I am from Finland and three of my eight great-grandparents were already born there, the first one in 1857.
Finland was a part of the Russian empire from 1809 to 1917. Although it has an autonomous status, there were Russian troops stationed in Finland. These troops included a number of Jews, serving mostly in auxiliary positions: tailors, musicians etc. Many of these Jews - so-called Cantonists - were more or less kidnapped at a tender age to serve in the army up to 25 years, the goal being to turn them into good Christians. In 1858 retired Russian soldiers were permitted to stay at their last place of service. This rule applied to all, not only to the Jews. Before that the old laws from the period, when Finland was a part of Sweden prohibited Jews from living in Finland. Hamina is an interesting place: it became a part of Russia already in 1743, after the treaty of Turku, and the first known Jew to have known permanently settled in what is now Finland was Jacob Weikain, who was working in Hamina in 1799. In 1878 there was a small Jewish community in Hamina, and an old cemetery, with some 20 graves, still exists. To your question why they would leave Finland to go (back) to Latvia, there can be many explanations. One explanation can be that they had relatives there and considered life in Latvia to be more promising. Another explanation can be that the permission for the retired soldiers to stay in Finland applied only to them and their families: when their children grew up they faced the threat of being evicted from Finland. The woman Jules Levin mentioned is Meliza Amity and she can be contacted through her website at www.amitys.com. there you can find a huge tree with over 30,000 names, covering virtually all Jewish families ever lived in Finland. As a guest you can see the data on those that are deceased.
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