The fate of Mennonites in Ukraine and the Crimea during Soviet collectivization and the famine (1930-1933) / by Colin Peter Neufeldt.
This study investigates the Soviet Mennonite experience in Ukraine and the Crimea during Soviet collectivization, dekulakization, and the famine between 1930 and 1933. The first chapter of this dissertation provides a historical setting of Mennonite life in Tsarist Russia and during the first years of Soviet rule. It briefly examines the establishment of the Mennonite community in Ukraine and the Crimea and the Soviet regime's initial attempts to collectivize the Mennonite community in 1928 and 1929. There is also an analysis of Mennonite responses to early Soviet policies as well as the last-ditch efforts of thousands of Mennonites to emigrate to the West in the late 1920s. What happened to Mennonites who were dekulakized between 1930 and 1933 is the focus of Chapter 2. This chapter examines how dekulakization programs were administered in Mennonite-populated regions, the plight of Mennonite households that were disenfranchised and dispossessed of their property, the experiences of Mennonites who were imprisoned or forcibly moved onto kulak settlements, and the living conditions of Mennonites who were banished to exile camps across the Soviet Union. This chapter investigates the extent to which Mennonites were recruited into Soviet agencies and the Communist party, and what roles they played in the exile and imprisonment of their coreligionists. There is also a discussion of the cost of dekulakization for Soviet Mennonite communities and whether their ethnic identity played a role in determining how severely the dekulakization process affected them. How the Mennonite countryside was collectivized between 1930 and 1933 is analysed in Chapter 3. There is an examination of how Mennonite farmers were coerced into joining collective farms, and a description of their living and working conditions. The dissertation also explores how collectivization destroyed political, economic, social, and religious institutions in Mennonite communities, how new Soviet institutions usurped control of Mennonite settlements, and how some Soviet Mennonites adapted quickly to the new political reality and obtained positions of influence within these new institutions. At the same time, this study proposes that Soviet collectivization had accomplished that which wars, revolutions, and government Russification programs had previously failed to do: it succeeded in forcing many Mennonites to abandon their traditional way of life, which had often isolated them from the surrounding Slavic countryside, and to integrate into the surrounding Ukrainian and Russian populations in an unprecedented manner. What happened to Mennonites during the famine of 1932–1933 is addressed in Chapter 4. This section discusses the food shortages and grain expropriation campaigns experienced by collectivized Mennonites. It also examines the relief efforts of European and North American Mennonites, the work of B. H. Unruh, and the material aid provided by Hitler's government and German relief agencies that prevented the deaths of thousands of Soviet Mennonites. This study proposes that: (1) many of the conclusions of the genocide theory do not apply to the Mennonite experience in 1932 and 1933; and (2) there was no “famine” per se in some Mennonite communities. (Abstract shortened by UMI.)
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