Thursday, December 23, 2010

More on Pfeifer, Russia

Today the village of Pfeifer is an unpopulated city of ruins, except for a small store. At one time the city had 89 families. Surely everyone knew each other in this small town. In 1888 there were no more then 1500 people there. The land was divided among the families according to the number of males.

After 1881, Russian Germans were required to study Russian in school and lost all their remaining special privileges. Many Germans remained in Russia, particularly those who had done well as Russia began to industrialise in the late 19th century.

Many of these Germans hoped to find an escape from political repression. They also desired to preserve their old way of life. As nationalism grew in central Europe, the Russian government could no longer justify the special status of its German colonists. In 1870 they announced a Russification plan that would end all special privileges by 1880.

Mennonites were particularly alarmed at the possibility of losing their exemption from military service and their right for schools to use the German language, which they believed was necessary to maintain their cultural and religious life. A number of delegates journied to Petersburg after meeting with the czar and returned with positive reports of good land available in Manitoba, Minnesota, South Dakota, Nebraska and Kansas. Many of their descendants are living in these places today.

(Contributed by Robert Weigant.)

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