It's not to hard to imagine the turmoil caused by forcing community leaders to decide which boys had to go and which boys could stay.
If that wasn't bad enough, there was the government-sponsored anti-Semitism.
The Cantonist Decrees raise the level of pressure on the Jewish community to new extremes.
Each Jewish community was responsible to produce a certain number of boys for the army and the community leadership was held responsible for failure to meet this quota.
Around the turn of the century (It was first published in 1903), the Russian secret police began to circulate a forgery which became the most famous anti-Semitic "document" in history ― The Protocols of the Elders of Zion.
These protocols purported to be the minutes of a secret meeting of world Jewish leaders, which supposedly took place once every hundred years for the purpose of plotting how to manipulate and control the world in the next century.
The problems of Russia had to do with a totally backward, feudal, and highly corrupt regime.
Fans and proponents of the Protocols have included such anti-Semites as: Henry Ford, the founder of Ford Motor Company; Adolf Hitler, as might be expected; Egyptian President Gamal Abdel Nasser; and King Faisal of Saudi Arabia, among others.
The Jews were driven and hounded, and emigration appeared to be the only escape from the terrible tyranny of the Romanovs." It did not help matters any that during the reign of Alexander III a terrible famine struck Russia in which 400,000 peasants died.
Those who survived were bitter and their resentments grew (which would erupt eventually in an aborted revolution in 1905 and the successful Russian Revolution which ushered in Communist rule in 1917.) When Alexander III died, he was succeeded by Nicholas II, the last of the Romanovs whose incompetence and inflexibility helped bring about the Russian Revolution.
These boys were between the ages of 12 and 18 and were forced to serve for 25 years!
During their army service, every effort was made to convert them to Christianity.
The problems of Russia got worse after Czar Alexander II (who was one of the more competent Czars and who was relatively benign to the Jews) was assassinated in 1881 by an anarchist who threw a bomb at his carriage.