Places lived in by Jews outside the Pale of Settlement #russia

Jill Whitehead

Does anyone know which regions Jews were allowed to reside in by special consent which were outside the Pale of Settlement in the 19th century? Two family members (as per Scottish Census1921 and a UK naturalization record) were born in the Pskov region of Russia which is in the Baltic area near the Finnish border in 1859 and in the 1860's.  Yet the rest of their siblings and close cousins came from the northern part of Suwalki gubernia then in Poland and now in Lithuania. A family story refers to one part of the family dealing in horses, possibly for the military. Would this be a reason a Jewish family could work in or reside outside the Pale of Settlement? Pskov is a long way away from Suwalki gubernia, so there must have been reason for being there in the late 1850s and early 1860s.  I would be interested to know if anyone has any answers or insight to this quandary. I can find no other place called Pskov that fits the bill. 

Jill Whitehead, Surrey, UK


A few general facts that may be of assistance in framing your research.

- The Pale of Settlement was a Russian invention. Permission to live outside it, but within Russia was granted by  the Russian Regime and permissions were granted in significant numbers. 

- The Pale of Settlement was a restricted zone for Jews in Russia, but the borders between Russia and Prussia and the Austro-Hungarian Empire were both long and porous.

- The Partitions of Poland in the18th Century created state borders (Prussia, AH, Russia) that cut through the large Jewish settlement area of East Central europe.

I think it would be beneficial to consult a good map of the region showing the borders and municipalities after the last partition, somewhere around 1780 if my memory is correct.

Richard Marill Kobayashi
Belmont, MA

Hap Ponedel


Jews were able to live outside the Pale of Settlement throughout most of its existence, but with varying ease. Previous to 1865 living outside its border was quite limited but this changed after 1865 as rules shifted under Alexander II. For a quick visual representation of this you can look at the map here to see localities dotted in red where significant numbers of Jews resided in the second half of the 19th century: On this map the border of the Pale of Settlement has been installed in light green. Pskov is definitely represented on this map. I would not say that it is a lot closer to the Finnish border than it was to Suwalki, but the distance between the two towns was 331 miles in a straight line. If you are sure that your ancestor(s) came from the northern part of Suwalki, then the distance was a bit closer. For the record here, the last partition of Poland-Lithuania happened in 1795. The establishment of the Pale of Settlement as a region was not a singular event as is often stated, but rather a gradual process beginning as early as 1769 (in New Russia) and continuing through the 19th century with increasing occupational and residence restrictions placed on Jews.

If you are curious about Jews living outside the Pale you can read more about this in Jews and the Imperial State, Identification Politics in Tsarist Russia, Eugene M. Avrutin, Cornell U. Press, 2010. There is an entire chapter devoted to Movement and Residence. The author does not talk about Pskov specifically but the overall discussion sheds light on the situation that Jews faced relative to their form of employment. Bribery  was common as was expulsion back to the Pale. I could imagine that dealing in horses might be very "useful" to the Russians, expecially to the army and police. I will look for references on Jews involved in horse trading, which should prove interesting I would think.

Otherwise, I have placed a red dot at the town of Suwalki and Pskov on the image below:

Pskov is at upper right and Suwalki at the lower left.
Otherwise, maps of the various regions and time periods of interest to the discussion can be found at this page of my website:
Please send me questions about historical geography of this region any time.
Hap Ponedel
Eugene, OR

Michael Steinore

Jill, you may get some insight by looking at Czarist decrees affecting Jews around that time.  There is a subject index to such laws and substantial background info at I checked and there are two decrees that mention Pskov from the 1860's/70's.  There is also a decree from the 1850's regarding regulations that provide "exceptions for horse-breeders".   It wouldn't be trivial; you'd have to have to acquire the text (microfilm #1183719 from the LDS family history library, or other libraries mentioned on the site) and translate from Russian those 3 decrees (which are probably on the order of a few paragraphs).  There is no guarantee they address your particular inquiry, but they might.

Michael Steinore

Albert Braunstein

another book of interest is
Beyond the Pale: The Jewish Encounter With Late Imperial Russia (2002) by Benjamin Nathans
Albert Braunstein
Melbourne, Australia

Arlene Beare

Riga and Courland were not part of the Pale. Jews were confined to the Pale by Russian laws of 1795 and 1835. 

According to Martin Gilbert by 1897 there were more than 5 million Jews in the Pale. and 320.000 outside of it of whom 100.000 lived in Siberia,80.000 in the Baltic Provinces,50.000 in the Caucaasus,10,000 in Russian Central Asia and 10.000 in Astrakhan and the Terek region.

Arlene Beare
Co-Director Latvia and Estonia Reserach Division

Michele Lock

Jewishgen's town finder shows that Pskov in 1900 had 1444 Jews living in the city. I expect this was based on the 1897 Russian census. 

I've also been surprised to see towns outside the Pale on Jewishgen, with somewhat sizable Jewish populations. The town of Kaluga, 100 miles south of Moscow, had a population of 760 Jews in 1900. 

It was my understanding that Jewish men living outside the Pale had to have permission to do so, and that they kept their original town of registration no matter how many years they lived outside the Pale.
Michele Lock

Lak/Lok/Liak/Lock and Kalon/Kolon in Zagare/Joniskis/Gruzdziai, Lithuania
Lak/Lok/Liak/Lock in Plunge/Telsiai in Lithuania
Rabinowitz in Papile, Lithuania and Riga, Latvia
Trisinsky/Trushinsky/Sturisky and Leybman in Dotnuva, Lithuania
Olitsky in Alytus, Suwalki, Poland/Lithuania
Gutman/Goodman in Czestochowa, Poland
Lavine/Lev/Lew in Trenton, New Jersey and Lida/Vilna gub., Belarus

Jill Whitehead

Thanks for your replies.

I have been following up military service as a reason for being "beyond the pale". Apparently my great great grandfather reached the rank of Captain in the Russian Army and was granted land as a gift for his service. Evidently he and his family did not stay long in Pskov and Novgorod Gubernias, nearer St Petersburg than Finland.

He must have died sometime in the 1860's, wherever he was stationed. His daughter (born in Novgorod gubernia in 1859), my great grandmother, came to Edinburgh from Vishtinetz/Vistitis in Suwalki guberniya in 1870, along with her three first cousins, including my great grandfather (they married in Edinburgh in 1877). Her mother (by this time widowed) and a brother and sister followed suit in c 1872, also from Vishtinetz, and not outside the Pale now.

Apparently you could buy your way out of the army if you had enough money, as could spouses and children. My guess is that my great great grandfather died (may be on service?), and his widow decided she and her children had to leave, and they went back home to where they came from.   As many of those in Suwalki had fought on the Polish side in the 1863 uprising, and young men could still be conscripted into the Tsar's army,  she must have made the decision to first send her daughter off to Scotland (she was aged 11 years old) and then came herself with her other two children, including her son. My great great grandfather was the son of a daughter of the Rabbi of Vishtinetz, and they had strong connections there (indicated in a parchment family tree of which I have a copy).  

I gather the Jewish populations of Pskov and Novgorod in 1859 (on the birth of my great grandmother)  were about 40 odd each or so. It was a founding population, probably based on those who were on active military service. The populations grew subsequently. 

Jill Whitehead, Surrey, UK


My grandfather and great uncle both served in the Tsar's army -- I have photos of them in uniform. My grandfather's internal passport even states his rank. However they were both able to leave their home (also out of the Pale -- Genichesk) and emigrate. Now I understand how -- they probably bought their way out. Both had wives and children. Thank you all for this informative thread.
Ruth Chernia
Toronto, Canada
searching for
TSCHERNIA of Copenhagen, Denmark, & Genichesk, Kherson Oblast, Ukraine
SHLAMOWITZ/SZLAMOWICZ/BIRENCWEIG of London, England; Lodz & Jezow, Poland
SEIDLER/ZAJDLER/LANDAU of Lodz & Sulejow, Poland
ROSENFELD of Raków, Kielce, Poland
SHKOLNIK/TICK[ER] of Ladyzhyn & Bershad, Vinnytsia, Ukraine


On Fri, Dec 9, 2022 at 04:31 AM, Jill Whitehead wrote:
Apparently my great great grandfather reached the rank of Captain in the Russian Army and was granted land as a gift for his service. ... He must have died sometime in the 1860's...
there might be a mistranslation of his rank.  The highest rank a Jewish soldier could obtain in the Russian imperial army was unter-officer (aka non-commissioned officer).

Practically unbaptized Jews could only be privates in the army, promotion to non-commissioned officers were allowed especially distinguished Jews (since 1850 - only with the consent of the emperor in each specific case).

There was a total of only 9 Jewish men (not converted to Christian faith), who have reached the rank of captain in the military of the Russian Empire.  The first one to do so was Gertsel Tsam, who only received this rank upon retirement in 1893.

Mike Vayser