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Vilna Chief of Police Records

Identifier: RG 56

Scope and Content Note

The collection includes materials pertaining to: the illegal activities of political suspects and convicts (students, Catholic priests, and revolutionaries); Jews and the 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 (Vilenski gorodskoi magistrat); the Vilna Province Administration (Vilenskoe gubernskoe pravlenie); the Vilna City Police (Vilenskaya gorodskaya politsiya); the Vilna Civil Governor (Vilenski grazhdanski gubernator); the Public Prosecutor of the Vilna Province (Vilenski gubernski prokuror); the Vilna City Police Department (Vilenskoe gorodskoe politseiskoe upravlenie); the Vilna Department of Revenue (Vilenskaya kazennaya palata); the Ministry of Internal Affairs (Ministerstvo vnutrennykh del); the Vilna Roman-Catholic Consistory (Vilenskaya rimsko-katolicheskaya dukhovnaya konsistoriya); the Sventsian Military Chief (Voenny nachalnik Sventsiana); the Investigator of the Ministry of Justice of Vilna (Vilenski Sudebny sledovatel ministerstva iustitsii); the Vilna District Prosecutor (Prokuror Vilenskago okruzhnago suda); the Office of the Vilna Governor (Kantseliariya Vilenskago gubernatora); the Vilna Justice of the Peace (Vilenski mirovo sudya); the Vilna Branch of the Okhranka, or Secret Political Police Department; the Vilna Criminal Investigation Department (Vilenskoe sysknoe otdelenie); the Vilna Orphans Court (Vilenski sirotski 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.


  • Creation: 1831-1918


Language of Materials

The collection is in Russian with some Polish, German, Hebrew and Yiddish.

Access Restrictions

The collection has been digitized and is available online without restrictions. The physical collection is closed.

Use Restrictions

The images, documents, film footage, audio materials, and texts displayed in any portion of this web site may be copyrighted. Permission to use this web site is given on condition that the user agrees to follow U.S. copyright laws. The user agrees that she or he assumes liability for any copyright violations resulting from unauthorized use of items appearing on this web site and to hold YIVO harmless from any action involving copyright infringement. It is the responsibility of the user to carry out a due diligence search under U.S. copyright laws to determine the copyright status of items displayed on this web site.

Historical Note

The Records of the Vilna Chief of Police (Vilenski Politseimeister) are a fragment of the original archives of the Office of the Vilna Chief of Police (Kantseliariya Vilenskogo Politseimeistera). In the Russian Empire, the Politseimeister headed the city police, from 1862 called the Municipal Police Department (Politseiskoe Gorodskoe Upravlenie). The Vilna Polit͡seĭmeĭster 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.


1.5 Linear Feet


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 collection is arranged chronologically in a single series.

Custodial History

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 die Judenfrage in Frankfurt-Main. In 1947, after the end of the war, the records were sent to the YIVO Archives in New York City.

Folders 23A, 25A, and 43B were added from RG 52, Records of the Jewish State Schools in the Vilna School District

Related Materials

Part of the original archives of the Vilna Chief of Police is in the custody of the Lithuanian State Historical Archives in Vilna.

Processing Information

The collection was refolded using acid-free folders and the volumes which had been bound were cut open in order to prepare materials for digitization.

Guide to the Vilna Chief of Police Records 1831-1918 RG 56
Originally processed by Elissa Bemporad. Materials further processed, described, prepared for digitization and finding aid encoded by Yakov Il'ich Sklar in 2015.
Language of description
Script of description
Language of description note
Description is in English.
Processed, conserved and digitized as part of the Edward Blank YIVO Vilna Online Collections project (2015-2022). Additional work funded by the National Endowment for the Humanities. Earlier work funded by the Gruss Lipper Family Foundation (2008) and the CJH Holocaust Resource Initiative from the Conference on Jewish Material Claims against Germany (2012).

Repository Details

Part of the YIVO Institute for Jewish Research Repository

15 West 16th Street
New York NY 10011 United States