According to the 1850 Census of the Russian Empire, the Jewish population had grown more than half since the previous census in 1834 to 2,350,00 people. Within the Pale of Settlement, 25 percent of the population was Jewish. Therefore, the Russian government began receiving many more inquiries for the construction of synagogues.
In 1853, the Russian government conducted an inventory of the existing synagogues. Its purpose was to have a better count of the operating synagogues. The government’s findings indicated that synagogues in a majority of shtetls within the Pale of Settlement had been built without obtaining the necessary construction permits, and, as the government’s document indicates, they had been operating since the “beginning of time”.
For example, in each Mozyr uezd shtetl, there was, at a minimum, one unregistered synagogue. As a result, the authorities enacted a new set of building codes: 1) a synagogue could not be located closer than 200 meters to any church, and b) synagogues could not be taller than churches.
Cold synagogue in David-Haradok. Photo by A.Bochnig.
From the archive of Instytut Sztuki Polskiej Akademii Nauk (IS PAN R0000026409)
Archival documents list the following shtetls of Mozyr uyezd as having unregistered synagogue buildings: Skrygalov, Kopatkevichy, Petrikov, Lenin, Lakhva, David-Horodok, Turov, Karolin. The documents also list the sizes of congregations, the names of Rabbis, the names of heads of congregations, the names of treasures, and the names of Torah experts (khochoms).