Germans Immigrate to Russia
In response to Catherine the Great's manifesto, thousands of Germans emigrate from Prussia, Poland, Sweeden and others, leaving behind a depressed economy caused by the seven year war. The manifesto had many enticements that lured our ancestors to her call. Reading the manifesto below should help you understand some of the reasons for the mass migration.

Manisfesto of the Empress Catherine II


July 22, 1763

The Mainfesto:

We, Catherine the second, by the Grace of God, Empress and Autocrat of all the Russians at Moscow, Kiev, Vladimir, Novgorod, Czarina of Kasan, Czarina of Astrachan, Czarina of Siberia, Lady of Pleskow and Grand Duchess of Smolensko, Duchess of Esthonia and Livland, Carelial, Twer, Yugoria, Permia, Viatka and Bulgaria and others; Lady and Grand Duchess of Novgorod in the Netherland of Chernigov, Resan, Rostov, Yaroslav, Beloosrial, Udoria, Obdoria, Condinia, and Ruler of the entire North region and Lady of the Yurish, of the Cartalinian and Grusinian czars and the Cabardinian land, of the Cherkessian and Gorsian princes and the lady of the manor and sovereign of many others. As We are sufficiently aware of the vast extent of the lands within Our Empire, We perceive, among other things, that a considerable number of regions are still uncultivated which could easily and advantageously be made available for productive use of population and settlement. Most of the lands hold hidden in their depth an inexhaustible wealth of all kinds of precious ores and metals, and because they are well provided with forests, rivers and lakes, and located close to the sea for purpose of trade, they are also most convenient for the development and growth of many kinds of manufacturing, plants, and various installations. This induced Us to issue the manifesto which was published last Dec. 4, 1762, for the benefit of all Our loyal subjects. However, inasmuch as We made only a summary announcement of Our pleasure to the foreigners who would like to settle in Our Empire, we now issue for a better understanding of Our intention the following decree which We hereby solemnly establish and order to be carried out to the full.

I. . We permit all foreigners to come into Our Empire, in order to settle in all the gouvernements, just as each one may desire.

II. . After arrival, such foreigners can report for this purpose not only to the Guardianship Chancellery established for foreigners in Our residence, but also, if more convenient, to the governor or commanding officer in one of the border-towns of the Empire.

III. . Since those foreigners who would like to settle in Russia will also include some who do not have sufficient means to pay the required travel costs, they can report to our ministers in foreign courts, who will not only transport them to Russia at Our expense, but also provide them with travel money.

IV. . As soon as these foreigners arrive in Our residence and report at the Guardianship Chancellery or in a border-town, they shall be required to state their true decision whether their real desire is to be enrolled in the guild of merchants or artisans, and become citizens, and in what city; or if they wish to settle on free, productive land in colonies and rural areas, to take up agriculture or some other useful occupation. Without delay, these people will be assigned to their destination, according to their own wishes and desires. From the following register* it can be seen in which regions of Our Empire free and suitable lands are still available. However, besides those listed, there are many more regions and all kinds of land where We will likewise permit people to settle, just as each one chooses for his best advantage.
*The register lists the areas where the immigrants can be settled.

V. . Upon arrival in Our Empire, each foreigner who intends to become a settler and has reported to the Guardianship Chancellery or in other border-towns of Our Empire and, as already prescribed in # 4, has declared his decision, must take the oath of allegiance in accordance with his religious rite.

VI. . In order that the foreigners who desire to settle in Our Empire may realize the extent of Our benevolence to their benefit and advantage, this is Our will -- :

1. We grant to all foreigners coming into Our Empire the free and unrestricted practice of their religion according to the precepts and usage of their Church. To those, however, who intend to settle not in cities but in colonies and villages on uninhabited lands we grant the freedom to build churches and belltowers, and to maintain the necessary number of priests and church servants, but not the construction of monasteries. On the other hand, everyone is hereby warned not to persuade or induce any of the Christian co-religionists living in Russia to accept or even assent to his faith or join his religious community, under pain of incurring the severest punishment of Our law. This prohibition does not apply to the various nationalities on the borders of Our Empire who are attached to the Mahometan faith. We permit and allow everyone to win them over and make them subject to the Christian religion in a decent way.

2. None of the foreigners who have come to settle in Russia shall be required to pay the slightest taxes to Our treasury, nor be forced to render regular or extraordinary services, nor to billet troops. Indeed, everybody shall be exempt from all taxes and tribute in the following manner: those who have been settled as colonists with their families in hitherto uninhabited regions will enjoy 30 years of exemption; those who have established themselves, at their own expense, in cities as merchants and tradesmen in Our Residence St. Petersburg or in the neighboring cities of Livland, Esthonia, Ingermanland, Carelia and Finland, as well as in the Residential city of Moscow, shall enjoy 5 years of tax-exemption. Moreover, each one who comes to Russia, not just for a short while but to establish permanent domicile, shall be granted free living quarters for half a year.

3. All foreigners who settle in Russia either to engage in agriculture and some trade, or to undertake to build factories and plants will be offered a helping hand and the necessary loans required for the construction of factories useful for the future, especially of such as have not yet been built in Russia.

4. For the building of dwellings, the purchase of livestock needed for the farmstead, the necessary equipment, materials, and tools for agriculture and industry, each settler will receive the necessary money from Our treasury in the form of an advance loan without any interest. The capital sum has to be repaid only after ten years, in equal annual instalments in the following three years.

5. We leave to the discretion of the established colonies and village the internal constitution and jurisdiction, in such a way that the persons placed in authority by Us will not interefere with the internal affairs and institutions. In other respects the colonists will be liable to Our civil laws. However, in the event that the people would wish to have a special guardian or even an officer with a detachment of disciplined soldiers for the sake of security and defense, this wish would also be granted.

6. To every foreigner who wants to settle in Russia We grant complete duty-free import of his property, no matter what it is, provided, however, that such property is for personal use and need, and not intended for sale. However, any family that also brings in unneeded goods for sale will be granted free import on goods valued up to 300 rubles, provided that the family remains in Russia for at least 10 years. Failing which, it be required, upon its departure, to pay the duty both on the incoming and outgoing goods.

7. The foreigners who have settled in Russia shall not be drafted against their will into the military or the civil service during their entire stay here. Only after the lapse of the years of tax-exemption can they be required to provide labor service for the country. Whoever wishes to enter military service will receive, besides his regular pay, a gratuity of 30 rubles at the time he enrolls in the regiment.

8. As soon as the foreigners have reported to the Guardianship Chancellery or to our border towns and declared their decision to travel to the interior of the Empire and establish domicile there, they will forthwith receive food rations and free transportation to their destination.

9. Those among the foreigners in Russia who establish factories, plants, or firms, and produce goods never before manufactured in Russia, will be permitted to sell and export freely for ten years, without paying export duty or excise tax.

10. Foreign capitalists who build factories, plants, and concerns in Russia at their own expense are permitted to purchase serfs and peasants needed for the operation of the factories.

11. We also permit all foreigners who have settled in colonies or villages to establish market days and annual market fairs as they see fit, without having to pay any dues or taxes to Our treasury.

VII. . All the afore-mentioned privileges shall be enjoyed not only by those who have come into our country to settle there, but also their children and descendants, even though these are born in Russia, with the provision that their years of exemption will be reckoned from the day their forebears arrived in Russia.

VIII. . After the lapse of the stipulated years of exemption, all the foreigners who have settled in Russia are required to pay the ordinary moderate contributions and, like our other subjects, provide labor- service for their country. Finally, in the event that any foreigner who has settled in Our Empire and has become subject to Our authority should desire to leave the country, We shall grant him the liberty to do so, provided, however, that he is obligated to remit to Our treasury a portion of the assets he has gained in this country; that is, those who have been here from one to five years will pay one-fifth, whole those who have been here for five or more years will pay one-tenth. Thereafter each one wil be permitted to depart unhindered anywhere he pleases to go.

IX. . If any foreigner desiring to settle in Russia wishes for certain reasons to secure other privileges or condlitions besides those already stated, he can apply in writing or in person to our Guardianship Chancellery, which will report the petition to Us. After examining the circumstances, We shall not hesitate to resolve the matter in such a way that the petitioner's confidence in Our love of justice will not be disappointed.

Given at the Court of Peter, July 22, 1763
in the Second Year of Our Reign.

The original was signed by Her Imperial Supreme Majesty's own hand.
Printed by the Senate, July 25, 1763

This manifesto was very soon followed by many supplementary stipulations, for instance the enactment of March 19, 1764, concerning the right to own land. In 1871 all privileges were revoked; from then on the Germans became subject to military service.

A separate Mennonite agreement was negotiated in 1789 by Catherine's son, Czar Paul I.

We, Paul the first, by the Grace of God, Emperor and Autocrat of all the Russian, ........ In documentation of Our all-gracious approval of the request reaching Us from the Mennonites settled in the gouvernement of New Russia, who, according to the testimony of their overseers can serve as models of excellent industry and decent living to the other colonists settlede there, and who are, therefore, deserving of our special attention, We wish not only to cinfirm all the rights and privileges granted to them in earlier agreements, but also, in order to encourage them in their efforts and devotion to agriculture, to graciously grant them additional privileges set forth in the following:

First. We confirm the freedom of religion promised to you and your descendants, by virtue of which you can practise your religious beliefs and church traditions. We also graciously grant the req uest that your spoken statements of Yes and No shall be accepted as valid in a court of law, in place of an oath, whenever the occasion requires.

Second. (Regarding the apportionment of land; 65 dess. for each family)

Third. (Freedom to engage in trade)

Fourth. (The special right to manufacture beer, vinegar, and brandy)

Fifth. (No outsider is permitted to establish taverns on the land of the Mennonites or sell brandy without their permission)

Sixth. We give you Our most gracious assurance that none of the presently settled Mennonites, nor those desiring to settle in Our empire in the future, nor their children and descendants shall at any time be compelled against their expressed desire to perform military duties or civil services.

Seventh. (Exemption from lengthy military billeting, transport duties and Crown labor services, and the obligation to build bridges and roads)

Eighth. (The right to own property and make provision for heirs and orphans)

Ninth. (10 or 15 years of exemption from Crown taxes)

Tenth. (Orders given to all authorities not to curtail these privileges accorded to the Mennonites ("Mennonists"), but to protect them in all instances)

Given in the city of Gatchino on the sixth of September in the year of the Birth of Christ, one thousand and eight hundred, the fourth of Our reign, and the second of Our office as Grand Master.

Paul - Count of Rostopschin

Countries of OriginAreas of Settlement
1763-68Hesse, Rhineland, the Palatinate,
Saxony, Wurttemberg, Switzerland
Volga area (Evangelical & Catholic)
1765 Sulzfeld,,Wurttemberg Riebensdorf (Evangelical)
1766Hesse, Wurtemberg,
near Petersburg
1766 HesseBelowesh (Evangelical & Cathholic)
1780 Prussia, Wurttemberg, Bavaria, Josephstal, Fischendorf,
Jamburg near Dnieper
1782 Sweden Alt Schwendorf (Evangelical)
1786 Prussia Alt-Danzig
1789-90 Danzig, West Prussia Chortiza (Mennonites)

. a. Alsace, the Palatinate, Baden Tranzfeld, Mariental, Josefstal by Odessa
. b. Wurttemberg, Alsace, the Palatinate,
Baden, Hungary
Grosliebental, Alexanderhilf, Neuberg,
Peterstal by Odessa (Evangelical)
. c. Danzig, West Prussia Halbstadt, Molotschna (Mennonites)
. d. Wurttemberg, Baden, Hesse Prischib, Molotschna (Evangelical & Catholic)
. e. Wurttemberg, Switzerland Crimea: Neusatz, Zurichtal (Evangelical & Catholic)

. a. Wurttemberg, Alsace, the Palatin-
ate, Baden, Hungary
Bergdorf, Gluckstal, Kassel,
Neudorf, Area of Odessa (Evangelical)
. b. Alsace, Baden, Poland Baden, Elsass, Kandel, Selz, Mannheim, Strassburg (Catholic)
. c. Alsace, Baden, the Palatinate,
Beresan and Odessa areas (Evangelical & Catholic)
1812-27 Wurttemberg, Baden, Hesse Prischib, Molotschna (Evangelical)
& 21-34
Wurttemberg, Prussia, Poland, Bavaria Bessarabia, Colonies near Odessa
1817-18 Wurttemberg South Causcasus (Evangelical)
1822-31 WurttembergSwabian colonies near Berdjansk (Evangelical)
1823-42 Danzig, West Prussia, Rhine-Hesse, Baden Grunhau area (Planer colonies) (Evangelical & Catholic)
1853 Danzig, West Prussia Samara (Mennonites)
1859-1862 Last emigration from Germany

By: Bob L. Berschauer and Brent Mai E-mail

Last Update 24 May 2000