What was the purpose of this document issued in Czarist Russia? -Pervia Gilda#russia #general

S. Silberg

My grandfather was born in Grodno when it was still part of the Russian Empire. His parents were Moishe and Brina KUJANSKY.


My grandmother, in an oral testimony, told us;

“Moishe was very wealthy and he got a certificate called a "Pervia Gilda" which permitted him to travel all over Russia. Usually not given to a Jew, but he got it because he was wealthy”.


I asked a friend who is fluent in Russian what Pervia Glilda means and her response was:


Pervia Gilda- is something like a first priority.


Pervia - is one. Gildia - is a group


I wondered whether anyone in the group as heard about this document. Even in her old age my grandmother was very clear on the name of the document so it was probably not a traditional passport/internal passport.


Thanks in anticipation.

Sheryl Silberg

Florida, USA


Researching: Kujansky, Grodno; Meirowitz, Seduva: Zack, Ponevezh: Gordon, Birzai: Zilberg, Vabalninkas.

Jorge Sexer

If I'm not wrong, it means that the person was a "first class' merchant". Gilda would mean "guild", refering to the Merchant Guild.  See https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Merchant_guild_(Russian_Empire)

Jorge Sexer, St Malo, France


Pervaya is a feminine form of "first".  Just like in English, "one" and "first" are different words.  As far as I know, the only qualifier for joining the merchant class was showing capital.  There were plenty of Jews, that were merchants, in many cases outnumbering gentiles within towns in the Pale.

You are correct, it refers to merchant class and would be used in a form of "1st class merchant", "daughter of 2nd class merchant", "brother of 3rd class merchant", "grandson of 1st class merchant" as an official title.  3rd class merchant class existed until 1860's.  The title was held while one was able to show certain level of capital, otherwise you revert either to a lower guild or to your previous social state, for example to meshchanin (city dweller).
The rules regarding unlimited travel, rights, etc varied over the years.  At some point a Jewish merchant had a right of unlimited travel, at other times the law changed and they could no longer stay outside of the Pale of Settlement for longer than 6 months, even if they owned a property in a city in one of the internal provinces.

Mike Vayser