The Ambassador in the Soviet Union (Smith) to the Secretary of State

No. 198

The Ambassador has the honor, with reference to previous communications in regard to the issuance of Soviet exit visas to the Soviet wives of American citizens, to enclose a copy of the Embassy’s note no. C–112 of February 14, 1948 to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the USSR1 requesting information concerning the effect which certain changes in the Soviet citizenship laws, as proposed by the Secretary of the Presidium of the Supreme Soviet in a recent speech, would have upon the status of the Soviet wives of American citizens.

The Embassy’s note on this subject was prompted by the report of the Secretary of the Presidium of the Supreme Soviet of the USSR, Deputy A. F. Gorkin, as published in Pravda February 5, 1948, regarding the confirmation of the decrees of the Presidium of the Supreme Soviet. Mr. Gorkin made the following statement in this connection: “The Presidium further proposes for confirmation of the Supreme Soviet of the USSR the Decree of February 15, 1947 ‘Concerning the Prohibition of Marriages between Citizens of the USSR and Foreigners.’ In connection with the publication of this decree, it is necessary to regard as invalid Article 5 of the Law, ‘Concerning Citizenship of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics.’ In this article it states that the marriage of a citizen or citizeness of the USSR to a person not possessing citizenship of the USSR does not entail any change in citizenship.”

Information bulletins published in Pravda on February 5, 1948 reported the ratification on February 4 by the two chambers of the Supreme Soviet of the decree of the Presidium concerning the prohibition of marriages between citizens of the USSR and foreigners.

In connection with Mr. Gorkin’s statement concerning Article 5 of the Act concerning citizenship of the USSR, the pertinent portion of [Page 813] this law, which was adopted by the Supreme Soviet on August 19, 1938,2 is as follows: “Article 5. The marriage of a citizen of the USSR, male or female, to a person not a citizen of the USSR, does not entail any change in citizenship.”

It is probable that the proposal to invalidate Article 5 of the citizenship law represents an effort on the part of the legislative organs to make the present citizenship regulations consistent with the provisions of the decree of February 15, 1947 which prohibits the marriage of Soviet citizens to foreigners, and it is believed highly unlikely that the deletion of Article 5 will operate, in fact, to deprive the Soviet wives of American citizens of their Soviet citizenship. The possibility cannot be disregarded, however, that invalidation of this section of the citizenship laws may be designed to make it feasible for the Soviet Government to retire gracefully from its former uncompromising stand with regard to the question of granting permission to Soviet wives of foreigners to depart from the USSR.3 The very fact that Article 5 was singled out for particular mention in the report of the Secretary of the Presidium and was published in Pravda may be regarded as lending some credence to the latter point of view, since minor legislative matters of this type are usually handled in the Soviet Union with no publicity whatsoever.

It is understood that the British Embassy contemplates approaching the Ministry of Foreign Affairs along the same lines as the Embassy’s note No. C–112 of February 14, 1948, although officials of the British Embassy are not sanguine with regard to the possibility of a favorable outcome as a result of such action.

  1. Not printed.
  2. For additional information on the nature of this law, see Foreign Relations, 1940, vol. i, p. 438.
  3. The Embassy in its note expressed the hope that the invalidation of paragraph 5 would operate “to make such individuals stateless persons under Soviet law,” and further that “the competent Soviet authorities will find it possible to grant the requests for exit visas made by the Soviet wives of American citizens in order that they may be reunited with their husbands in the United States”, which was regarded by the government of the United States as a matter of importance.