Tereasa Lenius" wrote
Perhaps this is a silly question, but, did only Jews live in the ShetlsShtetls (literally "small towns") were established during the colonization
period (16th and 17th centuries) of the Poland Lithuanian Commonwealth.
Shtetl had a unique character - it was not an agricultural village and was
not qualified as a town proper either due mostly to the small population.
A unique features that have characterized shtetls were their economical
activities - concentration of the merchants/trade people and the marketplace
(known as Rynek) were residents of the surrounding villages could
sell/exchange their agricultural products and the livestock, and procure
'town' items manufactured locally or imported by shtetls dwellers.
Another unique feature of a shtetl was its "neutral ground" character,
located between the Polish (Roman Catholic) and the Ukrainian or Belarusian
(Russian Orthodox or Greek Catholic) population.
Shtetls were known in Polish, Russian or Ukrainian as miasteczko,
miestiechko, mistechko and even during the interwar period of Poland (refer
to 1929 Poland Business Directory on line), miasteczko has been given an
official status as an administration unit. Other interwar Polish
administration units were: district towns, towns and parishes.
BTW, the most famous of all the Jewish shtetls, shtetl Belz, was actually a
town, not a "miasteczko".
Not all miasteczka were Jewish - there are several small places established
by the German and other colonists. Jewish shtetls were populated by other
nationalities and they were generally governed by the other than Jewish
people - in some instances (especially in Galicia) there were also Jewish
"Shtetl" name can be a bit confusing nowadays. We are all rationally
referring to a "shtetls" as the general name of the localities were our
ancestors were originated from, even when they have been in the past
residents >from such large cities as Krakow, Lwow, Wilno or Warszawa.
ShtetlSeeker database is East and Central Europe extract >from the US BGN
(United States Board of the Geographical Names) large worldwide database.
Not all localities listed in the ShtetlSeeker had Jewish population in the
past, actually localities with known Jewish population constitute very small
portion of all places listed.