Constantinople (since 1930 Istanbul), former capital of Turkey, served immediately after the Russian Revolution as a gateway of escape for Mennonites from Russia and of entry to Russia for the American Mennonite Relief (AMR)(Mennonite Central Committee). From 27 September 1920 to 1 July 1922 an AMR unit administered relief in Constantinople to Russian refugees, particularly Mennonites. The first members of the unit were Orie O. Miller, Clayton Kratz, and Arthur Slagel. Kratz never returned to Constantinople from his first trip to Halbstadt, from where he disappeared, probably arrested.
During November 1920, over 100,000 Russian refugees, former members of the White Army, arrived in Constantinople. Various American relief organizations, including the AMR, cooperated in helping these desperately needy people. Heinrich Schroeder of Halbstadt, Russia, who arrived on 19 November, informed the unit that there were a number of Mennonites among the refugees, who were then gathered in the Mennonite Home, located in the city. In February 1921 the home was moved to Yeni Kuey, six miles north of the city. It was managed by Frank Stoltzfus and later by J. E. Brunk, and had a hospital connected with it. Other workers were Vesta Zook (later Slagel) and Vinora Weaver (later Salzman). The population of the home varied from 100 to 200, of whom usually two thirds were Mennonites. In all, between 250 and 300 Mennonite refugees from Russia spent some time in the home. This included also the "group of 62" men who had been serving in the White Army. Most of the Mennonites went to the United States, Germany, and Canada (for their experiences see "Konstantinopel," Bote, 26 November, 3 and 10 December, 1952). The home was closed in the spring of 1922.
Other activities of the AMR conducted in Constantinople centered around a children's shelter, a Russian women's home, the distribution of clothing, loans for transportation, etc., always keeping in mind the greater need in Russia. During its operation from October 1920 to July 1922, the total expenditure of the Constantinople unit was $200,738.
The AMR was closing its relief activities in Constantinople when 217 Mennonite refugees, stranded in the port of Batum on the eastern shore of the Black Sea in Caucasus, tried to get to Constantinople in order to proceed to the United States. They had come to Batum from the Molotschna and Crimea via Feodosiya. The first group arrived in Feodosiya late in 1921. A second and third group followed in January and February 1922. The last two groups of over 60 left Feodosiya 12 February 1922, and arrived in Batum five days later. Over 70, mostly children and old people, lost their lives through undernourishment, disease, and congested living quarters. Through AMR and Near East Relief, the refugees received some flour, condensed milk, rice, beans, and sugar; this food saved the lives of many of the 217 Mennonite refugees. Finally the doors opened and one after another they left for Constantinople where they were cared for in the Mennonite Home until they could emigrate to America.
Hiebert, P. C. and O. O. Miller, Feeding the Hungry, Russia Famine 1919-1925. Scottdale, 1929: 90-110.
Adapted by permission of Herald Press, Harrisonburg, Virginia, and Waterloo, Ontario, from Mennonite Encyclopedia, Vol. 1, p. 703. All rights reserved. For information on ordering the encyclopedia visit the Herald Press website.
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MLA style: Siemens, John K. "Constantinople (Turkey)." Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. 1953. Web. 21 May 2013. http://www.gameo.org/encyclopedia/contents/constantinople_turkey.
APA style: Siemens, John K. (1953). Constantinople (Turkey). Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. Retrieved 21 May 2013, from http://www.gameo.org/encyclopedia/contents/constantinople_turkey.