B(ordering) Utopia in Birobidzhan: Spatial Aspects of Jewish Colonization in Inner Asia


The borderline territory serves a double purpose, being simultaneously zones of cultural contact and cultural barriers–administrative and often civilizational. This ambivalence frequently affects borderline area inhabitants turning them into hostages of border management regimes and outside projections concerning their cultural and civilizational status, and the authenticity of forms of their culture representation. In the case of Birobidzhan, we are dealing with an absolutely modern project of creating ethnic territoriality without reference to the historical context and far from the places of traditional settlement of the Jewish population. The implementation of this project put the Jewish settlers at the center of a complex process of border management and securitization of the border areas. The factors of border and “remoteness” are largely underestimated in Birobidzhan studies. The article fills this niche, emphasizing the spatial aspects of the implementation of the “anti-Zionist utopia” and its complex relationship with previous models of territoriality in the region and local inhabitants.

Author Biography

Ivan Peshkov, Adam Mickiewicz University in Poznan, Poland

Ivan Peshkov received his PhD degree in Development Studies from the Poznań University of Economics, Poland, and his MA in Economic History from the Adam Mickiewicz University, Poznań, Poland. He is holding the position of the Head of the Center for Central Asian Studies (Adam Mickiewicz University, Poznan, Poland). His current research focuses on politicization of indigenousness in the Russo-Chinese border areas, frontier biopolitics in Eurasia, the Evenki (in Siberia and China) and memory work in Inner Mongolia and Transbaikalia. He carried out research in the Chinese, Russian, and Mongolian border triangle and investigated the main economic and historical processes that characterize the area. Dr. Peshkov is the author and editor of over 40 publications. Among them: The Hulunbuir and Transbaikalia playground. Microphysics of power on the Sino-Russian border (ed. Ivan Peshkov), Poznań: Wydawnictwo UAM, 2019; Facing Challenges of Identification: New Approaches to Identities of Buryats and Their Neighbor Peoples (ed. Kamil Wielecki and Ivan Peshkov), Warsaw: Wydawnictwo UW; The Communal Apartment under “Special Surveillance”: The Legacy of the Soviet Gulag in Multiethnic Criminal Subcultures in Eastern Siberian Prison Camps, Laboratorium,1, 2015; Politization of Quasi-Indigenousness on the Russo-Chinese Frontier, in: Franck Bille, Gregory Delaplace and Caroline Humphrey (ed.) Frontier Encounters: Knowledge and Practices at the Russian, Chinese and Mongolian Border, Cambridge: Open Book Publisher, 2012; Usable Past for a Transbaikalian Borderline Town. “Disarmament” of Memory and Geographical Imagination in Priargunsk, Inner Asia, 16 (2014); In the Shadow of “Frontier Disloyalty” at Russia-China- Mongolia Border Zone, History and Anthropology, 28, 2017; Social Crises, Ethnic Distance and Memory along the Chinese-Soviet Border. The Chinese Russian Old-Settlers narratives about the “Chinese” Famine and Cultural Revolution in Inner Mongolia, Sensus Historiae. Studia interdyscyplinarne, vol. VIII (2012/3), Eastern affairs. Work with historical memory. Borderlands, (Karolina Polasik-Wrzosek, Ivan Peshkov ed.).


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How to Cite
Peshkov, I. (2021). B(ordering) Utopia in Birobidzhan: Spatial Aspects of Jewish Colonization in Inner Asia. Changing Societies & Personalities, 5(2), 220–232. doi:10.15826/csp.2021.5.2.130