The Pale of Settlement

Temporary permit to travel for business outside the Pale…

The annexation of large areas of Poland in the late eighteenth century brought a large population of Jews under the control of the Russian Empire for the first time. Bowing to the wishes of Russia’s merchant class, Russia’s rulers forbade Jews to live in the Russian interior, including Russia's largest cities, Moscow and St. Petersburg. By the early nineteenth century, these restrictions were formalized in legislation that delineated the only provinces in which Jews were allowed to reside: a large, 472,590 square-mile area that came to be known as the Pale of Settlement (view a map).

There were exceptions to these laws and some Jews were permitted to temporarily travel or settle outside the Pale. In the wake of pogroms in 1881–1882, the Russian government implemented even more restrictive legislation, known as the May Laws, which prohibited Jews from settling in peasant villages even within the Pale.

The Pale of Settlement remained in effect until World War I, when thousands of Jewish refugees fled into Russia's interior, driven away from their homes by the Russian military, which considered them potential spies. After the Russian Revolutions of 1917, the Pale was finally abolished when all laws that discriminated against Jews were struck down.

Read more about the Pale of Settlement.

Political Posters

See how political activists and organizations spread their message in this collection of political posters.

SLIDESHOW: Political Posters

Young People and Politics

Members of the soccer team of the Kaunas branch of Betar…

Parties across the political spectrum, from the Bund to the Zionists, sponsored youth movements that engaged in a broad range of cultural, educational, and athletic activity. During World War II, members and former members of such groups were instrumental in running self-help organizations in the ghettos. When it became clear that European Jewry was targeted for annihilation, they played a central role in organizing armed resistance.

Read more about Youth Movements.