March 16, 2003

History From Below: The Russian Civil War

Pedantry - everything that bored you to death in high school has posted excerpts from Grandpa Martens's accounts of life during the Russian Civil War--and why the coming of Lenin and Trotsky's Bolsheviks to get rid of the anarchists was seen as a true godsend.

Posted by DeLong at March 16, 2003 07:16 AM | TrackBack

Comments

Note that the first victims mentioned died in 1907, full ten years before the revolution... Which tells you things didn't get rotten after the revolution; the phrase "the damn past" (a politically correct way of referring to the Romanovs rule in the early Soviet Russia) did have a reason to exist...

Also, did you know that Russia had a formal estate system up to 1917? Gentry, clergy (but only Orthodox clergy), and cossaks were tax-exempt estates (the cossaks also received from the crown parcels of land after four years of service in elite cavalry), while peasants (roughly 80% of population) and "city dwellers" paid per-capita taxes. Ethnic non-Russians paid a special "alien tax" (yasak) and were exempt from draft and barred from the public education system and public service. All in all, an oppressively elitist system, whose demise was only a matter of time...

Posted by: Nikolai Chuvakhin on March 16, 2003 05:21 PM

Nikolai, actually the ethnic privleges of non-Russians were a key part of Mennonite life in Russia, and among the major factors in the Mennonite migration to Canada was the piecemeal demise of those privleges under the Tsars. Many Mennonites left in the 1870's when the tax exemptions and freedom from conscription began to disappear. Those who, like my ancestors, owned sizeable assets in Russia were the ones who stayed until the revolution put an end to their holdings. Had Lenin managed to make the NEP work, I strongly suspect my family would have stayed close to their property and business and become integrated into Russian society.

Posted by: Scott Martens on March 17, 2003 02:05 AM

"Yasak" look like a Mongol or Turkish word to me. Does anyone know?

Posted by: zizka on March 17, 2003 01:56 PM

Scott,

I am not very familiar with Mennonite history in Russia, but what you are saying does remind me of the perils of Baptists, who were tolerated as long as they remained predominantly German, but began to be persecuted as their faith took root among the Russians... On a tangent, a very similar fate (considerable success in 19th century and nearly total demise between 1870 and 1940) seemed to be in store for the Russians of "old faith", who refused to accept the church reform of early 1700s. One of the most influential merchant families of the 19th century, the Morozov family, was an "old faith" family...

Also, you should understand that there were two classes of non-Russians in Russia. First, there was native population of territories into which Russia was expanding in 15th-20th centuries (first Finno-Ugric, then Turkic and Paleo-Asian). Those were yasak payers. Your ancestors were the other kind, originally invited into the country in 18th century by the crown or influential statesmen as valuable technical experts (hence, privileges).

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zizka,

Yasak is indeed a Turkic word. Originally (13th century), it meant a kind of per-capita tax payable to the Khan by residents of dependent territories (including, of course, the princedoms of Kiev Russia).

When the new Moscow Russia emerged and began to expand, Ivan Kalita, the prince of Moscow, lobbied for, and received, the privilege of collecting yasak for the Khan in the Russian princedoms (around 1330, if I remember correctly). Consequently, the princes of Moscow began to gradually take control over Russia. In particular, Ivan III expanded Moscow's control to Novgorod republic (1478) and Tver princedom (1485), both of which had a sizeable non-Slavonic (mainly Finno-Ugric) population. These, I believe, were the first instances of yasak imposition by the Russian crown on its own behalf...

Posted by: Nikolai Chuvakhin on March 17, 2003 08:45 PM

Yeah, I know the western European foreigners were privileged in Tsarist Russia. It's not quite a coincidence that I have the same last name as a famous Russian diplomat, although I don't think I'm actually related to any Tsarist nobility. Just because it was my ancestors who got the privleges sure doesn't mean they were fair.

The next installment - later this week I expect - will begin with a brief history of the Mennonites.

Posted by: Scott Martens on March 18, 2003 01:31 PM

Yeah, I know the western European foreigners were privileged in Tsarist Russia. It's not quite a coincidence that I have the same last name as a famous Russian diplomat, although I don't think I'm actually related to any Tsarist nobility. Just because it was my ancestors who got the privleges sure doesn't mean they were fair.

The next installment - later this week I expect - will begin with a brief history of the Mennonites.

Posted by: Scott Martens on March 18, 2003 01:31 PM

Yeah, I know the western European foreigners were privileged in Tsarist Russia. It's not quite a coincidence that I have the same last name as a famous Russian diplomat, although I don't think I'm actually related to any Tsarist nobility. Just because it was my ancestors who got the privleges sure doesn't mean they were fair.

The next installment - later this week I expect - will begin with a brief history of the Mennonites.

Posted by: Scott Martens on March 18, 2003 01:32 PM

Yeah, I know the western European foreigners were privileged in Tsarist Russia. It's not quite a coincidence that I have the same last name as a famous Russian diplomat, although I don't think I'm actually related to any Tsarist nobility. Just because it was my ancestors who got the privleges sure doesn't mean they were fair.

The next installment - later this week I expect - will begin with a brief history of the Mennonites.

Posted by: Scott Martens on March 18, 2003 01:32 PM

Yeah, I know the western European foreigners were privileged in Tsarist Russia. It's not quite a coincidence that I have the same last name as a famous Russian diplomat, although I don't think I'm actually related to any Tsarist nobility. Just because it was my ancestors who got the privleges sure doesn't mean they were fair.

The next installment - later this week I expect - will begin with a brief history of the Mennonites.

Posted by: Scott Martens on March 18, 2003 01:33 PM

Yeah, I know the western European foreigners were privileged in Tsarist Russia. It's not quite a coincidence that I have the same last name as a famous Russian diplomat, although I don't think I'm actually related to any Tsarist nobility. Just because it was my ancestors who got the privleges sure doesn't mean they were fair.

The next installment - later this week I expect - will begin with a brief history of the Mennonites.

Posted by: Scott Martens on March 18, 2003 01:33 PM

Yeah, I know the western European foreigners were privileged in Tsarist Russia. It's not quite a coincidence that I have the same last name as a famous Russian diplomat, although I don't think I'm actually related to any Tsarist nobility. Just because it was my ancestors who got the privleges sure doesn't mean they were fair.

The next installment - later this week I expect - will begin with a brief history of the Mennonites.

Posted by: Scott Martens on March 18, 2003 01:34 PM

Yeah, I know the western European foreigners were privileged in Tsarist Russia. It's not quite a coincidence that I have the same last name as a famous Russian diplomat, although I don't think I'm actually related to any Tsarist nobility. Just because it was my ancestors who got the privleges sure doesn't mean they were fair.

The next installment - later this week I expect - will begin with a brief history of the Mennonites.

Posted by: Scott Martens on March 18, 2003 01:35 PM

Yeah, I know the western European foreigners were privileged in Tsarist Russia. It's not quite a coincidence that I have the same last name as a famous Russian diplomat, although I don't think I'm actually related to any Tsarist nobility. Just because it was my ancestors who got the privleges sure doesn't mean they were fair.

The next installment - later this week I expect - will begin with a brief history of the Mennonites.

Posted by: Scott Martens on March 18, 2003 01:35 PM

Yeah, I know the western European foreigners were privileged in Tsarist Russia. It's not quite a coincidence that I have the same last name as a famous Russian diplomat, although I don't think I'm actually related to any Tsarist nobility. Just because it was my ancestors who got the privleges sure doesn't mean they were fair.

The next installment - later this week I expect - will begin with a brief history of the Mennonites.

Posted by: Scott Martens on March 18, 2003 01:36 PM

Geez. I didn't even resubmit. I just pressed "POST" and went to the bathroom.

Posted by: Scott Martens on March 18, 2003 01:39 PM
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