The Military and Society in Russia: 1450-1917

By Eric Lohr; Marshall Poe | Go to book overview

SWORDS INTO PLOWSHARES: OPPOSITION TO
MILITARY SERVICE AMONG RELIGIOUS SECTARIANS,
1770s TO 1874*
Nicholas B. Breyfogle

—I am not going to give you my oath, nor am I going to serve you.

—Why not?

—Because I am a Christian. I do not wish to kill my brethren nor force them to commit violence.

—Why not?

—Because, according to the word of our God and Lord Jesus Christ, I consider all the people living on earth as children of one Father, and therefore, my brothers.1

In her study of Russian soldiers in the first half of the nineteenth century, Elise Kimerling Wirtschafter notes: “Of all the obligations imposed on the poll-tax population, none was more terrible or feared than military service.”2 While certainly the case for Orthodox peasants in pre-reform Russia, the burden of recruitment was felt even

____________________
1
The Book of Life of Doukhobors, ed. V. D. Bonch-Bruevich, trans. V. O. Buyniak (Saskatoon and Blaine Lake: Doukhobor Societies of Saskatchewan, 1978), 279.
2
Elise Kimerling Wirtschafter, From Serf to Russian Soldier (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1990), 3.
*
Earlier versions of this article were presented at the National Convention of the American Association for the Advancement of Slavic Studies in St. Louis, November 1999 and the Conference, “The Military and Society in Russia, 1450–1917” at the Davis Center for Russian Studies, September 2000. I would like to thank the participants of those conferences, especially Josh Sanborn, Eric Lohr, and Mark von Hagen, as well as Eve Levin for their extremely useful suggestions and critiques. The research and writing of this article were supported by grants from the Fulbright-Hays Doctoral Dissertation Research Abroad Program, the National Endowment for the Humanities, an independent federal agency, the National Council for Eurasian and East European Research (NCEEER) under authority of a Title VIII grant from the U. S. Department of State, the International Research & Exchanges Board, with funds provided by the US Department of State (Title VIII program), the Kennan Institute for Advanced Russian Studies, the Mershon Center, the Ohio State University College of Humanities, and the University of Pennsylvania. None of these people and organizations is responsible for the views expressed within this text.

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