Some very old passports (Russia, 1911 and 1912)

Something for the history buffs among you…

When I was in Winnipeg over the holidays, my grandmother pulled out her family history photo album and let me have a look through it, and — to my surprise and delight — tucked inside were both of my maternal great-grandparents' passports. So I did what all people of my generation would do: I took out my phone and started taking pictures. Considering I didn't use flash, and considering the pictures were taken with my phone (which is definitely not a top-of-the-line model), the results are surprisingly legible — if you can read Russian, that is.

Russia was and is a very diverse country, so it shouldn't surprise you that much that my mother didn't learn until relatively recently that her grandparents spoke Russian. Growing up, I was always told that my mother's mother's family was German (German-from-Russia, as my mother called it), and I never really gave much thought to the “from-Russia” part of it. It turns out, though, that there was a sizable German population settled around the Volga/Saratov. They had a confusing/tumultuous relationship with the soviets, at one point granted a fair amount of autonomy as the Volga German Republic, and at another banished from the land (and, I believe, sent to Siberia — but who wasn't at some point?). My direct ancestors left before then, but I'm sure that there are relatives of mine who didn't fare so well. And despite their “otherness” from Russia at large, they did hold Russian passports:

Interestingly enough, there is a page in German and a page in French. Lucky me, I can read French! Roughly, it says: “The bearer of this [handwritten–>] the peasant [really?! Can this mean citizen? Because “peasant” is hilarious!] Jean-Jacques Roudolf [note that they francofied his name — the German on the other side says Johann-Jakob Rudolf] is leaving for foreign lands/overseas, [typed–>] in trust of which this passport, confirmed by the affixing of the seal, is given for freely travelling in foreign countries. [handwritten–>] Russia Saratov 4 March 1911.” But then I have to wonder: where is this seal they refer to? Dun dun dun!!
And for my great-grandmother (who did not know my great-grandfather at the time):
She also is a peasant (ha), but whoever worked on her passport was apparently much more stamp-happy. Also note that hers seems to actually have a seal on it, unlike her future husband's:

And there you have it.




Filed under Family, Genealogy, History

4 responses to “Some very old passports (Russia, 1911 and 1912)

  1. Brenda

    Thanks for sharing. It is in fact very interesting.

  2. Alexandra

    Very interesting!

    In Russian the names aren’t modified (except as necessary to render into cyrillic), but they’ve put in patronymics! So your great-grandfather’s reads Iogann-Iakob Yakovlevich Rudolf.

    Now, I don’t know if maybe paysan at the time had an additional meaning, but the Russian word is ‘poselyanin’, which comes from the verb ‘selitsa’, or ‘poselitsa’ and so literally just means ‘settler’. I asked my dad and he said that it’s not a word that would have been used if you’d just moved somewhere, but it’s like you would have to have fully settled in -necessarily – some rural area. So I wonder if paysan is meant to be more like… ‘county dweller’. (Also remember, French was spoken as a second native language in pre-revolution Russia, but it’s quality relative to actual French was kind of marginal. They could well have been modifying meanings to suit their needs.)

    The page with the stamp says that he, 24 y.o., has set out on a trip outside of the country. He has paid a tariff of 10 rubles, and an additional 5 rubles for the benefit of the Red Cross.

    • For some reason I am attached to the idea of them as peasants (and now that I think about it, can’t paysan just be country-dweller as well? as in ‘pays’? but then that stretches the idea of what most people mean by country… but now in my mind I’m dividing citizen from peasant)! I’m also unaccountably pleased to learn about the Red Cross part of it. I’ve never heard of such a thing in a passport before. I wonder if they knew he wasn’t coming back?

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