It is well known among historians of the Soviet Union that, early in his reign, Joseph Stalin rejected Marx and Lenin's strongly internationalist variety of socialism, in favor of the more limited project of building real socialism within one state, while at the same time promoting the distinct national identities of all the ethnic groups within that state. Stalin wrote as early as 1913: "A nation is a historically constituted, stable community of people, formed on the basis of a common language, territory, economic life, and psychological make-up manifested in a common culture." He bemoaned the fact that "among the Jews there is no large and stable stratum connected with the land, which would naturally rivet the nation together."
When he came to power, Stalin sought to do something for the Jews that would, for the first time in modern history, rivet the nation together. Some Jews weren't sure they liked the sound of that, but sensed that it was probably better than anything they could expect if they were to remain the neighbors of Cossacks and Belorussians. So they packed their bags and headed for the Far East to start a new life in the newly established capital of Jewish culture, the city of Birobidzhan.
There was just one small obstacle: a local population, correctly referred to as the 'Amuryak', but called by the Russians 'Birobidzhanis' ever since the rails for the Chita-Vladivostok train were first laid across the region. From the very first encounters in the 17th-century, no one knew what to make of them: they were not quite Asian, but not really anything else either. They were hairy like Ainu Men, but extremely small. A surveying team sent by Peter the Great in 1713 included a certain Nehemiah Butts, member of the Royal Society of London, who wrote to Johann Gabriel Sparwenfeld, the Swedish lexicographer and early pioneer of Slavic studies: "This Region is quite overrun by Conies, Tit-mice, and all the rudest Sortes of bird. As to the people, they are but half the Size of one Englishman, and twice, nay thrice as hirsute. The little men flee when they see such a Giant as I approaching towards them, whence I have not yet been able to ascertain, whether they are wanting of Language, or whether yet they have it, but daren't use it."