Amur Mennonite Settlements (Amur Oblast, Russia)
The Mennonite settlements on the Amur River near Blagoveshchensk in eastern Asiatic Russia were the last to be established voluntarily by the Mennonites of Russia. As early as 1860 the Mennonites of the Ukraine had sent a delegation to investigate land along the Amur that the government was offering for settlement. However, at this time the surplus population of the Mennonite colonies preferred to settle in the Crimea and other nearby places, and after 1874 in America. After the Russo-Japanese war in 1904-1905 non-Mennonite German settlers and others began to pioneer in the Amur region. The Mennonites, however, restricted their settlement activities to western Siberia at this time.
After the Russian Revolution of 1917, when the Mennonites became increasingly aware of the anti-religious policy of Communism and were forced into collectives and exile, many of them attempted to leave the country, while some looked for a haven in the Far East. At this time the Soviet government was still interested in settling uninhabited stretches of land along the Amur with people from European Russia on a voluntary basis, offering them 400 roubles per family, 15 acres of land per family member, and reduced freight rates. These privileges were later extended to settlers from western Siberia. The several delegations of Mennonites from western Siberia went to investigate the land near Blagoveshchensk in 1926. The first settlers were Isaak Ewert and Wilhelm Boldt with a group of 42 families, who left Slavgorod 24 March 1927 by train, taking with them their household goods, farm implements and animals, and arrived at Blagoveshchensk 12 April. This group, followed by numerous other families, established the Usman settlement, which had a population of 593. Village names included Rosental, Blumenort, Silberfeld, Eichenfeld and Gnadenfeld. The settlement was located on the banks of the Topkochna River, 20 miles from the Amur River. Other settlements were Savitaya, with a population of 520 persons living in the villages of Pribrezhnoye, Schönsee, Halbstadt, Orechov and Rheinfeld; Muchino, with 307 persons in the villages Yurgino, Bodanovka and others; and the settlement of Nevzorovka. The largest settlement was Shumanovka with a population of 867 living in the villages of Shumanovka, Friedensfeld, Kleefeld, New York, Belo Berozovo, Memrik, Grünfeld and Ebenfeld. Most of the settlers along the Amur River came from western Siberia, but many of the European Russian settlements were also represented. They had hardly established themselves economically and organized schools and churches when they were also forced to join collectives and give up their former way of life. Their attempts to gain permission to leave the country were in vain. Longingly they began to look across the Amur River to the Little Khingan Mountains in Manchuria.
The account of the adventurous escape of a large part of the Shumanovka settlement is typical. Jakob Siemens, leader of the Shumanovka collective, carefully worked out detailed plans for a mass crossing of the Amur River into China. On 16 December 1930, after less than four years in the Amur settlement, the exodus began. Most of the population of the village of Shumanovka and some individuals from neighboring villages, a total of 217 persons, crossed the river on 60 sleds and in the bitter winter with the help of Chinese guides continued their trip to the city of Harbin, where the group arrived 12 February 1931. Here they met others who had left the Amur settlements in a similar way. Harbin gradually became the center of many refugees who finally found new homes in Paraguay, Brazil and the United States during 1931-1934, largely with the help of the Mennonite Central Committee. No information was available in the 1950s concerning those who remained in the Mennonite settlements along the Amur River.
Ewert, I. "Blumenort, Amurgebiet." Unser Blatt III (1928): 89.
Loewen, Abram J. and Abram Friesen, Die Flucht über den Amur: ein mennonitisches Dorf flüchtet (1930) aus dem sowjetrussischen Sibirien in die chinesische Mandschurei. Steinbach, MB: Echo-Verlag, 1946.
Quiring, Walter. Russlanddeutsche suchen eine Heimat: die deutsche Einwanderung in den paraguayischen Chaco. Karlsruhe: H. Schneider, 1938.
Adapted by permission of Herald Press, Harrisonburg, Virginia, and Waterloo, Ontario, from Mennonite Encyclopedia, Vol. 1, pp. 111-112. All rights reserved. For information on ordering the encyclopedia visit the Herald Press website.
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To cite this page:
MLA style: Krahn, Cornelius. "Amur Mennonite Settlements (Amur Oblast, Russia)." Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. 1955. Web. 18 May 2013. http://www.gameo.org/encyclopedia/contents/A480.html.
APA style: Krahn, Cornelius. (1955). Amur Mennonite Settlements (Amur Oblast, Russia). Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. Retrieved 18 May 2013, from http://www.gameo.org/encyclopedia/contents/A480.html.