A Publication of Mennonite Heritage Centre and the Center for MB Studies in Canada about Mennonite-Related Documents from the Zaporozhye Archives. By Peter Lettkemann. (Peter Letkemannis an organist and historian living in Winnipeg.)
On Friday, 27 April 2001, the Mennonite Heritage Centre received 109 reels of microfilmed documents from the State Archive of the Zaporozhe Region (GAZO: Gosudarstvenii Arkhiv Zaporozhskoi Oblasti). Thanks to the untiring efforts ofProf. Harvey Dyck, some 130,000 pages of documents from "the richest group ofMennonite-related sources in the former Soviet Union" - selected by Dyck and microfilmed during the years 1994 to 2000 - are now available to North American scholars.
After a preliminary survey of the collection, I am amazed at the enormous amount of bureaucratic paper-work generated both by the Tsarist and the Soviet administrative apparatus, and at how much of it survived the Revolution, Civil War and World War II. These valuable sources will undoubedly shed new light on many aspects of the Mennonite experience in the Zaporozhe region from the late-eighteenth century up to the time of the Second World War.
The contents of the collection are described in the book Mennonites in Southern Ukraine, 1789-1941. A Guide to Holdings and Microfilmed Documents from the State Archive ofthe Zaprozhe Region.
Compiled by Harvey L. Dyck and Aleksandr S. Tedeev (Toronto: Centre for Russian and East European Studies, 2001), which Harvey Dyck presented to the MHC Director AlfRedekopp on this occasion.
In Part One of the Guide (152 pp.), Aleksandr S. Tedeev, the current director of GAZO, provides a brief analytical description of the 172 collections (jondy) identified as containing Mennonite-related documents. Ofthesefondy, about 25% [43 collections] date from the Tsarist Period (1794-1919); the remaining 75% [129 collections] contain documents from the Soviet Period. The Soviet holdings are
divided into state administrative files and files of the Communist Party. The latter were housed in a separate archive until 1991, but after the collapse of the Soviet Union, the Communist Party files were transferred to GAZO. Harvey Dyck provides the following succinct characterization of these files: "State Archive documents, generated by Soviet administrative organs, reflect what was happening in a region, while Party Archive documents often help to explain why."
In Part Two of the Guide (330 pp.), Harvey Dyck presents "A User's Guide to the University of Toronto Collection of Microfilmed Mennonite-Related Documents from the Zaporozhe Archive."
It consists of detailed fond by fond and file-by-file inventories of all the documents.
The files from the Tsarist Period are found on the fourteen reels #25 to 38, and #55. Only 8 out of 43 fondy are represented, in whole or in part, on these reels. They include:
a) Administrative Files of the Khortitsa volost (1851-1909), the Nikolaipole volost (1869-1916), and the Nizhnaia Khortitsa Village administration, 1897-1919. The most extensive collection is Fond F-59 / opis 1 [reels #28-35], containing files of the Nikolaipole volost administration from its founding in 1869 to 1917. File No. 10, for example, will be of interest to genealogists, since it contains a list of all persons (including their ages) residing in the villages of Nikolaifeld, Franzfeld, Eichenfeld, Adelsheim, Hochfeld and Petersdorf as of 15 January 1873.
b) Reels #25-27 and #37-38 contain statistical and land survey materials for the Khortitsa volost and Berdiansk Uezd. Fond F-230, opis 2, delo 177, for example, lists the land possessions of 1.G. Fast on his estate Wiesenfeld, Aleksandrovsk Uezd, as of 2 May 1885.
c) Finally, there are also several smaller collections of Institutional Files, including the Khortitsa Volost Court, 1899-1900, and one file each from the Orekhov School, and the Taubstummenschule in Tiege.
Not microfilmed are a large group of Factory Files of Mennonite-owned farm implement factories in the Khortitsa valost, including the A.J. Koop Factory.
Aleksandrovsk (Schoenwiese), the A.A. Koop Factory (1889-1919), the Lepp and Wallmann Factory in Aleksandrovsk (Schoenwiese) and Khortitsa, the Dietrich Schulz Factory, Pavlovka (Ostetwick) and
the B.v. Rempel Factory, Pavlovka (Osterwick). A large collection of files of the Forestry Administration and the Forsteidienst (1846-1917) are also not included on the microfilms.
Harvey Dyck has wisely chosen, I think, to focus on materials from the Soviet period of the 1920s and 1930s. The State administrative documents are found on 90 reels - #1 to #24, #38 to #95 and #100 to #109. They are richest for the period 1919 to 1930, providing valuable information on
the Civil War years, the years of reconstruction under NEP, and finally the devastating collectivization and dekulakization period in the Khortitsa raion (including Nikolaipole volost). Very few documents from the 1920s have survived from the Molochna region. For the 1930s, on the other hand, the
documentation is better for Molochna than for Khortitsa, thanks to the extensive files of the Molochansk Raion Committee (1923-39) and the Rotfront Raion Committee (1933-39) of the Communist Party.
Three of the largest collections from the Soviet State administrative documents are: a) Fond R-l: Zaporozhe Okrug Executive Committee, 1923-1930; b) Fond R-121: Khortitsa Volost Executive Committee, 1919-1923, and c) Fond R-235, containing files of the Khortitsa Raion Executive Committee [raiispo/kom] for theyears 1922-1930.
The files of Fond R-235 / opis 5/ delo 70-79, for example, contain extensive lists
of dekulakized farms in Nikolaipol (Nikolaifeld), Baburka (Burwalde), Kichkas (Einlage) and Smoliana (SchOneberg). In Fond R-235 / opis 3/ delo 50, I was surprised to find a moving, hand-written petition from my great-grandfather David Letkemann to the Nikolaipol village council, dated 3 April 1930, pleading that they review and reverse their decision to dekulakize him and his family. Other such petitions are found in this file, as well as in the following de/o 54. It seems that many people still felt they could "reason" with Soviet authorities at that time. Unfortunately, my great-grandfather's petition was not granted and both he and his wife died in exile several years later.
Fond R-1182 contains files of the Zaporozhe Okrug Court, 1923-28: opis 1 contains the files of 19 "criminal" cases involving Mennonites. Opis 2 contains the files of 641 men requesting exemption
from military service.
Harvey has also chosen to copy the administrative files of the Shirikoe (Neuendorf) Village Soviet, 1921-30; the Nizhnia Khortitsa Village Soviet, 1918-1926; and the Orlovo Village Soviet, 1927-1935.
The Communist Party documents are found on 21 reels -# % to100, and #110 to 125. Harvey writes: "The sheer volume of such materials gives evidence of the preoccupation of the Party, at all levels, with Mennonites, who were a difficult ethno-religious minority for the Party to deal with given their relatively great social solidarity and resistance to the social-discriminatory and anti-religious facets of sovietization."
Harvey Dyck, John Staples and their team deserve the gratitude of Mennonite scholars and laymen alike for making all of these documents available to us!
Peter Letkemann is an organist and historian living in Winnipeg.