14 May

History of Kaiser Shrouded in Mystery

Kaiser History in TheoryAlmost any game that is played today can be traced back throughout time. Card games, board games, and others, generally come with some level of history. We may know its exact creator, or at the least, ancestral games from which it was derived.

Sadly, the same cannot be said of Kaiser, an incredibly popular card game in certain regions of Canada; particularly Saskatchewan and Quebec. There seems to be a shroud of mystery over the history of Kaiser. Despite countless effort son the part of games historians, very little has been uncovered about the origins of Kaiser.

Kaiser History – Handful of Facts

While there isn’t too much pointing to the genuine history of this popular Canadian card game, there are a few facts that could help t develop probable theories.

Did the history of Kaiser start with German Kaiser Frederick III

Kaiser Frederick III, Emperor of Germany, King of Prussia (1888)

First of all, we know the game is most popular among Ukrainian and German communities of Saskatchewan. Secondly, the game is not – at least, not today – played in the Ukraine. And third, the game’s name, “Kaiser”, is a German word that literally means “Emperor”.

This information leads us back to an era revolving around the turn of the 20th century. Germany was only ruled by a Kaiser between the years of 1871 to 1918. These included Kaiser Wilhelm I (1871-1888), his son and successor, Kaiser Frederick III, and in turn, his son, Kaiser Wilhelm II (1888-1918).

From this, we can surmise that the game likely originated between this 47-year period of time. It could even be conjectured, though certainly not proven, that the card game was created in honour of Kaiser Frederick III. This theory comes for the fact that the 3 is the ‘bad luck’ card, resulting in -3 points if captured.

Frederick III wasn’t exactly the luckiest of men, having died from throat cancer (an ailment he was already suffering from when he succeeded his father) just 99 days into his reign. However, he was beloved by people, and his allies and enemies alike, for his abhorrence of warfare and unerringly humane conduct. Thus naming a game after him would make sense.

The Ukrainian Connection?

In 1914, World War I broke out between the combined powers of Russia, France, the United Kingdom and Ireland, against Germany and Austria-Hungary. In the middle of it all was a territory that we now know as The Ukraine.

At that time, Ukraine was a territory of the Russian Empire, but a significant portion of its southern region was administered by Austria-Hungary. Being situated between the warring nations, millions of Ukrainian soldiers were recruited – most into the Russian Imperial Army, but some into the Austro-Hungarian Army.

As the war raged on, soldiers of all nationalities took to the Ukrainian battlefield, and if there’s one thing we do know about the history of European card games, they were one of the only forms of entertainment afforded to soldiers. Ostensibly, the game was shared between the collective armies between 1914 and 1918.

How Kaiser Came to Canada

Ukrainians began heavily colonizing the province of Saskatchewan, Canada between 1891 and 1914, just before the start of WWI. It is possible that the card game had already spread throughout parts of Europe by then, but not as likely. During and in the years proceeding the Great War, fewer Ukrainians came here, due to Canada’s internment program (1914-1920), which classified anyone of Australia-Hungarian citizenship as “aliens of enemy nationality”. When the Immigration Act was modified in 2013 to allow former subjects of the Austrian Empire to enter the country, another mass influx f Ukranians came ashore.

Theorizing the History of Kaiser in Canada

When yo put all this together, it’s easy enough to theorize the history of Kaiser. The game likely originated in Germany around 1900 (give or take 20-30 years), was introduced to the Ukraine during War World I, and made its way to Saskatchewan between 1920-1940.

Unfortunately, as I said before, none of this has been spoken, written, or otherwise documented. Hopefully one day, more missing pieces to the puzzle will emerge. Until then, the true Kaiser history will remain shrouded in mystery and speculation.

You can learn more about the card game Kaiser by reading some of our other informative pages:

How to Play Kaiser in Canada
Common Kaiser Rule Variations
Kaiser Strategy

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