Toward a New Geography of Hasidism
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The geography of Hasidism has long been one of the most contentious issues in the history of the movement. This article represents an attempt to free hasidic geography from outmoded preconceptions by proposing a new conceptualization of the hasidic leadership and its following in Eastern Europe. Based on an original, extensive database of hasidic centers, the authors drew five maps in sequence showing the development of Hasidism from its inception to the Holocaust. The five periods into which the database is divided are demarcated by four historically significant landmarks: the years 1772, 1815, 1867, and 1914. The article offers some possible interpretations of the maps, and draws a number of conclusions arising from them. The authors examine the dynamics and tendencies of the expansion of the movement within geographical frameworks, including the shift of hasidic centers from Podolia and Volhynia in the eighteenth century to Galicia and the southeastern provinces of Congress Poland in the nineteenth century, and subsequently to Hungary and Romania in the twentieth century; hasidic penetration into Jewish Eastern Europe, reaching its peak in the period between 1815 and 1867; and the metropolization of the hasidic leadership after 1914. The article also analyzes the patterns of concentration and diffusion of the hasidic leadership, and the impact of political factors upon these parameters.
KeywordsHasidism Eastern Europe Geography Demography Expansion Metropolization
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