1804 Russian set of laws concerning
by Vitaly Charny
with help from
I would like people to change their impression that in
Russia everything was the same all of the time. The truth is that Russian
laws were less constant than in the United States. Regulations, laws and
the political situation during the 19th and 20th centuries changed all of the
time. For example, in the laws that I translated below, there is nothing
about military duty - Jews could not serve during that time (and for 22 years
more) in Russian the Army even if they wished to. Many people think that Jews [only]
always served in Russian Army, and for 25 years terms of service.
If some of the laws do not appear to be very clear, do not worry
- they are not so clear to the modern Russian reader as well. I included some of
my commentaries, marked with "[ -vc]".
Introduction by the Tzar
December 9, 1804
Regulation on Settlement of Jews.
Exact given to the Senate. Because of multiple complaints to Us and to the
incoming Governing Senate on different abuses and troubles that have harmed
agriculture and industry of the population in those Gubernias where Jews live,
We considered it necessary by the Decree to the Governing Senate given in the
9th day of November 1802, to organize a special Committee to examine this
related matter and to determine means to correct the present regulation of
The Committee collected all data related to this matter, and after considering
different ideas about the settlement of Jews that already existed, present to Us
the newly written regulation for them, with an explanation in the special report
of the reasoning it is based upon.
After review of the regulation, We found the principle implemented by the
Committee very just and all articles of the regulation reflected moderation and
care about the genuine welfare of Jews, as well as being based on benefits to
native residents of the Gubernias, where those people have permission to
Approving the regulation, We forward it to the Governing Senate along with the
report for exact fulfillment of all of the instructions it contains.
Statute Concerning the Organization
of the Jews
I. About enlightenment.
- All Jewish children may be accepted and taught, without any differences
from other children, in all Russian public [elementary - vc] schools,
gymnasias [high school - vc] and universities.
- Jewish children, while attending school, cannot be diverted from their
religion under any circumstances, cannot be forced to learn that which is
adverse to their religion and even could contradict their religion.
- Jewish children attending parochial or uyezd [district - vc] schools, may
wear Jewish dress, but those attending gymnasiums must wear German or Polish
[style] dress for the purpose of uniformity.
- Jewish children will be accepted to St. Petersburg Academy of Arts if they
show talent and inclination. Then they must wear German dress.
- Those Jews who, by their ability, have reached certain levels of
achievement in universities in Medicine, Surgery, Physics, Mathematics and
other fields, will be acknowledged and promoted to university degrees on a
level with all other Russian subjects.
- In the case of Jews who, despite all these motivations, refuse to send
their children to common public schools, then there will be established at
their expense special schools for their children to study, and the necessary
tax must be determined through government consideration.* Among the subjects
taught must be one of these languages: Russian, Polish or German.
- After six years have expired since the publication of this regulation, all
bookkeeping and other merchant’s documentation and correspondence between Jews
must be written in one of these languages: Russian, Polish or German, or
contain a translation on one side [of the page].
- All Jews who reside in the Russian Empire have the right to use their
language in all matters related to their faith and in everyday life. They
must, beginning January 1, 1807, use Russian, Polish or German languages in
all public documents, deeds, bills of exchange, bonds, obligations, etc.
Without this, no documents will be accepted.
- From the time of [publishing] this regulation, anyone who would like to be
elected as a Member of Town Council from among the Jews in the Gubernias
incorporated from Poland, for general order and uniformity, must wear Russian
or Polish dress, if they do not like to wear German dress. In the Russian
Gubernias where Jews are permitted to live, Jews elected to Town Council must
wear German dress.
Beginning in 1808, no Jew will be elected as a Member of Town Council who
cannot read and write in one of these languages: Russian, German or Polish.
- From the beginning of the year 1812, nobody can be elected or
appointed to any position in Kahal or the Rabbinate without being literate in
one of these designated languages.
* Taxes will be collected from Jews to create public Jewish schools
under government control. - vc
II. About different estates and trades of Jews and [their] rights.
- All Jews are to be divided into four classes:
A) Zemledeltsy (farmers; working on land)
B) Fabrikanty and remeslenniki (manufacturers and artisans)
C) Kupechestvo (merchant estate)
D) Meshchanstvo (burgher estate)
A. Rights of farmers.
- Jewish farmers are freemen and may not, under any
circumstances, be enslaved and cannot be given as property to anybody.
- Jewish farmers as well as manufacturers, artisans, merchants and burghers
can buy unpopulated land*, sell it, give it as a gift or by will, make
mortgage and inherit it in the Gubernias of Lithuania, Belarus, Malorossia
[Eastern Ukraine – vc], Kievskaya, Minskaya, Volynskaya, Podolskaya,
Astrakhanskaya, Kavkazskaya, Yekaterinoslavskaya, Khersonskaya I Tavricheskaya
in all [designated by] December 12, 1802 decree areas [original Pale of
Settlements – vc.)]
* Russians can buy populated land – along with serfs who lived there.
Big part of population of Russia that time was serfs working on land - vc.
- If they have the right to buy land, Jews can farm it using
hired or contract workers.
- If a Jew buys unpopulated land and the land is then settled, by contracts
and conditions, with not less than 30 houses or families of hired workers,
then he may sell beer in the new settlement, if it is permitted by common
rules in other settlements of the same Gubernia.
- Jews can rent land from landlords, make agreements with them, and those
agreements shall be written in the Administrative Offices, and be secure,
sacred, and unbreakable. However, they are prohibited from selling wine under
any circumstances. Jews who settle on landlords’ land voluntarily will be
freed from government taxation after 5 years*. This benefit applies only on
Jews settled by their own settlement.
- Those Jews who have no possibility of buying their own land or renting
land from landlords, can relocate to crown land in Gubernias: Lituanian,
Minskaya, Volynskaya, Podolskaya, Astrakhanskaya, Kavkazskaya,
Yekaterinoslavskaya, Khersonskaya and Tavricheskaya. In some of these
Gubernias up to 30, 000 desyatins [about 81,000 acres] of land could be set
apart for the first time [land owner].
- No Jews will be forced to relocate, but those who do so, will be freed
from any taxation for 10 years, besides local tax and will receive a loan for
settlement that they have to repay based on the same rules as apply to similar
loans for foreign colonists.
- Jews, who settle on the land of landlords and on state land in the
Gubernias mentioned above, will pay all taxes along with other subjects [of
Empire] of the same estate, after completion of the tax exemption years. In
Gubernias where Jews already live, those of them who will turn to farming on
the land, will be freed of double state taxation*.
*Jewish communities (kahals) were obligated to pay double (in comparison
with gentiles of the same estates) taxes to Russian crown – vc.
B. Rights manufacturers and artisans.
- Jews may establish all kinds of factories in Gubernias where
they are permitted to live, on the same basis and with the same liberty, as
all other Russian subjects.
- In the case of the organization of the most important factories, which are
cloth, linen or leather making, and similar kinds, the Government, by
necessary documents, could provide to Jews special acclamations, like
assigning of necessary land and passing them monetary loans.
For this matter in every Gubernia added from Poland, there will be up to
20,000 Rubles designated yearly to finance loans for Jews who organize the
most important and necessary factories. The loans will be given without
mortgage (security) only by guaranty of other reliable Jews through
Gubernator’s [Governor’s - vc] opinion after consulting with the Interior
In order to encourage Jews to establish factories, those who have been
involved in factorial works, after collecting proper data in every town, will
pay regular tax from that time. [Not double tax as it was for Jews - vc]
It is permitted for Jews to establish factories on their landlord’s land if
there is a voluntary agreement between them. Establishing factories on land
belonging to landlords is permitted for Jews, if there is a voluntary
agreement between them and their landlord. .
- Landlords, who provide land for factories in which Jews will
maintain hiring [people] by agreements, also will receive monetary loans under
security with beneficial conditions and other different encouragements after
the situation and real worth are examined.
- For Jewish artisans in named Gubernia, it is permitted for them to be
involved in any trades that are not banned by law. And, no artisans or guild
board can bar them under any circumstances. Indeed they are free to enroll in
a guild if there is not a law specifically against it in that town.
- Jewish artisans will be relieved from double taxation on the same basis,
as described above (# 21) for manufacturers.
- If artisans do not find, in any of these Gubernias, work opportunities to
provide for a living, they should make a request to the Gubernator (Governor),
who will report to the Minster of Interior. Because of this, it is designated
for them to establish profitable craftsmanship in less populated Gubernias as
Yekaterinoslavskaya, Khersonskaya, Tavricheskaya, Astrakhanskaya and
C. and D. Rights of Merchants and Burghers.
- Any kind of domestic or foreign trade is permitted for Jews in
Gubernias listed above as described in “Gorodovoe Polozhenie” [Town Statute -
vc] and the following regulations.
- All kind of enterprises and merchandising including alcohol, retail, as
well as, wholesale with restrictions listed below (39.), are permitted for
Jews on the same basis in those Gubernias.
- Manufacturers, artisans, artist and merchants will be permitted to visit
other Gubernias and even capitals due to business purposes for a specified
period of time, but only by a Gubernator issued passports, about which [Governers]
in their turn have to send monthly reports to the Minister of Interior [on
Jews (including their wives and children) temporarily traveling outside of
the Pale, have to wear German [style] dress no different than that of others.
If they wear traditional dress, they shall be sent back [to the Pale] by the
- When all Jews show permanent devotion and diligence in
agriculture, manufacturing and merchandising, then the Government will take
steps to equalize them in taxation with all other subjects [of Russian
III. Obligation of Jews regarding above-mentioned estates.
- All Jews in Russia must be enlisted with an estate. Any Jews
who cannot provide the required written document will be treated as a vagabond
with all severity of the law.
- During the census [revision, enlistment to an estate - vc] every Jew shall
have or accept a known inherited family name or surname/nickname, that shall
be used in all documents and lists without any change, with the addition of a
name given by faith or at birth. This measure is necessary for a better
establishment of their Citizenship conditions, for better protection of their
property and for reviewing litigation between them.
- It is obvious that enlistment in one estate can’t restrict a switch to
another estate, but such a move has to be done with the permission of local
Authorities and must be based on general rules.
- Beginning in January 1, 1807, no Jew in the big or small villages of the
Gubernias of Astarkhanskaya Kavakazskaya Malorossia and Novorossia, nor in
the other gubernias beginning in January 1, 1808, can keep any leases,
taverns, or inns under their own or somebody else’s name nor sell their
alcohol nor even live there.
- This restriction applies as well to all ale-houses, taverns, inns and
other highway located shops without regard to ownership type: private or
- Any landlord who lets a Jew in his village hold a lease, tavern, alehouse
or other shop selling alcohol after the above agreement is over will be
fined. For the first offense to the Lower District Court, the landlord after
being found guilty will have to pay the fine to the Department of Public
Welfare and to the informer divided by half (50/50); first time 5 Rubles from
each house in his village, second time – twice and after third conviction his
estate will be taken to the crown guardianship [under government management –
vc] for 10 years.
- A Jew convicted in such a sale will pay first time – 100 Rubles, second
time – 200 Rubles and in third time will be exiled to Siberia.
- All contracts and agreements, regarding the sale of alcohol in villages,
that are made after the regulation takes place will be considered null [void -
vc] and will have no power.
- All debts that peasants and other people owe in taverns, etc. kept by
Jews, are void without compensation.
- Local sheriffs in the crown villages are expected to inform on their own
about these violations. If they do not, the first two times they will be fined
and the third time they will lose their position forever. If the local
Administrative Chambers are convicted in the corruption, a fine will be
collected from Vice-Governor and members of the Chamber.
- Under this strict and necessary ban of the sale of alcohol by Jews and any
contracts about it in villages, it is permitted for them to do it in
gubernatorial and district towns and crown mestechki [shtetles - vc], by
common regulations, and in privately owned mestechki, if it is the will of
their landlords to let them sell alcohol and make contracts about it. However
nobody can, under penalties mentioned above, give mestechki rights to villages
or create new mestechki without consultation with higher authorities.
“Mestechki” are defined here as only those existing in Gubernias annexed from
- In the towns and mestechki Jews have never been allowed to sell alcohol on
credit to local people, and any of their debts in this matter are void. Any
official or office that will accept debt claims and suit for it will be sent
to court and penalized.
IV. On the civil rights of Jews.
- All Jews in Russia who dwell, are newly resettled, or have
arrived from other countries for commercial matters, are free and live under
the precise patronage of laws given on the level with all other Russian
- Those Jews who are outstanding because of their knowledge or are important
to the state will be awarded with merits and will be proportionally accredited
- No one has the right to appropriate the property of Jews, utilize their
labor, or bind them personally [as serfs – vc]. No one can oppress, disturb
them in observation of their faith and in general private life neither by word
nor by matter. Their complaints about offences, whatever kind they were, will
be accepted in Public Offices and will be prosecuted to the full extent of the
laws established for all Russian subjects.
- The legal and permissible contracts, concluded between them and the
landowners, on the land of which they wish to live, must be preserved, not
- When Jews relocate from one place to another, they are obligated to
present evidence from the landowners, on the land of which they had a
residence, that they satisfied all obligations for which they were
responsible; at the same time they must provide the Zemstvo [local, county –
vc] Court with a tax paying certificate from their Kagal. According to the
certificate the Zemstvo Court will issue a passport to the place where they
wish to relocate. The police will take into custody Passportless [Jews] and
send them into steppe land [Novorossia - Southern Ukraine – vc]
- Since they are on their landowner’s land by contract, they will be
regularly overseen by the Zemstvo Police, who will take care of their
complaints according to their contracts.
- In the province and county cities, Jews will be overseen by the town
Police Department and especially by the Gorodnichiy [town head – vc] and the
Magistrate [town council – vc].
- Since the law court must be common for all citizens in the state, Jews in
all their lawsuits on property issues, in matters of promissory note and
criminal cases have to be judged by a court of law in the usual official
places; it follows from this:
A) Those landowners, on the land on which they live, have no additional
rights of the Law Court either in property matters or in criminal ones.
B) ? For property matters, the Arbitration Law Court can treat Jews on
general base at all extend of laws is granted to this Court.
- In province and county cities they have the right to select one
rabbi and several Kagal'nye [kahal council members – vc], who are presented to
the Province Administration and on its assertion assume the post, and every
three years are changed, if they are not reelected. In the places of
landowners, the Jews also can select rabbis and Kagal'nye, without the
interference of landowners, to whom tax collecting is forbidden in the name of
V. The position of rabbis.
- The position of rabbis is to oversee the rites of faith and to
judge all disputes relating to the religion; but during the judgment they are
only permitted to use exhortation and persuasion as solutions. It is
forbidden to inflict any other punishment, except revelation and
pronunciations inside the synagogues; Rabbis and other spiritual leaders who
dare go against this rule and inflict public punishment, of whatever kind:
fine by the prohibitions of Paskha brashna [Pesah brohot – vc] and kosher
meat, and even by condemnation and denunciation will be punished over the
penalty for proceeding from the incantations losses, the first time by 50
Rubles fine, in second time - 100 Rubles, in favor of the Department of Public
Welfare, and in the case of third time [guilt] revealing they will be sent
away to Siberia for settlement, and in any case their pardon request and
taking an oath will make no difference.
- Since the Rabbinate is just an honorable post, but not an income, it is
strictly forbidden to apply requisitions for a rabbi, or to require
compensations, whatever kind it would be: the salary specified from the
society must satisfy them.
- If in any place there arises a separation of sects and a split occurs in
which one group does not want to be in a synagogue with the other group, then
it is possible one of them to build its own synagogue and to select its
rabbis; but in any town there must only be one kagal.
VI. The position of the Kagal.
- Kagals, until they stay in their present position, must
properly handle the fiscal collections properly and in full amount. They must
keep the monies entrusted to them from the community sums in order, providing
their report to community and presenting the same report in the Russian or
Polish language, in the cities to Gorodnichiy, in the crown [state owned –
settlements to Ispravniks [district police officers – vc], in the landowner's
places to landowners. In all these cases kagals are subject to the court of
law and will be punished to the full extent of the law if the reports, given
by them to authorities, are, in any way, not similar to the authentic reports
given to their community. However, they must not under any pretext, without
consent of the authorities, assign new taxes, under the fear not only of the
penalty personally from them for entire collected amount, but also the legal
law court and punishment.
Национальная политика в императорской России под ред. Ю.И.
Семенов, Москва 1997
в книге ссылка:
Печатается по изданию: Полное собрание законов Российской империи. Собрание
первое. Том 28. 1804-1805. СПб., 1830. С. 731-737.
(“National policy in Imperial Russia” edited by Yu.I. Semenov, Moscow 1997 in
the book the reference:
It is printed by the publication [Meaning that the new book refers to part of
the text in the old book from where from it is taken as it was - vc]