Isidore in the Czar’s Army

Recently, I was able to find Isidore Scheshko’s WWI draft registration. This, of course, complements the photo of Isidore in his U.S. Army uniform that was recently colorized.

The family story from the gardener’s father was that Isidore served in the “Czar’s army” before immigrating to the United States–and that he then signed up four years after arriving in the U.S. to fight on behalf of his new country in WWI.

This document does confirm that story.

If you notice, it says that he was a private in the Marine corps in Russia for 3 1/2 years.

Now, I will say that it’s unlikely that he, being Jewish, was in the actual Marines in Russia.While the Russians were very thorough about making sure young Jewish men were forced to serve, they generally would be in the army and serve under very awful conditions.

I found this information from The YIVO Encyclopedia of Jews in Eastern Europe:

Between 1874 and 1914, there were more Jews in the Russian army than non-Jews in proportion to the general population. For example, in 1907, Jewish soldiers constituted almost 5 percent of the entire military but only 4 percent of the population of the empire.

Isidore was born in 1887, although January 26, not December 28 as listed here, making him almost a year older than he may have thought. I say that because it’s likely that he didn’t actually know the date of his birth. So let’s say he was conscripted at age 16 (the age at which Jews were conscripted ranged from age 12!!! to 25 and the term could last for 25 years or more! To give you a sense of the whole picture, non-Jews could not be conscripted until age 18!) and served for 3.5 years. He would have been done by age 20. If he was conscripted at 18 he would have been 22 when he was discharged. (I use discharged loosely because we have no way of knowing how he left the Russian army).

During the period that Isidore would have served, the far right in Russia was arguing that Jews should be banished from the military; however, it did not happen. I suspect it could have made things even more difficult for Isidore, though, because it could have fueled anti-Semitism toward Jewish soldiers.

If you have information to share on this subject of Jewish soldiers in the army of the Russian Empire, I would love to know more.


21 thoughts on “Isidore in the Czar’s Army

    • Thanks, Jose! And as for a road trip, hahaha. Wouldn’t THAT be something, though?! Problem is I have too many cats to do the kind of travel I would really like to do. That and also my husband has pretty bad celiac and it’s hard to find food that doesn’t make him sick when we’re traveling. But wouldn’t it be fun!


  1. I haven’t found any military records for my older ancestors although most certainly they served. They lived in Hungary and there was military conscription. I have my grandfather’s draft card from 1817 although he never was officially drafted (he was already 42). Love your stories.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Having your grandfather’s draft card from that long is amazing. How is it even possible that it was that long ago?! Is he a great grandfather? Just to have a document from that long ago is really something! Is it hard to find Hungarian documents?

      Liked by 1 person

      • I’m sorry, it was 1917! Prior to WW1. I’ve been working in the 1800s so much sometimes I forget what year we are in. Birth records are easier than marriage or death in Hungary/Austria. There aren’t any other records that I have found in the 1800s. A lot need to be digitalized.

        Liked by 1 person

    • That’s what I can’t figure out–why say Marine Corps instead of Army on that document? So who filled out the document? Did he fill it out or a government worker? I compared it with the postcards he sent to Celia. The slant is different, and I think the letters are formed differently. Isidore’s signature on the card is slanted straight up, like the postcards! But the rest of the writing here must belong to the person who signed on page 2. So he didn’t fill it out himself. Maybe it was an error on the other person’s part and Isidore didn’t want to make waves by correcting him? Or maybe it was the Marines and there is a lot more about Jews in the Russian military that I need to learn!

      Liked by 1 person

      • I don’t know Russian but I bet there is no such word as marine corps in Russian. Perhaps he was in the Russian naval infantry and the person helping him translated that into marine corps.


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