Pale of Settlement

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The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

Pale of Settlement


the part of the Russian empire in which Jews were permitted to reside on a permanent basis. It included the provinces of Bessarabia, Vil’na, Volyn’, Grodno, Ekaterinoslav, Kovno, Minsk, Mogilev, Podol’sk, Poltava, Tavrida, Kherson, Chernigov, and Kiev.

The pale of settlement was created in the late 18th century, when the Right-bank Ukraine, Byelorussia, and Lithuania—all with large Jewish populations—were ceded to Russia in the partitions of Poland. Only “local Jews” were permitted to live in Courland Province, the Caucasus, and Middle Asia. Within the pale of settlement, Jews were forbidden to live in the villages or in the cities of Kiev, Sevastopol’, and Yalta. Those permitted to live outside the pale were merchants of the first guild, persons with higher and specialized education, artisans, and soldiers fulfilling compulsory military service; the descendants of persons in these three categories were also authorized to live outside the pale.

For the Jews the pale of settlement was the most onerous burden resulting from their unequal status as a nation (natsiia, nation in the historical sense). The pale of settlement was abolished by the law of Mar. 20 (Apr. 2), 1917, On the Abolition of Religious and National Restrictions.


Gessen, Iu. I. Zakon i zhizn’: Kak sozidalis’ ogranichitel’nye zakony o zhitel’stve evreev v Rossii. St. Petersburg, 1911.
The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.
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References in periodicals archive ?
Written by Jerry Bock with lyrics by Sheldon Harnick, and a book by Joseph Stein, Fiddler on the Roof is set in the pale of settlement of Imperial Russia in 1905.
(Montesquieu wrote in the 18th century, not the 17th; the Jewish Pale of Settlement was created in the late 18th century, not the 17th.) It too often reads like a series of potted histories.
The author traces the formation of the Jewish community in Winnipeg, Canada, after many Jewish immigrants from the Pale of Settlement in Tsarist Russia settled there between 1882 and 1914.
Rose Pastor immigrated to the United States from the Russian Pale of Settlement via London with her family, and began working in a Cleveland cigar factory at the age of eleven, an experience that drew her to socialism and labor activism.
Yet in the early 1890s Hirsch was the destination for hundreds of Jewish refugees fleeing economic turmoil and pogroms--anti-Jewish riots--in eastern Europe's Pale of Settlement, a region of western Russia to which Jewish settlement was confined.
These Jews, huddled in poverty for the most part in the notorious Pale of Settlement, spawned the radicals who played critical roles in the communist revolution, the pioneers who established and created the State of Israel and the millions who immigrated to the United States and launched what is arguably the most successful diaspora in history, Jewish or otherwise.
Towards the end of Yuri Slezkine's brilliant book The Jewish Century, in which he follows the three main paths taken at the turn of the 19th century by the Jews of the Pale of Settlement [1]--emigrating to America, joining the Zionist project, and joining the Soviet project, Slezkine suggests that one century later, at the turn of the 20th century, the great majority of the descendants of those Jews would agree that those who chose to go to America had been the wisest.
Catherine the Great issued an order about the Pale of Settlement that expelled Jews from the properly Russian parts of the Empire into Polish territory.
As they bade each other farewell upon their journeys to America and Palestine, I realized that, despite their travails, they would be spared death in the Holocaust, and I thought of my own good fortune that the Russian pogroms that began in 1881 caused my paternal ancestors to flee the Pale of Settlement and seek a better life in the United States.
Once made kosher, they became popular throughout Eastern Europe's Jewish community and the Pale of Settlement, "epitomizing the robust peasant-and-poor-man's-food," according to Roden.
By comparison, he has much less to say about the "Jewish question." To be fair, from the imperial elite's point of view, Poles were without a doubt the most politically important actors in the region, yet for all that, it is impossible to analyze government policy in regard to Jews in the Vistula Region without touching on policies in the Pale of Settlement, and if Rolf had done this, it would have broadened the scope of his research considerably.
Some favoured confining Jews more closely to the Pale of Settlement, while others urged abolition of the Pale in order to dilute the Jewish "poison" through a wider territory.