to Mr. Blaine.
St. Petersburg , July 23, 1881. (Received August 6.)
Sir: The question of the rights of naturalized citizens of the United States of Russian origin who revisit this country is one which has several times of late been presented to this legation and by it submitted to the Russian Government, without obtaining therefrom any satisfactory result.
The subject may be best illustrated by citing some of the cases which have arisen. Isaac Goldner, born in Odessa, Russia, in 1858, went to Germany in 1870 at the age of twelve years, and from Germany to the United States in 1872, where he remained continuously until 1880, having served for five years with honorable promotion in the United States Army and been regularly naturalized as a citizen. Last year he returned to Odessa, with an American passport, on a visit to his friends, and was immediately arrested and held for service in the Russian army. The consul intervened in his behalf, but could obtain no other relief than his release on bail pending the settlement of the question. In December last I presented the matter to the minister of foreign affairs, and suggested that it was a case which strongly appealed to imperial clemency, if it was held that he was subject to military service. I have several times since recalled the case to the attention of the minister, but his reply has been that he has received no report from the authorities at Odessa. I infer from the latest information I have from that city, that if Goldner has not been impressed into the army it is because he has forfeited his bail and escaped from the country.
Paul T. Batzell, born in Riga, Russia, in 1848, represents that he was exempt from military service on account of his father belonging to the first guild, and that he left this city in 1872, with a passport issued by the proper authority, and went to the United States, where he became a citizen and permanently established himself. He having manifested a desire to revisit Russia on business for a given time, under instructions from the Department of State I inquired in writing, on the 5th of [Page 1029] November last, of the minister of foreign affairs, whether he would be permitted to return to Russia free from liability to this government on account of the circumstance of his birth. I stated Mr. Batzell’s history in detail, and gave his references to persons of responsibility and standing in this country, from whom the truth of his representations could be ascertained. Although I have addressed a second note to the foreign office, no answer has yet been received.
Louis Colsky represents that he was born in Lowicz, government of Poland, Russia, and in 1862, at the age of sixteen years, emigrated to the United States, served in the Army of the Union to the close of the civil war, was honorably discharged, became a naturalized citizen, married in the United States, is the father of four children, and has continuously resided in that country since 1862. He wrote to this legation in April last that his parents had died in Poland; that a legacy had been left him which he was informed could only be paid to him personally 5 that he desired to return to his birth-place to receive this legacy and pay his tribute of respect to his departed parents in visiting their graves; and that, if permission could be obtained from the Russian Government, he would sail from New York in the present month. I made application to the foreign office, setting forth the facts, but up to this date no reply has been received.
It is proper to state, in explanation of the delay of the foreign office to reply to such applications, that they have to be sent down through the department of the interior, the governors-general of the provinces, and the governors of the districts to the local authorities, and then placed in the hands of the police or other officials to obtain a full history of the individual, so that much time is consumed in obtaining a report, if, happily, one is ever sent.
The Russian Government discourages emigration by all kinds of impediments to the departure of its subjects. No individual can leave the empire without a passport, and no passport is given unless all claims are discharged. These claims do not merely relate to the military service, but to taxes, judicial suits, personal indebtedness, and various other liabilities. The only exception in this regard is that of the Grand Duchy of Finland, which is not subject to the general legislation and restrictions of the Russian Empire, but governed by a liberal and independent system of laws, and; as a consequence, no restriction is placed upon emigration, and American citizens, natives of Finland, are not molested upon their return to the places of their birth. But in all other parts of the empire it is different. Aside from Finland, the chief emigration from Russia to the United States takes place from Poland; and, in answer to my inquiries, the consul at Warsaw states that it is impossible to form any estimate of the number who go to the United States, for the reason that all the emigration is carried on surreptitiously, as it requires at least four months to obtain a passport, even if free from liability, and costs one hundred roubles (near $75), and that as the emigrants are usually of the poorer classes, they pass the frontier without authority. He further states that if naturalized citizens of the United States of Polish birth return to Poland, they are generally sentenced in accordance with article 325 of the Penal Code, or, if acquitted, are under the surveillance of the police. Article 325, referred to by the consul, and which is in force throughout Russia, except in the Grand Duchy of Finland, is as follows:
Whoever, leaving his country, enters without the authorization of the government into a foreign service or becomes a citizen of a foreign power, incurs, on account of this violation of his oath of allegiance, and of his duties as a subject, the privation of all his civil rights, and perpetual exile beyond the limits of the empire, or, in case of voluntary return to Russia, deportation to Siberia, to be colonized there.
In the absence of a treaty of naturalization, and with the existence of such regulations as those cited, legal emigration can hardly take place in Russia, and such of its subjects as go to the United States and become naturalized citizens, and afterward revisit the land of their birth, find that their passports of American citizenship afford them very little if any protection.
It is respectfully submitted to the Department whether some steps may not be taken to improve the condition of this class of American citizens.
I have, &c.,