Crimea (Krim), a peninsula on the north coast of the Black Sea, is connected with the mainland by the Isthmus of Perekop (three miles or five km. wide), with a great variety of landscape and topography: prairies in the north, mountains with meadows (the Yaila) and woods in the center, the Riviera-like south shore with resorts (Yalta), military harbors (Sevastopol, Kerch), an area of slightly more than 9,000 sq. mi., and a population of 741,081 of several races: Russians, Tatars, Jews, and Germans, including 4,817 Mennonites in 1926. In 2007 the total population was estimated to be just under 2,000,000.
Mennonites began to settle here soon after the Crimean War (1853-1856); probably they became acquainted with it in the course of their transportation duties for the government and preferred it to the other lands under consideration for settlement situated on the Amur in Siberia. In 1860 Mennonite land seekers looked over several possible sites, and in 1862 four villages were established, which were later followed by others. Settlement was made on purchased as well as on leased land, in several large villages, but mostly in small ones, on scattered farms, and a few large estates owned by single families, the largest comprising some 20,000 acres. Before World War I there were 25 villages and many separate ranches. In 1926 there were 70 villages with 892 families and 4,817 persons, besides those on larger estates. After the difficulties of beginning had been conquered, the Crimean colony developed fast. In 1926 it covered 108,000 acres. Agriculture, cattle-raising, and fruit culture were the chief occupations.
The Mennonite settlers of the Crimea originally came from the Molotschna settlement. They lived mostly in small villages or on estates, which were located in the following districts: Kerch, Theodosia (Feodosiya), Simferopol (in which the larger Mennonite villages and centers such as Karassan and Spat were located), Dzhankoi, Eupatoria (Yevpatoriya), and Perekop (with Tchongrav where the Bible school was located).
Intellectual progress kept pace with the material. Schools were taken for granted; in Karassan and Spat there were secondary schools; in 1918 a Bible school was opened in Tchongrav, which was later transplanted to Winkler, Manitoba. To promote spiritual life a publishing company was opened in Spat in 1897 by Abraham and Jakob Kroeker, which published the Christlicher Familien-Kalender, and later the Christlicher Abreisskalender; in 1902 they began the first Mennonite weekly, the Friedensstimme, which was later (1905) transferred to Halbstadt on the Molotschna, in northern Taurida. These publications and Hermann A. Rempel's Evangelische Mennonitische Brüderschaft group gave voice to the strongly pietistic tendencies of the Crimean Mennonites.
Before World War I the Crimea was also the center of the Phyloxera Commandos, a group of Mennonite young men who performed their alternative service, not in the usual forestry, but in finding and destroying the dangerous phyloxera vine louse in the state vineyards. As a rule the commandos worked only in summer. During the war there were a good dozen Mennonite commandos here with 1,000-1,500 men in road-building and forestry; they were demobilized in 1917 and 1918.
Thanks to its favorable strategic situation the Crimea was protected from Bolshevik and anarchist invasion during the Revolution 1917 ff. It therefore served as a refuge for persons fleeing the mainland. Hence the number of Mennonites increased. In 1910 there were 3,500 souls; in 1926 over 5,000, because here the Revolution with its shooting, deportations, etc., and its consequence, emigration, did not diminish the population. In 1921, which was a severe famine year, the Crimea, through Sevastopol, became the gate of entry for American Mennonite Relief.
The oldest and largest Mennonite congregation was the Karassan Mennonite Church, which was founded in 1862 and had branches in Spat (after 1882), Dyurmen (after 1884), and Pasha-Tchakmak (after 1890). In 1905 it had a total membership of 846 and a total Mennonite population of 1,928. The elder at that time was Abraham Friesen. The Busau Mennonite Church was founded in 1882 and located in the district of Eupatoria. In 1905 the congregation had a membership of 272 and a total population of 632. In 1913 P. G. Friedrichsen was the elder. The Spat-Schöntal Mennonite Brethren Church was founded in 1885 and in 1903 had a membership of 301 and a total population of 847 with David Dürksen as elder. Hermann Peters and his group from the Molotschna settled at Eupatoria for a while, and from here later moved to Siberia (see Apostolische Brüdergemeinde). In 1921 Hermann A. Rempel, the elder of the Karassan Mennonite Church, founded a new congregation called the Evangelische Mennonitische Brüderschaft. By the following year he had gained a following of seven ministers and 136 members. Rempel stressed specially repentance, conversion, prayer, confession of sins, and baptism by immersion. The Crimea was also the place of the origin of the Krimmer Mennonite Brethren Church, which emigrated as a body to America in 1874.
During the Soviet era the Mennonites of the Crimea suffered just as much as at other places. Many were sent to the north and east into exile even before 1930. At this time worship services became impossible. When in 1941 the Germans occupied the Ukraine most of the Crimean Mennonites were evacuated by the Soviets to the Far East. Some of those that remained have found their way to Canada and South America.
Ehrt, A. Das Mennonitentum in Russland. Langensalza, 1932.
Friedrichsen, H. H. "Die Geschichte der Busaer Menn.-Gem." Unser Blatt II (1927): 236-238.
Friedrichsen, H. H. "Aus der Geschichte der Krimmer Menn.-Brüdergem." Unser Blatt II (1927): 327-328.
Friesen, Peter M. Die Alt-Evangelische Mennonitische Brüderschaft in Russland (1789-1910) im Rahmen der mennonitischen Gesamtgeschichte. Halbstadt: Verlagsgesellschaft “Raduga“, 1911.
Friesen, Peter M. The Mennonite Brotherhood in Russia (1789-1910), trans. J. B. Toews and others. Fresno, CA: Board of Christian Literature [M.B.], 1978, rev. ed. 1980.
Lindemann, K. Von den deutschen Kolonisten in Russland. Stuttgart, 1924.
Quiring, Jakob. Die Mundart von Chortitza in Süd-Russland. München, 1928.
Cite This Article
Brandt, Theodor and Cornelius Krahn. "Crimea (Ukraine)." Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. 1953. Web. 18 Oct 2017. http://gameo.org/index.php?title=Crimea_(Ukraine)&oldid=94280.
Brandt, Theodor and Cornelius Krahn. (1953). Crimea (Ukraine). Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. Retrieved 18 October 2017, from http://gameo.org/index.php?title=Crimea_(Ukraine)&oldid=94280.
Adapted by permission of Herald Press, Harrisonburg, Virginia, from Mennonite Encyclopedia, Vol. 1, pp. 740-741. All rights reserved.
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