Nansen passports, originally and officially stateless persons passports, were internationally recognized refugee travel documents from 1922 to 1938, first issued by the League of Nations to stateless refugees. They quickly became known as "Nansen passports" for their promoter, the statesman and polar explorer Fridtjof Nansen.
The front cover of a Nansen passport (green stripe)
|Date first issued||1922|
|Issued by||League of Nations|
|Type of document||Passport|
|Eligibility requirements||Stateless refugees|
The end of World War I saw significant turmoil, leading to a refugee crisis. Numerous governments were toppled, and national borders were re-drawn, often along generally ethnic lines. Civil war broke out in some countries. Many people left their homes because of war or persecution or fear thereof. The upheaval resulted in many people's being without passports, or even nations to issue them, which prevented much international travel. The first Nansen passports were issued following an international agreement reached at the Intergovernmental Conference on Identity Certificates for Russian Refugees, convened by Fridtjof Nansen in Geneva from July 3, 1922, to July 5, 1922, in his role as High Commissioner for Refugees for the League of Nations. By 1942, they were honoured by governments in 52 countries. Approximately 450,000 Nansen passports were provided to stateless people and refugees who needed travel documents but could not obtain one from a national authority.
The Nansen passport was originally provided to refugees from the Russian civil war. It is estimated that about 800,000 Russian refugees had become stateless when Lenin revoked citizenship for all Russian expatriates in 1921. In 1933, the arrangement was broadened to also include Armenian, Assyrian, and Turkish refugees.
Following Nansen's death in 1930, the passport was handled by the Nansen International Office for Refugees within the League of Nations. At that point the passport no longer included a reference to the 1922 conference, but were issued in the name of the League. The office was closed in 1938; passports were thereafter issued by a new agency, the Office of the High Commissioner for Refugees under the Protection of the League of Nations in London.
Nansen passport renewal stamp,
Nansen International Office for Refugees
While Nansen passports are no longer issued, existing national and supranational authorities, including the United Nations, issue travel documents for stateless people and refugees, including certificates of identity (or "alien's passports") and refugee travel documents.
- Princess Vera Constantinovna of Russia
- Marc Chagall
- Françoise Frenkel
- Alexander Galich
- Zuzanna Ginczanka
- Alexander Grothendieck
- G. I. Gurdjieff
- Anatol Heintz
- Ze'ev Jabotinsky
- Vladimir Nabokov
- Aristotle Onassis
- Krikor Pambuccian
- Anna Pavlova
- Grand Duchess Maria Pavlovna of Russia (1890–1958)
- St. Grigol Peradze
- Jadwiga Piłsudska
- Sergey Rakhmaninov
- Dimitri Riabouchinsky
- Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson
- Igor Stravinsky
- Dries Riphagen
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