Claassen, David Ivanovitch (1855-1932)

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David Ivanovitch Claassen was born 9 May 1855 in the village of Liebenau, Molotschna, Ukraine, as the sixth child of Johann and Catharina (Reimer) Claassen. He had five brothers and four sisters. In the 1860s he moved with his parents to Kuban, where his father succeeded in acquiring a tract of land from the government for the settlement of the members of the newly organized Mennonite Brethren Church. Young David Claassen (who was generally known as David Ivanovitch) was richly talented. His sincere Christian faith and his kindness to the poor and the lower classes soon made him one of the outstanding leaders of the Kuban settlement.

On 10 April 1882 he married Anna Reimer. Little is known about his family. One son, Nikolai Claassen, a beloved physician, was shot to death by the Bolsheviks, together with his wife Helma (Meyer), in the city of Losowaya.

His positions and services were many. He was an ordained minister of the Mennonite Brethren Church. For some years he served also, as Oberschulze (chief magistrate) of the Kuban settlement. His first official meeting he opened with prayer. For 24 years, until 1902, he served as principal and instructor of a progressive high school, which also had been founded by him. For his outstanding achievements in the field of horticulture he was honored by the Russian government.

In the year 1906 he was called to the Molotschna colony, where he served as instructor of German in the Zentralschule as well as in the normal school at Halbstadt. Soon after his arrival he was elected to the position of president of the educational board of the Molotschna settlement. A great responsibility was entrusted to him when he was appointed the chief director of Alternative Service for all the Mennonites of Russia. For nine years, including the critical years of World War I, he served in this capacity. He was very likely the author of the printed annual reports. After the Revolution of 1917 he went back to Kuban, where he lost all his property. Later he was also arrested and kept in prison for a long time. After his release, he came home a sick man. He died at the age of 77 and was buried at Wohldemfürst on 1 November 1932.

His biography is published in Mennonitische Märtyrer (1949) by A. A. Töws, Abbotsford, British Columbia. His life story is also found in a pamphlet written by his brother D. J. Classen, Bakersfield, California, under the title History of the Classen Family.

Author(s) A. A Toews
Date Published 1953

Cite This Article

MLA style

Toews, A. A. "Claassen, David Ivanovitch (1855-1932)." Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. 1953. Web. 22 May 2024.,_David_Ivanovitch_(1855-1932)&oldid=112174.

APA style

Toews, A. A. (1953). Claassen, David Ivanovitch (1855-1932). Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. Retrieved 22 May 2024, from,_David_Ivanovitch_(1855-1932)&oldid=112174.


Adapted by permission of Herald Press, Harrisonburg, Virginia, from Mennonite Encyclopedia, Vol. 1, p. 612. All rights reserved.

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