I do not have the exact wording of the Russian law regarding conscription
in the 1880's, but I can relate what I do know about it.
All Jewish males reaching the age of 12 were eligible for a 25 year
conscription in the army. First born males were exempt. Some of the draft
boards picked boys as young as 10 in order to make their quotas.
My father left home when he reached 12. He told us that the reason was
that the Cossacks were coming, but he said that he went to the city and
got a job in a "grocers" shop. He next arrived in NYC he said in Sept.
1888, he also said that the HIAS had gotten him a job in a grocery store
on the lower east side of NY. He also told us about the great blizzard
of '88 and all the snow he had to clear away.
There are no records, either passenger ship lists, or any others that we
have found that list him arriving here. The HIAS of NY did not keep any
records at that time. So, we question whether a boy of 12 would be given
a job and living quarters in 1886 without some kind of connection.
And there is the question, if he arrived in September, how could he have
shoveled snow during the blizzard of '88 which occurred in March.
Most immigrants of that period were afraid that the czars army could come
and get them sent back, and most of them did everything they could to
throw off any one looking for them.
On my father's marriage license dated 1899 in NY, he lists a totally
fictitious name for his mother. And to this very date, we have not been
able to find where he came from, he told us "Kiev Gubernia", but we have
not found anything in their archives to support this. Of course lots of
records were destroyed during the war.
That is what I know about the czars conscription laws.
San Diego, CA