festival
    Official Selection, San Francisco Jewish Film Festival
    Bronze Phoenix Award -Warsaw Jewish Film Festival


    "Remarkable... a fascinating look at a bygone era." —The Russia Journal Weekly

    "A witty, moving and highly informative movie with considerable resonance for the Jewish world today." —Inside Magazine

    "Terrific! A polyphonic film etude about cruelly betrayed ideals and an amazingly persistent culture." —The Nation

    "Fascinating!...an accomplished gander at this little-known historical chapter." —Variety

    "Few, if any, specialists in Yiddish culture are as qualified to tell the story of the Soviet Yiddish homeland as the multitalented, prolific Strom" —The Forward

    "Recommended. L'Chayim, Comrade Stalin! will be of interest to students of Jewish Studies and history, but perhaps most useful as an in-depth study for those already knowledgeable in Russian history of the JAR." —Educational Media Reviews Online

    Further Reading

    "Letter From Birobidzhan" - The Forward, May 5, 2006
    Director Yale Strom updates his film, L'Chayim, Comrade Stalin!, with an article on his return trip to Birobizdhan

    Related Films

    A beautiful and poetic film about the last remaining Jews in Birobidzhan, the world's first Jewish autonomous region, established in a distant corner of Siberia in the 1920s.