|Mennonite Estates in Imperial Russia
|Helmut T. Huebert
|Centre for Mennonite Brethren Studies, Winnipeg
|Helmut T. Huebert
This book is an index of Mennonite estates in Imperial Russia – the time period from 1813 to about 1920. It does not explain all the intricacies of the development of each of the estates; it does not decry or defend them. By this time it is a study of something which has disappeared almost a century ago. Some have decrepit buildings remaining, but of many estates there is now nothing left except open fields. Despite these circumstances it is hoped that this index can help people in the study of something which seems to be increasingly significant to many – a search for their roots.
Any index has its limitations, and this is very apparent when studying Mennonites estates in Imperial Russia. All possible sources have been used to compile this index, but even so there are likely many estates which have not been included.
Factors to be considered when using this index are:
- All estates mentioned in any source and from all areas of Russia are included. It is recognized that some estates were dissolved and replaced by others. As an example, the estates of Wilhelm Aron Martens disappeared when they were divided among his ten heirs. The original estates of Wilhelm Aron Martens, however, have still been included in the listing.
- It is virtually impossible to avoid duplication. Many estates had special names, but often no specific owner is listed. In other instances the owners are listed, but not the special names. Without additional clues there is no way of being sure if these are separate estates or simply different designations for the same establishment. We have listed 1,220 estates; we would presume that the actual number is nearer 1,000, considering that there is likely considerable duplication.
- Some names were very popular and used by a number of owners. “Hochfeld,” for example, could be any of a number of estates. Not even knowing that it was owned by Mr Wiens is helpful, since there were a number estates that would fit the bill. “Ebenfeld” was another well liked name; there must have been many estates on flat broad plains.
- There was an incredible tangle of marriages and inheritances among the elite estate owning families, making it almost impossible to sort out who owned what. The Schroeder, Martens and Heinrichs families, for example, were large and owned many estates in a number of regions. Attempts have been made to be accurate, even using family genealogies, but undoubtedly many mistakes have been made in dissection of the data.
- The selection of names among Mennonites was narrow, often making identification difficult. An estate owned by Jakob Thiessen, for example, would be hard to identify. There were just too many Jakob Thiessens. One saving feature was the second name, usually that of the father, which was often included. This would at least narrow the field down to the three or four available Jakob Jakob Thiessens.
- Spelling of names was often a problem. Names such as Dick, Dyck and Dueck seem to have been used almost at random. If documents were translated from Russian the spelling in this instance was always Dick, that being the only Russian version.
- The endings of Russian place names vary considerably. Did different endings signify different estates, or was it all the same one? At times the endings seem to have varied depending on the whim of the writer – was it -ovsk, -ovka or even ovskaya? With computers it makes a difference, although I suspect among people at the time it did not matter. Some endings are masculine, others feminine, but in place names it is hard to discern which it should be.
- Some lists of estates have known bias. The Forstei Taxation List of 1908 would, of course, have data which might underestimate the size and value of the estates. This is not surprising, since the owners were taxed on this basis.
- Newspaper accounts of events often mentioned estates, usually bad news such as robberies and murders. It is hoped that Friedensstimme was more accurate than most newspapers are nowadays. In some instances a news report or an advertisement is the only evidence found of the existence of an estate.
- Generally speaking measurements are recorded as they were used at the time – dessiatine, verst, sazhen, pud. A table at the end of the book gives equivalent modem values. Calendar dates are also reported as recorded, using the Julian “Old” calendar before 1918.
- Males and females seem to have inherited estates on an equal basis, so a considerable number of female owners are listed. I have chosen not to use the Russian versions of the second name in the index for either males or females. For example Helena Heinrichovna Reimer is simply Helena Heinrich Reimer, Peter Jakovlev Reimer is Peter Jakob Reimer.
- I have not quarreled about the size of estates. If somebody labeled a property an estate, this was accepted, although some were small and could not have been thought of as self-sufficient. The independent farm establishment was called Khutor by Mennonites, the Russian word for landed estate. Over 500 dessiatines made it a large estate, sometimes referred to as a Gut or Oekenom, the latter being used for especially large estates.
- Source of information for every estate listed has been included, designated as So:. Abbreviations are explained in the list of sources at the beginning of the book. In some instances where there is varying or conflicting data, both sources are mentioned. The reader will have to decide which to believe.
- There is an alphabetical listing of all known estate owners, managers and school teachers.
- A number of biographies of estate owners hopefully can give a sampling of the lives of a certain strata of Mennonite society during that time.
- Where available, maps of the estates have been included. In a number of estates there do not seem to be official maps drawn after 1880.
- Pictures of some of the estates are also included, although it is certain that there are many more excellent photographs in existence, mostly in the collections of the descendants.
The second edition does not strike out in any new directions, but does incorporate additional information, maps and pictures of this very interesting phase of Russian Mennonite life.
Notes About Mennonite Estates in Imperial Russia
Helmut T. Huebert passed away on 21 November 2016. In 2017, Helmut’s family generously transferred to CMBS (Centre for Mennonite Brethren Studies, Winnipeg) the publication rights for all Springfield publications, including this volume. CMBS has agreed to make this volume available to the public as an “open source” file in accordance with the Creative Commons License. –Jon Isaak Director of the Centre for Mennonite Brethren Studies, Winnipeg
Surnames found in Mennonite Estates in Imperial Russia
Bahnmann, Bergmann, Buhr, Cornies, Dick, Dyck, Enns, Epp, Fast, Friesen, Goossen, Harder, Hein, Heinrichs, Janzen, Johann, Klassen, Kroeker, Martens, Matthies, Mierau, Mueller, Neufeld, Neustaedter, Peters, Rempel, Riediger, Schroeder, Schmidt, Shingak, Sudermann, Thiessen, Toews, Unger, Warkentin, Wiebe, Wieler, Wiens, and Willms.