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Between 1772 and 1795, Poland was partitioned between Prussia, Austria and Russia. In April 1835, Czar Nicholas I created the Pale of Settlement, allowing Jews to settle in the territory that Russia had acquired from Poland, and no where else in the country. This area consisted of portions of what are now the countries Byelorussia, Latvia, Lithuania, Moldova, Poland, Russia, and Ukraine.

In 1882, 250,000 Jews living on the western frontier of Russia were forced to relocate to the Pale. In 1891, 2,000 Jews were deported to the Pale from St. Petersburg, many of them in chains. 20,000 Jews were also expelled to the Pale from Moscow in that year. According to the census of 1897, 4,899,300 Jews lived in the Pale, making up about 11.6% of its total population.

The Pale of Settlement is the source for the term "beyond the pale", referring to exceeding boundaries.

Within the Pale, Jews were not allowed to live in the cities of Kiev, Nikolaev, Yalta, or Sabastopot, without special residence permits.

The Pale of Settlement remained Russian policy until the Bolshevik revolution in 1917.

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