A Mennonite Family in Tsarist Russia and the Soviet Union, 1789-1923
Published: March 2003© 2003
408 Pages, 6.00 x 9.00 in, 21 b&w illustrations
Ebook - PDF
In this vivid and engaging study, David Rempel combines his first-hand account of life in Russian Mennonite settlements during the landmark period of 1900-1920, with a rich portrait of six generations of his ancestral family from the foundation of the first colony - the Khortitsa Settlement - in 1789 to the country's cataclysmic civil war.
Born in 1899 in the Mennonite village of Nieder Khortitsa on the Dnieper River, the author witnessed the upheaval of the next decades: the 1905 revolution, the quasi-stability wrought from Stolypin reforms, World War I and the threat of property expropriation and exile, the 1917 Revolution, and the Civil War during which he endured the full horrors of the Makhnovshchina - the terror of occupation of his village and home by the bandit horde led by Nestor Makhno - and the typhus epidemic left in their wake.
Published posthumously, this book offers a penetrating view of one of Tsarist and early Soviet Russia's smallest, yet most dynamic, ethno-religious minorities.
'A Mennonite Family is a remarkable book. A balanced combination of scholarly research and family reminiscence, the book opens up new vistas on one of Russia's most important yet neglected religious minorities, the Low-German speaking Mennonite colony of the Dnieper River region of the southern Ukraine. The main author, David Rempel, was a talented historian with a mission in life: to use his own multi-generational family story to recreate the social and cultural history of the larger ethno-religious group to which he belonged. With the posthumous assistance of his daughter, Cornelia Rempel Carson, who added some sections of her own to the manuscript and whose superb editing of the long and unwieldy original was truly a labor of love, Rempel succeeded admirably in fulfilling his life's dream. He has unearthed an amazing array of sources, mainly in German and some in Russian, and, drawing on his own memories and family papers for the more recent period (roughly the 1890s to 1923, the year of his emigration to Canada), Rempel and his daughter have woven them into a compelling narrative that is both readable and enlightening. The ethnography is as interesting as the political history, but most gripping of all is the account of the terrible ordeals faced by the colony during Russia's years of bloody civil war and famine (1918-23), as largely unpolitical and often pacifist Mennonites were drawn into the vortex of war, revolution and counterrevolution. Written with restraint and without special pleading, this wonderful book deserves a large and varied audience.'John B. Toews, Professor Emeritus, University of Calgary