The Jewish Autonomous Oblast (Russian: Евре́йская автоно́мная о́бласть, Yevreyskaya avtonomnaya oblast; Yiddish: ייִדישע אווטאָנאָמע געגנט‎, yidishe avtonome gegnt]) is a federal subject of Russia in the Russian Far East, bordering Khabarovsk Krai and Amur Oblast in Russia and Heilongjiang province in China.The JAO is Russia's only autonomous oblast and, aside from Israel, the world's only Jewish territory with an official status.

Soviet authorities established the autonomous oblast in 1934, pursuant to the country's nationality policy under Joseph Stalin, which provided the Jewish population of the Soviet Union with a territory in which to pursue Yiddish cultural heritage.

Jewish Autonomous Oblast in The Hot WarEdit

After escaping China during World War III, Vasili Yasevich wound up in Smidovich, in the Jewish Autonomous Oblast in the summer of 1951. He was able to convince the local MGB officer, Gleb Sukhanov that he'd hailed from Khabarovsk, a city destroyed by an American atomic bomb a few weeks prior. Yasevich claimed that he'd been outside Khabarovsk proper, visiting a married woman when the Americans attacked. He also claimed that he'd lost his identification card as a result. While Sukhanov seemed to have his doubts, he was prepared to let Yasevich alone so long as he stayed out of trouble.[1]

During their conversation, Yasevich defended the supposed loss of his ID card by asking how he was to know that the Americans would come that night. Sukhanov responded by asking the first question of Ma Nishtana: "Why is this night different from all other nights?" He then chuckled and concluded he'd been in the Jewish Autonomous Oblast for too long. Yasevich didn't understand the reference.[2]

The JAO was also the home of a prison camp that housed the wives of West German soldiers fighting against the Soviets in Western Europe.[3]


  1. Fallout, loc. 270-329, ebook.
  2. Ibid., loc. 317.
  3. Ibid., loc. 1553-1611.