In the spring of 1881, Jewish communities within the Pale of Settlement in Russia and Romania witnessed the creation of the Jewish nationalist groups, regional associations, and other core organizations that would subsequently evolve into the movement that came to be known as Ḥovevei Ẓion (lovers of Zion), or Ḥibbat Ẓion.
Although anti-Semitism played an important role in stimulating the emergence of Ḥibbat Ẓion, the movement's establishment must be understood as having been shaped by two concurrent processes. One was the conclusion of Jewish emancipation in central and western Europe, which brought central figures in the national movement, such as Leon Pinsker, to the decisive conclusion that the Jews could only be truly emancipated in an independent Jewish state. The second stemmed from the poor socioeconomic conditions faced by Jews of the time, particularly in eastern Europe. The demographic growth experienced by the Jews of eastern Europe, which reached a high point during the last few decades of the nineteenth century, required a dramatic socioeconomic solution that was nowhere to be found. Proponents of the Jewish nationalist movement argued that the establishment of a Jewish state would also help relieve the Jews' social and economic plight.