Cross-Cultural Encounters on the Ukrainian Steppe

Cross-Cultural Encounters on the Ukrainian Steppe: Settling the Molochna Basin, 1784-1861

JOHN R. STAPLES
Copyright Date: 2003
Pages: 256
https://www.jstor.org/stable/10.3138/9781442673625
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  • Book Info
    Cross-Cultural Encounters on the Ukrainian Steppe
    Book Description:

    In a regional history of colonization and adaptation in southern Ukraine, Staples examines how diverse agrarian groups, faced with common environmental, economic, and administrative conditions, followed sharply divergent paths of development.

    eISBN: 978-1-4426-7362-5
    Subjects: History

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. List of Tables
    (pp. vii-viii)
  4. List of Maps and Figures
    (pp. ix-x)
  5. Acknowledgments
    (pp. xi-xii)
  6. Note on Terminology, Orthography, and Transliteration
    (pp. xiii-xiv)
  7. Glossary of Russian Weights and Measures
    (pp. xv-xvi)
  8. [Maps]
    (pp. xvii-2)
  9. CHAPTER ONE Introduction
    (pp. 3-17)

    In 1848 an anonymous critic dismissed the agricultural success of Mennonites in New Russia on the grounds that ‘the land of the Mennonites is, as I understand it, not steppe, but ... anoasis on the steppe.’¹ Years later a Mennonite described a different scene, recalling his grandmother’s stories about helping to found the village of Gnadenfeld in 1835: ‘They came to a barren steppe ... no tree, no bush, only tall, dry, bitter grass and prickly camel fodder grew on the dry, cracked ground.’²

    Faced with common environmental, economic, and administrative conditions, why did the diverse groups of settlers...

  10. CHAPTER TWO Colonization and Administrative Policy
    (pp. 18-44)

    In 1822 the Russian Ministry of Internal Affairs granted a group of state peasants from Chernigov guberniia permission to resettle in Tavria guberniia. When the peasants arrived to inspect their newly allotted land they reacted with dismay, angrily advising the civil governor of Tavria that they ‘utterly refuse to settle at the assigned spot for the following reasons ... (1) [It] is on the very borders of Rubenovska and Serogozska [villages], and if they settle there, it will lead to disputes without end; (2) In all of the allotted lands ... the only hay meadows are located [on the spot...

  11. CHAPTER THREE Adaptation on the Land-Rich Steppe, 1783–1833
    (pp. 45-86)

    The principal adaptation by all settlers in the Molochna region in the early years consisted of variations on the single theme of animal husbandry. These variations grew out of the experiences of the settlers before their arrival in Molochna, and in particular out of their attitudes towards markets and commercial agriculture, as well as towards the ways the environment could be shaped to fit human needs. Nogai and Orthodox state peasants tended to understand the environment to have fixed, unalterable characteristics to which humans must adapt. These two groups of settlers followed the path of least resistance, quickly adopting agricultural...

  12. CHAPTER FOUR The Great Drought of 1832–1834
    (pp. 87-106)

    On Saturday, 1 September 1832, a light rain spattered the dusty fields of the Molochna River Basin, then quickly blew away west. It would hardly be an event worth noting were it not that no precipitation fell again for seven long months, and it was twenty months before the spring rains of 1834 released Molochna settlers from the grips of drought and hunger.¹ Following hard on the heels of the cholera epidemic of 1830 and 1831, the Great Drought of 1832–4 left a permanent mark on Molochna society, pressing home the need for more efficient agriculture and more efficient...

  13. CHAPTER FIVE Johann Cornies and the Birth of a New Mennonite World View
    (pp. 107-143)

    By the 1860s Mennonites would become the best-known minority in all of Russia. Their economic success in both agriculture and industry made them a shining example of what could be accomplished in the empire; it also made them a target for growing Russian xenophobia. Early in the nineteenth century the tsar and his administrators publicized the Mennonite example widely, and Mennonites were urged to share their methods with other state peasants both locally and, through articles in newspapers and various government journals, nationally, as well. Mennonites became both the prime movers of economic development in the Molochna River Basin and...

  14. CHAPTER SIX The Path Taken by the Orthodox State Peasants: Land Repartition
    (pp. 144-164)

    The combination of isolation from markets and state authority and a sparsely populated, arid, grassland environment led Orthodox state peasants in the Molochna River Basin to adopt a subsistence economy that emphasized animal husbandry and gardening. The opening of the port at Berdiansk and the creation of the Ministry of State Domains altered their existence fundamentally. Ironically, the new ministry, which was intended to improve the conditions of the peasantry by easing land shortages in interior guberniias and ending administrative inefficiencies, increased state interference in the affairs of Molochna state peasants, while threatening to reduce their land allotments. At the...

  15. CHAPTER SEVEN Consolidation and Alienation
    (pp. 165-178)

    The livestock epidemic of 1847 and harvest failure of 1848 were less severe than the Great Drought of 1832–4. Nevertheless, they mark an important turning point for the Molochna region, for they forced consolidation of trends that had been developing over the preceding fifteen years. For Orthodox state peasants, after 1848 there was no going back to the old, pastoralist way of life. The rate of repartitions rose, and more and more state peasant land went under the plough. For the interlocked economy of the Nogai and Mennonites, the 1850s were a time of crucial new developments. Encouraged by...

  16. CHAPTER EIGHT Conclusion
    (pp. 179-186)

    Orthodox state peasants, sectarians, Islamic Nogai Tatars, and German-speaking Mennonites, Catholics, and Lutherans arrived in the Molochna River Basin facing virtually identical challenges. Isolated from the state’s authority, and from markets, they confronted harsh environmental conditions on the arid treeless steppe. With the exception of the Nogai they had no experience with agriculture under such conditions. All proved adaptive, turning to animal husbandry to solve their common problems.

    Within a few decades they faced a second common challenge: adaptation to demographic growth and land shortages. Nogai reached the crisis point first. Their land grant was the poorest in the region,...

  17. Appendix
    (pp. 187-194)
  18. Notes
    (pp. 195-232)
  19. Bibliography
    (pp. 233-242)
  20. Index
    (pp. 243-253)