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Law #660 from the Levanda Index

Czar: Nicholas I
Year: 1851

Editor's Note: This decree describes how Jews were enrolled in 1 of 5 social estates (classes). The preamble makes clear the Czar's motivation, based on Jews resisting demands from before 1846 that they join the class of their own choosing. This decree therefore provides the foundation for Jewish social classes in the latter half of the 19th century. From a genealogy perspective, it answers some questions about how Jews initially obtained their social class. Class is important because at least one record type, revision lists, is partly organized by class. Also because as this decree illustrates, class can narrow the possiblities for occupation, and vice versa. This decree suggests the possible existence of some new document types: the application to enroll in a class, family lists, and the supporting evidence of someone's right to join a particular class. Terminology: for the last two social classes, the term meshchiane, is variously translated as petty burghers, petty bourgeois or here, petty townsmen. The common phrase "The gubernias where Jews are permitted permanent residence" in Czarist decrees refers to the Pale of Settlement. A gubernia gorod and uezdnyi gorod, were the most prominent city in the gubernia and uezd, respectively, and usually the one for which the gubernia/uezd was named. This decree is comprised of 3 chapters containing 46 individual articles. 37 of the 46 articles have been translated.

660. -- November 23. Imperially Ratified Provisional Regulations on Classifying Jews. --

Exact decree, given to the Senate. In the constant concern for the well-being of Our subjects, in the number desiring to turn to regulating those of the Jewish faith engaged in private commerce, crafts, and manufacturing and agricultural businesses, We recognized the good of promulgating many statutes of late for the achievement of these expressed goals. Toward the same goals, by Our command, the local officials of the gubernias in which Jews are permitted permanent residence, made special announcements to all Jews in 1846 in order that they not further postpone joining the social classes decreed for them, to forewarn them that in case these measures were unsuccessful, the Government itself would now carry out the classification; moreover, in categorizing the Jews, those not presently having work would be subject to various restrictions, as a burden for the community. Taking into account that from that time more than five years have passed, and all who wished could without the least constraint, choose one of the social classes referred to for themselves, We recognized the necessary supposition in 1846, concerning defined classes for the Jewish population, to set the measures into effect by July 1, 1852. In consequence of this, to establish, for consideration by the State Council, and by them, forwarding the aforesaid provisional regulations, decreed, to the Governing Senate, to be carried out by appropriate instructions. Ordered: On such his Imperial Majesty imperially decrees for its proper execution, the enclosed provisional regulations on classifying Jews, to send to the Gubernia Administrations and Provincial Revenue Departments of those gubernias where Jews have permanent residence, and to inform the Ministries, Military Governors-General, civil administration departments, and Heads of gubernias.


I. -- On dividing Jews into classes and on the manner of adding them to these classes.

1. In order to induce Jews to useful work in settlements, all those in the gubernias where they are permitted permanent residence are to be divided into five classes: 1) merchants, 2) farmers, 3) artisans, 4) settled petty townsmen, 5) unsettled petty townsmen.
2. The first four classes retain the rights and advantages which they enjoy now, decreed on a general basis for Jews.
3. Jews in the fifth class, i.e. unsettled petty townsmen, not presently producing labor, are subject to, on a special basis, legal positions with different rights of a limited nature and to increased recruit obligations.
4. To the class of farmers are to be added Jews actually personally engaged in agriculture, i.e. arable farming, as well as raising cattle, and in general, rural industry, on their own land, Crown land or owned land, provided that the land cultivated by each family, or used for raising cattle, or for a mill, apiary, or other business common to rural custom stands in value not less than 80 rubles.
5. To the class of artisans are to be added Jews usually enrolled as craftsmen as well as in other guilds, by general or special legal positions.
6. To the class of settled petty townsmen are to be added Jews who have, however it may be, immovable property worth not less than: in gubernia gorods 300, in port cities 250, in uezd gorods 200, and in mestechkos 80 rubles. Certification of the true value of these properties is to occur by rules set forth below, in articles 14 and 15.
7. To this same class (settled petty townsmen) are to be added, even if they do not have immovable property: a) petty townsmen provisionally registered, without altering their status, in accord with articles 418, 422, and 423 of the Regulations on Artisans (Legal Code vol. 11) in guilds, as long as they do not leave, or are not excluded; b) Jews engaged in trade, or small businesses on the basis of articles 1353 and 1356 of the Laws on Status (Legal Code vol. 9), and articles 117, 277-299 of the Regulations on Trade (Legal Code vol. 11).
8. The following Jews enjoy rights equally with Jews added to the class of settled petty townsmen, even if not having immovable property, provided that by their own profession they do not have the highest rights: a) Rabbis, ratified in this profession by gubernia authorities; b) Jews presently studying for an academic degree having marks of distinction; c) teachers, who have obtained a certificate for this profession from educational authorities.
9. Hereafter, all Jews who, on the basis of the above set forth regulations, can not be added to one of the first four classes indicated in article 1, are to join the unsettled petty townsmen.
10. Jews enrolling as merchants, farmers, artisans, and guild members is to be accomplished on a general basis by these decrees and individual local statutes.
11. All Jews are obligated to declare, in conformance with the regulation set forth below, by April 1, 1852, to which of the first four classes indicated in article 1 of these provisional regulations they should be added. Those who have not carried this out in the prescribed period will be enrolled in the fifth class, i.e. unsettled petty townsmen.
12. By the date indicated in the preceding article, merchants, guild members and petty townsmen must present an application to the Municipal Duma, magistrates and Town Council of the city where they are registered on the Revision as to which social class they belong with the declarations named in articles 13 - 18, with proof and family lists affixed to the form under letter A.
Note. The application, like the lists, are to be written on ordinary paper. Forms for the lists are to be printed by the gubernia printers and given to the Duma, for sale to the applicants at 2 kopeks per list.
17. On family lists or registers, presented by the applicant to the Duma, magistrates and council by article 12 of these regulations, all persons of the female sex who are members of the family must be shown, with an indication for each member of: how occupied in work and where situated.
18. Jews recorded on the Revision as individuals, or who started up their own family since the Revision, are to be presented on the registers or family lists individually, i.e. separately from persons in the family which they shared. Likewise, they are to individually submit proof of same to be added to one of the classes referred to in article 1.
19. The death or return of recruits since the last Revision, or departure in other cases, and those born and still alive since the last Revision, must be noted on the lists, on the day the lists are presented, with the proof of them at hand.
20. The entire family, i.e. those members unseparated and living together are to be assigned to the class to which the head of the family belongs.
21. Minor orphans living with and being raised by their relatives, and cripples and deformed persons of all ages, [prokarmlivayemye imi], are to be counted in the social estate of the relatives who are raising them or maintaining them, and for which this can be demonstrated on registers. But those minor orphans who are being raised or maintained by outside benefactors enjoy being counted with the family and profession of their benefactors only until the age of majority, and upon their approaching this, in the course of the year, they are obligated to register in whichever of the categories is determined by current regulations, provided they will not be attending an academic or institution of learning.
22. For any forgery of documents on possession of property or guild membership, the guilty are subject to punishment by articles 1862, 1864 and 2202 of the Code on Punishment.

II. -- On the manner of classifying the Jews.

24. By the end of the period prescribed above, in article 11, categorizing Jews and assigning them to classes is to occur by submissions of proof. This classifying must be concluded by July 1, 1852.
25. All Jews are subject to classes, except farmers who are already settled on Crown lands and later in the department and under the supervision of the Ministry of State Property on the basis of the existing regulation.
26. Classifying and checking of Jews is to be given to and imposed as a duty upon the locality which manages their community, namely: for the classification of residents in cities - the Municipal Dumas and Town Councils, and where there are no Magistrates; for farmers, residing on lands owned or possessed by their co-religionists - the local police.
27. In the period of categorizing the Jews in the merchant class and as farmers, their residence registration is to be carried out unimpeded on the previous basis, but future conversion from one class to another is prohibited until all lists are compiled and ratified.
28. Those petty townsmen who, after having already submitted family lists in the period defined for classifying Jews, either join the merchant class, acquire immovable property, or acquire the right to become guild members, may provide a suppliment to their application as proof.
30. The City Council is obligated to: a) verify family lists submitted from Jews against Revision lists, documents and other information; b) divide the Jews into classes in accordance with these regulations, and c) compile each class list of individual names by affixing to this form under letter B.
32. In case doubt has arisen on the real property possessions of Jews, or on their acquisition, the City Council is to request certification on such Jews from the local police and, to encourage the prompt fulfillment of this demand, to report it to the Civil Governor.
33. The Municipal Duma compiles the lists to present to the Provincial Revenue Department in such manner as to allow verification of: a) whether Jews are correctly divided into classes b) whether proof of their rights to belong to a class is required; c) whether the family lists are consistent with the Revision lists.
35. The documents submitted by Jews, in the absence of need, are to be returned to them, while keeping certified copies of the documents in a file, signed for on ordinary paper accompanying the applications.
36. Carrying out the classification of Jews with punctuality and precision, in accord with the regulations and quite uninhibitedly by the Jews, rests in the particular care of the Heads of the gubernias under the supervision and guidance of the Governors-General.
37. The Civil Governors, from the Revisions available in each locality, are to pay attention to the activities of the Duma, Council and Magistrates to classify Jews, and should notify the Interior Minister monthly concerning the progress of this matter.
38. At the conclusion of the classification of Jews, the Heads of gubernias are to submit the enumerated lists to the Interior Minister on the form under letter B, accompanied by the number of Jewish families enumerated on the Revision who were added to the first four classes indicated in article 1, as well as the remainder in the fifth class, unsettled petty townsmen.
40. The period prescribed in articles 11 and 24 for beginning the classification of Jews, does not extend to Jews residing in Courland gubernia or in posad Shlok in Liflyand gubernia. The classification of these latter Jews will be carried out by special decree in the localities made exceptions from the current general regulation, granted to the Interior Minister in conjunction with the Governors-General of the Baltic gubernias, to become the established procedure, by special declaration.

III. -- On revising and supplementing registers of Jews.

41. Compilation of registers for consideration by the Provincial Revenue Department is subject to verification and revision, as the consequence of an alteration occurring.
42. This verication is to be carried out by the very communities to which the Jews belong, by Government policies.
43. Each Jewish community, in a city or rural, is obligated to verify their family lists annually with the apportionment of taxes. But in case recruit levies are announced, the continuation of this verification is to come to a halt until the end of the levies.
44. Concerning the families who gained the right to be added to the first four classes indicated in article 1, as well as the families who lost this right, the community is to compile the enumerated lists to submit for the judgement of the Municipal Dumas for their verdict on any further instructions in accord with article 33 of this regulation, and in receiving authorization, to revise the lists. In the verdicts must be indicated: which Jewish families are to be added to or excluded from which classes.
45. In enumerating the Jews from one community to the next, the Provincial Revenue Department has the responsibility for adding them to the social classes and revising at the same time the previous and new lists for their communities.
46. Verification of registers are to be carried out by Government measures with new Revisions, on the basis of particular rules which will be decided at that time.
(V.P.S.Z. Vol. XXVI, No. 25,766).

Comments and corrections welcomed. Send to Michael Steinore