Mr. Breckinridge to Mr. Sherman.

No. 507.]

Sir: Referring to the Department’s No. 244 of May 16, 1896, I have the honor to transmit herewith copy and translation of the note of Count Lamsdorff of March 4 / February 20, and its inclosure, replying to my inquiry in regard to the Russian law concerning expatriation.

Although the present reply does not fully state how far in response to inquiry No. 5 the claims of the Empire continue upon the descendants of a Russian subject born abroad, yet I have been heretofore verbally informed by the legal adviser of the ministry of foreign affairs, and again was so informed on yesterday, that they continue without limit as to generations of descent and regardless of where they are born.

While seeking to procure amelioration of the condition of American citizens of Russian nativity, I have not failed to point out to the Russian Government how, if possible, even more acutely repugnant to the American sense would be the application of such a doctrine to those born upon our soil.

I believe it is appreciated by the ministry of foreign affairs that, in view of the constant troubles arising from the return of former Russian [Page 440] subjects to the Empire and the generation or more that has marked the residence of some of that class in our country, the occurrence of such cases is a matter of almost daily chance.

It is further seen that as our Government recognizes no distinction between its citizens of native and foreign origin, the fortuitous introduction of the question here involved would be likely to so quicken the sympathies and convictions of all as to reasonably embarrass, for a time, at least, that calm and kindly consideration of the subject which is desired and manifested by both Governments.

I may say that a proposed Russian law, now and for some time under consideration, contemplates the repeal of all that part of the present law which extends the prescribed claims and penalties to descendants of claimed Russian subjects born abroad. I think that influential Russian sentiment here feels that Russia owes it to herself to essentially modify these effete laws, and that those charged with the consideration of the matter are seriously desirous of working out a change, guarding the while certain peculiar difficulties which they consider still environs them in the application of the more desirable policy.

I have in view some further conferences, the results of which will be duly made known to you.

I have, etc.,

Clifton R. Breckinridge.
[Inclosure 1 in No. 507.—Translation.]

Count Lamsdorff to Mr. Breckinridge.

No. 1861.]

Mr. Minister: By the note of June 25/July 7, 1896, you had the goodness to apply to the Imperial ministry of foreign affairs for information relative to Russian subjects who have become naturalized citizens of the United States without the consent of the Imperial Government.

Referring to this request, I have the honor to transmit to you herewith a translation in French of the articles of law relating to the questions you were good enough to propound in the above-mentioned note.

I avail myself of this occasion to renew to you, Mr. Minister, the assurance of my most distinguished consideration.

Count W. Lamsdorff.
[Inclosure 2 in No. 507.—Translation.]

Text of laws.

Question. Does the change of allegiance without consent entail loss of property as well as loss of civil rights and liability to banishment?

Answer. Articles 325 and 326 of the Criminal Code:

  • Article 325. Whoever, absenting himself from the Fatherland, enters into the service of a foreign power without the permission of the Government, or becomes the subject of a foreign power, is liable, for this violation of his duty and oath of fidelity, to the loss of all his civil rights and perpetual banishment from the Empire, or, if afterwards he returns voluntarily to Russia, to deportation to Siberia.
  • Article 326. Whoever, absenting himself from the Fatherland, does not return to it upon being invited to do so by the Government, is equally liable, for the infraction, [Page 441] to the loss of all civil rights and to perpetual banishment from the Empire, if within the term fixed at the option of the court he does not show that he has been impelled by circumstances independent of his will or, at the least, extenuating circumstances. Up to that moment he is considered as absent, disappeared from his domicile, and his property is placed under guardianship, according to the regulations established to this effect by the civil laws.

The property of a person sentenced to the loss of civil rights is not confiscated, but passes to his legitimate heirs under the same laws which would be applied in the case of his natural death. The heirs can also claim possession of all property which might come by inheritance to the culprit after his condemnation.

The wife of the person deprived of civil rights has the right to claim a divorce. Furthermore, the culprit loses his paternal authority over his children born prior to his condemnation.

Articles 24, 26, 27, 28 of the Penal Code:

  • Article 24. The loss of civil rights does not affect the wife of the convict nor his children born or conceived prior to his condemnation, nor their descendants.
  • Article 26. Deportation to Siberia entails the loss of all family and property rights.
  • Article 27. The loss of family rights consists in the termination of paternal authority over the children born prior to the condemnation, if the children of the convict have not followed him into deportation, or if they left him afterwards.
  • Article 28. Following the loss of property rights, all property which belonged to the convict sentenced to enforced labor or to deportation, passes, from the day of execution of the sentence, to his legal heirs, in such a manner as it would pass in the case of the natural death of the convict.

The proceedings and sentence for infraction provided for in article 325 of the Penal Code follow the ordinary course of criminal procedure.

The examining judge proceeds in an investigation upon the official evidence of the police and local authorities or upon the requisition of the procureur. Persons charged with illegal absence from the Fatherland are transferred before a court of justice after arrest at the frontier or on the territory of the Empire.

They may, however, be prosecuted by default if they do not answer to the summons of the court after legal citation to appear has been inserted in the newspapers or addressed to the delinquent through our diplomatic and consular agencies.

Question. If the property be confiscated is it only during the life of the offender, or does it remain forever alienated from his heirs?

Answer. See the reply given above.

Question. What, if any, are the penalties provided for those who emigrate in childhood or during their minority and subsequently become citizens or subjects of a foreign country without Imperial consent? And what is the period of minority?

Answer. They entail all the consequences mentioned in the first reply, if they do not take the steps necessary when they attain their majority, which is fixed at 21 years of age.

Article 221, Vol. X, first part of Civil Code:

Article 221. The rights to fully dispose of one’s property, to contract obligations are not acquired before coming of age, that is to say, before 21 years of age.

Question. Is military service claimed if it matures while a subject is abroad and after he has sworn allegiance to another country? And what are the penalties for failure to return and perform such service?

Answer. By virtue of article 3 of the Regulation of Military Service, persons above 15 years of age can not ask supreme permission to avoid the duties incumbent upon Russian subjects before having acquitted their military obligations. Persons who have attained the age of 20 years and over, who sojourn abroad, are notified to respond to the military service. In case they fail to respond to this call, they entail the penalties indicated in the above mentioned article 326 of the Penal Code.

Question 5. What is the status, in the foregoing respect, of the children and further descendants born in the country to which the father may have sworn allegiance or in which he may have acquired citizenship, as herein contemplated?

Question 6. Can any of these descendants inherit property or in any way acquire title to property in the Empire?

Answer to questions 5 and 6. The children of a Russian subject, born in legitimate marriage, even in the case their father may have lost his civil rights, are considered as Russian subjects and have a right to hold property in the Empire, whether by succession or by any other legal means of acquisition.