The repressive compartment of the nucleus is comprised primarily of telomeric and centromeric regions, the silent portion of ribosomal RNA genes, the majority of transposable element repeats, and facultatively repressed genes specific to different cell types. This compartment localizes into three main regions: the peripheral heterochromatin, perinucleolar heterochromatin, and pericentromeric heterochromatin. Both chromatin remodeling proteins and transcription of noncoding RNAs are involved in maintenance of repression in these compartments. Global reorganization of the repressive compartment occurs at each cell division, during early development, and during terminal differentiation. Differential action of chromatin remodeling complexes and boundary element looping activities are involved in mediating these organizational changes. We discuss the evidence that heterochromatin formation and compartmentalization may drive nuclear organization.