No. 624.
Mr. Foster to Mr. Blaine.

No. 135.

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.,

[Inclosure 1 in No. 135.]

sketch of the laws of russia relative to foreign jews.

Israelites in general are in Russia subject to a special legislation.

There is found in the code of laws a series of provisions in the proper place, spread over many different chapters, and divers published regulations on commerce, industry, and the trades devoting to them special clauses.

Foreign Israelites do not escape this legislation, which defines the laws applied to them relative to their admission into the territory of the empire and to their sojourn in Russia.

The localities the limits of which are accorded to Israelites, subjects of the Empire, in order to sojourn in a permanent manner, are as follows:

The governments (or provinces) of Bessarabia, Vilua, Vitebsk, Volhynia, Grodno, Ekaterinoslaf, Taurida, Kershow, Tchernigof, Kowno, Minsk, Mohilef, Poltava, Podolia, and Kief, with the exception of the city of Kief, but upon the observance of the following rules: In the governments of Vitebsk and Mohilef the Israelites have the right to reside in the inhabited localities, in virtue of proper tickets of sojourn which are given to them for this purpose, without, nevertheless, having the right to definitely establish themselves there in the quality of fixed inhabitants. With respect to the city of Nicolaief, they have the right to choose a domicile there and to acquire real estate, in conformity to the special provisions of the regulations in commerce. 2d. Regarding the western governments adjoining the frontier and Bessarabia, the Israelites are not authorized to establish themselves within a distance of 50 versts from the frontier of the state. Along the western frontier of the state the Israelites guilty of contraband are, in addition to the other penalties, condemned to vacate the above-cited limits. (See articles 16 and 23 of the regulations on passports, sequel to the Code of Laws, ed. of 1876.)

A general statute law that foreign Israelites are not authorized to immigrate to Russia, nor to receive Russian naturalization. (See article 992 of the regulations on social conditions, Code of Laws, vol. ix, ed. 1876.)

Nevertheless, article 530 of the regulations on passports (Code of Laws, ed. 1857), in admitting certain exceptions to the preceding law, particularizes who are those among foreign Israelites who are authorized to establish themselves within the limits of the localities where the right of domicile is accorded to all Jews in general.

Those whom the imperial government invites to come to Russia to exercise the functions of rabbins.
Those who come to Russia with the object of creating manufactories and workshops (with the exception of distillers), and who can show a capital for this purpose of at least 15,000 roubles. The individuals at their entry into Russia must engage, in writing, to create said establishments within a period of three years. In case where they shall be found not to have complied with the terms of their engagement they shall be expelled from the empire. On the contrary, in case they shall have fulfilled it, they should have the right to become Russian subjects and shall select a legal status.

Artisans called to Russia by the Israelite manufacturers to engage in manufacturing labor in their factories. These artisans shall not be permitted to enter Russia except upon presentation (a) of a passport in order, (2) of a certificate from the imperial legation or consulate of Russia certifying to their condition, the character of their former occupations, the trade which they follow, and showing that they have really been called to Russia, by whom, and with what object. After a sojourn of five years in the factories, and upon presentation of a certificate from their employers and the local authorities attesting their skill and their irreproachable conduct, they shall be permitted to establish themselves permanently in the localities of domicile acquired for Israelites and to become Russian subjects.

Foreign Israelites, arriving in the localities where the fixed sojourn is authorized for all Israelites in general, shall be put into possession of passports, in which it shall be stated that they are only of value within the limits of the localities above mentioned. (See article 8 and annexes to article 486, remark 2, of the regulations on passports, sequel to Code of Laws, ed. 1876.)

The local authorities are required to watch rigorous that foreign Israelites do not reside under the name of Christians in the localities where their sojourn is prohibited. The individuals discovered to be in this situation will be immediately expelled from Russia. (See article 531 of the regulations on passports, &c.)

Foreign Israelites, and especially those who are agents of large commercial, houses abroad, are permitted to visit the great commercial and manufacturing centres of Russia, and to reside there a period of time, the fixing of which is submitted to the judgment of the proper authority.

It pertains to the department of the interior to definitely decide on the petitions presented for this object by the said Israelites. Nevertheless, the imperial legations and consulates may, without previous authorization of the department of the interior, deliver to bankers and chiefs of important commercial houses abroad passports to enter Russia and vise” these passports, reserving notification to the department of the interior of the delivery or visè of passport to each one of the said individuals. (See article 2 of the annexes to article 486 of the regulations on passports &c.)

Israelites, foreign subjects, known for their social position and large operations or commercial enterprises, are permitted as the result of a special understanding in each case between the minister of finance, of the interior, and of foreign affairs to establish a business within the limits of the empire, and to open banking offices by providing themselves, nevertheless, with certificates of merchants of the first guild. They are likewise authorized to establish manufactories, acquire and lease real estate freely upon the basis of the provisions decreed by the regulations on social conditions.

Foreign Israelites, whose high social position and commercial operations are of public notoriety, and who come to Russia with the object of purchasing products of the empire and exporting them abroad, can also, as the result of a special understanding in each case between the ministers of finance, of the interior, and of foreign affairs, obtain certificates of merchants of the first guild. (See part 5 of the remark to the third annex to article 128 of the regulations on commerce, ed. 1876, with a complement: Decision of the committee of ministers, December 26, 1877.)

Israelites, who may acquire by inheritance real estate situate beyond the localities where their sojourn is authorized, are required to sell it within a period of six months. This law applies also to foreign Israelites who may acquire real estate in Russia by right of inheritance. (See article 960 of the regulations in social conditions, Code of Laws, ed. 1876.)

The following provisions having been decreed for the Israelite subjects of the empire shall be applicable to foreign Israelite subjects in so far only as the latter are found to have satisfied the requirements of the above-cited laws.

Merchants of the first guild inscribed upon the general basis in the first guild of the cities may go there with the members of their families whose names are found upon the guild certificates.

Israelite merchants, who, in virtue of the preceding provisions, remove to the cities of the empire situated beyond the limits of the localities of their authorized domicile, are permitted to bring with them clerks and servants, likewise Israelites, in a limited number, and by Observing the following rules: 1st. Israelite merchants who remove to one of the two capitals, St. Petersburg or Moscow, are required to state, in a special petition presented by them to the governors-general or the prefect of the place, the number of clerks or servants which they judge indispensable to bring with them to [Page 1025] said capitals, and upon what considerations this number is based. The granting of these petitions is left to the judgment of the governors-general and prefects above cited. 2d. Israelite merchants, who are inscribed in the guilds of other cities, are authorized to bring with them, at the most, one clerk, or one office boy, and four servants of the two sexes of their race per family of Israelite merchant. (See annex 3 to article 128 of the regulations on commerce, sequel to the Code of Laws, ed. 1876.)

Israelite merchants of the first guild, besides the general rights of commerce which belong to them within the limits of the localities of their authorized sojourn, enjoy the following special rights:

They have the right to bring in “bulk from the capitals and ports, in order to effect sales within the limits of the authorized district, all kinds of merchandise through the medium of commercial offices and local merchants or by correspondence.
They are permitted to visit twice a year the capitals and other cities for the purpose of making sales there of merchandise, on condition that the period of their sojourn does not exceed six months per year. In case there shall be an impediment or impossibility on account of sickness or other cause to their going in person for the above-mentioned object to the interior of the empire, they will be authorized to send in their stead clerks provided with the proper authorization, always computing the period cited. An Israelite clerk who has already visited the provinces twice in one year by virtue of an authorization of a merchant cannot go there a third time in the course of the same year. It shall be the same if, having gone to said provinces once for one merchant, he held the authorization of another merchant. He shall, in this case, not be authorized to make more than a single journey in the course of this same year.
Israelite merchants of the first guild are authorized to undertake enterprises in the government of the interior, but on condition that they do not employ in any case Israelites as agents or superintendents.
Israelite merchants of the first guild are permitted to carry on in the capitals and the ports wholesale trade in the products of authorized governments by means of Christian clerks or of merchants of the place or by direct correspondence with the manufacturers. But they are forbidden to make sale in person of said products in the capitals or ports of the empire, or to open shops, under penalty of immediate expulsion and the confiscation of the merchandise.
They shall not be authorized, neither personally nor even by means of Christian agents, to sell merchandise which they may have imported from abroad outside of the limits of the governments of their authorized fixed sojourn. (See article 130 of the regulations on commerce, sequel to the Code of Laws, ed. 1876.)

[Inclosure 2 in No. 135.]

memorandum of treaties of commerce with russia.

Treaty between Great Britain and Russia.


Art. I. There shall be between all the dominions and possessions of the two high contracting parties reciprocal freedom of commerce and navigation. The subjects of each of the two high contracting parties, respectively, shall have liberty freely and securely to come with their ships and cargoes to all places, ports, and rivers in the dominions and possessions of the other, enjoy the same rights, privileges, liberties, favors, immunities, and exemptions in matters of commerce and navigation which are or may be enjoyed by native subjects generally.

It is understood, however, that the preceding stipulations in no wise affect the laws, decrees, and special regulations regarding commerce, industry, and police in rigor in each of the two countries, and generally applicable to all foreigners.

Art. XI. The subjects of each of the two high contracting parties by observing the laws of the country shall have—

Full liberty with their families to enter, travel, or sojourn in all parts of the states and posessions of the other contracting party;
They shall have the power in the towns and ports to rent or own the houses, warehouses, shops, and lands which they shall need;
They shall carry on their business either in person or by means of agents of their own choice; finally,
They shall not be subject, for their persons and property, nor for their passports, permits of sojourn or establishment, nor on account of their business or industry, to taxes, whether general or local, nor to imposts or obligations of whatsoever nature, other or more onerous than those which are or may be fixed for natives.

The treaty of commerce between France and Russia, 1874, is almost identical in language with the foregoing articles of the English treaty.

[Page 1026]

The treaty of commerce between Austria-Hungary and Russia, 1860, contains similar provisions, using in most instances the same language.

Article XIII of the Austrian treaty contains the exact text of Article XI, above quoted, of the British treaty, and there is added the following paragraph:

“It is understood 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.”

No treaty of commerce exists between the German Empire and Russia.

[Inclosure 3 in No. 135..]

the case of mr. lewisohn

Mr. Leon Lewisohn, a native of Hamburg, but a naturalized Englishman, carries on business as a merchant in London. In August, 1880, having occasion to visit Russia for the purposes of his trade, he provided himself with a passport, signed by Lord Granville and fortified with the visa of the Russian consul in London. He proceeded to the fair at Nijni Novgorod, and, after a stay of three weeks, went on to St. Petersburg, where he took up his residence at one of the principal hotels. On sending his passport to the proper department (bureau des étrangers) for examination, he was required to appear personally there, for the reason, as he states, that his name appeared to indicate a Hebrew origin. He duly attended, and was taken before the chief of the department, who merely asked him: “Are you a Jew?” On receiving a reply in the affirmative, the Russian functionary informed Mr. Lewisohn that he could not be permitted to remain in St. Petersburg, but must leave for the frontier within twenty-four hours. An order was indorsed on his passport to the effect that “the bearer of this passport, the British subject Leon Lewisohn, a Jew, is forbidden to stay in St. Petersburg,” and instructions in conformity with the order were given to the police. Mr. Lewisohn applied for assistance to the English embassy, but appears to have seen no one in authority. He did not obtain the help he sought, and he left the Russian capital the next day (September 23). Mr. Lewisohn states that he suffered pecuniary loss from the expulsion.

On returning to London, Mr. Lewisohn made a statement of his case to the foreign office. Lord Granville immediately communicated with our ambassador at St. Petersburg, and Sir Julian Pauncefote was instructed to inform Mr. Lewisohn that the notice which he had received to quit Russia appeared to have been in accordance with Russian law. Mr. Lewisohn having further told Lord Granville that his business requirements would in a short time render it again desirable for him to visit Russia, and having asked whether protection would be afforded him for that purpose by her Majesty’s government, Lord Granville requested Lord Dufferin by telegraph to ascertain whether there would be any objection to Mr. Lewisohn’s returning to Russia. A delay of three weeks supervened, and Lord Granville telegraphed again, and learned, in reply, that Lord Dufferin had not yet received any answer from the Russian Government to several inquiries he had made on the subject. Ultimately, after a correspondence extending over four or five months, Mr. Lewisohn received (on April 2, 1881) a letter from the foreign office which informed him of the definite refusal of the Russian Government to permit him to return to St. Petersburg.