Tavonius, Erich A. (1872-1927)

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Erich A. Tavonius: doctor and medical instructor; born on 3 October 1872 in Psebaj (now Krasnodar) in the Kuban region of Russia to Alexander and Alexandra (Schulinus) Tavonius. He was the third of five children in the family. In 1900 he married Margarethe Baumann, daughter of a pastor from Prischib, across the Molotschnaya River from Halbstadt. The couple had four daughters, all of whom survived childhood, including Erika, who was also a medical doctor. Erich died on 29 April 1927 in Melitopol, South Russia.

Erich’s father was a Swedish doctor serving in a Russian military outpost, and his mother was originally from Dorpat (now Tartu), near Königsberg in East Prussia. Erich attended school first in Gluchow, where his father had been posted, and then in Dorpat, where the family moved after the death of Erich’s father. On finishing his studies, Erich received a scholarship of 100 rubles per year to attend the University of Dorpat, where he entered the Faculty of Medicine.

Erich graduated from the university in 1895 with highest honors. His first appointment was at a hospital in Krenenchug, province of Poltava. In 1900, after several more appointments, he became Chief of Staff at the Muntau Hospital, as well as Regional Medical Officer. He stayed there for 27 years, with several long breaks for illness or family issues, performing most or all of the operations done in the hospital.

A tragedy that greatly affected the Tavonius family was the murder of Margarethe’s parents and one of her sisters in a robbery. After that, Erich and Margarethe took an extended leave in Simferopol to recuperate from the shock. Margarethe temporarily recovered from her trauma, but her mental health soon worsened again and she eventually had to be admitted to a mental hospital for a long-term stay. Erich was left to raise the couple’s children with help from his mother and sister. 

Erich Tavonius had hoped to work overseas, but in the spring of 1906, when he could not find a placement, he returned to the Muntau hospital. There he became involved in founding and teaching in the Morija Deaconess Home, dedicated in 1910. Erich continued to teach there when it became a medical institute in the 1920s. He contributed to various charities, and although he likely never joined a Mennonite congregation but rather attended one of the German churches in Prischib, he was deeply involved in the lives of the Mennonites in the community.

When World War I broke out, Erich Tavonius was mobilized, being called first to serve as administrator of a reserve field hospital in the spring of 1915. He continued to serve in various locations until he was discharged in the summer of 1918. His health had been badly affected by his living conditions and several injuries, but he returned to work in Muntau after the war, taking frequent holidays because of the chronic insomnia that left him fatigued.

In the aftermath of the Russian Revolution, Erich Tavonius became involved in finding help for people in his community. He wrote letters to the Mennonitische Rundschau to request information and to thank donors for food and medical supplies, and even to invite people to register in the nursing school. His last letter was published a month after his death. Weakened by frequent health problems and a fever resulting from a cold, he died, likely of a heart attack, on 29 April 1927.

Erich A. Tavonius was a dedicated doctor who, despite many personal and health problems, managed to have a significant impact on many people. His work in the Muntau Hospital and his advocacy for the Mennonites of the Molotschna improved many people’s lives.


Der Bote (10 April 1973): 1-2.

“Doktor Erich Tavonius.” Unser Blatt (July 1927): 307-311.

Friesen, A. A. Personal letter to Dr. Tavonius (3 November 1922).

Huebert, Helmut T. Events and People: Events in Russian Mennonite History and the People That Made Them Happen. Winnipeg, MB: Springfield, 1999: 137-140.

Lorenz, Gerhard. Heritage Remembered. Winnipeg, MB: CMBC Publications, 1974: 79.

Mennonitische Rundschau (6 May 1903): 9; (19 September 1923): 10; (1 June 1927): 2; (8 June 1927): 5, 8; (25 June 1958): 11.

Tavonius, Erich. Personal letter to A. A. Friesen (19 June 1922).

Author(s) Susan Huebert
Date Published March 2009

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MLA style

Huebert, Susan. "Tavonius, Erich A. (1872-1927)." Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. March 2009. Web. 28 Sep 2023. https://gameo.org/index.php?title=Tavonius,_Erich_A._(1872-1927)&oldid=143090.

APA style

Huebert, Susan. (March 2009). Tavonius, Erich A. (1872-1927). Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. Retrieved 28 September 2023, from https://gameo.org/index.php?title=Tavonius,_Erich_A._(1872-1927)&oldid=143090.

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