[Ger-Poland-Volhynia] Leaving Volhynia
benovich at imt.net
Fri Apr 28 11:35:08 PDT 2006
Jerry's answer to Chris's first question is basically correct. Some
Googling and a trip to the MSU library have netted me precious little hard
information about Russian emigration policy, but I'll divulge what little
I've found. Apparently this has not been a subject of much interest to
scholars, except for the question of emigration policy for Jews in Russia.
An article in Slavic Review by one Ann Healy, "Tsarist Anti-Semitism and
Russian-American Relations" states that "Until the end of the tsarist
regime, emigration without special permission, which was hard to obtain, was
illegal". The Russian government held to the doctrine of "indefeasible
allegiance". Once a Russian, always a Russian. A passport, if obtained,
allowed one to be abroad for only 5 years. Getting naturalized abroad
subjected one to criminal penalties--a fee or being arrested on return for
draft evasion. Or the fee could be charged to relatives still in Russia.
Once naturalized abroad, you couldn't return to Russia to settle property
Another source I saw merely stated that emigration laws, such as they were,
were arbitrarily enforced, depending on the local official in charge of
granting the permission.
I was hopeful that another article I've long wanted to see would be of great
help. This is "The Legal Foundations of the Immigration and Emigration
Policy of the USSR, 1917-1927" by Yuri Felshtinsky in Soviet Studies, 1982.
His only reference to pre-Revolutionary Russia states that "While Soviet
policy followed traditional tsarist Russia policy of prohibiting emigration,
it was incomparably more effective and systematic." The Soviets simply had
to pay more attention to emigration law because of all the boundary changes
that accompanied the settlement of WW I and the subsequent Civil War. One
basic problem for them was the fear that anyone seeking to emigrate might
soon join up with forces trying to overthrow their regime. Nevertheless,
due to the chaos of the Civil War, emigration was more possible then than
later. Felshtinsky thinks that the major reason why emigration became more
difficult was the development of a better border guard during the 1920s.
Aside from illegal emigration, which of course always involved risk but
could be accomplished, there were a few legal means of emigrating, chief of
which was to obtain foreign citizenship "The only way to emigrate", he
says, "was to opt for the citizenship of another state, either through
genuine claims or the pretence of a legal right". (And, indeed, my own
uncle was able to get out of Russia as late as 1931 because he had applied
for German citizenship several years earlier). The Bolsheviks apparently
also left another tiny loophole for emigration. In 1923 they allowed anyone
who had suffered "natural calamities" to emigrate and join relatives
abroad---the reason, Felshtinsky suspects, being that otherwise the
government would have owed these people some kind of financial relief!
Finally, of course, emigration was made all but impossible after 1927.
If anyone can find more recent treatments of Russian emigration policies,
I'm sure there are many of us who would be interested. But it seems
fruitless to expect any precise answers, because the tsarist government
itself was fairly immune to precision.
----- Original Message -----
From: "Jerry Frank" <FranklySpeaking at shaw.ca>
To: "Christopher Menke" <menke5616 at sbcglobal.net>; "SGGEE"
<ger-poland-volhynia at eclipse.sggee.org>
Sent: Wednesday, April 26, 2006 7:04 PM
Subject: Re: [Ger-Poland-Volhynia] Leaving Volhynia
> At 12:33 PM 26/04/2006, Christopher Menke wrote:
>>I posted this yesterday, hopefully will get a response today.
>> 1) Was it prohibited by the Russians to emigrate from Volhynia
>> (leave Russia) in 1900?
>> 2) Was the port of Libau controlled by the Russians in 1900?
>> Thanks alot,
>> Chris Menke
> I am not aware of any prohibition against migration out of Russia
> prior to WW I. There may have been issues, paperwork, and other
> things that made it very difficult. For example, some people might
> have had to sneak out of the country because the could not get the
> appropriate travel documents.
> Yes, Libau was in Russia c.1900.
> Jerry Frank - Calgary, Alberta
> FranklySpeaking at shaw.ca
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