CANTONISTS – SOLDIERS OF THE TSAR
Ehud Uval Levi
The anti-Semitism we see in Russia today originated two centuries ago, during the reign of Tsar Nicholas I. Nearly half the world’s Jewish population found themselves Russian citizens overnight, due to an expansion of the Russian Empire. The Tsar, in an extreme effort to unite the masses, initiated the most extreme act of religious conversion since the Inquisition.
The producers of this historic documentary believe this was an act of genocide, mandated by Tsar Nicholas I, and carried out by the Russian military; more than a century preceding the reign of Nazi terror. Although this occurrence remains a dark secret of the Romanov Empire, there is enough empirical evidence to bring this tragedy to light. Primarily due to the heroics of the first Jewish soldiers since biblical times, Judaism survived and with it the truths of the day.
This film will tell the story the hundreds of thousands of young Jewish boys who lost their lives were unable to speak. It will be the voice of eight year-old children ripped from their mothers arms, marched one thousand miles only to be left dying on the side of a road; the voice of the Cantonist students who was starved and beaten simply because they refused to renounce their Jewish faith; and finally, the voice of the Jewish communities their animosity passed from one generation to the next, all emanated from the savage and inhumane actions of the 29-year-old Tsar, who saw communities of people who were different in their customs and devotions, and chose to destroy them.
“CANTONISTS –SOLDIERS OF THE TSAR” will document the history of the Jewish peoples’ call to arms during the reign of Tsar Nicholas I. From the fall of the Napoleonic era and subsequently, the realignment of territories, to the final days of the forced enlistment of Jewish boys into the Russian Army, this film is dedicated to revealing the harsh realities of the past. It will chronicle the journeys of the Cantonists, some ending in death, others living a full life and becoming great warriors; all our heroes.
The production team for this project is comprised of primarily Russian Jews. The distinction: some have lived their entire lives in Russia while others left Russia for the United States at an early age. Two countries vastly different in attitude and demeanor, as well as anti-Semitic prevalence, the collaboration, ultimately, two countries vastly different in attitude and demeanor created many defined layers throughout the artistic process. Therefore, the team believes this convergence of ideas and opinions lead to higher truths, and a better process for the audience.