Empress Catherine the Great's Manifesto, inviting Germans to bring advanced agricultural techniques into the Rodina, dates to July 1763.

That's part of my story.
One version of the family's migration from Prussia to Volhynia to Wisconsin is that they were offered land grants in Volhynia that included exemptions from the military draft, and they left for the States when word that the Tsar was considering ending the exemptions. Another version has the East Prussians in Volhynia leaving as a reaction to a Russification campaign as Aleksandr III cracked down on liberal elements generally. Whatever the story, they did leave, by 1905.
The first Germans invited into Russia migrated to the Volga lands, although the map lists a number of  settlements all over the empire, including our Walki.

The Empress had some interesting ideas about religious freedom.
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 laws. 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.
Not quite a Moslem ban, or invading the 'stans, killing the leaders, and converting the subjects to Christianity, and yet ...

Then check this out, a quarter-century before the Bill of Rights, and a full five score years before the Homestead Act.
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.
The draft exemptions were temporary, and exit taxes were also a thing before Brezhnev reintroduced them.
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, while those who have been here for five or more years will pay one-tenth. Thereafter each one will be permitted to depart unhindered anywhere he pleases to go.
The Proclamation was printed by the Imperial Senate, 25 July 1763.

No comments: