Arkadak (Russian: Аркада́к) was the name of a Mennonite colony near the station of the same name in the Russian province of Saratov, district Balashov (51° 56′ 18.96″ N, 43° 30′ 9″ E), with about 180 Mennonite families, of whom about one-sixth belonged to the Mennonite Brethren Church. The land, 9,414 desiatinas (about 25,500 acres), was bought in 1910 by the land commission of Chortitza for the landless of the Chortitza district (volost). Several other Mennonite districts of Ekaterinoslav province took part in the purchase; each settler received a farm of 50 desiatinas (135 acres).
Through the colony flows the little Arkadak River, a tributary of the Khopor, which sends its waters southward to the Don. On the left bank of the Arkadak lay the villages of Vladimirovka, Borissopol, Dmitrovka and Marianovka. They had flat land, the soil slightly mixed with sand. The other three villages, Vyazemskoye, Leonidovka and Lidyevka, were situated on the right bank of the Arkadak. The land there was rolling, and the soil less sandy than on the other side. The entire settlement had good, fertile land (20 to 28 inches of humus, subsoil mostly clay). Wheat, rye, barley, oats, sunflower and millet throve best here. The purchase price was about 170 rubles per desiatina ($32 per acre); after three years the value of the land had almost doubled. The villages, each consisting of 24 to 27 homesteads, were from one to five miles from the station and post office of Arkadak. A number of Mennonites established businesses and industries at Arkadak. The colony was prosperous and a success during the first decade of its existence.
The first—and for one year the only—minister of the colony was Abraham Martens (born 6 December 1868 in Einlage, Chortitza; died 27 April 1911 in Arkadak). He was a gifted man, whose delicate physique early succumbed to the threefold burden of pioneer farming, preaching and teaching school. In 1913 the colony had six ministers of the Mennonite Church: Johann Braun and Gerhard Löwen in Vyazemskoye, Abraham Ens in Leonidovka, Johann Nikkel in Dmitrovka, Johann Bueckert and Johann Nikkel in Borissopol. It had three Mennonite Brethren ministers: Johann Pauls in Vyazemskoye, Heinrich Block in Dmitrovka and Johann Epp in Marianovka. Baptism and communion were administered in the Mennonite Church by the elders of Chortitza. The ministers were unsalaried and were teachers or farmers by profession.
The main church building of the Mennonite Church was a spacious house built by Prince Vyazemsky for his laborers in the village Vyazemskoye. In the other villages services were held every two weeks in school buildings or homes. From 1912 on church records were kept. The Mennonite Brethren met every Sunday in private homes. Later a church building was secured in Vyazemskoye. For the instruction of candidates for baptism the Mennonites used the Katechismus der Mennonitengemeinden in Russland.
For a while a secondary school functioned at Borissopol, Arkadak. In most of the villages there were small choral societies with mixed choruses of more than 80 members. The colony helped to support the home for the mentally ill, Bethania, and the foreign missions of the Dutch and Russian Mennonites. The colony had also set up a fund for the traveling expenses of ministers and elders who visited them. The village population was made up of farmers, but near the station there was a settlement of sixteen Mennonite families who owned a farm-machinery factory, a steam driven mill, an oil press, a large tile factory, etc. The colony was not organized as an independent district (volost) but was attached to the Russian volost of Arkadak, near which it was located.
By the time of the Revolution in 1917 most of the settlers had paid for their land, which was then nationalized and redistributed according to the size of the family. During the Revolution and immediately thereafter the settlement suffered comparatively little. Some hardships were experienced during the following years of drought. During the New Economic Policy (NEP) period a gradual revival of some economic phases took place.
The Mennonite Church of Arkadak, which consisted of some 250 members in 1914, had grown to 350 in 1925, the total population being about 1,500. From 1922 to 1925 the leading minister of the Mennonite Church was Johann Bueckert, although elders from the Old Colony still administered baptism and communion services. In 1926 Dietrich Rempel was elected the first elder. At this time meetings were possible only in private homes in small numbers and possibly at funerals. On 8 August 1925, 156 persons left Arkadak, arriving in Quebec on 4 September. They were followed by other families.
Until 1926-1927 the use of the traditional textbooks, opening the schools with song and prayer, and Christmas programs had been tolerated. After this the old teachers were dismissed and the communistic program was fully instituted. In 1931 the schools of the first four villages and of the latter three were consolidated into two schools consisting of four grades. A secondary school was established in the church buildings at Vyazemskoye. Only a few of the young people became members of the komsomol (Communist Youth Society).
In 1929 collectivization was forcibly introduced into the villages by various means. Many families joined those in Moscow waiting for permission to leave the country, in which they failed. At this time some fifteen men were exiled including Elder Dietrich Rempel. The resistance was broken and thus collectivization was enforced.
Gradually exemption from military service, in which respect Johann Bueckert deserves especially much credit, became impossible. The last young men permitted to do alternative service under the greatest hardships were drafted in 1932. They were treated like criminals. At the time of the battle of Stalingrad the inhabitants of the entire Arkadak settlement were evacuated to Asiatic Russia (September 1941), scattered over a large area of industries and collective farms, and were compelled to eke out a meager living. It is not known what happened to the villages which they left behind. Many of those in exile perished because of the poor living conditions.
Hege, Christian and Christian Neff. Mennonitisches Lexikon, 4 vols. Frankfurt & Weierhof: Hege; Karlsruhe; Schneider, 1913-1967: v. I, 82.
Cite This Article
Lohrenz, Gerhard and Cornelius Krahn. "Arkadak (Saratov Oblast, Russia)." Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. 1953. Web. 30 Oct 2014. http://gameo.org/index.php?title=Arkadak_(Saratov_Oblast,_Russia)&oldid=54004.
Lohrenz, Gerhard and Cornelius Krahn. (1953). Arkadak (Saratov Oblast, Russia). Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. Retrieved 30 October 2014, from http://gameo.org/index.php?title=Arkadak_(Saratov_Oblast,_Russia)&oldid=54004.
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