Kuban Mennonite Settlement (Northern Caucasus, Russia)
Kuban was a Mennonite settlement in the Kuban district of the Northern Caucasus, Russia, on the Kuban River, which flows from the east into the Black Sea. This region had previously been inhabited by Nogais, who had immigrated to Turkey. In connection with the organization of the Mennonite Brethren in the parent settlements, the Mennonites in the Molotschna and Chortitza colonies requested an additional grant of 17,500 acres from the government, through Johann Claassen of Liebenau, for a new settlement on the Kuban. On this tract the villages of Wohldemfürst (later Velikoknyazheskoye) and Alexanderfeld (later Alexandrodar) were founded in 1862 and 1866. In 1866 the settlement, which throughout its brief history consisted predominantly of Mennonite Brethren, had its Mennonite privileges confirmed.
The early settlement was confronted with serious difficulties. Only 67 of the 100 families for whom land had been granted settled there by 1866. In part the difficulties were internal, caused by Templars and Adventists, and were removed to a large extent when these elements withdrew. Then there were also economic difficulties. From the neighboring natives (Tatars, Circassians) with their primitive methods, they could get no help in agriculture. They had to learn by trial and error; gradually cattle-raising and fruit culture proved most successful. There was a ready market for the Mennonite-bred Red cow; and horses were bought by the army.
Fruit culture was brought to an even higher state of development. Well-developed nurseries distributed millions of improved strains of fruit trees, berries, and ornamental trees. Industry related to these occupations was also thriving: there were two factories which made farm implements, mills of various kinds, and stores. There was a cooperative for cheese-making and grape growers (since 1890), a credit union, a grain storage elevator, and an association of consumers.
In 1910 there were ten landless day laborers, 150 landless craftsmen and factory workers, eight small farms, 22 half farms and 57 full farms (the owners of the full farms often owned several); and 15 owners of larger farms outside the settlement who kept their connection with the villages by owning land there too.
Intellectual and spiritual life were also maintained on a high level. Their schools, with eight-year courses (ages 7-15) and excellent teachers, were unique for their high standards even among the Mennonites. In addition there was a music club, which owned a hall, and a library club. Each wing had its own church, Mennonite Church (see Wohldemfürst-Alexandrodar Mennonite Church), Mennonite Brethren, and the Jerusalemsfreunde. All Mennonite groups had their own volost administration in Velikoknyazheskaye, where the district administrative center common to all groups was also located.
The settlement achieved great prosperity. The outstanding success of the Mennonites in the Kuban in the fields of pedagogy and agriculture was repeatedly given recognition by the Czarist government, even to the extent of granting titles of personal nobility, more than in any other Mennonite settlement. "The Kubans were unusual workers" and "savers." Here the "intelligent village," "the combination of intellectual and physical work," the ideal of the sociologists, became a reality. Their highly developed economic system was destroyed by Communism, through no fault of their own. The number of Mennonites in the Kuban in 1904 was about 2,000 (Friesen, 455); in 1914 it had declined to 1,500, and in 1926 to 1,400 (Ehrt, 78 and 152).
During the Revolution the settlement suffered like the others. A small group left the Kuban for Canada in 1924-1925. During the following years many were exiled, particularly in 1937-1938. Gradually the settlement disintegrated. During the Russo-German War (1941) all remaining Mennonites were sent to Kazakhstan. A few refugees who had escaped to the Ukraine went on to Canada.
Ehrt, Adolf. Das Mennonitentum in Russland von seiner Einwanderung bis zur Gegenwart. Langensalza: Julius Beltz, 1932.
Friesen, Peter M. Die Alt-Evangelische Mennonitische Brüderschaft in Russland (1789-1910) im Rahmen der mennonitischen Gesamtgeschichte. Halbstadt: Verlagsgesellschaft "Raduga,” 1911.
Hege, Christian and Christian Neff. Mennonitisches Lexikon. Frankfurt & Weierhof: Hege; Karlsruhe; Schneider, 1913-1967: v. II, 580.
Die Kubaner Ansiedlung. Steinbach, MB: Echo-Verlag, 1953.
Lindmann, K. Von den deutschen Kolonisten in Russland. Stuttgart, 1924.
Cite This Article
Block, Theodor. "Kuban Mennonite Settlement (Northern Caucasus, Russia)." Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. 1958. Web. 24 Apr 2018. http://gameo.org/index.php?title=Kuban_Mennonite_Settlement_(Northern_Caucasus,_Russia)&oldid=57700.
Block, Theodor. (1958). Kuban Mennonite Settlement (Northern Caucasus, Russia). Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. Retrieved 24 April 2018, from http://gameo.org/index.php?title=Kuban_Mennonite_Settlement_(Northern_Caucasus,_Russia)&oldid=57700.
Adapted by permission of Herald Press, Harrisonburg, Virginia, from Mennonite Encyclopedia, Vol. 3, pp. 251-252. All rights reserved.
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