The most obvious difficulty, which Petrovsky-Shtern grapples with in a lengthy chapter, is the notorious cantonist
Just before I was kidnapped and sold for a Cantonist
conscript in place of some shopkeeper's son, a troupe of Yiddish actors passed through Duyanov.
These decisive victories were a surprise to many, who were shocked that the Jews, whom the Russian Empire's Cantonist
Decrees of the 19th century had subjected to 25 years or more compulsory military service, had a military tradition and could hold their own in battle.
International agreements between states can entrench the territorial autonomy of certain ethnic communities, even though the ~host state' does not generally organise itself along either cantonist
or federalist principles: for example, the agreement referred to above between Italy and Austria guaranteeing the autonomy of South Tyrol, and the agreement between Finland and Sweden guaranteeing the autonomy of the Aland islands.
This custom of marrying off mere children had, ironically enough, been devised by Jews as a desperate means of trying to circumvent the Cantonist
Decrees of 1827, promulgated by Tsar Nicholas I (1825-1855), which demanded a compulsory period of 25 years' conscription into the Russian army of a percentage of all Jewish boys in every town and village.
In addition, the 1864 judicial reforms provided public, civil channels for cantonist converts from Judaism to challenge their coerced baptisms in the pre-reform army and for prosecutors to indict relapsed converts and their alleged Jewish enablers on charges of leading neophytes astray or of "seduction" (sovrashchenie), (3) In this late imperial discourse of Jewish violence, the female convert as victim was used to construct an ethnoconfessional political order that set "fanatical" minorities apart from the rational, tolerant, and civilized imperial order.
The Russian state formally exited the Jewish conversion business in the reform era, when it closed cantonist units in the army, yet it soon began to exert more indirect pressures on Jews to convert.
However, the chapter titles reflect the thrust of the author's argument: "The Empire Reforms, the Community Responds," "Militarizing the Jew, Judaizing the Military," "Let the Children Come to Me': Jewish Minors in the Cantonist
Battalions," "The Revolutionary Draft," "Banished from Modernity.
It is also telling that a significant minority of cantonists
actually volunteered for service, joining the army as full-time paid professionals where they received a guaranteed minimum wage and were free to earn more money as hawkers, servants and building workers in their long off-duty hours.
Beginning primarily in the Reform Era, as the 1863 Polish Uprising was already helping to shape a new imperial politics, Jewish conversion to Orthodoxy also became a public issue, in part due to the new freedom of former cantonists
to contest their forcible conversion as children.
Jewish assimilation could refer only to attempts made to convert Jews to Orthodoxy, and the empires ruling elite could hardly have had such intentions (except, perhaps, in reference to Jewish boys who were cantonists
in the tsar's army).
They include military pieces on plans, intelligence-gathering, staffs, and other operational matters; on logistics, including arsenals, arms factories, requisitioning, and food supply; on such personnel issues as recruitment, officer training, cantonists
, ranks, and rewards; and on many other aspects of the campaign.