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Transformation on the Southern Ukrainian Steppe: Letters and Papers of Johann Cornies, Volume II: 1836-1842

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In the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, the Russian empire opened the grasslands of southern Ukraine to agricultural settlement. Among the immigrants who arrived were communities of Prussian Mennonites, recruited as "model colonists" to bring progressive agricultural methods to the east. Transformation on the Southern Ukrainian Steppe documents the Tsarist Mennonite ex In the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, the Russian empire opened the grasslands of southern Ukraine to agricultural settlement. Among the immigrants who arrived were communities of Prussian Mennonites, recruited as "model colonists" to bring progressive agricultural methods to the east. Transformation on the Southern Ukrainian Steppe documents the Tsarist Mennonite experience through the papers of Johann Cornies (1789-1848), an ambitious and energetic leader of the Mennonite colony of Molochna. Cornies was well connected in the imperial government, and his papers offer a window not just into the world of the Molochna Mennonites, but also into the Tsarist state's relationship with the national minorities of the frontier: Mennonites, Doukhobors, Nogai Tatars, and Jews. This selection of his letters and reports, translated into English, is an invaluable resource for scholars of all aspects of life in Tsarist Ukraine and for those interested in Mennonite history.


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In the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, the Russian empire opened the grasslands of southern Ukraine to agricultural settlement. Among the immigrants who arrived were communities of Prussian Mennonites, recruited as "model colonists" to bring progressive agricultural methods to the east. Transformation on the Southern Ukrainian Steppe documents the Tsarist Mennonite ex In the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, the Russian empire opened the grasslands of southern Ukraine to agricultural settlement. Among the immigrants who arrived were communities of Prussian Mennonites, recruited as "model colonists" to bring progressive agricultural methods to the east. Transformation on the Southern Ukrainian Steppe documents the Tsarist Mennonite experience through the papers of Johann Cornies (1789-1848), an ambitious and energetic leader of the Mennonite colony of Molochna. Cornies was well connected in the imperial government, and his papers offer a window not just into the world of the Molochna Mennonites, but also into the Tsarist state's relationship with the national minorities of the frontier: Mennonites, Doukhobors, Nogai Tatars, and Jews. This selection of his letters and reports, translated into English, is an invaluable resource for scholars of all aspects of life in Tsarist Ukraine and for those interested in Mennonite history.

2 review for Transformation on the Southern Ukrainian Steppe: Letters and Papers of Johann Cornies, Volume II: 1836-1842

  1. 5 out of 5

    Tim Flaming

    This is the second in a series of 3 volumes sharing a significant portion of the recently rediscovered papers of Johann Cornies. The introduction(s) by John R. Staples are worth the cost of the volumes by themselves. The magnitude of the translation work by Ingrid I. Epp can’t be overstated. Reading all those handwritten documents from 150 years ago, written by various individuals is in itself a daunting task but understanding the context in which they were written is equally important. The edit This is the second in a series of 3 volumes sharing a significant portion of the recently rediscovered papers of Johann Cornies. The introduction(s) by John R. Staples are worth the cost of the volumes by themselves. The magnitude of the translation work by Ingrid I. Epp can’t be overstated. Reading all those handwritten documents from 150 years ago, written by various individuals is in itself a daunting task but understanding the context in which they were written is equally important. The editing done by Staples and Epp plus Harvey L. Dyck makes the reading easy and understandable. They add very helpful notes and references in the footnotes. The real value of these volumes is that they provide much needed insight into the life of a very controversial figure in South Russian life, Johann Cornies. He was very entrepreneurial as a young man and accumulated enough money to obtain property and begin a life-long investigation into the best agricultural and animal husbandry practices to be applied in the steppes of South Russia. His work came to the attention of various Russian governmental officials who encouraged and supported him. Cornies understood, better than almost anyone else within the Mennonite colonies, what the Russian government expected (and demanded) of the colonists. He found himself caught between trying to meet the demands of the government which were resisted by most of the clerical authorities within the colonies. Eventually this conflict grew to the point where the government elevated Cornies as a secular official with authority to regulate all of the affairs of the colonists including giving direction to the clerical authorities. Cornies is still seen by some as seeking to accrue personal wealth and power at the expense of his fellow Mennonites and wrongly usurping authority to put state over church. I believe that this picture of Cornies does not square with the picture of Cornies presented in his correspondence. Time and again he lends money to people who are unwilling or unable to repay him as promised. He has deep personal relationships with not only fellow Mennonites but with various governmental officials and trading partners. He constantly pursues the improvement of not only his fellow Mennonites but the Nogais, the Hutterites, the Mokolans, the Doukhobors, and many other groups that often did not understand or appreciate his good intentions. If you have an interest in the history of South Russia, particularly the Mennonites in South Russia, from about 1812 to about 1848 these are 3 must-have volumes.

  2. 4 out of 5

    TrixieB

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