Sunday, July 1, 2007

Birobidzhan (July 2-6)

On July 2 I left Arkhara on a (very hot) 5-hour train ride to Birobidzhan, the capital of the Jewish Autonomous Region (also right on the border with China). Not far from Birobidzhan is the zapovednik Bastak, created very recently, in 1997. Here as in Khingansky I learned about the activities of this zapovednik, got to meet the director and staff, and more. Of course, since I didn’t have as much time, I didn’t see things in as much detail, although I still collected enough info for a good impression. But I won’t repeat it all here – there is enough material for you, dear reader, about Khingansky!

I also got to tour around Birobidzhan a bit. It is a very green and quiet city. It has existed only since 1937, and there are only about 80,000 people here. (There are probably only 100,000 in all of the Jewish Autonomous Region.) Despite the name of the region, only 4% of inhabitants here are Jewish. However many signs are in both Russian and Yiddish! In Birobidzhan it was also very hot – sunny 95-degree days made me happy to return to cool and cloudy Vladivostok on July 7.

Pictures of Birobidzhan: 1. Monument to Chinese-Russian friendship; 2. Orthodox church; 3. Sveta, me and Nastya in front of the fountain at the philharmonic. Sveta and Nastya are university students doing summer internships in the environmental education department at Bastak. They develop lectures on various ecology and environmental-conservation topics that might be of interest to local schools and teachers. Sveta, Nastya, and another student, Anya, took me on a tour of Birbidzhan my first morning in the city.

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