Ambassador Meyer to the Secretary of State.

No. 24.]

Sir: I beg leave to report that the ukase issued by the Tsar on the Russian Easter Sunday (April 30) makes religious freedom to all Russian sects, except the Jews, an accomplished fact. * * *

If the ukase is carried out in all its completeness, it will be the greatest concession of individual liberty since the liberation of the serfs, and may be the first step toward a separation of church and state.

I have, etc.,

G. v. L. Meyer.


[From the St. Petersburg Journal April 21 (May 4)].

Ukase of His Majesty the Emperor to the Directing Senate.

Ever deriving, according to the traditions of my ancestors, all joy as well as the renewal of the necessary moral strength from the Holy Orthodox Church, I have always wished to guarantee freedom of faith and prayer to each of our subjects according to the dictates of their conscience. Being anxious to carry out these intentions we included among the reforms set forth in our ukase of December 12 last the adoption of effective measures for the removal of all vexations in the matter of religion.

Now, having examined the regulations prepared in pursuance to the foregoing by the committee of ministers and finding that they respond to our constant desire to firmly establish the principle of religious tolerance embodied in the fundamental laws of the Russian Empire we have deemed it proper to approve them.

Invoking the blessing of the Almighty on this work of peace and love and hoping that it will contribute toward strengthening the orthodox faith, having as its source divine grace, precept, kindness, and good examples, we hereby give orders in conformity with this decision as follows:

To permit that the abjuration of the orthodox faith and the adoption of another Christian religion or confession shall not give rise to persecution and shall entail no disadvantageous consequences from the standpoint of personal or civil rights, and that a person who has forsworn the orthodox faith after having attained his majority shall be recognized as belonging to the religion or confession which he has chosen.
To permit that, if one of two consorts who profess the same Christian religion adopts another confession, all their children who have not attained their majority shall retain the old religion professed by the other consort, and that in case both the consorts adopt a new religion their children less than 14 years of age shall adopt the religion of the parents, while those having reached this age shall retain the former religion of the parents.
To establish, as a supplement to these rules (sees. 1 and 2), that persons who are ascribed to the orthodox church, but who in reality confess the non-Christian faith to which they themselves or their ancestors belonged, may be stricken from the rolls of the orthodox church if they express a desire to this effect.
To authorize Christians of all denominations to baptize, according to the rites of their religion, children of unknown parents whom they adopt in order to rear them.
To establish by law a classification of the various confessions bearing the general designation of dissenters, dividing them into three groups, viz, old believers, sectarians, and those who profess fanatical creeds the followers of which are subject to prosecution for this very reason by the criminal laws.
To recognize that the provisions of the law which grant the right to hold prayers in common and which regulate the rights of dissenters from a civil standpoint are applicable not only to those who profess the old beliefs, but also to sectarians, and that infractions of the laws committed from religious motives render those who have committed them liable according to the requirements of the law.
To grant the general designation of old believers, instead of dissenting sectarians which is now employed, to all those who have embraced a belief acknowledging the fundamental dogmas of the orthodox church, but who do not recognize certain of the religious ceremonies and who hold their religious services according to the old books.
To permit that the installation of chapels by old believers and sectarians, as well as the authorization to proceed to their repair or closure, shall take place in accordance with the existing rules or with those which shall be admitted for the installation of churches for the nonorthodox creeds.
To confer the denomination of ecclesiastical préposés on persons charged by the communities of old believers and of sectarians to perform functions peculiar to their form of worship. These persons, after having been confirmed in their offices by the competent authorities, shall be exempted from registry in the corporations of citizens or villagers; they shall likewise be liberated from military service and shall be authorized to bear the monastic name which they adopted on taking the frock, as well as to indicate in the passports which are delivered to them the position which they occupy in the clergy of the old believers, without, however, employing the denominations allowed for members of the orthodox clergy.
To authorize the said clergymen to freely celebrate religious rites in private or other houses of prayer, as well as in every other case, forbidding them, however, to wear priestly garments if the law prohibits it. The ecclesiastical préposés of the old believers (section 9) shall enjoy, with regard to the right to be present at the making of wills, the same rights granted generally to all clergymen.
To grant the same rights to old believers and sectarians in case of marriages with orthodox persons as are accorded to persons belonging to nonorthodox creeds.
To remove the seals affixed to all the houses of prayer which were closed by administrative orders without excepting either the cases submitted by the committee of ministers to the supreme sanction or the cases of closure by virtue of sentences pronounced by the court, but excepting those cases in which the closure was decreed for infraction of the building regulations.
To lay down as a general rule that, in order to obtain authority to construct, renovate, or repair churches and houses of prayer of any Christian denomination, it shall be necessary:
To obtain the consent of the authorities of the competent nonorthodox creed;
To possess the necessary pecuniary resources, and
To observe the technical requirements of the building regulations. Exceptions to these general rules, when recognized as necessary in certain localities can only be authorized by legislative action.
To permit the teaching of religion to children of nonorthodox creeds in all educational institutions in the native language of the pupils and to allow this teaching to be intrusted to clergymen of the respective creeds, except those cases only in which there are none such, when it may be intrusted to lay teachers belonging to the same creeds.
To recognize as being susceptible of revision the laws concerning the most important conditions of the religious life of persons of the Mohammedan religion.
To take under consideration the laws concerning the Lamaites (Buddhists) and to prohibit forever the application to them of the designation of idolators or heathens in official documents.
Independently of the foregoing, to apply likewise the other recommendations of the committee of ministers, approved by us to-day and relating to the procedure to be followed in enforcing Section 6 of our ukase of December 12 last.

The directing Senate shall take the necessary measures for the execution of the foregoing.