Vilna Chief of Police. Records.
The Records of the Vilna Chief of Police (Vilenskii Politseimeister) are a fragment of the original archives of the Office of the Vilna Chief of Police (Kantseliariia Vilenskogo Polizeimesitera). In the Russian Empire, the Politseimeister headed a city police, from 1862 called the Municipal Police Department (Politseiskoie Gorodskoie Upravleniie). The Vilna Politseimeister office was organized sometime after 1795, following the annexation of Vilna to the Russian Empire. Investigations into all criminal as well as political matters within the city limits were within the purview of the Politseimeister. The office was abolished in 1917.
The collection is of a fragmentary nature, and consists of miscellaneous materials that pertain to the role and activities of the Vilna Chief of Police in the everyday life of the city and province of Vilna, and to the relationship between the Vilna Chief of Police and other police, military and civil organs in the Vilna province. Most of the documents in this collection, which covers the tsarist period from the 1830s to 1918, were assembled during the latter part of the nineteenth and early part of the twentieth century.
The records were donated sometime before 1939 to the S. Ansky Jewish Ethnographic Historical Society by Jacob Hirszowski, a Vilna bookseller and member of the Ansky Society board. Following the German invasion of the Soviet Union in World War II, the records were looted by the Nazis and sent to Germany in 1942 for the NSDAP Institut zur Erforschung der Judenfrage in Frankfurt am Main. In 1947, after the end of the war, the records were sent to the YIVO Archives in New York City.
Another part of the original archives of the Vilna Chief of Police is in the custody of the Lithuanian State Historical Archives in Vilna.
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The collection includes materials pertaining to: the illegal activities of political suspects and convicts (students, Catholic priests, and revolutionaries); Jews and military conscription; disputes over financial matters and inheritance of real estate; residential rights of Jews; criminal and civil cases; Yiddish and censorship. The collection also includes miscellaneous records, some of which provide material of special interest for scholars of Jewish and Russian social history.
The collection consists of police investigation reports, lists of convicts, court orders, financial records, and petitions to the Vilna Chief of Police regarding a variety of issues. A large part of the collection consists of correspondence between the Vilna Chief of Police and local police, military and civil authorities (original copies of incoming mail, and copies of outgoing mail, reports, and statements). Some of the local authorities include: the Vilna Town Council (Vilenskii gorodskoi magistrat); the Vilna Province Administration (Vilenskoe gubernskoe pravlenie); the Vilna City Police (Vilenskaia gorodskaia politsiia); the Vilna Civil Governor (Vilenskii grazhdanskii gubernator); the Public Prosecutor of the Vilna Province (Vilenskii gubernskii prokuror); the Vilna City Police Department (Vilenskoe gorodskoe politseiskoe upravlenie); the Vilna Department of Revenue (Vilenskaia kazennaia palata); the Ministry of Internal Affairs (Ministerstvo vnutrennykh del); the Vilna Roman-Catholic Consistory (Vilenskaia rimsko-katolicheskaia dukhovnaia konsistoria); the Sventsian Military Chief (Voenniy nachalnik Sventsiana); the Investigator of the Ministry of Justice of Vilna (Vilenskii Sudebnyi sledovatel’ ministerstva iustitsii); the Vilna District Prosecutor (Prokuror Vilenskago okruzhnago suda); the Office of the Vilna Governor (Kantseliariia Vilenskago gubernatora); the Vilna Justice of the Peace (Vilenskii mirovoi sudiya); the Vilna Branch of the Okhranka, or Secret Political Police Department; the Vilna Criminal Investigation Department (Vilenskoe sysknoe otdelenie); the Vilna Orphans’ Court (Vilenskii sirotskii sud).
Some of the most interesting materials in this collection bear witness to the role of the Jews in the revolutionary movement, as well as to the secret activities of the police authorities in their attempt to keep civil society under strict control. Overall, the records of the Vilna Chief of Police represent a unique source for the study of the life of Jews, as well as Russians and Poles, in the 19th and early 20th century.