to Mr. Blaine.
St. Petersburg , July 14, 1881. (Received July 30.)
Sir: After considerable delay I am at last enabled to send you-herewith-an abstract or sketch of the laws of Russia relative to foreign Jews. As I heretofore noted the laws on this subject are contained in a voluminous mass of legislation, regulations, decisions of ministries, &c., many of which conflict with each other, and it has been found very difficult to know with accuracy what is the existing law applicable to a particular ease. The accompanying abstract is believed to be * * * as full as I can make it without the employment of an experienced native attorney, and having in view some special or question.
As introductory to a notice of the inclosed abstract, it is proper to state that from early times Jews were prohibited from coming to or settling in Russia; but, by means of the conquest of Poland, the Crimea, and certain other districts, a large number of Jews became incorporated as subjects of the empire, and it was thus made necessary to so modify the ancient general prohibition as to allow Israelites who had become Russian subjects by annexation of territory to reside in the western and southwestern provinces named in the inclosed abstract. And, up to the present, no other part of the empire has been opened to Jewish Russian subjects for unrestricted habitation, so that, as a rule, even Russian Jews are confined to the provinces cited, and the ancient law prohibiting the entrance into Russia of foreign Israelites is still in force, with the very limited exceptions cited in the accompanying sketch. These exceptions may be briefly stated as follows:
- Certain foreign Jews may come into the governments or provinces of West and Southwest Russia named, to wit: 1st, rabbins invited by the Russian Government to exercise their profession; 2d, manufacturers with a capital of 15,000 rubles, by special arrangement; and, 3d, artisans brought by said manufacturers upon certain specific conditions.
- All other parts of Russia are closed to foreign Israelites, with the limited exceptions of, 1st, the agents of large commercial houses abroad, who are permitted to visit, for a limited period, the great commercial and manufacturing centers of Russia, upon their petition to that effect, presented to the department of the interior, being granted; and, 2d, well-known bankers and chiefs of large commercial houses or enterprises coining to Russia to purchase and export native products may be admitted as merchants of the first guild, as the result of a special joint understanding with the ministers of the interior, of finance, and of foreign affairs; but, even after being admitted as members of the merchants’ guild, they have only specified and restricted privileges.
It will thus be seen that Jewish citizens of the United States are virtually excluded from Russia, as few, if any, of them would be willing to comply with the requirements necessary for their admission under Russian laws. This code of Jewish regulations, of which some idea may be formed from the inclosed sketch, will appear somewhat curious and antiquated in our country of unrestricted commercial intercourse, and especially the limitations, not only of a business, but even of a domestic character, which are thrown around the Jewish bankers and merchants (to use the language of the law) “known for their high social position and large operations and commercial enterprises.”
I also transmit herewith a memorandum showing the provisions bearing [Page 1023] upon the question of the treaties of commerce existing between Russia and Great Britain, Austria, and France.
The other European nations have treaties similar to that of Great Britain, with the exception of Germany, which, singularly enough, has no treaty of commerce with Russia. A comparison with the treaty of commerce which the United States has with Russia will show that the only material variance is in the last paragraph of Article I of the British treaty (and a similar provision is found in the treaties of most of the European nations with Russia), wherein it is more explicitly provided than in the treaty with the United States that the privileges therein granted “in no wise affect the laws, decrees, and special regulations regarding commerce, industry, and police in vigor in each of the two countries.” The Austrian treaty is still more precise in adding to the foregoing reservation a recognition “that the restrictions established in the states of one of the high contracting parties shall be equally applicable to the subjects of the other belonging to the same confession.” It may, therefore, be concluded that our treaty is fully as favorable to our citizens as that of any other nation with Russia.
As the case of the British subject Lewisohn, now pending and the occasion of some inquiry in Parliament, has been heretofore referred to, I inclose a statement of facts relating thereto, which is doubtless substantially correct. It may be noted that while Lewisohn was refused permission to revisit St. Petersburg, the American citizen, Mr. Wilczynski, who was expelled about the same time, was, upon application of this legation, given permission to return.
I am, &c.,