Lakhva in 1926 (then Łachwa, Poland), ulica Lubaczyńska (Lubaczynska Street)

Shtetlekh (Yiddish: שטעטל‎, shtetl (singular), שטעטלעך, shtetlekh (plural))[1] were small towns with large Jewish populations, which existed in Central and Eastern Europe before the Holocaust. Shtetlekh were mainly found in the areas that constituted the 19th century Pale of Settlement in the Russian Empire, the Congress Kingdom of Poland, Galicia (Ukraine) and Romania. In Yiddish, a larger city, like Lviv or Chernivtsi, was called a shtot (Yiddish: שטאָט‎, German: Stadt); a village was called a dorf (דאָרף‎).[2] In official parlance the shtetl was referred to as "(Jewish) miasteczko" (Ukrainian: мiстечко, Polish: miasteczko, Belarusian: мястэчка, Russian: местечко).[3]


Map showing percentage of Jews in the Pale of Settlement and Congress Poland, c. 1905

Shtetl is defined by Yohanan Petrovsky-Shtern as "an East European market town in private possession of a Polish magnate, inhabited mostly but not exclusively by Jews" and from the 1790s onward and until 1915 the Shtetl was also "subject to Russian bureaucracy"[3] (because the Russian Empire had annexed, and was administering, the area of Jewish settlement). The concept of shtetl culture describes the traditional way of life of Eastern European Jews. Shtetls are portrayed as pious communities following Orthodox Judaism, socially stable and unchanging despite outside influence or attacks.

The decline of the shtetl started from about the 1840s. Contributing factors included poverty as a result of changes in economic climate (including industrialisation which hurt the traditional Jewish artisan and the movement of trade to the larger towns), repeated fires that destroyed wooden homes, and overpopulation.[4] Also the anti-Semitism of the Russian Imperial administrators and the Polish landlords, and later, from the 1880s Russian pogroms made life difficult for Jews in the shtetl. From the 1880s until 1915 up to 2 million Jews left Eastern Europe. At the time about three quarters of its Jewish population lived in a shtetl. The Holocaust resulted in the total extermination of shtetls.[citation needed] It was not uncommon for the entire Jewish population of a shtetl to be rounded up and murdered in a nearby forest or taken to the various concentration camps.[citation needed] Some shtetl inhabitants did emigrate before and after the Holocaust, mostly to Israel and the United States, where some of the traditions were carried on. But, the shtetl as a phenomenon of Ashkenazi Jews in Eastern Europe was eradicated by the Nazis.[citation needed]

Other Languages
Afrikaans: Shtetl
Alemannisch: Schtetl
български: Щетъл
čeština: Štetl
Cymraeg: Shtetl
dansk: Shtetl
Deutsch: Schtetl
español: Shtetl
فارسی: اشتتل
français: Shtetl
한국어: 슈테틀
հայերեն: Շտետլ
Bahasa Indonesia: Shtetl
italiano: Shtetl
עברית: שטעטל
Ladino: Shtetl
Nederlands: Sjtetl
norsk: Shtetl
norsk nynorsk: Shtetl
polski: Sztetl
português: Shtetl
română: Ștetl
русский: Штетл
Simple English: Shtetl
slovenčina: Štetl
svenska: Shtetl
ייִדיש: שטעטל