Re: Jewish Community in Finland #general #russia

Jules Levin

The status of Jews in the army needs to be clarified.  The Cantonist
system was officially ended in 1871.  Afterward Jews were subjected to
the same military service as others.  Although many Jews in the service
had to hear efforts to convert them, a remarkable percent, including
those who remained in Finland as Jews, managed to resist.  My own
relative appears as a Jew living in Viipuri--now Vyborg.  These were
specifically Jewish veterans. My ancestor was listed as sgt.   Many
Cantonists thrived in the army and remained loyal Jews, including the
highest ranking Jew, a Sargent Major--the highest ranking non-com
position.  In the Jewish cemetery of Tsarskoe Selo is the grave of a
Jew, a Cantonist, awarded the Cross of St. George for heroism in battle.
The Jewish language press in Russia--Hebrew, Yiddish, or Russian, often
published the reminiscences of Jewish veterans.  Joseph Trumpeldor, a
hero of the first Yeshuv, had lost an arm in Russian service, and said
he would gladly give another arm for the tsar.    Alexander I had
excused the Jews from the draft, because he considered them weak and
untrainable.  Nicholas I was a martinet who thought that everyone, even
the Jews, could be made into soldiers.  In the US, UK, or France the
view of Alexander I would be abhorrent to Jews.  The problem was that
the rabbinate resisted the draft because dietary and other religious
laws would not be observed.  They facilitated draft evasion and the
community failed to meet its quota.  [while this was going on, keep in
mind that 60% of Russians were serfs, whose owners easily met the quota
by sending their property to the army like it or not.]  As a result,
Russia instituted the Kahal method, and it was the Kahal--the Jewish
community leaders, who were responsible for meeting the quota.

I realize that many Jewishgenners will be horrified by this contrarian
view, but remember that views are shaped by the opinions of ancestors
who left Russia.   Тhe 6 million Jews who were still in Russia in 1900
were proud of their sons' service, as shown by the many family photos of
young men in uniform.

Jules Levin

On 2/2/2021 4:20 AM, seligson@... wrote:
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
<>. 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.

David Seligson
Poiseul-la-Grange, France
searching Seligson, Skurnik, Klimscheffskij, Indursky, Guterman,
Levin, Fischlein, Rung, Feitelberg, Bubelsky

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