Re: Researching family in Saint Petersburg, Russia #russia

Joel Ratner

In support of Herbs point, here is a short history of St. Petersburg. Peter the Great founded the city in 1701. Lands from Poland were ceded twice during the 1770s and fhe third and final partition of Poland occurred in 1795. The importance of these events lies in the fact that prior to the partitions, there were not many Jews within Russia proper however, with the partitions, Catherine now owned lands with large numbers of Jews and had to decide what to do with them. Her answer was the formation of the Pale of Settlement.

See the article on the Pale for further information. 

Generally, Jews were not allowed to live outside the Pale however, the exceptions to the rule began to take place in the 1850s under Alexander II. This is the time where the strict prohibitions began to unravel for selected classes of people. Alexander ruled from 1855. An examination of the listing of 549 metrical register books for the Jewish community of SPB (Choral Synagogue), the first metrical register of births in the SPB archives is 1856.The listing states this register contained marriages, deaths and divorces however, examination of the images shows births were included.  The births of thirteen boys and nine girls were recorded as well as some marriages and deaths. See the record listing at SPB Metrical Register Listing .  A translated version appears below.

In the 1850s, the exceptions to the rules of prohibited residence outside the Pale began to emerge and these are discussed at some length in the YIVO article. Suffice it to say that artisans, army veterans, etc. were sometimes granted access to settlement in SPB from this time. This was the seeding of the population with the first community of Jews. Metrical registers are available in the SPB archive (TsGIA) for the Jewish community through 1918.

On a decidedly different but related topic, see the 

Laws Pertaining to the Jews in Russia

Full text of: The Persecution of the Jews in Russia

Joel Ratner

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