** Jewish Pale of Settlement

Russian Jews: The Pale of Settlement (1791-1917)

Figure 1.--Terrible attacks on Jews called pogroms in the Pale were reported, especially after the asccession of Tsar Alexabnder III (1881). These are some of the survivoirs of the Kishinev Pogrom in Bessarabia, part of the Pale of Settlement (1903). Some 49 Jews were killed, an untold number of Jewish women were raped, and 1,500 Jewish homes were damaged. Notice the number here that had been beaten over the head and that the children were not spared. Many of these attacks were actually encouraged by the Tsarist police. Tsarist officils as the regime weakened tried to displace opposition by promting the idea that Jews were the enemy. .

Tsarist Russia under Catherine the Great established the Pale of Settlement (1791). Earlier Tsars had attempted and failed to expel the Jews from Russia who refused to convert. The Emperess Elizabeth made the most sustained effort. There were a range of issues involved with mixed religion, nationalism, and economics. Russia in the 18th century was still largely divided mainly into nobles, serfs and clergy. Two developments in the 18th century brought the issue of Jewish settlement to a head. First, Peter the Great institutited a range of reforms which began to bring Russia into Europe. This resulted in social and ecomomic changes which included the first factories and modern industrial production. This also meant the emergence of industrial urban workers and a middleclass. The new Russian middle-class included many Jews. Second, the Polish Partitions, especially the Second Partition, brought large numbers of Jews into the Russian Empire. Until the Partitions, Russia had a fairly limited Jewish population. The Pale in the 19th century would include more than 5 million Jews, this was the largest Jewish population in Europe, about 40 percent of the total. Catherine by restricting where Jews could lived was in part attempting to ensure the emergence of a Russian middle class. Catherine was a German princess and thus vulnerable to charges from Russian nationalists, many of who wanted the Jews expelled. This basically violated Catherine's liberal attitudes. Also the Jews despite the charges of anti-Semites, played a valuable role in the Russian economy, especially their mercantile role in the provinces. The Pale was an area of Western Russia stretching from the Baltic Sea to the Black Sea. It included what is now the Baltic Republics, Poland, Belarus, and large areas of the Ukraine including the Crimea, although it varied over time. Jews were restricted to settling outside this area. Jews were required to live and work only in this Pale. Authorities required Jews to obtain special permission to enter Russia outside the Pale. Jews in the Pale were mostly urban, but this means villages and small towns and not just cities. They lived in towns and villages, called shtetls. Among the important centers of Jewish life were Warsaw, Odessa, Lodz, and Vilna, communities that would be destroyed by the NAZIs in the World War II Holocaust. Jews even within the Pale lived under many legal restrictions affecting employment. As result many were merchants, shopkeepers, and craftsmen--trades they were permitted to persue. Terrible attacks on Jews in the Pale were reported, especially after the asccession of Tsar Alexabnder III (1881). The attacks were called pograms and were so wide spread that the word entertd the Enhglish language. The Pale was only finally abolished after the overthrow of the Tasarist regime (1917).


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Created: 6:13 AM 9/24/2006
Last updated: 6:13 AM 9/24/2006