The cradle of the Chassidic movement was in the areas of the Polish Kingdom which were soon annexed to the Russian Empire during the partitions of Poland in the last quarter of the 18th century. This took place just as the nascent movement was spreading rapidly throughout these areas and beyond. Chabad in White Russia, the various branches of the Chernobyl and Ruzhyn dynasties in Ukraine, Karlin, Slonim, Apta, Savran, Breslov and many other smaller dynasties dotted the countryside across the Pale of Settlement.

The Czarist government initially didn’t recognize the chassidim as a separate entity within the Jewish community, though the initial stages of legislation actually benefited the development of the movement. The opponents of the Chassidic movement – misnaggdim and maskilim, as well as the chassidim themselves, at times attempted to involve the government in their internal disputes. Later in the 19th century the Russian government specifically singled out Chassidic custom, dress and leadership, and the chassidim of Russia had to contend with the unique circumstances of their communities development within the greater context of the challenges of the overall Jewish community in the Pale of Settlement under the autocratic rule of the Romanovs.

 

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