Aleksander Aleksyeyev (called Wolf Nachlass), born in 1820, at Nazarevietz, government of Podolsk, of poor Jewish parents. At the age of ten he was impressed into military service by the press-gang (poimshchiki) of Nicolas I., and sent away to the distant city of Volsks, government of Saratov. It was the political and missionary policy of Nicolas I. to take young boys from their parents and to train them in military schools, so that after they had completed their service of twenty-five years, they might return home and act as missionaries to their parents. Aleksyeyev for a long time resisted Christian teaching, and the officials considered him a most stubborn subject.
However, about 1845, he changed his views entirely, and not only became a member of the Orthodox Russian Church, but managed to convert about five hundred Jewish Cantonists, for which he was promoted in 1848 to the rank of a non-commissioned officer, and was honoured by the Emperor's thanks.
About 1855, Aleksander was so unfortunate as to lose the use of his legs. He then settled in Novogorod, and during his long illness wrote the following works on ethnographic and missionary topics:—English titles:
- I. "The Triumph of Christian Teaching over the Talmudic Teaching, or a Soul-saving Conversation of a Christian and a Jew on the Coming of the Messiah" (St. Petersburg, 1859);
- 2. "Religious Service, Holy Day and Religious Rites of the Jews To-day" (Novogorod, 1861);
- 3. "The Public Life of the Jews, their Habits, Customs and Prejudices" (ib. 1868);
- 4. "Colloquies of an Orthodox Christian with a Newly-Converted Jew" (St. Petersburg, 1872);
- 5. "A Former Jew for Monastries and Monasticism" (Novogorod, 1875);
- 6. "The Conversion to Christianity of an Observer of the Jewish Law" (ib. 1882);
- 7. "Do the Jews use Christian Blood?" (ib. 1886); and several others.
His works are interesting, as he was the first Jew in Russia to give a description of the life and customs of his Jewish brethren. He refuted the absurd and criminal blood accusation.