Shortly after becoming the next Empress of Russia, a young Catherine II approved a new colonization policy designed to benefit her empire on October 14, 1762.
Catherine’s first Manifesto, issued on December 4, 1762, was printed in Russian, German, French, English, Polish, Czech, and Arabic. This Manifesto was largely symbolic given that the Russian government had not yet established an administrative structure to plan and manage such a large colonization program.
Catherine’s second Manifesto was issued on July 22, 1763, at the end of the Seven Years' War. This Manifesto was perfectly timed to appeal to the war and tax weary European populace. Copies of the Manifesto were printed in newspapers and on leaflets that were distributed throughout Europe, but with a focus in the German speaking lands where much of the war had been fought. These lands had no national government and were comprised of a large number of small principalities, counties, duchies and city states that were part of the Holy Roman Empire of the German Nation. Some of these territories, such as the County of Isenburg, did not have legal restrictions preventing their subjects from traveling or migrating to new lands.
The second Manifesto was enhanced to be make the offer more specific and attractive. Among the promises made to the colonists was exemption from military service, freedom of religion, a 30 year exemption from taxes, land provided at no cost and travel expenses paid by the Russian government. At the time, and even by today's standards, this was a very enlightened and generous offer to prospective immigrants.
Manifesto of July 22, 1763
We, Catherine the Second, by the Grace of God, Empress and Autocrat of all the Russians at Moscow, Kiev, Vladimir, Novgorod; Czarina of Kazan; Czarina of Astrakhan; 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.
Inasmuch as the vast expanse of Our Empire's territories is fully known to Us, We perceive that, among other things, no small number of such regions still lie unimproved that could be employed with lucrative ease for a most productive settlement and occupation by mankind, most of which regions conceal within their depths an inexhaustible wealth of multifarious precious ores and metals; and since the selfsame [regions] are richly endowed with forests, rivers, seas, and oceans convenient for trade, so they are also exceptionally well adapted for the establishment and growth of many types of mills, factories, and various other plants. This gave Us cause for issuance of the manifesto that was publicized for the benefit of all Our loyal subjects on the 4th of December of the past year, 1762. Nevertheless, since We communicated Our wishes therein only summarily to those foreigners who might be desirous of making their homes in Our Empire, We therefore now ordain, for the better clarification of this matter, the following decree, which We hereby most solemnly confirm, and command that it be implemented, to proclaim it to all.
ONE We permit all foreigners to enter Our Empire in order to settle down in any government wherever it may suit each of them.
TWO Such foreigners, after their arrival, may announce themselves not only to Our Residenz [St. Petersburg] in the Guardianship-Chancellery especially established for foreigners for this purpose, but also, for the convenience of everyone, elsewhere at the border cities of Our Empire with their Governors, or, where they are not available, with cities’ foremost commanding officers.
THREE Since among those foreigners desirous of settling in Russia there also may be some without sufficient means to defray the requisite travel costs, then the same can report to Our Ministers and Ambassadors at foreign courts who not only shall transport them to Russia at Our expense without hesitation, but also shall provide [them] with travel funds.
FOUR As soon as such foreigners shall have reached Our Residenz and have reported to the Guardianship-Chancellery, or likewise at a border city, they then shall be expected to declare their true intentions as to wherein their real desires specifically lie, and whether they shall wish to consent to being registered among the tradesmen or in guilds and become city residents, and indeed, specifically in which city; or whether they are desirous of settling down to farming or diverse useful trades in segregated colonies or hamlets on unclaimed and productive land; whereupon all such persons shall promptly be ranted their choice in compliance with their own wishes and desires; at the same time it may be perceived in the appended Register where and in which regions of Our Empire the specific lands, unclaimed and suitable for making one’s home, are available; albeit besides those listed in the aforementioned Register still incomparably more extensive regions and diverse landed properties are to be found upon which We likewise authorize anyone to settle where each shall decide it to be most advantageous to himself.
FIVE Immediately upon arrival in Our Empire of every foreigner who contemplates settling down, and toward this end reports to the Guardian-Chancellery established for these foreigners, or instead at other border cities of Our Empire, such person before all else must declare his personal decision, as outlined above in Section 4, and then render the oath of allegiance and loyalty in conformity with everyone’s own religious conviction.
SIX In order, however, that the foreigners who wish to settle in Our Empire may become apprised how far Our benevolence extends to their interest and advantage, this then is Our will:
(1) To grant all foreigners entering Our Empire the unhindered freedom of religious worship in accordance with their church dogmas and practices; to those, however, who intend not to settle in cities, but in uninhabited areas, particularly in colonies or hamlets, We grant permission to build churches and campaniles and to maintain the number of clergy and deacons necessary thereto, only the construction of cloisters being excluded. Nevertheless, everyone is warned hereby under no pretext whatsoever to persuade or mislead any Christian fellow-believer residing in Russia into embracing, or assenting to, his faith or Church, should he not wish to subject himself to fear of punishment to the full force of Our laws. Sundry nations adhering to the Mohammedan faith that border on Our Empire are excluded herefrom; with respect to these, We permit and sanction everyone not only to incline them to the Christian faith through proper procedure, and also to acquire the same as his serfs.
(2) None among such foreigners coming to settle in Russia shall be compelled to pay the least in taxes into Our treasury, or to render their usual or unusual services, or be forced to furnish billeting, but in a single word everyone shall be free of every tax and impost to the following degree: those, for instance, who as a part of many families enjoy thirty free years; those settling in cities, however, and wishing to enroll themselves either in guilds or the body of merchants, [or] even to take up residence in our Residenz Saint Petersburg or in neighboring cities in Livonia, Estonia, Ingria, Karelia, and Finland, no less than in Our Capital City Moscow, [shall] have five free years; in all remaining Governments or Provinces and other cities however, ten free years. Moreover, everyone who does not come to Russia for perhaps only a brief time but instead actually to make his home, shall have, beyond all this, free [living] quarters throughout an entire half a year.
(3) All foreigners coming to Russia to make their homes, who are inclined toward either farming and other manual industry, or instead toward establishing mills, factories, and plants, will be offered every helping hand and consideration, and be granted not only adequate and productive land for everyone’s purpose, but also, according to the pertinent circumstances of each, be extended requisite support depending on the future need and utility of such proposed factories and plants, particularly however, of such that until now have not yet been established in Russia.
(4) For the construction of houses, for the acquisition of various breeds of livestock required for the household, and for all types of equipment, accessories, and materials necessary for farming, as well as for handcrafting, the needed financed shall be advanced to everyone from Our treasury without any kind of interest; on the contrary, only the capital shall be repaid in three equal parts over three years, but not prior to the expiration of ten years.
(5) We leave to the established, segregated colonies or hamlets the internal framework of government in accordance with their own discretion in such manner that the administrative personnel appointed by Us shall not participate in any way in their internal affairs; otherwise, though, such colonists are obligated to submit to Our civil laws. However, should they themselves desire to receive from Us a particular person as their guardian or patron for their security and defense who is provided with an armed guard of soldiers who maintain good military discipline, until the colonists have acquainted themselves with their neighboring inhabitants, then they also shall be accommodated in this matter.
(6) To every foreigner wishing to make his home in Russia, We shall allow the completely duty-free importation of his property, of whatever it may consist, with the reservation, however, that such property shall be intended for his own use and need, and not for sale. Nevertheless, whosoever, beyond his personal requirements, still might bring along a few goods to sell, to him We grant free tariff on 300 rubles worth of wares for each family, but only in such event that it remains in Russia at least ten years; failing which, upon its return journey, toll will be collected for the imported as well as the exported goods.
(7) Such foreigners who have settled in Russia shall, during the entire time of their living here, be enlisted against their will in neither the military nor civil service, except for the customary Land-Dienste [public labor service]; indeed, no one shall be constrained to render even this Land-Dienst before the expiration of the aforementioned years of immunity; however, whosoever is disposed to enter the military service voluntarily as a soldier will be given, aside from the usual pay, thirty rubles bonus upon his enlistment in the regiment.
(8) As soon as the foreigners have reported to the Guardianship-Chancellery established for them, or otherwise at Our border cities, and have announced their decision to move into the innermost portion of the Empire and settle there, at that time they also will receive board money besides free transportation to their chosen destination.
(9) Whosoever among said foreigners settling in Russia establishes such mills, factories, or plants, and produces goods therein that until then have not been current in Russia, to him we grant permission throughout the stated ten years to sell freely without imposition of any kind of inland-sea or border duty, and to export from Our Empire.
(10) To foreign capitalists who at their own expense establish mills, factories, and plants in Russia, We hereby allow the purchasing of serfs and peasants necessary for such plants, mills, and factories.
We also allow (11) all foreigners settled in colonies or hamlets in Our Empire to operate daily or annual markets at their own discretion without paying any kind of tax or impost whatsoever into Our treasury.
SEVEN All the aforementioned benefits and accommodations shall be enjoyed not only by those themselves who have come into Our Empire to make their homes, but also their surviving children and descendants even though they were born in Russia; and that is to say, that their years of immunity are to be computed from the day of their forefathers’ arrivals in Russia.
EIGHT After expiration of the aforementioned years of immunity all foreigners who settled in “Russia are obligated to pay the customary imposts entailing no burden whatsoever, and like Our other subjects, perform Land-Dienste.
NINE Finally and in conclusion, whosoever among these foreigners who have become settled and have submitted themselves to Our dominion might come of a mind to leave Our Empire, to him We indeed give the liberty to do that at all times, but with this explanation, that such shall be required to pay into Our treasury a portion of their entire property profitably acquired in Our Empire; those, to-wit, who have lived here from one to five years [shall] pay the one-fifth of its value, however, those who have dwelt in Our Land from five to ten years and more, one-tenth of its value; thereafter everyone is permitted to journey unhindered anywhere he pleases.
TEN When, moreover, any foreigners desirous of making a home in Russia, for one or another particular reason may wish to procure still other conditions and privileges beyond the foregoing, such may, on this account, apply personally or in writing to Our Guardianship-Chancellery created for foreigners, which will report everything to Us in detail; whereupon We then, after considering the circumstances, will not hesitate to make a still more favorable Sovereign determination, such as each may confidently expect from Our love of righteousness.
Given at Peterhof, in the year 1763, on the 22nd of July, in the second year of Our reign.
Her Imperial Majesty has subscribed the Original by Her Own hand as follows:
Published by the Senate on the 25th of July, 1763.
Beratz, Gottieb. The German colonies on the Lower Volga, their origin and early development: a memorial for the 150th anniversary of the arrival of the first German settlers on the Volga, 29 June 1764. Translated by Adam Giesinger. Lincoln, NE: American Historical Society of Germans from Russia, 1991.
Dietz, Jacob E. History of the Volga German Colonists. Lincoln, NE: American Historical Society of Germans from Russia, 2005.
Koch, Fred C. The Volga Germans: In Russia and the Americas, from 1763 to the Present. University Park, PA: Pennsylvania State University Press, 1977.
Pleve, Igor R. The German Colonies on the Volga: The Second Half of the Eighteenth Century. Translated by Richard Rye. Lincoln, NE: American Historical Society of Germans from Russia, 2001.
This translation was made by Fred C. Koch from a German text that was published in "Volk auf dem Weg", June 1962. The original document is held in the Stadtarchiv of Ulm, Germany.