Will you check out those boots? The shine on them?
My great-grandpa Benjamin, on the left, in his Russian Army uniform, late 19th/early 20th century. I do remember my Grandpa Max (his son) showing me this photo when I was little, and telling me that his father had been in the Russian Army. Beyond that, I have no definitive information, though I'm desperate to know more--was he civil service (home guard) as someone suggested to me? Or was he infantry (less likely), serving in wartime? I'm just not sure of the exact dates, so I have no way of knowing whether his service coincided with the Russo-Japanese War, though I think this photo must be earlier than 1904-1905.
I know absolutely nothing about the personal details of this piece of his life, though I wish I did. What is most interesting to me, though, is how this photo fits into the very complex history of the Jews in the Imperial Army. I did a little research on this topic through the YIVO Institute, and learned that Jews in the modern world did indeed serve in the Russian Imperial Army, in droves really, although it was to say the least an uneasy relationship. Their civil rights were honored intermittently: during some periods, they were allowed to celebrate Jewish holidays and pray as Jews with Jewish chaplains, during other times they were segregated or even indoctrinated into Russian Orthodoxy as a requirement of conscription. It so happens that Benjamin served during a period of Jewish segregation.
Anyway, the details of Benny's service are now lost, though I find it very exciting to be able to place my family in a greater context of the meaning and movement of Jewish history.
Visit the other Sepia Saturday participants for more stories of the ancestors!