How and why did Aleksotas became part of the Russian Empire in 1864?

How and why did Aleksotas became part of the Russian Empire in 1864?

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I am interested in Hermann Minkowski and, according to Wikipedia, he “was born in Aleksotas, a village in the Kovno Governorate of the Russian Empire” in 1864. Wikipedia also says that Aleksotas “became part of the Russian Empire” that same year. How did that happen? A city doesn't become part of another country just like that. I suppose that this is somehow connected with the January Uprising of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth, but I was unable to find a link between these events. Does anyone know more about how did this happen?

You found your answer already - after the January Uprising, the Congress Poland was stripped of any remaining autonomy and incorporated into Russian Empire. The process started in 1832 after the defeat of November Uprising, and after the January Uprising was crushed, Kingdom of Poland was transformed into a namestnichestvo (a type of region ruled by governor-general) named Privislinsky krai or Vistula Land.

Nikolay Semyonovich Chkheidze

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Nikolay Semyonovich Chkheidze, (born 1864, Kutaisi, in the Caucasus, Russian Empire—died June 13, 1926, Leuville-sur-Orge, France), Menshevik leader who played a prominent role in the revolutions of Russia (1917) and Georgia (1918).

Chkheidze, a schoolteacher who helped to introduce Marxism into Georgia in the 1890s, was elected to the Russian State Duma (legislature) in 1907. There he became the leader of the Menshevik faction of the Russian Social-Democratic Party and earned a reputation as a spokesman for extreme left-wing positions, including opposition to participation in World War I. In 1917, on the outbreak of the February (March, New Style) revolution, he became chairman of the Petrograd (St. Petersburg) Soviet of Workers’ and Soldiers’ Deputies, in which he vainly sought to conciliate the moderate and radical elements. His vacillations helped to discredit the original leadership of the soviet, which was soon swept away by the rising tide of Bolshevism. After the Bolsheviks seized power in October 1917, Chkheidze returned to Georgia and became president of the assembly that created the independent Transcaucasian Federal Republic (April 1918) when that republic disintegrated, he took part in the formation of the independent Republic of Georgia (May 1918). When the Bolsheviks overthrew the Menshevik regime in Georgia in 1921, he emigrated to France, where he later committed suicide.

Alexander II

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Alexander II, Russian in full Aleksandr Nikolayevich, (born April 29 [April 17, Old Style], 1818, Moscow, Russia—died March 13 [March 1], 1881, St. Petersburg), emperor of Russia (1855–81). His liberal education and distress at the outcome of the Crimean War, which had demonstrated Russia’s backwardness, inspired him toward a great program of domestic reforms, the most important being the emancipation (1861) of the serfs. A period of repression after 1866 led to a resurgence of revolutionary terrorism and to Alexander’s own assassination.

Who were Alexander II’s parents?

The future tsar Alexander II was the eldest son of the grand duke Nikolay Pavlovich (who, in 1825, became the emperor Nicholas I) and his wife, Alexandra Fyodorovna (who, before her marriage to the grand duke and her baptism into the Orthodox Church, had been the princess Charlotte of Prussia).

What did Alexander II accomplish?

Tsar Alexander II initiated a series of important reforms in Russia. During his reign, the country’s rail and communication networks were improved, resulting in increased economic activity and the development of banking institutions. He also took an active part in the passage in 1861 of the Emancipation Act, which freed millions of serfs.

How did Alexander II die?

Tsar Alexander II was assassinated in March 1881 in a bomb attack carried out by members of the terrorist revolutionary organization Narodnaya Volya (“People’s Will”).

The future Tsar Alexander II was the eldest son of the grand duke Nikolay Pavlovich (who, in 1825, became the emperor Nicholas I) and his wife, Alexandra Fyodorovna (who, before her marriage to the Grand Duke and baptism into the Orthodox Church, had been the princess Charlotte of Prussia). Alexander’s youth and early manhood were overshadowed by the overpowering personality of his dominating father, from whose authoritarian principles of government he was never to free himself. But at the same time, at the instigation of his mother, responsibility for the boy’s moral and intellectual development was entrusted to the poet Vasily Zhukovsky, a humanitarian liberal and romantic. Alexander, a rather lazy boy of average intelligence, retained throughout his life traces of his old tutor’s romantic sensibility. The tensions created by the conflicting influences of Nicholas I and Zhukovsky left their mark on the future emperor’s personality. Alexander II, like his uncle Alexander I before him (who was educated by a Swiss republican tutor, a follower of Rousseau), was to turn into a “liberalizing,” or at any rate humanitarian, autocrat.

Alexander succeeded to the throne at age 36, following the death of his father in February 1855, at the height of the Crimean War. The war had revealed Russia’s glaring backwardness in comparison with more advanced nations like England and France. Russian defeats, which had set the seal of final discredit on the oppressive regime of Nicholas I, had provoked among Russia’s educated elite a general desire for drastic change. It was under the impact of this widespread urge that the tsar embarked upon a series of reforms designed, through “modernization,” to bring Russia into line with the more advanced Western countries.

Among the earliest concerns of the new emperor (once peace had been concluded in Paris in the spring of 1856 on terms considered harsh by the Russian public) was the improvement of communications. Russia at this time had only one railway line of significance, that linking the two capitals of St. Petersburg and Moscow. At Alexander’s accession there were fewer than 600 miles (965 km) of track when he died in 1881, some 14,000 miles (22,525 km) of railway were in operation. In Russia, as elsewhere, railway construction, in its turn, meant a general quickening of economic life in a hitherto predominantly feudal agricultural society. Joint-stock companies developed, as did banking and credit institutions. The movement of grain, Russia’s major article of export, was facilitated.

The same effect was achieved by another measure of modernization, the abolition of serfdom. In the face of bitter opposition from landowning interests, Alexander II, overcoming his natural indolence, took an active personal part in the arduous legislative labours that on Febuary 19, 1861, culminated in the Emancipation Act. By a stroke of the autocrat’s pen, tens of millions of human chattels were given their personal freedom. By means of a long-drawn-out redemption operation, moreover, they were also endowed with modest allotments of land. Although for a variety of reasons the reform failed in its ultimate object of creating an economically viable class of peasant proprietors, its psychological impact was immense. It has been described as “the greatest social movement since the French Revolution” and constituted a major step in the freeing of labour in Russia. Yet at the same time, it helped to undermine the already shaken economic foundations of Russia’s landowning class.

The abolition of serfdom brought in its train a drastic overhaul of some of Russia’s archaic administrative institutions. The most crying abuses of the old judicial system were remedied by the judicial statute of 1864. Russia, for the first time, was given a judicial system that in important respects could stand comparison with those of Western countries (in fact, in many particulars it followed that of France). Local government in its turn was remodeled by the statute of 1864, setting up elective local assemblies known as zemstvos. Their gradual introduction extended the area of self-government, improved local welfare (education, hygiene, medical care, local crafts, agronomy), and brought the first rays of enlightenment to the benighted Russian villages. Before long zemstvo village schools powerfully supported the spread of rural literacy. Meanwhile, Dmitry Milyutin, an enlightened minister of war, was carrying out an extensive series of reforms affecting nearly every branch of the Russian military organization. The educative role of military service was underlined by a marked improvement of military schools. The army statute of 1874 introduced conscription for the first time, making young men of all classes liable to military service.

The keynote of these reforms—and there were many lesser ones affecting various aspects of Russian life—was the modernization of Russia, its release from feudalism, and acceptance of Western culture and technology. Their aim and results were the reduction of class privilege, humanitarian progress, and economic development. Moreover, Alexander, from the moment of his accession, had instituted a political “thaw.” Political prisoners had been released and Siberian exiles allowed to return. The personally tolerant emperor had removed or mitigated the heavy disabilities weighing on religious minorities, particularly Jews and sectarians. Restrictions on foreign travel had been lifted. Barbarous medieval punishments were abolished. The severity of Russian rule in Poland was relaxed. Yet, notwithstanding these measures, it would be wrong, as is sometimes done, to describe Alexander II as a liberal. He was in fact a firm upholder of autocratic principles, sincerely convinced both of his duty to maintain the God-given autocratic power he had inherited and of Russia’s unreadiness for constitutional or representative government.

Practical experience only strengthened these convictions. Thus, the relaxation of Russian rule in Poland led to patriotic street demonstrations, attempted assassinations, and, finally, in 1863, to a national uprising that was only suppressed with some difficulty—and under threat of Western intervention on behalf of the Poles. Even more serious, from the tsar’s point of view, was the spread of nihilistic doctrines among Russian youth, producing radical leaflets, secret societies, and the beginnings of a revolutionary movement. The government, after 1862, had reacted increasingly with repressive police measures. A climax was reached in the spring of 1866, when Dmitry Karakozov, a young revolutionary, attempted to kill the emperor. Alexander—who bore himself gallantly in the face of great danger—escaped almost by a miracle. The attempt, however, left its mark by completing his conversion to conservatism. For the next eight years, the tsar’s leading minister—maintaining his influence at least in part by frightening his master with real and imaginary dangers—was Pyotr Shuvalov, the head of the secret police.

The period of reaction following Karakozov’s attempt coincided with a turning point in Alexander’s personal life, the beginning of his liaison with Princess Yekaterina Dolgorukaya, a young girl to whom the aging emperor had become passionately attached. The affair, which it was impossible to conceal, absorbed the tsar’s energies while weakening his authority both in his own family circle (his wife, the former princess Marie of Hesse-Darmstadt, had borne him six sons and two daughters) and in St. Petersburg society. His sense of guilt, moreover, made him vulnerable to the pressures of the Pan-Slav nationalists, who used the ailing and bigoted empress as their advocate when in 1876 Serbia became involved in war with the Ottoman Empire. Although decidedly a man of peace, Alexander became the reluctant champion of the oppressed Slav peoples and in 1877 finally declared war on Turkey. Following initial setbacks, Russian arms eventually triumphed, and, early in 1878, the vanguard of the Russian armies stood encamped on the shores of the Sea of Marmara. The prime reward of Russian victory—seriously reduced by the European powers at the Congress of Berlin—was the independence of Bulgaria from Turkey. Appropriately, that country still honours Alexander II among its “founding fathers” with a statue in the heart of its capital, Sofia.

Comparative military failure in 1877, aggravated by comparative diplomatic failure at the conference table, ushered in a major crisis in the Russian state. Beginning in 1879, there was a resurgence of revolutionary terrorism soon concentrated on the person of the tsar himself. Following unsuccessful attempts to shoot him, to derail his train, and finally to blow up the Winter Palace in St. Petersburg itself, Alexander, who under personal attack had shown unflinching courage based on a fatalist philosophy, entrusted supreme power to a temporary dictator. The minister of the interior, Count Mikhail Loris-Melikov, was charged with exterminating the terrorist organization (calling itself People’s Will) while at the same time conciliating moderate opinion, which had become alienated by the repressive policies pursued since 1866. At the same time, following the death of the empress in 1880, the tsar had privately married Yekaterina Dolgorukaya (who had borne him three children) and was planning to proclaim her his consort. To make this step palatable to the Russian public, he intended to couple the announcement with a modest concession to constitutionalist aspirations. There were to be two legislative commissions including indirectly elected representatives. This so-called Loris-Melikov Constitution, if implemented, might possibly have become the germ of constitutional development in Russia. But on the day when, after much hesitation, the tsar finally signed the proclamation announcing his intentions (March 1, 1881), he was mortally wounded by bombs in a plot sponsored by People’s Will.

It can be said that he was a great historical figure without being a great man, that what he did was more important than what he was. His Great Reforms indeed rank in importance with those of Peter the Great and Vladimir Lenin, yet the impact of his personality was much inferior to theirs. The tsar’s place in history—a substantial one—is due almost entirely to his position as the absolute ruler of a vast empire at a critical stage in its development.

Which country has fought most against Russia?

Nikolay Grivitsa-Orenburgsky. Taking of the Grivitsa redoubt by the Russians during the Russo-Turkish War of 1877–1878.


10 wars from the middle of the 16 th to the beginning of the 19 th centuries

The history of Russian-Swedish confrontations began in the 12 th century. The Novgorod Republic and Sweden fought for control of the Eastern Baltic. The Orekhovetsky Peace Treaty was signed in 1323, under which Karelia came under Novgorod&rsquos zone of influence, and Finland under Swedish.

However, this was only the beginning of a centuries-old series of conflicts. Sweden in 1377 took control of Western Karelia (Esterbotten), which had been a dependency of Novgorod. After 1478, when the Novgorod Republic became part of the Russian state, the struggle with the Swedes for the Eastern Baltic climbed to a new level.

Ivan III went to war against Sweden for Western Karelia again in 1495. The battles were fought with varying degrees of success. Finally, in March 1497, the warring sides signed the First Novgorod Truce, which was to last for six years. It confirmed the borders as they existed in 1323, as well as the principle of free trade between Sweden and Russia. In March 1510, this truce was extended for another 60 years.

Dennis Martin the Younger. The Battle of Poltava /

The tradition of fighting wars against Sweden for the Baltic would continue under other Russian tsars &ndash Ivan IV, Fyodor I, and Alexis (Aleksey Mikhailovich).

However, it was Peter the Great who made cardinal changes to the balance of power in Russian-Swedish relations. After Russia&rsquos victory in the Northern War (1700-1721), Sweden lost its former power. She lost not only territory that was ceded to Russia, but also a lot of land on the southern shore of the Baltic Sea. Sweden held on only to Wismar and a small part of Pomerania. As a result of the defeat suffered in the Northern War, the &ldquoEra of Freedom&rdquo began in Sweden a period of the weakening power of kings and the increasing importance of the Parliament.

In an effort to regain the lands it lost during the Northern War, Sweden repeatedly came into conflict with the Russian Empire (Russian-Swedish War of 1741-1743, Russian-Swedish War of 1788-1790, and Russian-Swedish War of 1808-1809) but, according to the terms of the Treaty of Fredrikshamn, concluded in September 1809, Sweden ceded to Russia the Åland Islands, Finland and Lapland up to the Torne and Muonio Rivers. Sweden, as a result of wars against Russia, lost more than one third of its territory, and lost the status of a great power.


12 wars during 241 years. On average, the time between Russian-Turkish wars was 19 years.

From the end of the 16 th to the beginning of the 20 th century, bloody wars were constantly fought between the Ottoman and Russian Empires. The &ldquobones of contention&rdquo were control of the Northern Black Sea areas and the North Caucasus, and later &ndash for the control of the South Caucasus, with the right of navigation in the Black Sea and its straits, as well as for the rights of Christians in the Ottoman Empire.

The defeat of Shipka Peak, Bulgarian War of Independence /

During World War I, which resulted in the collapse of the Ottoman Empire, and its division between the countries of the Entente, the Russian Empire also considered the possibility of capturing Constantinople. Ironically, the Soviet Union played a direct role in the establishment of the Turkish Republic. The centuries-old feud turned into economic and military support for Turkey&rsquos president Kemal Ataturk .


10 wars &ndash from 1018 to 1939.

Relations between Russia and Poland have always been strained. Primarily, this was because of the centuries-old proximity of the two states, which constantly gave rise to territorial disputes. During all major European conflicts, Russia has always had to deal with revisions of the Russian-Polish border. The most serious confrontation between Russia and Poland started at the beginning of the 17 th century, with the Time of Troubles and the Polish-Lithuanian Intervention. By the end of the 18 th century, four wars were fought between Russia and the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth, which ended in the second partition of Poland.

Poland became part of the Russian Empire in 1815, but the confrontation between the Poles and Russians did not stop two Polish uprisings of the 19 th century (1830, 1863) forced Russia to take countermeasures. In 1832, the Polish Sejm was abolished and the Polish Army was disbanded. In 1864, restrictions were imposed on the use of the Polish language and the movement of the male members of the population. With all this, Russophobia kept growing in Poland.

The Poles surrender the Moscow Kremlin to Prince Pozharsky in 1612 /

After the Russian Revolution in 1917, the Poles gained their independence at the end of the Soviet-Polish War of 1919-1921, and kept it for a while, but less than 20 years later, in 1939, during the &ldquoLiberation Campaign of the Red Army,&rdquo all the achievements of the Poles during the preceding 20 years were liquidated.

The history of wars

Among other countries with a history of fighting wars against Russia is Germany. They have fought three major wars, two of them being World Wars.

The Russian Empire fought wars against France four times (the 1805-1807 War, the War of 1812, and the Crimean War). Russia and the Soviet Union also fought four wars against Japan, and three times participated in military conflicts with China.

Reproduction of "Victory" painting by artist P. Krivonosov (1911-1967). Oil on canvas. Grekov War Artists' Studio / Balabanov / RIA Novosti

On analysis, the history of Russia is a history of constant war. Russian philosopher Ivan Ilyin wrote: &ldquoSoloviev has counted 200 wars and invasions from 1240 until 1462 (period of 222 years). From the 14 th to the 20 th centuries (period of 525 years), Sukhotin counted 329 years of war. Russia has been fighting wars for two-thirds of its life.&rdquo

A similar idea was expressed by General Alexey Kuropatkin. In 1900, he wrote in his memorandum to Nicholas II: &ldquoOver the past 200 years, Russia has been at war for 128 years and had only 72 years of peace. Of the 128 war years &ndash 5 years we fought defensive wars and 123 years we were engaged in wars of conquest.&rdquo

First published in Russian by Russkaya Semyorka.

If using any of Russia Beyond's content, partly or in full, always provide an active hyperlink to the original material.

How and why did Aleksotas became part of the Russian Empire in 1864? - History

The Migration of the Russian-Germans to Kansas
by Norman E. Saul
Spring, 1974 (Vol. 40, No. 1), pages 38-62
Transcribed by Teresa J. Smith HTML editing by Name withheld upon request
digitized with permission of the Kansas State Historical Society
numbers in brackets refer to endnotes at the bottom of the article.

ONE HUNDRED years ago several thousand German-speaking people from Russia settled on lands in Kansas and left a considerable impact upon the history of the state. The purpose of this article is to examine some of the reasons for the move from Russia, why Kansas became the chief host state, the distinguishing features of their settlement and reception, and their contributions to the history of Kansas. Since the scope of the subject and limitations of space will preclude a thorough analysis of all aspects of the topic, the focus will be on a presentation of a general outline of events, discussions of sources, and thoughts and questions concerning new approaches. Ώ]

          The Russian-Germans ΐ] who arrived in Kansas in the 1870’s settled in two main geographical areas of the state that also correspond to separate places of origin in Russia and, for the majority, to different religious backgrounds. The first to arrive in large numbers, in 1874, were the Mennonites, mainly from the Tauride province of South Russia, who concentrated in Marion, Harvey, and McPherson counties. The other major area of settlement in Kansas, in Ellis, Russell, and Rush counties, was colonized by the Volga Germans of Roman Catholic, Lutheran, and Baptist denominations. Of course, many counties of western and central Kansas became the homes of Russian-Germans, but many of these came later and often involved people who immigrated first to other states or to Canada, Mexico, or South America.

          The Russian-German immigrants were distinctive in several respects from other newcomers to the prairie in the 19th century. First of all, they moved in large groups, settling whole areas, founding their own social and religious communities. Strong religious faith and attachment to particular customs gave these people greater ability to sustain the difficulties of a long trip and reduced the shock of adaptation. That is, unlike most settlers and immigrants, the Russian-Germans maintained, and perhaps even strengthened, their community consciousness. In this respect the Russian-Germans of all denominations resembled the Amish, Hutterite, Mormon, and other religious groups who made the North American frontier their homes.

          The new arrivals from Russia were also similar to religious sects in the fact that they were separated from a developing national consciousness for so long. They had not lived in Germany during the 19th century, the age of nationalism, but in colonies within a particularly non-German society, preserving the customs and traditions of Slavic social and economic institutions. Most of the Russian-Germans, who came to Kansas could, in fact, speak some Russian as well as German. The differences in appearance, manners, and language from other German immigrants were so great that people on the scene quickly and easily referred to them as Russians or "Rooshians." To obtain a basic understanding of these people it is important to examine in some detail where they came from and why they left.


          The Russian-Germans were not the only people of Germanic ancestry residing in the Russian Empire in the 19th century. Germans formed an important part of the merchant population of Moscow and St. Petersburg, and another large German ethnic group was absorbed as the result of territorial expansion, particularly in the 18th century. The "native" Germans consisted mostly of the "Baltic" Germans living in what are now the Soviet republics of Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania. By contrast, the "Russian" Germans were those who migrated to Russia to farm, beginning in the reign of Catherine the Great (1762-1796) and continuing through the first third of the next century. The first territory to be settled by these Germans was on both sides of the middle Volga River near the cities of Samara and Saratov. Catherine the Great was interested in the agricultural development of this region and the pacification of an unruly frontier when she first issued the invitation for foreigners to colonize in 1762. A subsequent manifesto of July 1763 promised free lands, expenses for the move, freedom from taxation for 30 years, and exemption from civil and military service for themselves and their descendants. The empress’s agents recruited settlers especially from the poorer German states devastated by the Seven Years’ War. Α]

          Several thousand colonists, usually from towns rather than villages, both Roman Catholic and Lutheran, accepted the Russian invitation and made the long trek eastward across Russia to the Volga. Under haphazard military supervision and through the turmoil of the Pugachev revolt (1773-1775) they suffered great hardships, but by the beginning of the 1800’s, under the more lenient supervision of a special office of the Ministry of Interior, the Volga Germans prospered, at least relative to the Russian peasantry in general. Others joined them, especially during the Napoleonic wars, and by the 1860’s they numbered around 250,000, approximately the then population of the state of Kansas, and dominated the economic life of two of the Russia’s most productive agricultural provinces&endashSamara and Saratov.

          Another area, in South Russia, was opened to colonial settlement after Russian acquisition of the Black Sea Coast and especially after the annexation of the Crimea in 1783-1784, by which a large expanse of thinly inhabited steppe became part of the Russian Empire. Prince Gregory Potemkin, Catherine’s lover and favorite, was particularly interested in attracting farmer of proven industry to help develop the economic potential of this region called "New Russia." And in addition to Greeks, Bulgarians, Serbs, and other peoples from southeastern Europe, he invited a large number of Mennonites, particularly from the area around Danzig that had fallen under Prussian control as a result of the partitioning of Poland. Coming under heavy pressure from the modernizing ambitions of Frederick the Great to pay taxes and furnish recruits, the Mennonites there decided to accept the Russian conditions of 1763, which were even improved by negotiation to include a substantial subsidy for each family many more followed after the disruptions of the Napoleonic wars in central and northern Europe. Unlike the Volga Germans, the Mennonites generally moved as religious communities with years of agricultural experience behind them. Many were, in fact, Dutch or Swiss in cultural and linguistic heritage rather than German proper. Β]

     The two largest Mennonite colonial areas of South Russia were Khortitsa, on the Dnieper river about 175 miles northwest of the port of Berdiansk (now Osipnenko) on the Sea of Azov, and Molochna, centered around the market town of Halbstadt, about 90 miles from Berdiansk. Other settlements were scattered along the Black Sea coast, in the Crimea, in Bessarabia, and in Russian Poland. The total Mennonite Russian-German population of "New Russia" was about 40,000 by 1869, half of whom lived in the Molochna colony, while the number in all of the Russian Empire was probably not over 75,000. Γ] They fulfilled Potemkin’s original expectations, developing a widely diversified agrarian economy that included orchards, dairying, sheep herding, silk culture, and, of course, the raising of grain. By the middle of the 19th century, their wheat production had become a significant part of Russia’s Black Sea exports to Western Europe. Mennonite entrepreneurs were handling and processing their own products for the Russian or foreign markets, and the Mennonite "oases" of South Russia (as they were referred to in contemporary Russian accounts) were relatively prosperous.

     Though much of the economic and social history of the German settlements in Russia remains to be written, major achievements appear to have been accomplished in those areas. Why, then, did many Russian-Germans decide to move to a new, unknown land? The reason most often cited is that the exemption, which all had enjoyed, from military service was being withdrawn and that the Mennonites in particular, as conscientious objectors, could not tolerate the change in status. It is true, and somewhat ironic, that the Russian government in a liberal-rational course of modernization after the Crimean War was attempting to treat all people living within the Russian boundaries equally, and the new military reform law, devised to create modern, efficient armed forces and which went into effect in 1874, did propose to make everyone, noble and peasant Russian for foreign in origin, subject to the draft. The removal of the special exemption must be considered at least as a catalyst for the idea of emigration. The fact is, however, that only a portion of the Mennonites, and an even smaller percentage of the Volga Germans, actually left Russia at this time. In the case of the Roman Catholics and Lutherans there were no religious scruples against military service, and, of the Mennonites that remained, probably none actually served in the Russian army before the Russian Revolution, since, after several frustrating efforts to settle the issue with the government in St. Petersburg, the Mennonites obtained a compromise that made it possible for they to serve in alternate forestry work under their own administration. Δ]

     Those who could not claim a right to alternate service were subject to the new recruitment, and the first were drafted during the annual November processing in 1874. Hostility to serve in the Russian army was quite high, however, because of the conditions that prevailed for recruits, perhaps exaggerated by rumor, bias against advancement for non-Russians, and the predominance of Russian Orthodox religious services. Ε] Despite this situation, which would become much worse in the 1890’s, the priority of the removal of military exemption as a cause of emigration needs more substantiation than has been offered in the past, and other political, religious, and socio-economic factors should be weighed. It is interesting to observe, for example, that the arriving immigrants in Kansas did not appear to include a particularly large number of recruitment age.

     Politically, the status of the Russian-German colonies was being closely examined in the middle of the 19th century by the imperial government, and the inhabitants could probably not avoid becoming suspicious and restless when on Russian surveying team after another came through their territory. Beginning especially in the 1840’s with their transfer to the new Ministry of State Domains, the central government began to treat the colonists more and more as Russian state peasants. The reform movement of the 1850’s and 1860’s shook the fabric of Russian-German society as well as that of the rest of Russia. Efforts to equalize landholdings among the agricultural population in the peasant emancipation (beginning in 1861) affected the Russian-Germans, especially the Mennonites, whose landholding statistics reflected a wide disparity&endashfrom the several thousand-acre estates of Jansen, Miller, Cornies, Shroeder, Peters, etc. to the many landless, poor families, who, according to Russian records of 1865, included one third of the total Mennonite colonists. Ζ] By a series of government decrees, the richer colonists were being forced to contribute land and supplies for the less fortunate, despite the existence of relief programs within the communities, and Russian courts were examining titles closely for illegal alienation of land that might have resulted since the original grants. Speculation was current that a single family should have only the amount of the first awards, about 175 acres. Η] In any event, the result was a marked increase in Russian interference in the internal life of the Russian-German communities in 1860’s. This caused particular concern within the central organizations in South Russia, The New Russian Mennonite Brotherhood and the Halbstadt Agricultural Society, and may account for the active leadership for emigration by prosperous leaders such as Cornelius Jansen and Bernard Warkentin. ⎖] Separate schools and social and economic autonomy in general were being threatened in addition to the military exemption.

     While new political currents were very much in evidence in Russia in the 1860’s, religious changes were also occurring in a complex, interacting process. West European pietism reached the Mennonite colonies in the 1840’s, and by 1870 a number of church communities had been fragmented by religious controversy. And the revival of sectarianism even influenced the more remote Roman Catholic and Lutheran colonies, where the German Baptist and Methodist movements gained converts. Disputes over church doctrine added to the impulse to get away and start over&endashto make a trek&endashwhich was already a part of the Mennonite tradition of founding daughter colonies. One group of Mennonites, the Hüpferites, left Molochna for a new territory in the Russian Caucasus in 1865, but initial reports on conditions there were discouraging. ⎗] A split in the Alexanderwohl church in the 1860’s was apparently a prime cause of the transplantation of a large part of that Molochna community to Kansas. And the Krimmer Mennonite Brethren was an other offshoot of the 1860’s that joined the emigration. Perhaps a thorough analysis of the religious affairs of the Russian-Germans would result in the conclusion that they were the most important cause of emigration.

     A Russian source (Klaus) emphasizes the relationship of the pietist movement to poorer economic conditions. There may be an interconnection, but none is readily apparent in the Russian-Kansas migration. More relevant are the socio-economic conditions prevailing in Russia around 1870. That Russia at this time was a backward, agricultural country is generally recognized. The growth of rural population was quite rapid in the middle decades of the 19th century, caused especially by the lowering of the death rate through, for example, decreasing the incidence of cholera epidemics. And few new frontiers were open in European Russia that could be cultivated by existing methods. Population pressure (or land hunger) affected the Russian-Germans perhaps higher and death rates lower due to better living conditions. One must remember in this context that the German colonists were not affected by military recruitment and the forced or voluntary labor migrations that relieved some of the pressure from Russian villages.

     The colonies of South Russia, however, were generally in better condition than those of the Volga, because of their proximity to the Black Sea ports and larger per capita allotments of land. According to the Russian census of 1858, Volga villages such as Pfeifer and Herzog averaged 15 acres of land for each male inhabitant, while Alexnaderwohl, a typical Mennonite community, had about 30 acres for each male. An average family holding in the Volga region was around 35 acres and in South Russia over 100 acres. ⎘] On the other hand, although wealthy landholders can be found among the Volga Germans, equality of farm size was much more prevalent there because of more widespread use of the Russian communal land tenure that provided for a redivision of village land periodically. By contrast, in the Molochna area, 32 Mennonite families owned 250,000 acres in 1860 and hired several thousand Mennonite and Russian laborers. ⎙] The Mennonite landless complained to local Russian authorities about their situation, but the result was greater Russian interference and the setting up of more communal land associations, which probably frustrated both rich and poor.

     Besides the land-population crisis, all colonists suffered from declining grain prices due to increased competition from the United States, tax rises (25% between 1840 and 1868), and the withdrawal of economic privileges such as exclusive licenses for the brewing of beer. ⎚] Another factor that needs closer study is the effect of the death in the 1860’s of Joann Cornies, long time patriarch of the South Russian Mennonites who had considerable influence with the government in St. Petersburg. ⎛]

     One escape remained open, and it may have been the Russians who first brought this to their attention. In 1864 an offer, directed especially to the landless Mennonites, of free land, reduced taxes, and guaranteed exemption from military serve was made to those who would move to Eastern Siberia, to the newly acquired Amur river basin. Some, such as Bernard Warkentin, Sr., seriously considered this possibility and made an inspection trip to Siberia, but the remoteness of the land and lack of railroads for exporting grain discouraged further pursuit. ⎜] Besides, the logistics of such a move would be just as great, perhaps greater, than a move to Kansas.

     By 1870, before the terms of the military reform law were known, a number of factors stirred the Russian-German colonies and stimulated projects for movement, and leaders were beginning to discuss the possibilities&endashCanada, Brazil, the Near East, as well as the United States. German language newspapers circulating in both South Russia and the Volga region brought information about immigration, and the Russian government, still of a relatively liberal disposition, made it clear that those Russian-Germans who were not satisfied with their status (as confused as it was) were free to leave the country, an attitude that would later change. But with so much of the world open to them, how did it happen that a large portion of the first Russian-German emigrants came to Kansas?


     Political, religious, and socio-economic turmoil was certainly not alien to Kansas in the 1860’s, and at first glance one would wonder why Russian-Germans in search of peace and quiet and a stable economy would move to an area notorious for its lack of law and order and infested with grasshoppers. In general terms the reason can be found in the achievements of that decade. America and Russia were both witnessing rapid population increases, but in the United States land was available and economic progress was remarkable. Kansas changed in the 1860’s not only through the establishment of new frontier homesteads, but especially by the development of urban market centers and, in connection with this, the phenomenal advance of railroad construction across the state.

     Acts of congress set aside eight and a half million acres of Kansas prairie to promoters on condition that railroads be built through the territory. The successful accomplishment of this task by 1872 gave the two giants, the Kansas Pacific and the Atchison, Topeka, and Santa Fe the right to claim seven million acres in alternate sections 20 miles on both sided of their rights of way. The railroads had not only acquired good agricultural land, but had also contributed to no small degree to the creation of a more civilized urban environment. The change that occurred in the unruly frontier cowtowns was quiet remarkable. For example, one of the wildest of them all, Newton, was quickly tamed by the combined forces of the Santa Fe, the Newton Kansan (beginning publication in 1872), and the Temperance League a local reporter boasted of the progress achieved by August, 1873, just before a small delegation of Russian-German Mennonites toured the area under the guidance and care of railroad agents. ⎝] Besides acres and acres of prairie grass, the visitors must have been impressed by the commercial bustle of the towns, the pace of new construction, and the efficiency and determination of both workers and officials.

     But why did Russian-Germans choose Kansas over other possibilities? To answer that, perhaps other questions are relevant: what brought C. b. Schmidt and Noble Prentis to Kansas, and what inspired Boston capitalists to stick with a nearly bankrupt venture and pull the Santa Fe out of the 1873 depression?

     Kansas was already well advertised by this time, though, of course, not all of the publicity was of a favorable kind. The establishment of the Kansas Immigration Society in 1871, the collection and publication of information by the State Board of Agriculture, and the promotional activities of local newspapers, in particular by the Topeka Commonwealth, did much to extend and improve the image of the state as a suitable home for immigrants and a profitable place for railroads. ⎞]

     With this encouragement the railroads, particularly the Santa Fe, began a gigantic advertising campaign to sell their recently earned land. They were motivated in the first instance by the need to meet payrolls and pay interest on massive floating debits, thereby avoiding collapse. Boston bakers, Joseph and Thomas Nickerson, in association with Kidder, Peabody and Company, manipulated the debts of the Santa Fe through the squeeze of 1873, while in Topeka, at 6th and Kansas, A. E. Touzalin directed the activities of the rapidly expanding passenger and land departments. ⎟] In the latter, at the beginning of 1873, Touzalin set up an immigration office, headed by Carl Bernhard Schmidt, a native of Saxony who arrived in Kansas in 1868 and, prior to his joining the Santa Fe, operated a grocery in Lawrence. ⎠] Schmidt soon established communications with German ethnic groups in the country, and, through Mennonite colonies in other states, learned of the desire of Russian-Germans to emigrate. An American Mennonite leader, Christina Krehbiel, was particularly instrumental in guiding the reconnaissance mission from Russia to Kansas in the summer of 1873. This delegation, which included Jacob Buller and Leonhard Sudermann, looked at land in several Midwestern states, but after their tour of the Santa Fe territory in the Arkansas valley, Schmidt committed them to a preliminary purchase agreement at the end of October. ⎡]

     Railroad land sales went hand in hand with other efforts to sell the state of Kansas. Noble Prentis arrived in Topeka in 1869 to begin a long and distinguished journalistic career. He became well known throughout the region for his feature articles and editorial craftsmanship. It was either Prentis or someone inspired by his example who first brought an awareness of the Russian-German Mennonites to the people of Kansas. The following is an excerpt from the Topeka Blade of November 10, 1873, very much in the Prentis style:


     The writer assumes that Russian-Germans are coming to Kansas, that they will be good for the state, and that they have money, the beginning of an emphasis on the wealth of the Russian-Germans that persisted in the press through the 1870’s. What began in 1873 was a two-sided publicity campaign, selling Kansas to the Russian-Germans and the Russian-Germans to Kansas.

     This kind of exposure of the Russian-Germans prior to their arrival, no doubt assisted by more private and direct pressures from the Santa Fe, contributed to the passage by the Kansas legislature in March, 1874, of an act amending the militia law exempting those who objected on religious grounds from military service upon signing of a simple declaration in the county clerk’s office. ⎣] Soon afterwards David Goertz, a Russian-German Mennonite temporarily residing in Summerfield, Ill., published a pamphlet in German describing the Arkansas valley and including the texts of the new Kansas military exemption provision and the preliminary sale terms. ⎤] Most likely the emigrants did not receive any copies prior to departure from Russia, but they probably obtained them along the route before their arrival in Kansas.

     During the winter and spring of 1874 the findings of the Mennonite delegation to the United States circulated through South Russia. The Krimmer Mennonite Brethren, the Alexanderwohl church, and other groups of Swiss-Volynian Mennonites living in Russian Poland prepared to leave for America. They were able to sell their farms, with crops in the field, at good prices to other Mennonites, and the sale of meeting houses, shares of mutual insurance funds, and other community property provided additional sources of funds. Packing personal belongings in trunks, baskets, sacks, etc., they made their way be caravans to the nearest railroad connection and from there by train to Odessa, the transfer point for the trip across Europe to Hamburg, and from there they sailed by ship to New York. Arrangements for the mass transit were made by railway and shipping agents in Odessa and Hamburg.

Wallachia Prince

In the Second Dacian War (105 C.E.) western Oltenia became part of the Roman province of Dacia, with parts of Wallachia included in the Moesia Inferior province. The Roman limes was initially built along the Olt River (119), before being moved slightly to the east in the second century—during which time it stretched from the Danube up to Rucăr in the Carpathians. The Roman line fell back to the Olt in 245, and, in 271, the Romans pulled out of the region.

The area was subject to Romanization sometime during the Migration Period, when most of present-day Romania was also subject to the presence of Goths and Sarmatian peoples known as the Mureş-Cerneahov culture, followed by waves of other nomadic peoples. In 328, the Romans built a bridge between Sucidava (Celei) and Oescus (near Gigen) which indicates that there was a significant trade with the peoples north of the Danube (a short period of Roman rule in the area is attested under Constantine I). The Goths attacked the Roman Empire south of the Danube in 332, settling north of the Danube, then later to the south. The period of Goth rule ended when the Huns arrived in the Pannonian Plain, and, under Attila the Hun, attacked and destroyed some 170 settlements on both sides of the Danube.

Byzantine influence is evident during the fifth to sixth century, such as the site at Ipoteşti-Cândeşti, but from the second half of the sixth century and in the seventh century, Slavic peoples crossed the territory of Wallachia and settled in it, on their way to Byzantium, occupying the southern bank of the Danube. In 593, the Byzantine commander-in-chief Priscus defeated Slavs, Avars, and Gepids on future Wallachian territory, and, in 602, Slavs suffered a crucial defeat in the area [|Flavius Mauricius Tiberius]], who ordered his army to be deployed north of the Danube, encountered his troops’ strong opposition.

Wallachia was under the control of the First Bulgarian Empire from its establishment in 681, until approximately the Magyar conquest of Transylvania at the end of the tenth century. With the decline and subsequent fall of the Bulgarian state to Byzantium (in the second half of the tenth century up to 1018), Wallachia came under the control of the Pechenegs (a Turkic people) who extended their rule west through the tenth and eleventh century, until defeated around 1091, when the Cumans of southern Russia took control of the lands of Moldavia and Wallachia. Beginning with the tenth century, Byzantine, Bulgarian, Hungarian, and later Western sources mention the existence of small polities, possibly peopled by, among others, Vlachs/Romanians led by knyazes (princes) and voivodes (military commanders)—at first in Transylvania, then in the twelfth-thirteenth centuries in the territories east and south of the Carpathians.

Politics and Government

Aside from their active participation in the labor movement during the early decades of the twentieth century, Russians have generally not become involved in American political life. In a sense, their labor union activity acted as a deterrent to further political work, since many were accused of being socialists or communists. In general, Russians have never formed a strong voting bloc that would encourage American politicians to solicit their support. Only in the past decade, in places like the Brighton Beach area of New York City, have local politicians like U.S. Congressman Stephen Solarz successfully courted the Russian vote.


While Russians may have avoided American politics, they did not shy away from concern with the homeland. This was particularly the case among the White Russian immigrants. The very fact that they were designated White Russians was a political statement. As refugees and political émigrés, most White Russians felt that their stay abroad was only temporary, and that they must live a Russian life while in temporary exile until the inevitable fall of the Soviet Union would allow them to return to a democratic Russia. This was the basic ideology that held the post-World War I White Russians and the post-World War II DPs together, even though they represented a wide variety of political persuasions. At one extreme some believed in the return of the monarchy. This included a woman living in the New York City area who claimed she was Grand Duchess Anatasia (1901-1918), one of the daughters of the last tsar Nicholas II Romanov who somehow had miraculously survived the mass assassination of the royal family. The legitimacy of this woman's claims were never proved or disproved.

Many rejected the monarchy and awaited the creation of a parliamentary liberal democratic state. The leader of this group was Alexander Kerensky (1881-1970), the last prime minister of Russia before the Bolshevik Revolution. He immigrated to New York City on the eve of World War II to escape the Nazi occupation of Paris where he had been living in exile. There were also regional groups like the Don and Kuban Cossacks who argued for autonomy in a future Russia, several socialist and anarchist groups on the political left, and a Russian fascist organization based in Connecticut during the late 1930s on the far right. Among the post-World War II DPs there were also those who believed in Lenin's brand of socialism, which they felt had been undermined by his successor, Joseph Stalin.

Each of these political orientations had at least one organization and publication that was closely linked to or was a branch of the same or similar émigré organization based in western Europe. Despite their various social, propagandistic, and fund-raising activities, none of these Russian-American organizations ever achieved the abolition of Soviet rule in their Russian homeland. Realizing their inability to end communist rule in Russia, some Russian Americans turned their efforts to their community in the United States and its relationship to American society as a whole. These people became concerned with the way they and their culture were perceived and depicted in America's media and public life. In response to those concerns lobbying groups, such as the Congress of Russian Americans and the Russian-American Congress, came into existence in the 1970s.

How was the ‘woman question’ addressed in Russia?

From the mid-19th century, Russian intellectuals, such as the anarchist Petr Kropotkin, began to take an interest in the ‘woman question’. These intellectuals, mostly men and a few noblewomen, debated in salons and the press on the issue of women’s legal and social status and their role in the family.

The campaign for women’s suffrage and equality in Russia gained momentum during and after the 1905 Revolution. More radical groups, such as the Russian Union for Women’s Equality, and journals dedicated to the ‘woman question’ were established.

Bolshevik revolutionaries were critical of what they saw as the ‘bourgeois’ women’s groups, which were mainly run by women from privileged backgrounds. They argued that these ‘bourgeois’ women could not understand the needs of workers and peasant women and that the women’s movement threatened working-class solidarity.

On the newly-established Women’s Day in 1914, a group of Bolshevik women, including Konkordiia Samoilova, Nadezhda Krupskaia and Inessa Armand, published the first Russian socialist women’s journal, Rabotnitsa (The Woman Worker). However, the journal was careful to distance itself from feminist issues. Rabotnitsa ceased publication after only seven issues but was revived in 1917 and became one of the main Bolshevik publications.

Kropotkin and women’s emancipation

An album of press cuttings on the emancipation of women in Russia, collected and annotated by Prince P. A. Kropotkin

After the February Revolution, the fight for women’s suffrage increased, in line with the general call for the implementation of democratic reforms. Along with educated women of the intelligentsia, female workers and peasants also called for the right to vote.

In March 1917, the largest women’s demonstration in Russia’s history took place in Petrograd. Led by Poliksena Shishkina-Iavein, President of the League for Women’s Equal Rights and Russia’s first female gynecologist, and the revolutionary Vera Figner, the march was attended by up to 40,000 women.

In July 1917, women over 20 were given the right to vote and hold public office. The first opportunity to exercise their newly-won right was during elections for the Constituent Assembly in November 1917. In many areas, such as Yaroslavl, the female turnout exceeded that of men.

Seven things to know about the Circassians — and their struggle

The ethnic group has several associations in Turkey which aims to preserve Circassian national heritage. (TRT World and Agencies)

1. Who are the Circassians — and why are they commemorating their expulsion?

The ethnic group, who also self-identify as the Adyghe, come from the North Caucasus region and the northeast shore of the Black Sea. It's an area in the southwest of Russia. They're predominantly Sunni Muslim. The majority of Circassians were forced to flee their homeland in 1864, and have never been able to return.

2. What happened in 1864?

A tragedy began in 1817, when Tsarist Russia invaded the Caucasus.

That incursion led to the Caucasian War, which resulted in Russia's annexation of parts of the area. The Imperial Army drove hundreds of thousands of Circassians out of their homelands, where they boarded ships sent from the Ottoman Empire.

In April 1864, a Circassian delegation wrote a letter to appeal to the Queen of England where they invoked the assistance of the British government and people. But no help was forthcoming.

Circassians were left with no alternative but to seek refuge with the Ottoman Empire.

Only a small number of people remained within Russian Empire's newly drawn boundaries. Around 1.5 million Circassians were forced to flee to the Ottoman Empire, which had governed the Caucasus for several thousand years.

An estimated 400,000 Circassians died either from epidemics among the crowds of deportees or from accidents along their dangerous journey in the Black Sea.

The expulsion involved also Ubykh, Ingush, Arshtins, Chechens, Abkhaz, and Abaza. (TRT World and Agencies)

3. Where are they now?

Circassians now live in almost 40 different countries including Turkey, Israel, Syria, Lebanon, the United States and several European countries.

Nearly six million live in Turkey, and this number accounts for almost 80 percent of the overall community.

Around 10 percent live in an area that was formerly known as Circassia. But this area is now divided into four administrative areas: The Republic of Adygea, The Republic of Kabardino-Balkaria, The Republic of Karachay-Cherkessia and Krasnodar Krai.

4. Why is the area divided into four regions?

All four areas are predominantly Circassian. The Soviet administration might have had one political unit in which all Circassians reside, but it created four units instead, the secretary general of the Federation of Circassian Associations in Turkey, Yilmaz Donmez, told TRT World.

A "divide and rule" political strategy accounts for this, he said.

This French map shows what Europeans considered the boundaries of Circassian lands in the Caucasus in 1742. (none)

5. What kind of challenges do Circassians face in Russia?

There are many difficulties, but the greatest is the barrier to their own language, said Donmez.

"For example, Circassian is not a mandatory class for the students anymore. Imagine that your mother tongue becomes an elective course in your homeland," he said.

Russia's constitution says everyone has the right to use their native language, to freely choose their language of communication, upbringing, education and creativity. But this is not the case in practice..

Last month Elvira Kulokova became embroiled in an altercation with a store in Maykop, the capital city of the Republic of Adygea in Russia after a supermarket employee refused to speak with her in Circassian.

The employee told Kulokova they have to speak in Russian because they are banned from using their mother tongue at work.

‘I want to hear Circassian I want my children to hear it too, but there's too little of it around. And when they forbid that small, native, heartwarming and lullaby sounding speech — forbid where it should be heard — it makes me angry', said Kulokova.

Sibay Andar is an ethnic Circassian refugee from Syria who went to Russia in 2012 with some 340 other Circassians. In this picture, he takes notes at a Russian class in Nalchik. (TRT World and Agencies)

6. Who recognizes the event as a genocide?

Georgia is the only country to recognise the event as a genocide.

"This is probably because Georgia is politically getting closer to the United States, moving away from Russia's influence," Donmez said.

7. Why does the international community neglect it?

"We call all the countries around the world to recognise this event as a genocide," said Donmez.

"But we have an imperial power in front of us: Russia."

"The Circassian genocide doesn't come onto international agenda because of the balance of power in world politics and state interests of the big powers," he continued.

Watch the video: Παιδιά από τη Ρωσία απαντούν σε ερωτήσεις για την Ελλάδα


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