Allrussischer Mennonitischer Landwirtschaftlicher Verein
Allrussischer Mennonitischer Landwirtschaftlicher Verein (All-Russian Mennonite Agricultural Union). In the time of the "New Economic Policy" (1921-27) the cooperative movement in the Soviet Union was able to show a significant growth. In 1921-1922 the country, to be sure, experienced another catastrophic famine, but from that time on the curve of growth of cooperatives rose steadily.
After the Bolshevik Revolution the interests of Mennonite churches had been represented in Moscow by P. F. Froese and C. F. Klassen. Their right to do so was based on the authorization of the congregations and their membership in the "United Council of Religious Brotherhoods and Groups" in Moscow. When this organization was compelled to dissolve, there was thereafter no legal basis for the work of Froese and Klassen. Thereupon the idea arose that it was possible and necessary to call a purely Mennonite organization into being. In October 1922 a meeting of representatives of the eastern Mennonite communities was held in Alexandertal (Alt-Samara), which decided to create an organization for religious and economic purposes and appointed a committee to initiate the organization. This committee met in November 1922 in Alexandertal, and after careful consideration adopted a constitution for an Allrussischer Mennonitischer Landwirtschaftlicher Verein. But the idea of a religious and economic union could not be carried out under the laws of Russia, and so the two were separated, with the churches establishing the Kommission für Kirchliche Angelegenheiten for religious purposes.
After tedious negotiations the constitution of the Allrussischer Mennonitischer Landwirtschaftlicher Verein (AMLV) was confirmed by the office of the All-Russian Central Executive Committee of the Soviets, and in October 1923 the first meeting of representatives took place in Alexandertal. P. F. Froese, C. F. Klassen, and F. F. Isaak were chosen as an executive committee. To pass emergency measures that might be found necessary between sessions of the organization, a council was formed consisting of representatives of all the larger local chapters.
The AMLV met four times: in Alexandertal in 1923, in Davlekanovo in 1924, and in Moscow in 1925 and 1927. The meetings of representatives as well as the organization as such performed an important function as a bond of union between the various settlements. The AMLV represented the Mennonite settlements in Samara, Ufa, Orenburg, the German Volga Republic (am Trakt), the northern Caucasus, Crimea, West Siberia, Kazakhstan (near Pavlodar), and Turkestan (at Aulie Ata and Khiva); in other words, all the settlements with the exception of those in the Ukraine. It consisted of 19 chapters with 56 subchapters. It represented 4,965 family farms, or 80 per cent of all the farms, with about 44,000 persons; this was approximately two fifths of the Mennonites living in the Soviet Union, the remaining three fifths living in the Ukraine. The work of all the chapters dealt primarily with the improvement of seed and of stock. They produced seed of first, second, and third reproduction, as well as select seed. The products of the Mennonite seed associations were highly rated by the government experimental stations. In the field of stock breeding tangible results were also evident. In Siberia it was the German Red cow, on the Volga, the Dutch and Simmental cow, in the steppes of Orenburg the German Red cow. Dairying was also outstandingly successful, especially in the manufacture of cheese. Brick cheese and Dutch cheese were produced in great quantities and placed on the market. There were also notable stations for the purification of grain, as well as tractor stations.
The valuable help given in Russia by the American Mennonite Relief and the significant accomplishments of the network of the AMLV made it possible for the Mennonites to secure repeated permission in Moscow for the surplus Mennonites from the overcrowded villages to leave the country. This could not be construed as a total "emigration," but only as a taking care of the excess population. For several years the efforts of the representatives in Moscow made it possible for some of the Mennonites to leave the country at a reduced price. In 1925 and 1926 Franz C. Thiessen managed the technical side of the emigration under the auspices of the AMLV. In 1927 Mennonite emigration from Russia was practically stopped. The large eight-room residence which served as headquarters of the AMLV in Moscow on the Taganskaya Ulitsa became the center for all Mennonites visiting Moscow.
From May 1925 to December 1926 the AMLV published a periodical, Der Praktische Landwirt, with the motto, "In union there is strength."
Other persons besides those mentioned above, who were active in the work of the AMLV, were Johann W. Ewert of Alexandertal, and later Hermann Fr. Dyck, a former teacher in the business college in Halbstadt.
Throughout its existence the AMLV was compelled to fight for its permission to function and even for its bare right to exist. It was particularly molested by the German section of the Communist Party in the Soviet Union. But Russian economists also felt it to be a foreign body in the Soviet cooperative movement. One of them proposed that it be dissolved on the following grounds:
- The AMLV had nourished the illusion among the Mennonites that they had a right to their own associations and to independent development.
- The AMLV had been a hindrance in sovietizing the Mennonite settlements.
- From the standpoint of the Soviet policy it had been an error on the part of the central government to grant recognition to the AMLV, for it thereby promoted Mennonite separatism, which did not fit into the program of the nationalities policy of the Soviets.
By 1927 it was clear that the Party would not dissolve the AMLV by administrative methods, but would throttle it financially and tear the local organizations out of the network of the national body. The Association was to be maneuvered into a deficit and thereby compromised in the eyes of its members. A legal trial was initiated against the AMLV, which it, of course, lost.
By 1927 the period of the New Economic Policy was at an end, and the Party had already inaugurated the program of collectivization. The AMLV could now no longer exist, and in the summer of 1928 the executive committee was compelled to accept the proposal of the central body of the Soviet agricultural cooperatives (selskossoyus) to liquidate the AMLV The year of the great economic revolution, 1929, approached. With it the Mennonite churches faced a new great catastrophe.
Adapted by permission of Herald Press, Harrisonburg, Virginia, and Waterloo, Ontario, from Mennonite Encyclopedia, Vol. 1, pp. 62-63. All rights reserved. For information on ordering the encyclopedia visit the Herald Press website.
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MLA style: Froese, Peter F. "Allrussischer Mennonitischer Landwirtschaftlicher Verein." Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. 1955. Web. 26 May 2013. http://www.gameo.org/encyclopedia/contents/A446.html.
APA style: Froese, Peter F. (1955). Allrussischer Mennonitischer Landwirtschaftlicher Verein. Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. Retrieved 26 May 2013, from http://www.gameo.org/encyclopedia/contents/A446.html.