This day in the history and culture

Of Germans from Russia

The Office of Foreign Custody in Saratov is abolished

April 20, 1782 decree of Catherine II abolished the Office of Guardianship of Foreign and its office in Saratov becaue it  "fulfilled its purpose." Cases about debts, resettlement, accounting books were transferred to the bureaucracy of the Saratov vicegerency.

The Saratov office of foreign settlers was an executive body with a seat in Saratov founded on April 30, 1766, by Catherine II with the aim of managing settler settlers from German and other Western European states that appeared in Russia since 1764 and settled in the Lower Volga region.
It was finally abolished on May 1, 1877.

History of activity

Establishment of an office

The signing of the manifesto by Empress Catherine II on December 4, 1762 " On allowing foreigners to settle in Russia and the free return of Russian people who fled abroad" and on July 22, 1763 "On allowing all foreigners entering Russia to settle in different provinces for their choice, their rights and benefits " led to the emergence of a large number of so-called  settlers, mostly from German states, most of which were to be resettled in the Volga region.

To manage the arrival and resettlement of foreigners in the Manifesto of July 22, 1763, it was planned to operate in St. Petersburg as the collegium of the "Office of Foreign Guardianship."

The Chancery was established by decree of the Empress from the same day as the last specified manifesto. Count Orlov became the president of the new institution.
The active settlement of the Volga region led Orlov  to ask the empress for the creation of her own executive body of the Office of Guardianship of Foreign Affairs - the Saratov office. This was created by the Decree of Catherine II of April 30, 1766.
In its activities, the Office was subordinate directly to the Office of Foreign Custody in St. Petersburg.

The office had to manage the colonists until they were assimilated in a new place so that they could spread the forms of government that had developed in Russia.

In case of conflicts of foreigners with the local population, the Office should settle them jointly with the Saratov Province Chancellery.

First years of work

The governing body of the office was a collegium (presence), consisting of three members and headed by a Chief Justice or Chief Settlement Officer. Decisions of the Office, as a rule, were taken collectively.

The duties of the members of the presence included conducting periodic audits of the colonies, checking the activities of the village elders  elected by the colonists.
In addition to the members of the presence, the Office consisted of: a treasurer, a secretary, an archivist and a registrar. The office was subordinated to two land-surveying teams headed by caretakers, who included officers and employees: clerks, subculturalists, copyists.

Intermediate management link between the Office and the colonists were district commissars, which appeared in 1768 and were appointed and dismissed by the Office of Foreign Custody in St. Petersburg.

The first Chief Justice of the office was appointed brigadier Ivan Rezanov. His activities (as well as the entire Office) in this post caused a lot of complaints from the colonists in the Office of Foreign Custody.

In December 1767, the Saratov Office of the Office of Foreign Custody issued the first house-to-house, roll-call census of the Volga colonists. In 1768, work was carried out to assign official names to  German colonies

Since 1774 the chief judge of the office was the actual state councilor Mikhail Mikhailovich Lodyzhinsky. At the disposal of the Saratov office at that time there were several artillery companies (only 600 people), who submitted to the Chief Justice, to protect the colonies.

In 1774 the office conducted a selective census of 17 German colonies with the recording of all the colonists and their family members, as well as indicating the available livestock and equipment. In the same year, almost the main direction of the activities of the office was the elimination of the consequences of the passage of the Pugachev detachments through some German colonies.

In 1775, Catherine II before the office was tasked to determine who from the colonists were capable of farming, and who not for the purpose of helping land and money first, and the second not to prevent going abroad (when they pay all debts) or help find another job to pay off the debt to the state.

The office, in addition to the general affairs of managing and controlling the life of settlers-colonists, dealt with various current vital issues of people: registered transactions, gave permission for travel, permission for marriages, considered disputes between colonists, issued various letters and documents, etc.

Offfice Seal

The abolition of the office and the subsequent restoration

By decree of the Empress on April 20, 1782, the Office of Foreign Custody and its Office in Saratov ceased their activities. It was believed that they had already fulfilled their functions, invitations to new colonists were not expected, in addition, the content of such institutions was quite expensive for the treasury.

The administration of the colonies passed to the provincial authorities in accordance with the general order of government in the Russian Empire. In view of the numerous complaints about the arbitrariness of Russian governors and their officials, by the Decree of March 4, 1797, the colonies of the Volga region, like other colonies of Russia, were subordinated to the Expedition of the State Economy created by the Government Senate, guardianship of foreign and rural home economics.

At the same time, the Saratov office of foreign guardianship was reinstated. According to the instructions approved on the same day, the office had to manage all the colonies in the Saratov gubernia, and was responsible "for everything to the colony relating". In addition, the office was granted the rights of the court for disputes between the colonists and concerning the crimes committed by them. The office was established in 7 people, headed by the Chief Justice.

Activities from 1797 to 1877

In the course of the Ministerial Reform of the Expedition of the State Economy of Guardianship of Foreign and Agricultural Economics, it moved to the Ministry of the Interior and in 1811 was renamed the Department of State Economy and Public Buildings. Since 1833 the Saratov office of foreign guardianship has become known as the "Saratov office of foreign settlers", and its head is the manager of the Office.

Directly in the colonies, the administration carried out district and village orders. Intermediary between them and the Office were the caretakers of the colonies. In accordance with the Decree of December 12, 1837, the Ministry of State Property was established under whose jurisdiction the Saratov office of foreign settlers was transferred from February 1838.

The position of the Office of Foreign Custody was completely independent from other provincial institutions. The office was equal in rights with the highest provincial institutions. The lower officials of the province, such as the governors, police officers and others, must immediately fulfill the requirements of the Office or its manager when these requirements apply to their posts.

In 1864, the staff of the office consisted of 23 persons: a manager, three members of the presence, a secretary, an official for special assignments, a controller, a treasurer, an accountant, two chiefs, an interpreter, an architect (also a land surveyor), a journalist, an archivist, three doctors and five colony supervisors .
The final abolition of the office

The decree of December 17, 1866, approved by Alexander II, began the process of transferring control of the German colonies of the Volga region to the jurisdiction of Russian state bodies for peasant affairs.

Together with this, the Saratov office of foreign settlers came out of the competence of the Ministry of State Property. This institution retained authority only in matters relating to the church and the school.

June 4, 1871 the decree of Emperor Alexander II abolishes in the Russian Empire all the privileges of the colonists, granted to the settlers by the Manifesto of Catherine II. The colonists pass under the general Russian administration and receive the status of settlers with the same rights as the Russian peasants. All office work in the colonies is translated into Russian.

As a result of these changes, the need for the existence of the Office itself has disappeared. Therefore, on January 17, 1876, the Minister of State Property was granted the right to abolish the Saratov office on foreigners. The Minister considered it possible to postpone the abolition of the Office until May 1, 1877.


The documents of the office are an important source of information about the history of the Germans in the Volga region.
Most of the documents of the Office since its foundation until 1774 were destroyed in August 1774, when Saratov was taken by the army of Emelian Pugachev.
Part of the documents previously sent across the Volga to Astrakhan, was sunk after plundering the office treasury by the peasants of the village of Sinenki.
At the moment, the existing documentation of the office is in the State Archives of the Saratov Region and includes the records of the affairs of the office, as well as some surviving cases.
Some of the materials from the fund of the office were published.
Sources: Wikipedia - Yandex - - Photos are in the public domain