Mr. Breckinridge to Mr. Olney.
St. Petersburg , March 25, 1896 . (Received April 9.)
Sir: I am in receipt of a letter from Mr. Charles C. Scherf, editor of Traffic, 306 and 308 Chestnut street, Philadelphia, asking if the laws of Russia permit a noncitizen to carry on business or hold title to real estate, and if any distinction is made between subjects and foreigners in regard to taxation on business or property, and saying that the information is desired for publication. This appears to be a journal devoted largely to the extension of foreign trade. It seems to me that my reply should be to the Department, for transmission at its discretion, and I have informed Mr. Scherf of my taking this course. I have the honor to cover the inquiries as follows:
Reference to the treaty of 1832, provides:
- Art. I. The inhabitants of their respective States shall mutually have the liberty to enter the ports, places, and rivers of the territories of each party wherever foreign commerce is permitted. They shall be at liberty to sojourn and reside in all parts whatsoever of said territories in order to attend to their affairs; and they shall enjoy, to that effect, the same security and protection as natives of the country wherein they reside on condition of their submitting to the laws and ordinances there prevailing, and particularly to the regulations in force concerning commerce.
- Art. X. * * * And where, on the death of any person holding real estate within the territories of one of the high contracting parties, such real estate would by the laws of the land descend on a citizen or subject of the other party, who by reason of alienage may be incapable of holding it, he shall be allowed the time fixed by the laws of the country, etc.
Personal inquiry at the foreign office reveals the fact that foreigners are not permitted to own real estate in the frontier governments of the west. These begin at Livounia, south of this point, and embrace Cour-land, Kovno, Suwalki, Lomsha, Plosk, Kalisz, Piotrkow, Kielce, Lublin, [Page 530] Volhynia, Podolia, and Bessarabia. Otherwise foreigners are permitted to do business in these provinces the same as subjects of the Empire, and there are said to be no special restrictions in any other part of the Empire.
A general exception to this, however, must be noted in the regulations relating to Jews. Anyone of Jewish origin should make special inquiry before acting upon general assurances, for the Russian Government has special regulations in regard both to its Jewish subjects and to foreigners of such origin.
While no exceptions are made against foreigners within the limits stated, yet it should be borne in mind that regulations and requirements are much more minute and complex here than in our country, and so a foreigner needs to proceed with great care in order not to fail in such particulars. Free individual initiative is not the practice here, but Government consent and control actively touch nearly everything; and ignorance or disregard of this often occasions difficulties which might be avoided.
I have, etc.,