The Secretary of State to the Consul General at Berlin (Messersmith) 4
Sir: The Department acknowledges the receipt of your despatch No. 254 of April 28, 1931, transmitting a memorandum prepared by Consul George F. Kennan 5 entitled “Memorandum on the status of American Communists residing in the U.S.S.R. and exercising political rights and privileges therein.”
The Department has given very careful consideration to the memorandum prepared by Consul Kennan. However, it is obliged to say that it does not concur in all of the views expressed by him concerning the effect upon American citizens residing in Soviet Russia of the several provisions of the Soviet decree of June 13, 1930, to which he calls attention.
While Mr. Kennan in his memorandum refers to the Soviet decree of June 13, 1930, the Department has been furnished with a translation of a “Resolution of the Central Executive Committee and the Soviet of People’s Commissars of the U.S.S.R. Concerning the Confirmation of the Regulation Dealing with Citizenship of the U.S.S.R.” effective April 22, 1931, which, while annulling the decree of June 13, 1930, contains provisions similar to those discussed by Mr. Kennan. The Department in this communication will refer to the Soviet decree of April 22, 1931.
Section 4 of the Soviet decree of April 22, 1931, reads in translation as follows:
“Foreign citizens who have acquired the citizenship of the U.S.S.R. do not enjoy the rights and do not have to fulfill the duties connected with the citizenship of another country.”
It seems clear from this section of the decree that naturalization in Soviet Russia is considered as changing the national character of the person naturalized and so far as the United States is concerned it results in expatriation of any American citizen who is naturalized in Soviet Russia. Sections 12 and 16 of the decree set forth the manner in which naturalization in Soviet Russia may be accomplished. The pertinent portion of Section 12 reads in translation as follows:
“Foreign citizens residing within the territory of the U.S.S.R. acquire the citizenship of one of the constituent republics and at the [Page 524] same time, of the U.S.S.R. by decision of the Presidium of the Central Executive Committee of the U.S.S.R. or of the presidium of the central executive committee of that constituent republic in which they reside.”
The pertinent portion of Section 16 reads in translation as follows:
“The acquirement or renunciation of citizenship of the U.S.S.R., in addition to the manner prescribed in the preceding paragraphs of this resolution, is permitted in a simplified manner as follows:
- Upon the resolution of a kray (oblast) executive committee, the central executive committee of an autonomous republic and the executive committee of an autonomous oblast, if the applicant resides within the territory of the U.S.S.R.
- Upon the resolution of a plenipotentiary representative of the U.S.S.R. if the applicant resides abroad.
The central executive committees of the constituent republics may leave the decision of cases concerning the acquirement and renunciation of citizenship of the U.S.S.R., according to the simplified method, upon the application of persons residing within the territory of the U.S.S.R., to the executive committees of separate rayons, but to the city Soviets in cities which form independent administrative and economic units.
The simplified method is applied in the following cases:
- To foreigners who are workers and peasants residing within the limits of the U.S.S.R. for the purpose of doing useful work and who wish to acquire citizenship of the U.S.S.R., and to foreigners enjoying the right of asylum on account of persecution for their revolutionary-liberal activities.
- Upon a change of citizenship through marriage (article 8).
Note: The organs stated in this article have the right to refuse to apply the simplified method to applicants, and to advise them to submit their request, in accordance with general rules, to the Presidium of the Central Executive Committee of the U.S.S.R. or of the respective constituent republic.”
It is obvious from Sections 12 and 16 and the note to the latter mentioned section of the Soviet decree that ordinary as well as simplified naturalization in Soviet Russia is granted only upon the request of or voluntary acceptance by the person naturalized and any American citizen who is naturalized under either of these sections is considered to have expatriated himself under the first paragraph of Section 2 of the Act of March 2, 1907,6 by being naturalized in a foreign State in conformity with its laws.
With respect to the statements made by Mr. Kennan concerning the fact that persons naturalized in Soviet Russia are not in all cases entitled to vote or exercise certain other political rights or privileges, [Page 525] it may be stated that naturalization does not necessarily confer these rights upon a person naturalized. In the United States the naturalization of an alien does not confer upon him all of the privileges enjoyed by native American citizens. For instance, under Article 2 of the Constitution of the United States no person, except a natural born citizen, is eligible to the office of President. Article 1 of the Constitution provides that no person shall be a Senator unless he shall have been a citizen of the United States for nine years. The same article also provides that no person shall be a representative unless he has been a citizen of the United States for seven years. Section 2 of the Act of March 2, 1907, also draws a distinction between naturalized and native citizens with regard to the effect of foreign residence on the right to diplomatic protection. There may be other distinctions which are drawn between the two classes of persons but it seems unnecessary to go further into this matter. It suffices to say that a person naturalized in Soviet Russia in conformity with its laws loses his American citizenship under the first paragraph of Section 2 of the Act of March 2, 1907, regardless of the fact that he may not enjoy all political rights in that country. Consequently, whenever it comes to your attention that an American citizen has been naturalized in conformity with a decree of Soviet Russia, you will consider him to have expatriated himself and as not being entitled to protection as a citizen of the United States. If he has a passport which is valid or which under ordinary circumstances might be renewed you should endeavor to take up such document and forward it to the Department with a report in the matter. You should also submit to the Department a certificate of expatriation in each such case, prepared in accordance with Section 144 of the Consular Regulations.
With reference to your observations concerning the fact that the Soviet decrees recognize no oaths of any sort and your inference that no oath of allegiance can be considered to be taken to Soviet Russia, resulting in loss of citizenship under the first paragraph of Section 2 of the Act of March 2, 1907, you are advised that whenever it comes to your attention that an American citizen, while residing in Soviet Russia, subscribed to a formal statement of any kind involving permanent subjection and allegiance to the Soviet Government you should call the case to the attention of the Department in order that it might determine whether such act may be regarded as simulating an oath of allegiance within the meaning of the first paragraph of Section 2 of the Act of March 2, 1907, thus resulting in the loss of American citizenship. The Department has in the past held that the term “oath of allegiance” as used in the section of law just referred to may in appropriate cases be applied to formal obligations not involving a religious sanction.
With regard to Section 6 of the Soviet decree of April 22, 1931, “conferring upon foreign citizens—workers and peasants, residing within the limits of the U.S.S.R. for the purpose of doing useful work” the privilege to “enjoy all political rights of citizens of the U.S.S.R.”, you are advised that the Department is of the opinion that the granting of political rights to be enjoyed by particular classes of persons while residing in Soviet Russia does not constitute [Page 526] naturalization. The granting of such rights may be considered as not inconsistent with the fact that a person owes a temporary allegiance while residing in a state of which he is not a national. If, however, a, state should grant to aliens residing within its boundaries “all political rights of citizens” of such state and if the grant were of a permanent character and affected the national status of the aliens wherever they might be, it is probable that, so far as the United States is concerned, the grant would be considered an act of naturalization resulting in loss of citizenship under the first paragraph of Section 2 of the Act of March 2, 1907. However, it does not appear that Section 6 of the Soviet decree of April 22, 1931, has the character of permanency or affects the national status of the classes of persons concerned therein. It seems merely to confer political rights while the classes concerned therein are in Soviet Russia and such rights terminate immediately upon removal from the territory of Soviet Russia. The fact that Sections 12 and 16 of the decree of April 22, 1931, specifically prescribe how “citizenship of the U.S.S.R.” may be acquired by aliens residing in Soviet Russia indicates quite clearly that Section 6 of the decree is not intended as a provision for naturalization. Moreover, the phraseology of that section refers to “foreign citizens” residing in Soviet Russia; it does not state that the national status of such persons is changed, nor does it state that they acquire citizenship in or permanent allegiance to Soviet Russia.
It would seem desirable for you to interrogate very carefully persons seeming to come within Section 6 of the Soviet decree of April 22, 1931, if they should apply for passports or protection for the purpose of ascertaining whether their allegiance appears to be to Soviet Russia rather than to the United States and particularly to ascertain whether their political ties with Soviet Russia continue to exist after they leave Russian territory. If it appears that such ties are of a permanent character, continuing to exist wherever they may be, they should be held to have ceased to be citizens of the United States under the first paragraph of Section 2 of the Act of March 2, 1907. A report in each such case, together with a certificate of expatriation prepared in accordance with Section 144 of the Consular Regulations, should be submitted to the Department. If the tie with Soviet Russia of any particular applicant for a passport or protection does not appear to have the character of permanency but it nevertheless appears that the individual regards himself as owing a moral allegiance to Soviet Russia wherever he may be, the question whether a passport or the protection of this Government should be accorded him should be referred to the Department for its determination.
Very truly yours,