Most metazoan embryos commence development with rapid, transcriptionally silent cell divisions, with genome activation delayed until the mid-blastula transition (MBT). However, a set of genes escapes global repression and gets activated before MBT. Here we describe the formation and the spatio-temporal dynamics of a pair of distinct transcription compartments, which encompasses the earliest gene expression in zebrafish. 4D imaging of pri-miR430 and zinc-finger-gene activities by a novel, native transcription imaging approach reveals transcriptional sharing of nuclear compartments, which are regulated by homologous chromosome organisation. These compartments carry the majority of nascent-RNAs and active Polymerase II, are chromatin-depleted and represent the main sites of detectable transcription before MBT. Transcription occurs during the S-phase of increasingly permissive cleavage cycles. It is proposed, that the transcription compartment is part of the regulatory architecture of embryonic nuclei and offers a transcriptionally competent environment to facilitate early escape from repression before global genome activation.