Manifesto of 1763

Signed by Empress Catherine II, this lengthy, detailed document that invited foreign settlers to Russia, was published in St. Petersburg by the Senate on August 5,1763. The official English version appears in Bartlett, Human Capital (1979). It evolved from several circumstances. In October 1762 the newly crowned empress ordered the Senate to encourage foreign settlement (except Jews) as a means to reinforce "the well - being of Our Empire." In response, a short manifesto of mid - December 1762 was translated into "all foreign languages" and printed in many foreign newspapers. Both manifestoes crystallized Russian government thinking about immigration in general by considering specific cases and problems amid European populationist discourse over many decades. Catherine II championed "populationism" even before she gained the throne, probably from reading German cameralist works that postulated increasing population as an index of state power and prestige. Also, Peter the Great had formulated in a famous decree of 1702 the policy of recruiting skilled Europeans, and Catherine endorsed the Petrine precedent. The notion that Russia was underpopulated went back several centuries, an issue that had become acute with the empire's recent expansion, and the Romanov dynasty's rapid Europeanization. Cessation of the European phases of the Seven Years' War (1756 - 1763) also suggested that the German lands might harbor a reservoir of capable individuals and families eager to settle Russia's huge empty, potentially rich spaces.

The impatient empress felt pressured to demonstrate her governing abilities by pursuing peaceful policies that her immediate predecessors had barely begun. Moreover, she was determined to repair the economic - financial ravages of the war that had just ended. It was one thing to declare a new policy, however, and something else to institute it. In preparing the two manifestoes of 1762 - 1763 the Senate discovered many partial precedents and several concrete impediments to welcoming masses of immigrants. More than six months elapsed between the issuance of the two manifestoes, during which time governments were consulted and institutions formulated to care for the anticipated newcomers. It was decided that the manifesto should list the specific lands available for settlement and not exclude any groups. Drawing on foreign precedent and the suggestion of Senator Peter Panin, the manifesto of 1763 established a special government office with jurisdiction over new settlers, the Chancery of Guardianship of Foreigners. The first head, Count Grigory Orlov, Catherine's common - law husband and leader of her seizure of the throne, personified the office's high status. The new Russian immigration policy offered generous material incentives, promised freedom of religion and exemption from military recruitment, and guaranteed exemption from enserfment and freedom to leave. These provisions governed immigration policy until at least 1804 and for many decades thereafter. The manifesto of 1763 did not specifically exclude Jews, although Elizabeth's regime banned them as "Killers of Christ," for Catherine highly regarded their entrepreneurship and unofficially encouraged their entry into New Russia (Ukraine) in 1764.

European immigrants responded eagerly to the manifesto, some twenty thousand arriving during Catherine's reign. Germans settling along the Volga were the largest group, especially the Herrnhut (Moravian Brethren) settlement at Sarepta near Saratov and Mennonite settlements in southern Ukraine. Because of the empire's largely agrarian economy, most settlers were farmers. The expense of the program was large, however, so its cost - effectiveness is debatable. A century later many Volga Germans resettled in the United States, some still decrying Catherine's allegedly broken promises.

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