Thursday, July 06, 2006

Volga Germans and Mennonites

Today I am flying back to Arizona via Las Vegas again. That means it will take me all day to complete a two hour flight. It is almost faster to drive. Of course I don't have a car or know how to drive so I can't travel in that manner.

When I get back to Arizona I am going to try and organize my life a bit. First, however, I am going to get back to writing everyday on Catherine's Grandchildren. I think I have enough new material including a bunch of primary documents from the period 1917 to 1926 that I picked up in California that I can finish those sections of the manuscript. In particular I have alot on the revolutionary events in the Volga during 1917 and 1918 between the overthrow of the Tsar and the establishment of the Volga German Workers' Commune. Most of the Volga Germans favored cultural autonomy, particularly in education and land reform. Their positions on most issues came close to those of the SRs.

I also found alot on the organized emigration of Mennonites out of Ukraine and Russia from 1923-1926. This movement used the diplomatic pouch of the German legation in Kharkhov as its mail service. The correspondence that passed through this exchange uncensored is a great source of information on the conditions of the Mennonites in Ukraine during the early 1920s. It also allowed the movement to organize the emigration of some 20,000 Mennonites from Ukraine and Russia to the western hemisphere. It became very clear early on under the Bolsheviks that maintaining the traditional Mennonite ways would be nearly impossible. The Mennonites are the most politically incorrect people in the world. They are Christians, capitalists, patriarchal and pacifists. In contrast the Bolsheviks were atheists, socialists and militarists. Issues like land reform, universal secular education and military service directly threatened the continued existence of the Mennonite communities in Ukraine and Russia. In the wake of civil war, famine and a typhus epidemic many concluded that emigration was their only real option.

I will have some more to write about the Mennonites and other Russian-Germans when I get back to Arivaca. One of the issues which has great importance regarding their relation to the Tsarist and Soviet governments is whether the Mennonites were indeed German by nationality. A good case can be made that they are in fact Dutch. An even better case can be made that they are a distinct ethno-confessional group descended of both German and Dutch immigrants to the Russian Empire. I will put up an essay on this later.

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