Reply to Re: Maiming to Avoid the Russian Draft?

Fred Selss

My Great Great Uncle was a Barber in What is now Belarus. He was called The Crippler. For a small fee he would cut off some fingers so men could avoid the Czar’s draft. The period of service was 25 years. Avoiding the draft was a big reason men fled the area under Russian rule. After 25 years, they were lost to their families and Judaism.

Search for families from Belarus and Ukraine with various spellings of these last names:


Sorry, Fred, but your post is inaccurate. 25 years was the length of service only until 1834. It was 6 years in the late 1800's and 3 years in the early 1900's. Jews tried to avoid the service because the army was one of the most anti-Semitic institutions in Russia. (Come to think of it: what was the least anti-Semitic institution in Russia?.)


I recommend Yohanan Petrovsky-Shtern's excellent article about the subject at YIVO:

Andy Monat

Yohanan Petrovsky-Shtern who wrote that article on Miliary Service in Russia in the YIVO Encyclopedia also wrote a book on the topic, "Jews in the Russian army, 1827 - 1917 : drafted into modernity". I read it and found a lot of useful background material, obviously far more than he had room to put into the encyclopedia article.

For instance, I learned from the book that in the 1890s it became more difficult for Jews living outside the Pale to receive renewals of their permits to live in those locations. That might account for the immigration to the US in the 1890s of my great-grandfather Shmuel Moshe (Samuel) Monat, an army veteran living in the city of Petrozavodsk in Karelia.