(177 bytes) ROOTS=SAKNES zieds1mazs2.gif 
             (177 bytes) History zieds1mazs2.gif 
             (177 bytes) Help





mazpuke3.GIF (425 bytes) Military service in Russia Empire

At the beginning of the 19th century many people of the Baltic provinces had very limited possibilities of migrating. For example, serfs could leave the area of their owner's manor only by his order. For this people a rare possibility of participating in migration processes was to join the Army. Nevertheless, the serfs were not happy to be recruited and to start the military service with privileges to visit other parts of the world.

The Army should also be taken into account, if people migration had to be investigated in a later time. In any case, it is clear that some knowledge of the conscription system of the Russian Empire, and its Army in general, would be important for family history research. The regulations of the life of the retired soldiers are also important, because their settlement and migration could be different of general standards.

The system of recruiting
Kanton schools
Rules for Jews
Recruiting technique
Compulsory service after 1874

Latvian officers in the Army of Russia Empire


The system of recruiting

The Baltic provinces were included in the military service of the Russia Empire in 1793, when it was ordered to take recruits in Vidzeme [Livland] province. In 1797 a similar order was also issued for Kurzeme [Kurland] province. In 1794 this system was introduced in Latgale (or Vitebskas province).

The people, or as the officials of that time said - the souls, were periodically counted and registered in revision lists. The main goal of these lists was to determine the number of personal tax payers, but the lists were also used for estimating of the Army reserves. Regularly a special order set the number of the men that should be recruited that year.

- 3 men from every 500 adult male souls in 1797
- 1798 only one man
- 1800 and 1801 no recruiting took place.

In 1811, when the Empire was preparing for the war with Napoleon, the quota was 4 men from every 500 male souls. That year the registration of the personal tax payers was conducted and totally 191 060 men were counted in Kurzeme. So about 1500 recruits from Kurzeme had to join the Army. Later in the 19th century not all of the provinces provided recruits in the same year, but it was ordered which year each province should have been charged with the recruitment.

It is possible to estimate that about 10-20 persons from a parish joined the Army each recruitment year. The service time was 25 years at the beginning of the century. In 1834 it was decreased to 20 years - 15 regular years and 5 years in reserve. I do not realize, why a lot of sources and folklore speak about the service time of 25 years, while actually only the men conscripted within 1793-1809 (16 years) served full 25 years period. Maybe it happened because only those soldiers who served without fault could leave the service after 20 years, and it is easy to understand that this was a very subtle criterion and in reality only some soldiers could profit from this Law, but no realistic information is available.

The text of the Law of 1834 is translated into English and is available on the Internet.

Beginning of 1855 the service time was gradually decreased - first to 12 years and 3 years in reserve, then 10 years and 5 years in reserve, then 7 years and 8 years in reserve. The reservists lived at their native province, but they informed the officials, if the residence place was changed.

According to many sources, the soldiers not only perished in warfare, but their mortality was rather high even in peacetime. If a recruited soldier survived his service period, he was allowed to settle in any place of the Empire what otherwise was complicated for peasants until 1863, but normally he returned back to his pagasts and lived on his pension if any.

In some cases former peasants, after they retired from the Army, acquired a small piece of land and earned their living from this land. If a soldier was mutilated in warfare, he could be engaged in special commands in his native province.

In the time of serfdom the providing of recruits was considered as a kind of tax for manor owners, but any serf terminated to be the property of the owner as soon as he was recruited, and remained free after the service time was over, which was much more important to people in Latgale, because it is easy to calculate that those who were drafted in 1797 retired in 1822 when the serfdom had already been abolished in the Baltic provinces though not in Latgale. If an eventual recruit was not recruited in the reality, because he paid the appropriate sum of money, he still became free person. Soldier wives were also set free as soon as their husbands were recruited, which fully corresponded to the general rule that any wife had to have the estate not lower than her husband had.

The age of recruitment changed in time, but at the beginning of the 19th century the recruits should have been not younger than 17 and not older than 35, however in a war time elder people were also called in. Rather important limitation was that the nobility, merchants, the servants in manors (a limited number of them for each manor), the clergy, the teachers, the farm hosts and their oldest sons were excluded out of recruiting. The exclusions changed in time and were also different in different parts of the Empire, however. The nobility could join the Army as unterofficers or study in military schools and became officers, but it was not mandatory for them. So the main part of recruits in the Latvia part of the Empire were peasants and of Latvian ethnicity.

Some requirements on the health of a recruit were also introduced. He might not have visible disabilities, chronic diseases etc., and his height was also measured. Those who were not tall enough could not be conscripted. The minimum height was different in various time spans, but it is possible to assume that the value of the minimum height was usually 160 cm. By the way, the peasants of the region of Latvia mostly satisfied the requirements of the height. For distribution in various troops the height and the weight of the recruit were taken into account, for example, a future cavalryman should have been taller than 162 cm and not heavier than 72 kg. The requirements were not very strict in a wartime, and, by the way, at the beginning of the 19th century the Empire were engaged in military conflicts quite frequently.

If a recruit had already been married, no exception was made for him, which caused additional problems for the family and the eventual children. In theory, the wife could follow the recruit and live somewhere nearby her husband's barracks on her own responsibility. Theoretically again, the soldiers had possibility of leaving their barracks and even to work outside them, if and when that did not interfere with the service, and the commanders allowed the work. It really happened, and sometimes soldiers were organized in groups for civil work on payment.

It is known from various sources that soldiers were frequently short in food, and the military discipline was based on corporal punishments. The living conditions of soldiers depended on the time period, however, and on the Army units.

It is worth to mention that the Army had not sufficient amount of premises in barracks. The building of barracks was going on all the 19th century but even in 1892 only 61% of the field troops were living in barracks, 30% in private houses of barracks type and 9% in private flats /Belovinskis/. I think that the situation in the Baltic provinces was better than in the whole Empire, but, in any case, the local communities here were regularly charged with the duty of quartering of troops (I own appropriate documents for the beginning of the century). The practice was significant from genealogical point of view, because the soldiers settled in private houses searched for and really had sexual events with some local women and so increased the number of illegitimate births in the locality. Such cases are described in /Vitols/, but I can also refer to a document published on this Site. Principally the soldiers had the right to marry but only by the acceptance of their superiors. Look for example a case described on this Site. It should also be mentioned that the state felt responsibility for the care of soldier widows and orphans.

Additional information (in German) on the laws of recruitment can be found in the following document:

Recruiting Order for Trikatas manor in 1802.


Kanton schools

As it was said, the recruits terminated to be serfs as soon as they were recruited. This was a formal assertion, because actually they were regarded as the serfs owned by the Empire, or by the Tzar, or - as it was said - by the Crown. Logically, that their children and wives were also considered as a state property, and it was set forth that all soldier sons including illegitimate ones and including those who were born to soldier's wife long time after the husband left the family, and including the illegitimate sons of soldier daughters, obligatory were to be moved to the special schools for initial military education and for training for the future military service. These schools in 1805 were named kanton schools and the pupils - kantonists. In standard cases the schools were joined at the age of 10. Until this age the soldier children received some support from the state, however. As V.Ņikitin informed /Nikitin/, the support was about 3 Roubles per year (for comparison - it was set in 1809 that each recruit should be provided with food for 18 Kopecks daily i.e. 5.40 Roubles per month.).

The education in kanton schools went on until the age of 15 or more, and then the teenagers joined Army units or in some cases became civil servants (without rank, of course). Some of them were chosen either for unterofficer schools or for various noncombatant positions in the Army, because they acquired literacy in the kanton schools, which was not that common among the regular recruits, so former kantonists could be considered as the soldiers privileged to some extent. It is asserted in many sources that the unterofficers from kantonists quite frequently used beating as the only method of soldier education.

The Laws allowed the soldiers that were mutilated in warfare to take one son out of these schools. The appropriate decree was issued in 1828 (see the appropriate Page). It is also known that the parents of kantonists, if these parents had no means of subsistence, could apply (after 1835) to the officials and ask for setting free a son from the kanton school, in order he could become the breadwinner. If these parents managed to prove the necessity, one and only one son was got out of his school by the decision of the Governor-general. The information source: a paper of Melita Svarāne /Svarāne 2/. In some cases it was allowed, however, to take kantonists to families of their relatives for some time period. According to the Law of 1834, which decreased the service term to 20 years, the sons of retired soldiers could be discharged along with their fathers.

The soldier sons were registered in their native province, and their kanton schools sometimes were near to their home. A school of this kind existed in Riga, and in 1798 it had about 1000 pupils /Nikitin/. Unfortunately, I do not know how long it existed and how many local boys were drafted in this school. In any case, I have heard nothing of kantonists of Latvian origin, though they should have existed, because it is very difficult to believe that only childless peasants were recruited in the region of Latvia.

Soldier sons were obliged to join kanton schools, but the officers and the nobility could sent their children to these schools voluntarily, which happened sometimes.

Beginning of 1827 the recruiting of Jews started, and kahals were allowed to draft either boys or adult recruits by their decision. The drafted boys were transported very far from their homes to Ural region or further /Nikitin/. A similar rule also existed for boys of Catholic Poles after the revolt of 1830, which could be important to the people of the Latgale region of Vitebskas province. A vagrant boy could be caught and sent to a kanton school regardless of his religion. A male foundling became a kantonist, if it was found by a soldier family.

The living conditions in these schools were really bad. As V.Ņikitin /Nikitin/ recalled, the military education and the system of inner life in barracks were based on corporal punishment (mainly birching), but during the lessons of regular education birching was not common.

The system of kantonists was abandoned in 1856. It happened at the day of the coronation of Tzar Alexander II, as the first decree of the new Tzar. Soldier sons were not taken anymore to kanton schools and the support of soldier sons was not total. The kanton schools were reorganized into unterofficer schools.


Rules for Jews

Until 1827 Jewish communities were charged with a special payment for the recruits, they could not deliver them, as it was said, in natura. In 1827 their real recruitment began and it was allowed to draft not only adult recruits but also Jewish boys beginning of age 12 (obviously it could happen before Bar-Mitzvah). The boys went to kanton schools and were trained there for service in the Army and were given some education of Christian style. After the schooling was over, they started the regular service in the Army. The merchants of all 3 guilds, the settlers of agricultural settlements, the Rabbis, the graduates of secondary and higher schools and some professionals were excluded of recruitment. These rules for exceptions changed in time, however.

The problem for Jewish community was that Jews practically could not serve their religion during the military service, to say nothing about the living conditions in the Army and in kanton schools. The Jews - adults, and especially boys - were also pressed to convert to the Christianity, and, if they converted, they mainly joined the Russian Orthodox Church. The Jewish sources inform about cases when kicking boys were dragged to a church for conversion. As in essence no real conversion is possible without real consent, and Priests understood it quite well, and, by the way, the formal Law insisted that any conversion should be voluntary, I think that cases of forced conversion were not frequent. Usually the boys were convinced to agree to convertion using a bit, but just a bit, milder methods than dragging to a church.

Golda Meir (1898-1978), a former Prime Minister of Israel, in her memoirs wrote that her grandfather was recruited at the age of 13 and spent 13 years in the Army of the Russia Empire. All this time he lived half-hungry, eating only bread and uncooked vegetables, because he did not eat non-Kosher food. He was constantly being pressed to convert to Christianity and was kneeled for hours on stone floor to force him to consent to the conversion, however he did not agree. No doubt, he was very strong in his faith, but I think he was also very lucky - his superiors were not very assiduous; in most cases the Jewish boys could not resist the pressure to convert. For example, V.Ņikitin /Nikitin/ informed that in his kanton school the usual practice was to kneel Jewish boys on dry peas, which should be worse than a stone floor, they were given no food for a good time or were kept outside premises in winter time etc. until they gave up and agreed to convert. The fact that G.Meir's grandfather managed to get some vegetables, though uncooked, should also be considered as a nonstandard case for soldiers - in reality they got vegetables in rare cases, I think. By the way, the bread he ate could hardly be considered Kosher.

Some details of the official technology of converting of Jewish recruits can be found in another Page.

Because the eldest sons of the Jewish families were not conscripted, according to the general rules for estates they belonged to (see, description of the estates in Russia), and if the special order was not issued that canceled this rule, the second sons sometimes were adopted by the families of relatives that had no sons, which without doubt is very important for the genealogical research. This technique to avoid conscripting could be used by Latvians in much less extent, because they mostly belonged to the estate of peasants, and the only peasants whose oldest sons were not recruited were farmhosts. By the way, I do not think that this method for avoiding the conscription was also very easy for Jews, just because there were not so many childless Jewish families, though the formalities for adoption were not complicated at all, as far as I know. It should also be added that later a regulation was set down that only the sons adopted younger than 10 years old could be considered as legal sons by military officials.

Technically the recruiting of Jews was a duty of kahals (Jewish self municipalities). The kahals existed in Vitebskas province up to 1844, but in Kurzeme {Kurland] and in Riga they existed till 1893. In other parts of Vidzeme [Livland] (outside Riga) they never existed, because this region did not belong to the Pale of settlement and Jews were allowed to settle there exceptionally. After 1844 the special commissions of Jews were organized for recruiting purposes.

The quota of Jewish recruitment was different in various years but always greater than quota for Christians. Jews were recruited each year, though Christians were recruited once in two years. In 1852 an order of the Tzar was published that set the following quota for Jewish recruits - 10 souls of each 1000 Jews that were subjects of recruitment. As far as I understand this order, this number of recruits was to be delivered in each case when the draft was announced in the particular province. In that time period it happened once in two years except war time (the Crimean war continued 1854-1855), and only 5 of each 1000 Christians were drafted in the peacetime. This quota was in force some years until 1856, when it was made equal for Jews and Christians.

It is easy to imagine that the officials had very hard work to assure that all male Jews were appropriately registered; and any researcher of Jewish family history should bear in mind that any male ancestor tried to slip the registration, if ever he could, and any kahal and any local Rabbi tried to register as few male Jews as it was possible and even if it was not possible, in spite of criminal prosecution for non-registration. At the same time, it was nothing awfully good to be non-registered.

Many sources, especially the leftist ones, inform about the injustice of kahals during the recruitment of recruits and especially kantonists. One should take into account, however, the fact that the quota for Jewish draftees was really difficult to fulfill. It is also frequently claimed that rich Jews bypassed the conscription of their sons, but it is sometimes silenced that the rich Jews, who were registered merchants (i.e. belonged to the estate of merchants), were excluded of the recruitment by the laws of the Empire and were not counted in the total number of Jews who could be conscripted. The Jews who belonged to the estate of artisans also had facilitation in the recruiting because of their estate, however this facilitation changed in time. The well-educated Jews who reached the estate of honorary citizens were excluded of recruiting as well as their sons. You may connect to the Page on estates for the description of estates.

I have never seen mentioned that the Jews were not allowed to buy release of the recruitment (see below). However, the statistics of the recruitment in Kurzeme [Kurland] /SJGK1863/ inform that 53 Jews were to be recruited in Kurzeme in 1863, in reality 33 recruits were delivered in natura, and nobody was paid off, so it seems that it was not very easy to buy the release directly. A Jew could hire another person as a recruit instead of himself, but this person had to be a Jew. The statistics of 1863 show that 12 Jews were not recruited in Kurzeme because they presented recruitment acknowledgments /see below/. Until 1866 a Jew could present a recruitment acknoledgment issued to another Jew only. Finally, in 1863 the Jewish communities of Kurland delivered 8 recruits less than needed in this year.

I do not know the real practice of kahals in deciding whether an adult recruit should be drafted, or a boy for a kanton school should be taken. All possible candidates in recruits tried to hide themselves when the recruiting was going on, and therefore kahals organized groups of catchers (happers). The widely known stories about injustice of catchers are realistic, but I am afraid that sometimes these stories became part of folklore and could be exaggerated. By the way, in Kurzeme [Kurland] of the time when the recruitment of Jews began (1827) a system of lots for recruits was introduced and Latvian recruits drew lots to decide who should join the Army, which practically liquidated the need in catchers. From newspapers of that time I know that Jews also participated in this system, but I do not know how it was organized technically, because the quota of Jewish recruits was to be fulfilled separately of Christians.

Jewish communities were allowed (in 1853, when kahals existed only in Kurzeme) to recruit in any time any Jew whom they found in the locality without appropriate documents, if he satisfied the requirements of the militaries by age and health. In this way the Empire authorities also achieved some additional control upon migration of Jews. If such a recruit was delivered, the community received a recruitment acknowledgment /see below/.

The retired Jewish soldiers had the right to settle outside the Pale of settlement in almost all regions of the Empire even if they did not convert in the Army, but this rule changed in time. For more detailed information see the Page about the Geographical Pale.

In some arms Jews could not be conscripted, for example, in marine, carantine troops, convoying troops, border guards and perhaps in others.

Jews in the Army could not be promoted to the positions of unterofficers until 1850 when it became possible with personal permission of the Tzar in award for heroism in battles. A source of Internet insists that only one Jew reached an officer rank in the Tzar’s Army in the 19th century.

However A. Solzhenicin /Solzhenicin/ asserts that Jews could enroll the Academy of Military medicine (the only military education institution allowed for Jews) and began their service in the Army on medical positions, and that they could join Army as free-choosers (see below) after 1874 and become officers. Both these possibilities were abolished in 1887, however.

This information of A.Solzhenicin contradicts to the Army description by an outstanding Tzar's general A.Denikin in /A.Denikin/. He claims that only greatgrandsons of converted Jews could officially join the officer corps of the Russia Army. I think he spoke about the Law adopted in 1910 that the men who had a converted Jewish grandfather could not enroll at officer schools. A.Denikin adds, however, that previously this rule was not always obeyed, and he himself had met generals, who were converted Jews (yes, there really were converted Jews, even former kantonists, among Tzar's generals). He did not discuss at all the possibility of becoming an officer for a non-converted Jew .

What I do not know is the exact service time of Jewish recruits. As they began to serve in 1827 and in 1834 the service time was shortened to 20 years, it should follow that nobody of them served for 25 years, though a lot of sources say that they did serve for 25 years. Really, the service period for the kantonists was longer, because they began their 20 years service after the school education, but the regular conscripts should have served only 20 years.

Another problem without definite solution is the following. According to the general rules, the sons of recruits were to be sent to the kanton schools (see above). It follows that the sons of an adult Jewish recruit joined these schools. Were these boys counted in the quota of the recruits (kantonists) for the appropriate Jewish community?

In 1874 the mandatory army service began (see below), and then all male Jews of 21 were to draw lots like all other male subjects of the Empire. The officials of the Empire soon discovered that Jews were wishing to avoid the conscription by all means. Were the officials right or not, it is not a purely academic problem. A Latvian newspaper of 1874 informed, for example, about a Jewish community in the Pale that registered a good number of its 20 year old male members as have been died. If it really happened, some family history researchers might be really puzzled. The reported cases of self-mutilation of Jews are not that important to researchers, but these cases caused some changes in the legislation and since 1876 a Jew found not fit for military service was to be substituted by another Jew of the same community, and the same for Christians. You may read in another Page (sect. 530) about the criminal prosecutions of Jews, who wished to avoid military service.

One of the main reason to avoid the military service was the attitude to Jews in military units shown by fellow soldiers and officers, and, of course, there were no possibilities of obeying the religious rules in the Army. The pressure to convert in this time was not that heavy as previously.

The Jews who retired from mandatory service had no facilitation in settling outside the geographical Pale.

It is asserted in certain sources that the mandatory military service stimulated the emigration of Jews but, I think, not so much as the Pogroms of the 1880s. Perhaps the new military regulations were more influential on the development of secular Jewish education, because the service time considerably depended on the education level of conscripts (see below).

For additional information about the conscription of Jews you may connect to a source in Internet (Dan Leeson). I am in doubt about some of the assertions in this Page but have no definite answers based on original documents.


Recruiting technique

Each recruiting year the province officials calculated the number of recruits that had to be conscripted in each one of the manors or other communities. Then for each parish the list of all the manors with number of recruits was made, and these lists were delivered to all the parishes. The parishes organized transfer of the list in turn from one manor to the next for their information. Such a list I have in my document collection and have scanned it and analyzed the information it contains.

Recruiting Order for Trikatas manor in 1802.

This document concerns the time of serfdom. After the abolition of serfdom the pagasts municipalities became responsible for delivering of recruits. The real life differed from the theory of the just mentioned document. The recruits were quite frequently chosen by chance. Until 1820s special commands visited pagasti and kidnapped anybody they could until the necessary number of recruits was gathered. Easy to imagine that this was a hard job, because everybody tried to escape. Later (1826) the system of lots was introduced. The lots were drawn by the men who were subjects of the recruiting, and those who got the first numbers were recruited.

A recruit could avoid the service, if he was well-off enough to pay 300 silver Roubles. In 1861 the sum was increased to 570 Roubles in silver. This was a really good money - for this amount some 3-6 serfs could be bought, which was allowed only to nobility at the time of serfdom. Evidently for this reason some rules were adopted that regulated the time interval after which alienated peasants could be recruited.

Some pagasti organized special cashes to gather the appropriate money to pay for all or for part of recruits. In some cases a recruit borrowed the necessary money and worked for a long time (about 10 years) to reimburse it. For a chosen recruit it was also possible to hire a volunteer who agreed to join the Army instead of him. The peasants, who avoided recruitment having paid necessary amount of money, acquired the legal status of persons choosing the way of life i.e. the serfs became free, and the free peasants could join the estate of petty bourgeois even in the time period when it was not easy.

The manor owners or the appropriate communities could deliver recruits in any time without waiting for an official recruiting campaign. If they did, they received for each recruit a special document called in Russian začetnaja kvitancija that could be translated as recruitment acknowledgment. Later, when a recruitment was announced, these acknowledgments could be delivered instead of real recruits. In the real life a market of these documents arose and some communities or some people bought them to free of the Army service.


Compulsory service after 1873

The system of recruitment was abolished in 1873, and instead the compulsory military service was introduced for all young men of 21 (the first draft took place in 1874). In the system of compulsory service all the estates of the Empire (except clergy, however) were included - that is the nobility should also have been compulsory drafted, and it was not possible for a conscript to redeem. However the Army needed not so many soldiers, and in fact only about 30% of the young men were drafted. For choosing the real draftees the similar system of lots like in the time of recruiting was used.

The duration of the compulsory service was 6 years plus 9 years of service in reserve. The men with general education were conscripted for 4 years and with secondary education - 2 years. The academic educated persons were obliged to have only half a year of active military service. Later the service time for these men was increased to 1 year. As far as I understood the newspapers of that time, it was possible to take examinations on the spot and to prove that the draftee had elementary education (the knowledge of the Russian language was obligatory), and his service time was to be shortened to 4 years. Later the duration of this service was shortened again and in 1910 it was 3 years maximum.

The single sons were excluded of the service, as well as sons who were the only breadwinners for the parents that were not capable of work. If a man had the father incapable of working, he was excluded of the service if he was the breadwinner for his minor siblings. Only one son of a family should have been in service at the same time. However the men of these groups draw the lots and could be drafted, if the sufficient number of regular draftees was not achieved.

The men older than 15 were not allowed to emigrate, before they had gone through the system of lots and had not served the military service in case if the appropriate lot was drawn.

Additional details on the mandatory service can be found in the Latvian translation of the appropriate Law published at that time.



The law of 1873 also made popular another way to join the military service. The men, who had been graduated from a secondary or higher education institution, had the right to choose the possibility of joining the military service voluntary without waiting a positive lot. If they joined, they could choose the military unit to serve in. Therefore they were called free-choosers (in Russian - voļnoopredeļajuščiesja, in Latvian - savvaļnieki). To choose a military unit was a real privilege, because the unit nearest to the home could be joined.

In reality, many students were in their schools, when they reached the age of the registration (20). When the students were registered, their draft was postponed, but they had to inform the officials if they either wished to become free-choosers or preferred to draw a lot later.

There were several categories of free-choosers. The graduates of higher education institutions belonged to the 1st category, and the secondary school leavers to the 2nd category. The free-choosers served the term they were obliged to according to their education, but, when they had served half of the term, they became unterofficers. They served like other soldiers but with rather serious facilitation, for example, they could live outside barracks, if their officers allowed to, and if they had enough money to pay for apartment and for food, because in this case the Army did not supply the free-chooser with food. Those who belonged to the 1st category could take examinations in the middle of the service time and become officers (praporščiks) for the rest of the service.

The memoirs and CVs of various persons of that time allow me to conclude that the possibility of becoming a free-chooser was widely used by educated Latvian men. It also happened that they were promoted to an officer rank and served for some time in the Army as officers. According to the rules of that times, the officers had right to leave the Army service practically in any moment, except a wartime, of course. If they did, they had possibility of joining the civil service and of getting the rank one step higher than they had in the Army, which was not so bad, and, by the way, any officer of the Army became a personal nobleman. (See the special Page for Russia military rank grades)

Latvian officers in the Army of Russia Empire

Melita Svarāne in her paper /Svarāne 2/ informs that free Latvians in Riga city willingly joined the Army at the end of the 18th century and reached the rank of officers. The author also mentioned some names: Niklāvs Belte, Johans Albrehts Muiželis (Muyschel), Hermanis Breide, Miķelis Krūze, Jānis Laimiņš. By the way, at that time any officer rank was awarded the hereditary nobility estate.

Since 1874, when the compulsory service was introduced, the officer schools were allowed to enroll students of peasant estate. It is known that there were Latvians who became officers at that time. My impression is that it was easier and more preferable for those who had converted to the Greek Orthodox Church. It should be mentioned that the Russia Army officers of a sufficiently high rank were relatively well paid and also had no financial problems after retirement. At that time (1874) only generals were awarded the hereditary nobility estate, but other officers of any rank became personal noblemen.

In April 1882 a court martial took place in Riga. Several young officers were accused of belonging to a revolutionary organization. All of them were Latvians. Some names of the accused were - podporučiks Kārlis Aizups and Jānis Tīdenis, a praporščik Mārtiņš Krātiņš and a praporščik Andrejs Pumpurs (a well-known Latvian poet). (See the special Page for Russia military rank grades). Quite clear, all of these officers began their military education at the end of the 1870s. (By the way, the accused people were found non-guilty).

The biography of Jēkabs Mūrnieks (1865-1926) published in /EVP/ says that he, being the school principal in Trikāte (1883-1925), encouraged his pupils to choose military career, what they really did, which was the reason why so many highest rank officers of Latvia Army came from this school. The well-known generals Jānis Balodis, Roberts Dambītis and Kārlis Goppers (Gopers) could be mentioned.

The officers of Latvian origin took part in WW1; most of them graduated from the short-time officer courses of the wartime, I think. As for the number of them, it was large enough to fill later almost all the positions in Latvia's Army and rather many positions in the Red Army of the USSR.

I am gathering more information on Latvians in the Russia Army of the WW1 with documents and photographs, and hoping to include it in ROOTS=SAKNES later. The information about the Army of Latvia in 1920-1940 is also being prepared, but at this moment I present only the description of the reservist certificate with additional information about the Army service in Latvia


© Bruno Martuzāns. 1995-2002