Wiens, Klaas Klaas (1768-1821)
Klaas Klaas Wiens: administrator and first Mennonite estate owner in Russia; born 16 February 1768 in Herrenhagen, West Prussia, to Klaas Wiens. On 11 March 1788 he married Anna Wiens. The couple had four children. Klaas died in 1821 on the Steinbach estate near the Molotschna settlement, South Russia.
After his marriage, Klaas Klass Wiens and his family continued to live in Prussia for some years, Klaas working as a pin maker and a farmer. In 1803, they joined other Mennonites in migrating to Russia, moving first to the Chortitza settlement, where Klaas was chosen as the Oberschulze, given the task of organizing the new colony planned for the east bank of the Molotschnaya River. His leadership style was progressive, and he was seen as a good administrator. He divided the new settlement into nine village groups, with the site of the colony and the plots for each farmer chosen by lot.
As Oberschulze of the Molotschna Colony, Klaas Klaas Wiens worked with all aspects of village life, including the distribution of money and equipment from the Russian government, monitoring the village finances, and even naming new villages. Although not all villages fared equally well, especially in agriculture, the colony was generally prosperous under his leadership. Farming was strong in Altona, where the Wiens family lived, and Klaas owned a large flock of sheep there. He later also developed an estate on the Juschanlee River in the southern part of the Molotschna settlement.
Troubles came for Klaas Klaas Wiens when Jakob Enns of Tiegenhagen was elected elder of the Orloff-Petershagen Mennonite Church. The hot-tempered new elder’s conservative views combined with indifference towards moral laxness in the congregation soon brought him into conflict with the Oberschulze, and not long afterwards, the situation reached a crisis.
Despite attempts at intervention by several people in the church, disputes between Jakob Enns and Klaas Wiens over issues such as authority within the colony finally led to a decision to place Klaas under a ban, likely sometime in 1806. He continued as Oberschulze for several years after that, until about 1815. At one point, Klaas was imprisoned for a month on charges of having given false information about a theft of public funds. Another incident left him badly injured when violence broke out in the colony, and Klaas eventually decided to move to his Juschanlee property.
Klaas Klaas Wiens settled in Juschanlee in about 1813 and soon expanded on his holdings. He established a sheep ranch, planted trees, and rented additional tracts of land. Tsar Alexander I visited the estate in 1818 and was so impressed by what the Wiens family had accomplished that the following year, he granted Klaas about 350 dessiatines of land in perpetuity, establishing the first of many Mennonite estates. Klaas died two years later, on 31 December 1821.
Klaas Klaas Wiens was not only an able administrator and a visionary leader; he also had the distinction of being the first estate owner in the Mennonite colonies of south Russia. In part through his hard work and diligence, and possibly through being in the right place at the right time, he became the first of many Mennonite estate owners in Russia.
Huebert, Helmut T. Mennonite Estates in Imperial Russia. Winnipeg: Springfield Publishers, 2005.
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MLA style: Huebert, Susan. "Wiens, Klaas Klaas (1768-1821)." Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. January 2009. Web. 25 May 2013. http://www.gameo.org/encyclopedia/contents/wiens_klaas_klaas_1768_1821.
APA style: Huebert, Susan. (January 2009). Wiens, Klaas Klaas (1768-1821). Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. Retrieved 25 May 2013, from http://www.gameo.org/encyclopedia/contents/wiens_klaas_klaas_1768_1821.