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zieds1mazs.gif (257 bytes) Rules for Jews in Russia Empire.
Legal Pale

In this Page the restrictions for Jews set forth in the labor and the criminal legislation of the Russia Empire are discussed. It is supposed you have reached this Page from the Page that deals with all of the restrictions for Jews in the Empire and consists of the following parts:


Geographical Pale (Pale of Settlement)  (it is discussed in a separate Page)
Educational Pale (it is discussed in a separate Page)

Other Pales are discussed in this Page below:
Economical Pale
Language Pale
Fashion Pale

The Page concerning military matters contains a review of special rules for Jews in the Army.


Legal Pale

The Laws of the Inorodci /Svod vol.9/ declared that the Jews in their places of settlement enjoyed the same rights as the other subjects of the same estate, but in the next phrase it was added that excluding the cases stated in the Laws.

election rights
At the beginning of the 19th century Jews had got the right to be elected in municipal institutions though with some restrictions concerning the percentage of the Jewish electives in these institutions. Most of these restrictions were abandoned in 1870 by the new Law of town municipalities, but in 1892 Jews were completely deprived of this right again. The address book for Kurzeme [Kurland] of 1908 informs about the municipalities of all the towns and it is easy to find Jewish names on the lists, however.

Paradoxically, but after 1905, when a kind of Parliament (Duma) was organized in the Empire, the Jews could elect for and be elected in the Parliament, though they still could not participate in the elections of municipal councils. The following Jews were elected from Kurzeme [Kurland] in the different convocations of the Parliament: N.Kacenelsons (Katzenelson), J.Šapiro (Shapiro), L.Niselovičs (Nisselovitch), I.Gurevičs (Gurevich). More about the deputies you may read in an Internet source of S.Lipschitz.

Jews could be elected to positions in estate communities, but they might not occupy more than one third of the positions that existed in a community. The election to these positions was separate for Jews and Christians i.e. the Jews voted for the Jewish and the Christians for the Christian candidates.

procedural rights
The book /KV/, published at the beginning of the 20th century, informed that the converted Jews could challenge Jewish witnesses against them in criminal trials. Any Jewish witnesses in courts were accepted beginning from 1815. It may be added that according to the rules of Judaism a Jew can not witness against another Jew in a gentile court.

law of labor
There were numerous restrictions in the professional activities of Jews in the Russia Empire. Some of them were discussed in the Page about Economical Pale. The possibilities of entering the State service was discussed in another Page . Here I wished to touch only the profession of sworn attorney.

In 1864 the courts were reorganized, and the job of sworn attorney became very important and demanded. A sworn attorney corresponded to a barrister of the British court system, and he was allowed to undertake the public trial of cases in a court. Relatively many Jews educated themselves for this profession, but in 1889 Jews (more precisely - non-Christians) were prohibited from this job, formally they could become sworn attorneys with permission of the Minister of Justice, but during 16 years until 1905 no Jew was allowed to join this profession /Solzhenicin/. Those who to 1889 had already reached this position were not kicked out, however. The Jews with juridical education now could become only assistants of sworn attorneys what corresponded to solicitors of the British system - they prepared cases for barristers to try. In the real life of the Empire the assistants of the sworn attorneys also participated in trials. The editor and the publisher of the book /Svod, vol.9/ I here referenced to many times was a sworn attorney A.M.Ņurenberg (may be Nürenberg in German or Nirenbergs in Latvian). He was a Jew, I judge from the name, but maybe a converted one, I know nothing more of him.

criminal law
I browsed the Criminal Code of the Empire for special crimes that only Jews could commit. In general this law did not frequently mention Jews. The criminal law was common for all subjects of the Empire with some exceptions, however.

The Criminal Code comprised several sections with offenses against religions and against relationships among religions - illegal conversion, illegal cross-religious marriages etc. The Code divided all of the legally accepted religious confessions of the Empire into three groups - a) the Russian Orthodox (the state religion), b) other Christian religions and c) non-Christian religions. The Jews belonged to non-Christians, of course, but in this part of the Code the word Jews was not found, though there were several crimes that only a person belonging to a non-Christian religion could commit. The relationship among various religions defined in the legislation deserve to be discussed in more details, which I have planned to do.

I worked with two quite different editions of the criminal law - 1885 and 1903. The edition of 1885 was also in force  in the previous period since 1875. I found that this Code explicitly mentioned Jews in the following cases:

a) sec.302. Nobody, except either those Rabbis, who were accepted by the Empire officials, or their assistants, was allowed to conduct Jewish religious rites listed in the Law on foreign religions. At that time (since 1855) so called state Rabbis existed who were elected by the Jewish community and were later accepted by the governor of the local province. The state Rabbis conducted circumcisions, marriages, divorces, burials and perhaps other religious rites, and only they could keep the civil records of the Jewish population, because their educational level gave them possibility of doing it in Hebrew and Russian. At the same time non-state Rabbis also existed, and it is quite clear that this section of the Code was aimed against them.
Now about the punishment for this offense. The offenders i.e. those who, not being the state Rabbis, conducted Jewish rites for the first time were put in jail for the term from 40 days to 4 months. Next time they were jailed in labor arrest premises for up to 4 years. The family head, for whom the rite was conducted, was fined up to 20 Roubles.

b) sec. 530. A Jew, who either had given shelter even for the shortest time to another Jew, who had been deserted from the Army, or had helped him to desert, was jailed in labor arrest premises for 1-1.5 years. Additionally, the Jewish community, where this offense occurred, was fined not more than 300 Roubles for each runaway, if this community had not discovered the crime and had not informed the officials.
Other Empire subjects for analogous deed were put in jail for up to 4 months and no punishment was set for the appropriate community. It could be mentioned that this section of the criminal Code concerned the people who tried to avoid the mandatory military service; the recruitment was abandoned in 1873.

c) sec. 758. Peasants, as well as Jews and the people with the rights of honorary citizens, if they within a border region had supported smugglers in their violence, though actually had not taken part in this violence case, should have been considered as the accomplices of this crime.
The smugglers, who had smuggled goods with violence, could be exiled to Siberia, as well as those who had been smuggling goods systematically (were caught more than 4 times). By the way, the punishment for smuggling was the main way to provide Siberia with Jews, as far as I know.
In this section the Jews were explicitly mentioned among other population groups, so it seems that for them no exceptional punishment was proposed.

d) sec. 1053. The Rabbis, who were not fulfilling their duties on supervising the private education of Jewish children, for the first time should have been fined by not more than 75 Roubles but for the second time the punishment was the following - the fine not more than 150 Roubles, the discharge and the ban for ever to be a Rabbi (a crown Rabbi, of course).
The Melameds (Jewish teachers), who were not obeying the rules set for the education of Jewish youth, for the first two times should have been fined in a doubled amount compared with analogous Christian offenders (75-150 Roubles) but for the next time should have been imprisoned for the term from 4 to 8 months.
The Jewish parents, relatives or guardians, who had allowed the education of their children in a cheder (school) or by a melamed in contradiction to the existing rules, should have been fined in the same amount set in the previous sections of the Code for analogous Christian offenders (75-150 Roubles).
As far as I understand, any school or teacher (Jewish or non-Jewish) was to be controlled by the Empire officials, no clandestine schools were tolerated.

e) sec. 1055, 1056, 1057. These three sections dealt with Jews in the agriculture settlements. The Empire officials were busy with the creating of Jewish agricultural settlements during almost all the 19th century. In spite of some facilitation for the settlers and of punishment of those settlers who were not eager to become peasants, the idea of Jewish agriculture settlements failed. These settlements did not exist in the region of Latvia, though relatively many Jews from Kurzeme [Kurland] went to the regions of settlements. For this reason I discuss these sections of the Code in less details.
The above mentioned sections of the Criminal Code proposed:
- the punishment of the municipality leaders of Jewish agricultural settlements for bad care of boundary-marks and on werst posts (a sort of milestones, a werst=1.08 kilometer), they were fined not more than 45 Kopecks for each case (milestone);
- the punishment of the negligent agricultural settlers (Jews, of course) who without serious reason abandoned the work or started not allowed trade activities. For repeated offenses they could be jailed in labor arrest premises for up to 4 years;
- the punishment of the Rabbis who had turned Jews away of devoted work in agricultural settlements or gave inappropriate orders. They could be jailed in labor arrest premises for up to 4 years.
No similar offenses of non-Jews were considered in the Criminal Code.

f) sec. 1171. The Jews, who outside the area allowed for their settlement (Pale) took part in any type of commerce without appropriate legally defined permission, should have been subject both to the confiscation of the goods and to the immediate expelling out of the location.
Non-Jews were only fined for illegal commerce.

g) sec. 1445. This section dealt with punishment of persons responsible for the accurate keeping of civil records. The Criminal Code held responsible for errors in Jewish civil records not only the Rabbi and his assistant but also each member of the board of prayers. Each of these persons were fined with 15 Roubles, if they had left out of registers a man, and 7.50 Roubles, if they had omitted a woman. If this had happened deliberately or for mercenary motives, they could have been accused of the forgery of civil servants and the offender could have been exiled to Siberia.
The punishment of analogous Muslim officials (Imams) was the same, but of Imams only, not of other persons. The Christian Priests in the worst case could be fired.
The Rabbis who had not delivered metric books to the appropriate municipal institutions in time were fined with not more than 10 Roubles, but if they did it again, they were fired.

In general the Criminal Code of 1903 contained fewer criminally prosecuted deeds and the punitive sanctions were lighter.

a) sect. 291. The person, who had not obeyed the rules set for the education of Jewish youth, for the first time should have been fined by not more than 100 Roubles and for the next time could have been imprisoned for the term not more than 6 months.
The section was quite similar to the sect. 1053 of the previous Code, but now Rabbis were not mentioned. Only melameds or other educators in private or community schools could have been punished according to this section.

b) sect. 335. This section dealt with the individuals who violated the rules of trading and namely were busy in trade, in spite that they were not allowed to carry out the particular kind of commerce in the region. For this offense they were fined by up to 500 Roubles, but if they had signed a declaration that they had no impediments to the particular business, then they were arrested for not more than 6 months.
The main part of the section said nothing about Jews, but I suppose that the restrictions in businesses were mainly imposed on Jews, for example, in selling of strong drinks. The Jews were mentioned only at the end of the section that set additional punishment for them - they were to be deported inside the (geographical) Pale for the term 1-5 years, but if the crime was repeated, then they were exiled to the region of Pale for ever (compare with sect. 1171 of the Code 1885).

c) sec. 422. The Jews who willfully had changed their names or surnames were fined by not more than 300 Roubles.
This section is very interesting for family history researchers, because it demonstrates that the deeds of this kind happened in reality.

punitive legislation
I have not studied the relevant Laws yet, so I can only inform about two special rules concerning punished Jews. I found these rules in a book of S.Maksimov /Maksimov/. The author wrote about life in the region of Siberia at the end of the 19th century and told that all of the time some problems arose there because of shortage in exiled women. He claimed that some decrees of the government were quite helpful in this sense, and now follow two of them:

a) In 1836 an enactment was issued that the wife of an exiled Jew was allowed to follow him only together with the female children - the sons should have been left in the previous place of living. The exile for ever to Siberia or to other remote regions was one of the stiffest punishments in the Empire. The people sentenced to the exile lost their estate rights as well as other civil rights, and their spouses could got divorced, but both the spouses and their common children were allowed to follow the exiled person to Siberia. The exceptional prohibition of sons from following their Jewish fathers was relatively cruel, or, if you like better, permission of following the fathers for daughters was relatively human.

b) In 1827 Jewish husbands were prohibited from following their exiled wives to Siberia. Again, this rule restricted the rights of sentenced Jews compared with other subjects of the Empire.

In spite of the fact that S.Maksimov lived in the Empire, visited punitive institutions and investigated exiled persons in Siberia, I can not agree with him that the above mentioned regulations were initiated by the need to increase the share of women in Siberia or, in any case, not only by this need. According to the same author, the exiled Jews were quite active in the commerce throughout Siberia, and one can suppose that the husband of an exiled Jewish woman could set up a successful business and compete with local merchants, making the introduction of the Pale of settlement rather senseless. In general, the commercially active Jews of Siberia were exiles or former convicts, but free people, like the husband of an exiled woman, could start a business immediately. The Jewish boys if moved to Siberia could easier slip out of kanton schools, because there were no Jewish communities in Siberia which could recruit them. The sons of exiled Jews born in the exile were to be moved back to the Pale, when they became 16, if they could not find legal grounds to stay outside the Pale. In 1853 a Law was enacted that this resettlement could be done on the expense of the state. The boys were sent using the system for arrested persons, and they received 3.5 Kopecks daily for subsistence, though the Jewish fathers were allowed to move their sons to the Pale by their own expenses and, if they wished, before the age of 16 /Svod Prodolzhenije/

To tell the truth, I do not think that a lot of Jewish women committed crimes that were sentenced to the exile, but evidently it could happen. Probably the most popular crime among these women was the smuggling. Just for your information - the criminal statistics for Kurzeme [Kurland] province /SJGK1863/ say that in 1862 only 2 persons were exiled to Siberia, which is not very many, of course. 6 persons were exiled to other remote places of the Empire, however. I do not know how many of the exiled were Jews. The statistics say only /SJGK1863/ that a total of 20 Jews were criminally convicted in 1862 in Kurzeme province (their total number there was more than 28,500). The total number of exiled persons in the whole Empire was about 6-8 thousand per year in these years, by the way.


© Bruno Martuzāns. 1995-2002