PAUL I° (1754–1801), emperor of Russia, son of Catherine II and Peter III; ascended the throne in 1796. His decrees concerning the Jews testify that he acted tolerantly toward them. The dispute between Christians and Jews in *Kaunas (Kovno) which continued for decades, was settled by the decree that the Jews be allowed to remain in the city and that no obstacles be placed in their way in following their trades and handicrafts. Paul I also opposed the expulsion of the Jews from *Kamenets-Podolski and *Kiev.
During the discussion, at the end of the 18th century, between the *Courland authorities and the Senate which took an extremely negative stand toward the Jews, Paul I asked Baron Heiking to handle the problem. On Heiking's advice, the privilege of citizenship to the Jews of Courland was granted on March 14, 1799, and thus also municipal rights. The czar opposed G.R. *Derzhavin's advice to question the validity of the oath of the Jews before the courts. In addition, Paul I took a stand in the struggle between the *Ḥasidim and *Mitnaggedim by liberating the head of the former, *Zalman Shneur of Lyady, and he rejected all *blood libel accusations leveled against the Jews.
Paul's policy toward the Jews was at first a continuation of Catherine's policy to develop craftsmanship and trade, but in the few years of his reign Paul made numerous concessions to the aristocracy which resulted in the imposition of many restrictions upon the Jews. Paul I was murdered in 1801 before he had time to examine the proposals of Senator Derzhavin's
I. Gessen, Yevrei v Rossii, 1 (1916), 201–7; Dubnow, Hist Russ, 1 (1916), 321–34: R. Mahler, Divrei Yemei Yisrael – Dorot Aḥaronim, 3 (1955), 116–29.