Abstract: Mennonites lived alongside Nogais-semi-nomadic Tatar pastoralists-in the Molochna region of southern Ukraine from 1803, when Mennonites first arrived, until 1860, when the Nogais departed. In Menno-nite historiography, Mennonites, led by Johann Cornies, have been portrayed as paternal benefactors to the "backward" Nogais. Using newly-mined archival sources, this essay traces the economic interaction of Mennonites and Nogais to argue that, by the 1840s, Nogai share-pasturers became an important outlet for Mennonite, and particularly landless Mennonite, agricultural investment. That relationship undermined the Nogai economy and became an important motive for the Nogai exodus, which in turn was a significant factor igniting the Mennonite landlessness crisis of the 1860s.
The insularity of Russian Mennonite historiography and its disregard for Mennonite relations with neighboring peoples and the Russian state is often bemoaned, but only in the last decade have historians begun to seriously address the issue. When it enters historical accounts at all, Mennonite contact with Nogais-semi-nomadic Tatar pastoralists-after the first few years of settlement, is portrayed as paternalistic, with Johann Cornies, a philanthropic benefactor, selflessly striving to "civilize" backward Nogai tribes. Not surprisingly that is how Cornies himself understood the relationship and, to give credit where it is due, he genuinely sought to help the Nogais. However, the relationship was far more complex and had important implications for Mennonites as well as Nogais.
The Nogai exodus from the Molochna region was one of several factors helping to ignite the landlessness crisis of the 1860s; landless Mennonites leased large tracts of Nogai land and, when the Nogais departed in 1860, the Russian state ceded the leased land to Bulgarian colonists, forcing Mennonites to look elsewhere. That much of the story is well known, but its antecedents have never been explored. Mennonites had been pasturing sheep on Nogai land since at least 1825 when Cornies initiated his first philanthropic program, and by the 1840s share-pasturing contracts between Nogais and both landed and landless Mennonites were a significant form of Mennonite agricultural investment. These contracts undermined the traditional Nogai economy, because they encouraged the creation of a highly differentiated society dependent on a sheep monoculture. When an epidemic decimated Nogai herds in 1848, Nogai society was thrown into crisis. Mennonites, many themselves badly harmed by the epidemic, took advantage of the situation, leasing prime Nogai land and consequently hindering the recovery of the Nogai economy. This situation contributed to the Nogais' decision to leave the Molochna. Thus the Nogai exodus, which itself helped to spark the Mennonite landlessness crisis, was partially rooted in philanthropic programs initiated by Cornies in 1825.
The Nogai Tatar Horde splintered off the Golden Horde in the fourteenth century, breaking into smaller groups that scattered across the steppe from the lower Trans-Volga to Bessarabia. In the 1770s and 1780s Catherine the Great resettled approximately 120,000 Nogais from Bessarabia and areas northeast of the Sea of Azov to the Kuban and the Caucasus. In 1790, during Catherine's second Russo-Turkish war, Prince Gregory Potemkin again ordered the resettlement of some 1000 Nogai families from the Caucasus, where he feared they might defect to the Turks, to the north shore of the Sea of Azov. Arriving in 1792, this group was eventually joined by three others: a group from the Caucasus in 1796; one from Bessarabia in 1807; and another from the Caucasus in 1810. This brought the total Nogai population in the Molochna to about 30,000 persons. It would never grow much beyond that number, peaking at 35,149 in 1859.
There is little direct evidence about internal administration in the Nogai community in its first years in the Molochna, but studies of Central Asian steppe nomads provide guidance. Nomadism placed limits on political authority, for nomads spent much of the year in small groups beyond the direct influence of political leaders. Central Asian nomads lived in auls, mobile villages composed of as few as two and seldom more than ten nuclear households, each consisting of a man, his wife and their unmarried children. An aul was typically made up of households headed by close relatives and forming a primary kin group, which was led by the eldest male, advised and supported by the heads of other households. Groups of auls often formed confederations known as hordes with common territorial rights. All members of a horde traced their descent through the male line to one common ancestor, often Ghengis Khan, and such descent myths provided "a theoretical foundation for social integration." The Nogai descent myth included Ghengis Khan but extended back to the biblical figure Ismail, son of Abraham and Hagar.
The leader of a horde was the bey. His sons and close male relatives formed a hereditary nobility known as murzas who led their own auls, which were often larger than the norm, containing as many as fifty households. The murzas' control of the horde was based on their senior genealogical position; it was "frequently the aristocracy . . . which [cultivated] knowledge of genealogies and [manipulated] them so as to give an ideological basis to their ruling positions." Beys and murzas were responsible for the allocation of key resources, the establishment and regulation of migration routes, the defense of the horde's territory, and other common interests.
Beys, murzas, and leaders of auls gained economic advantages from their positions. For example, they could arrogate to themselves the best grazing territory and exact labor services-particularly livestock supervision-from other clan members. However, nomadism placed limits on economic differentiation as well as on political authority. The most basic limitation was that the means of production, the pasturage, was held communally. A second important factor was that nomadic households required a minimum amount of livestock to subsist. That placed a lower limit on the size of a viable household's herds, whereas the need for mobility and the environmental limitations of pasturelands placed a maximum limit on herd sizes. Many of the trappings of wealth in sedentary society were simply impractical for nomads, who were limited in their personal belongings to the things they could carry with them. The stability of nomadic societies was ensured in part by the safety valve of surrounding sedentary societies, which provided an outlet for those whose herds grew too small to be viable, whether through misfortune or mismanagement, and for those who found the attraction of greater wealth irresistible.
In the Molochna the Nogai land grant encompassed 352,776 desiatinas of land (approximately 385,000 hectares), of which 285,000 desiatinas were considered "useful" (udobnaia) and 67,776 desiatinas "not useful." These vague terms reflected the state's vague understanding of the region, for the Nogai grant was located on the wormwood steppe of the Azov Lowlands, an area of poor chestnut topsoils with humus content ranging from 3% at its northern border, the Iushanlee River, to 0.5% in the highly alkaline areas immediately bordering the Sea of Azov. The region was characterized in its natural state by sparse growths of wormwood grass and, in places along the coast, salt-marsh grass. Its aridity-annual precipitation a mere 320 millimeters on the coast, rising to about 380 millimeters at the Iushanlee River-meant that without irrigation the bulk of it was suitable only for pasture. That was not a drawback for the Nogais, who were semi-nomadic pastoralists accustomed to eking out a living on the arid steppe.
German naturalist and explorer P. S. Pallas, who travelled through the Nogai lands in October 1794, provides the earliest glimpse of the Melitopol Nogais. Travelling from east to west, Pallas met with three Nogai clans: the Yedichkul Horde that ranged along the Berda River; the Dchambuiluk Horde that ranged along the Kaisak River; and the Yedissan Horde that ranged along the Molochna River. The first state-appointed nachalnik (chief) of all Nogais in the region, Baiazet Bey, was drawn from the latter. The Nogais whom Pallas met lived in yurts, round wooden-framed felt-covered nomadic tents typical of Central Asian nomads. Pallas describes how "in the summer, these people, with their flocks, travel northward along the banks of the rivulets, where they sow wheat and millet in remote places, and neglect all further cultivation till the time of harvest. At the return of winter, they again approach the Sea of Azov." They are a good example of what anthropologist A. M. Khazanov calls "semi-nomadic pastoralism, characterized by extensive pastoralism and the periodic changing of pastures during the course of the entire, or the greater part of the year; but although pastoralism is the predominant activity, there is also agriculture in a secondary, supplementary capacity." Khazanov describes how Central Asian semi-nomadic pastoralists follow a seasonal migratory pattern, moving north in summer to take advantage of richer pastures in less arid regions, then returning south in winter where weather is warmer and snow cover not as deep or long-lasting.
The Nogais whom Pallas saw had only recently arrived in the Molochna, and it is not surprising that they retained semi-nomadic practices. On the other hand, conditions in the Molochna were not identical to those in the Caucasus, for the range of Nogai migration was limited by state peasant settlements to the immediate north on the Tokmak and Konskaia Rivers. The first detailed map of the Molochna region, drawn in 1797 in the unrealized expectation of settling French peasants in the area, shows ten Nogai villages scattered along the banks of the Molochna and Iushanlee Rivers. There are grounds for believing that the villages were not simply temporary encampments; indeed five of them, located north of the Iushanlee River beyond the borders of the Nogai land grant, were still in place in 1803 when the state ordered their occupants off the land to make way for Mennonites who had been ceded the area for colonization. In a petition to the Civil Governor of Tavride, Nogai nachalnik Baiazet Bey asked: "Who will pay for the houses they have built? . . . Who will pay for the . . . grain that stands in the fields of the places they have left?" This is clearly not a description of temporary encampments.
In 1808 the state sharply changed its policy toward the Nogais, shifting its focus to wardship and away from the concern with security that had originally prompted the state's relocation of the horde to the Molochna. Official state correspondence from the period is full of allusions to what the Nogais were understood to be-nomads-and to what, in the eyes of Russian officials, they ought to have become-sedentary peasant agriculturists. The first man assigned to bring about this transformation was the graf Demaison, a French nobleman of indeterminate background who had entered Russian service in 1802. After Baiazet Bey's death in 1805 the position of Nogai nachalnik was filled by temporary appointees until Demaison took over in 1808; he would hold the position until 1825. Johann Cornies, who lived in the village of Ohrloff near the Nogai land grant, has left a glowing portrait of Demaison's tenure:
Under the rule of that wise and unselfish nachalnik, the Nogais made clear progress toward enlightenment and morality. Finding them dwelling in portable felt tents, which were highly deleterious to their health, he built them good homes, ending their nomadic way of life and arousing them to the work of agriculture with great zeal and profit. The philanthropic graf governed with fatherly patience and love, and only when all measures of indulgence proved ineffective did he turn to strong measures.
When the Duc de Richelieau, Governor General of New Russia, appointed Demaison, he issued clear instructions to the graf to move the Nogais from their tents to permanent settlements without delay. A. I. Borozdin, Civil Governor of Tavride, in turn ordered that sites be selected for permanent villages. However, as Demaison soon reported, the Nogais had a "strong desire to settle their households in those buildings that they have already constructed for themselves," and at his recommendation the district land surveyor simply approved the location of already-established villages. Two years later Tsar Alexander I rewarded Demaison for this feat of legerdemain by making him a Knight of the Order of the Apostle Prince Vladimir fourth class. The permanent settlement of the Nogais, then, apparently involved nothing more than designating as villages the permanent structures they already occupied.
Although Cornies was effusive in his praise of Demaison, the graf was less well liked by the Nogais themselves. In 1815 they threatened a wholesale exodus to Turkey, and in 1820 they accused Demaison of cheating them of salt revenues. Even the admiring Cornies admitted that Demaison caused "unhappiness and discontent" among the Nogais, who felt "as if he were attempting to enslave them, and drive them to excessive labors."
Nor can Demaison be credited with bringing fundamental social or economic change to the Nogais, for by 1825, despite his best efforts to promote arable husbandry, they remained pastoralists. Still, Nogai herds expanded enormously during his tenure, from 35,961 cattle and horses and 15,448 sheep in 1807 to 221,284 cattle and horses and 132,392 sheep at their peak in 1819. This rapid growth suggests that Nogai society was undergoing a dramatic transformation, probably attributable to the influx of some 100,000 peasant agriculturists (including Mennonites) to the region by 1835. These agriculturists provided wages to Nogais, particularly during peak agricultural seasons, and they also provided a market for horses and cattle, tallow, hides and meat. 
Although pastoralism was a logical choice for Nogais both economically and environmentally, that does not mean they chose pastoralism out of either economic or environmental considerations for, as in most pastoral societies, livestock played an important cultural role. If economics had decided the matter, Nogais would probably have raised sheep for wool, but in 1825 sheep still made up less than a third of Nogai livestock. Wealthy Nogai men were not distinguished by their sheep, their clothes or their houses but by the size of their herds of cattle and horses. Indeed, Daniel Schlatter, a Swiss missionary who made two lengthy visits to the Molochna in the 1820s, even suggested that Nogai men valued their horses above their wives.
From an environmental perspective the enormous growth of Nogai herds was hardly desirable. In 1825 Cornies worried that Nogais were over-grazing their land, and he was probably right. Agronomists measure the carrying capacity of pasture in "animal unit months," the number of months an area will support one 450-kilogram cow or horse, assuming average daily consumption of twelve kilograms of dry matter. Based on this calculation, each desiatina in the Molochna could support an estimated .64 of the small local cows or horses or 1.71 sheep. Thus in 1819 Nogai herds would have needed 387,000 desiatinas of grazing land-more than the total Nogai land allotment. Because Nogai pastures were strained to their limits, it is little wonder that the harsh winter of 1825 saw over 45,000 Nogai cattle and horses die.
Economic differentiation went hand-in-hand with the growth in Nogai herds. As discussed above, nomadism had placed limits on economic differentiation. However, in the Molochna, hemmed in by surrounding settlers, Nogais abandoned nomadism for sedentary pastoralism and economic differentiation soon followed. In the 1820s Schlatter saw poor Nogais begging for grain, and he frequently mentioned distinctions between poor and rich, although he was impressed by the equal access to land still enjoyed by all Nogais and thought all but the poorest had adequate incomes. Living in a Nogai household, Schlatter said his host Ali was "not rich, but all the same had thirty head of cattle and five horses." In 1824 the average Nogai household had nine horses, twenty-six head of cattle, and twenty-two sheep, so Ali was indeed below the norm. Notably he owned no sheep, for Nogais were traditionally cattle herders, and the transition to sheep-raising by some Nogais was a sign of economic assimilation, a subject examined more fully below.
Before departing for his retirement home in the Crimea in 1825, Demaison reflected on his accomplishments as Nogai nachalnik, recounting successes settling the Nogais and forcing them to grow grain but acknowledging that there was still much to do. The problem, he wrote, was that "Nogais have, in every village, extra land amounting to more than fifteen desiatinas per soul, and this is to be lamented, for if they continue to be allowed to herd livestock like steppe nomads, then their transition to a sedentary status will remain in doubt." In other words, they simply had too much land. The implied solution was to deprive them of the excess. However, rather than resorting to this extremity, the state tried other less arbitrary methods, turning to Cornies to spearhead the second major campaign to civilize the uncooperative Nogai Tatar Horde. Perhaps learning from Demaison's failures, Cornies tried to lead by example and not compulsion.
Before Cornies began taking an active role in 1825, relations between Nogais and Mennonites had been strained. The first encounter between the two groups came in 1803 when the state evicted five Nogai villages from prime sites along the banks of the Molochna River to make way for the first Mennonite immigrants. Nogai raids on Mennonite herds were a constant problem in the first two decades of settlement, and in 1811 four Mennonites were murdered by Nogais, leading the state to disarm all Nogais two years later. Still, not all relations were bad. Mennonites provided agricultural jobs to Nogais and rented pasture from them, helping to account for the prosperity some Nogais achieved. Cornies' first contact with Nogais came in his father's home, where Johann Sr.'s reputation as a healer brought many Nogais to his door.
Perhaps motivated by this early contact, Cornies became a student of Nogai history and keen observer of contemporary Nogai life. In an unpublished 1825 essay he first outlined his own program for their improvement:
Can not at least the principal town of Nogaisk itself be improved and enlarged and provided with a high school? Can not a model colony be established in the region, for poor but industrious and willing Nogais, which could serve as a model for other Nogai villages? Can not a flock of improved sheep be bought through the community treasury, to be paid for from the profits of the improved wool in the future?
Although Cornies was never officially charged with improving the condition of the Nogais, programs he began to implement in 1825 and supervised until his death in 1848 would gain the state's full support.
The prize exhibit in Cornies' programs was the model village of Akkerman. Cornies first mentioned the idea of creating a model village in 1825, and by 1832 the project developed into a full-scale plan. Finally built on the Iushanlee River near Cornies' estate in 1835, Akkerman represented Cornies' vision of an ideal community. He composed a set of instructions comprising thirty-five articles that defined every aspect of the village's construction and administration. Houses were to be "precisely" aligned along both sides of a single street, "exactly" aligned with the house on the opposite side of the street, "exactly" four sazhens (about 8.5 meters) from neighboring houses, with a surrounding ditch "exactly" two arshins (about 1.4 meters) wide and 1.5 arshins deep, each yard divided into corrals, gardens, threshing yards and courtyards by ditches "exactly" 1.75 arshins wide and 1.25 arshins deep, each with a single gate "exactly" centered on the property, and so on. Rules of conduct ranged from procedures for filing a complaint with the village elder to the injunction: "it is strictly forbidden for anyone to enter or exit the yard from the street by stepping over the ditches, and everyone must enter and exit in the proper manner, through the gates, and children must not go into the ditches, so that the ditches will not become filled in."
Akkerman was an extension of the state's earlier policies toward the Nogais, for it continued to hold out the regulated, organized peasant village as a symbol of civility. It must be emphasized that the model village was not solely Cornies' project but was strongly supported by the state. The cameralist policies that defined the Russian state's ambitions for its state peasants had been clearly laid out in 1797 in the laws governing state peasant administration. What distinguished Cornies was his success in applying such cameralist policies at the local level. Yet Cornies took the prescripts of cameralism, incorporated the practical lessons he learned building Akkerman, combined them with his religious beliefs, and conceived a model for society that went well beyond the designs of the state. Because Akkerman was to replicate a Mennonite village, taken to its furthest extreme, in an important sense it also became Cornies' model for the future of Mennonite society.
The nuclear Mennonite villages in New Russia were themselves a recent innovation. When the first Mennonites arrived in New Russia in 1789 they intended to settle on dispersed farmsteads, but the threat of marauding Cossacks and Tatars forced them to build compact nuclear villages instead. The uniformity of the villages was a reflection of Mennonite traditions:
[following] logically from the community-minded tenets of Mennonite theology, from a mixture of bitter and prideful memories of a common martyr past, dating back to the Reformation, and from the obvious need for solidarity if the community was to survive as a small ethnic and religious minority in Russia.
The attempt to impose an ideal version of this outer, physical manifestation of Mennonite religious beliefs on Islamic Nogais provides a fascinating glimpse into Cornies' philosophy. The implicit assumption that governed the planning of the village was that strict physical adherence to the outward manifestation of Mennonite society was the key to what Cornies elsewhere called the "external prosperity" of the Nogais. Nor can there be any doubt that, for Cornies, improving the economic condition of the Nogais was tantamount to improving their moral condition.
Cornies' plan to civilize the Nogais extended beyond remodelling their villages. His second major initiative was a project to improve the quality of their sheep. This project was a clear departure from the efforts of Demaison, who had encouraged arable husbandry by refusing to grant travel passes to Nogais who did not plant at least two chetverts (approximately 4.2 hectoliters) of grain each year. This change in policy in part reflects Cornies' role as a servant of the Russian state, which had been actively promoting the breeding of merino sheep in New Russia since 1803. In 1824 this policy was sharply accelerated with the creation of the Organization for the Improvement of Sheep Breeding headed by Cornies. Massive livestock losses throughout New Russia in the harsh winter of 1825 lent additional urgency to the program.
In 1825 Cornies began lending merino sheep to Nogais while encouraging other Mennonites to follow suit. This seems at odds with his concern about over-grazing on Nogai land, but if, as Cornies intended, Nogais reduced the size of their cattle herds and concentrated on raising smaller quantities of more valuable merino sheep, pressure on grazing land would have been reduced at the same time as the total value of their livestock was increased.
For several years prior to 1825 Cornies had already been placing sheep in the hands of Nogais and to a lesser degree the sectarian Dukhobors and Molokans and the non-Mennonite German colonists. But his new program signalled an important change. Prior to 1825 Cornies paid a fixed rate per year per head of livestock, but now he moved from a simple business transaction to a program clearly directed at benefiting the Nogais. Conditions Cornies incorporated into the new project involved fundamental changes to the way Nogais supervised their herds. In effect, he was trying to transform Nogai animal husbandry from pastoralist traditions that emphasized the cultural value of livestock into a regulated, market-oriented system.
The terms of Cornies' sheep loans were eventually formalized into a standardized contract. In the first extant example, in 1834 Cornies agreed to supply a Nogai named Kulman with forty-five ewes and five female lambs and pay half the cost of buying a ram for breeding. Kulman was to pay for the other half of the ram as well as all other costs during the four-year contract. He was to provide fodder in winter, ensure that the sheep drank only well water, prevent them from mixing with the native Nogai breed of sheep known as kurdiuch sheep (which might infect them with diseases), and refrain from slaughtering healthy sheep under any circumstances. In a concession to Nogai religious customs, which regarded allowing animals to die of disease as sinful, Kulman was permitted to slaughter diseased sheep, but only in the presence of two Nogai elders who would attest that the slaughtered sheep were truly ill. Cornies and Kulman were to divide equally the annual wool production from the herd, and at the end of the contract, after Kulman returned to Cornies forty-five ewes and five female lambs to match the original investment, the two would divide equally whatever offspring remained. However, if the size of the herd shrank during the four years, Kulman was to pay Cornies the full market value of lost sheep, except those from which he could produce a hide and prove the sheep had been diseased.
In essence this was a sharecropping-or more accurately share-pasturing-contract albeit a very unusual one. In most sharecropping contracts a landlord provides capital in the form of land and seed while the sharecropper provides only labor, but Cornies did not supply Kulman with land. Indeed, Kulman's capital investment of land in effect made him a partner with Cornies. Sharecropping is usually regarded as exploitive, and there are indeed few historical examples that were not bad deals for the sharecroppers. However, the contract between Cornies and Kulman clearly was not exploitive. The clause releasing Kulman from responsibility for sheep lost to disease protected him from the most serious risk, and the contract was plainly structured with the intention of leaving Kulman with his own flock of merino sheep at its conclusion. Such sheep were worth five times the value of local kurdiuch sheep kept by most Nogais. This contrasts sharply with the lot of most sharecroppers, who receive only temporary use of land and never gain ownership of it.
Still, the contracts had the potential to be exploitive, as Cornies knew. In 1836 he complained to the Inspector of Molochna Colonies that Dukhobor and Molokan sectarians were making arrangements with Nogais that were far less favorable for the Nogais than his own. Made without written contracts, these arrangements required Nogais to look after sheep for as long as six years, often providing them with only a share of the wool or a cash payment while doing nothing to improve their herds. Moreover, Dukhobors and Molokans placed no conditions on the care of their sheep and, as a result, Cornies' sheep, which intermingled with the Dukhobor and Molokan sheep, were being exposed to disease. The inspector issued orders to elders of Dukhobor, Molokan, Colonist and Nogai villages that in the future all contracts had to be in writing, conform to the contracts Cornies had formulated and be registered with the district police.
Cornies' share-pasturing contracts were generous, but in contrast to Demaison's earlier efforts they focused on a small economic elite. Because Nogai share-pasturers normally took charge of sheep in late October or early November, at the end of grazing season but well before spring shearing, they had to supply fodder through the winter before receiving any income from wool. That was an expense that poor Nogais could not meet. The requirement that sheep be watered only at wells was also significant. Merino sheep were ill-adapted to conditions in the Molochna and drinking the brackish local water threatened their health. However, ground water was thirty to fifty-five meters down, which made well-digging an expensive endeavor requiring specialized equipment and knowledge. In 1840 the Ministry of State Domains estimated that digging wells on the high steppe cost between 200 and 400 silver rubles apiece. Because such wells demanded constant maintenance, well-drilling required an investment that would be fully repaid only over a period of years. Again, poor Nogais could not afford it.
Between 1834 and 1837 Cornies and other Mennonites contracted over 4000 sheep to Nogais in at least 21 different villages. However, Akkerman was clearly the focus of the effort. In 1837 the 381 persons in the model village-less than 2% of the Nogai population-owned 24% of all merinos in Nogai hands. Per capita livestock holdings in Akkerman exceeded those in other Nogai villages by a factor of 6 and per capita harvests were greater by a factor of 5.
An 1836 account of a second Nogai village, Shuiut Dzhuret, shows just how far Akkerman was from the norm. In that year Shuiut Dzhuret was destroyed by fire; the detailed inventory subsequently compiled of the possessions of its inhabitants provides an important glimpse into Nogai village life. As Table 1 shows, Shuiut Dzhuret was marginally wealthier than the average Nogai village but much poorer than Akkerman. However, Shuiut Dzhuret and the rest of the Nogai villages kept more horses than Akkerman. As already noted, horses played an important cultural role in traditional Nogai society, so the small number of horses in Akkerman attests to shifting cultural values and the gradual economic assimilation of the village's inhabitants.
Records from the fire reveal sharp economic differentiation in Nogai society. Nine of the 41 Shuiut Dzhuret households (22%) owned 55% of the horses in the village, 43% of the cattle and, most surprisingly, 100% of the sheep. Although in the 1820s Schlatter had noted that Nogai wealth was not expressed in fixed assets, but only in livestock, by 1836 this was no longer true, for the rich households claimed average losses of fixed assets exceeding 1119 rubles in the fire compared to losses of just 406 rubles per household for others. The trappings of wealth that the rich households had acquired by 1836 imply that the nature of differentiation in Nogai society was changing. A small, economically progressive group were separating themselves from their fellow Nogais.
Shuiut Dzhuret Akkerman Nogais (Excluding
(1836) (1837) Akkerman)
Cattle/Male Soul 2.29 2.89 1.23
Horses/Male Soul 1.33 0.54 0.75
Sheep/Male Soul 4.02 33.52 3.55
Sources: "Imennyi Spisok Pogorevshim Khoziaievam Melitopol'skago Okruga Dzhuretskoi Volosti Derevni Shuiut-Dzhureta Nogaistam," 1836, PJBRMA, file 374; Cornies "Landwirthschaftliche Notizen," 1837, PJBRMA, file 992.
Data from the Nogai villages other than Akkerman show that Nogai economic conditions had generally regressed since the end of Demaison's tenure. Total livestock holdings had declined to less than a third of what they had been in 1819. Almost half of the sheep were now merinos. However, that did not make up for the magnitude of the decline, and the concentration of merino sheep in the hands of a small elite meant they had little significance for most Nogais. Nor had Nogais reacted to livestock losses by increasing other agricultural output-in 1837 the Nogai per capita harvest was just one-third that of Mennonites. Residents of Akkerman and the small minority of sheep owners in Shuiut Dzhuret and other Nogai villages were clearly distinguished from the rest of Nogai society, but Akkerman was just a model, a product of Johann Cornies' philanthropy. Whether it could have led to the transformation of the rest of Nogai society will never be known, for in 1838 the state changed its relationship to its peasants and Nogais became a casualty of the shift from "civilizing" paternalism to administrative standardization. Ironically, Cornies' sheep improvement program became an agent of the Nogais downfall as philanthropy gave way to economic expediency.
The creation of the Ministry of State Domains in January 1838 necessarily dominates any understanding of events in subsequent years, for it fundamentally transformed the state's attitude toward the Nogais. Tsar Nicholas I created the new ministry with the intention of radically transforming the administration of Russia's state peasants, a group that made up roughly half of all peasants in Russia. The ministry's reform mandate was intended as the first step toward a future reform of the administration of Russia's serfs. The problems the reform presents for studying the Nogais are in part methodological. The new ministry took responsibility for all state peasants, and after 1838 the Nogais-until then a special sub-group of the state peasantry-ceased to have a separate statistical existence, which makes it difficult to ascertain their condition as distinct from other state peasants. Still the change was not merely procedural, for when the state stopped recognizing the Nogais as a distinct entity, it ended its efforts to assimilate them. Cornies' programs continued to function after 1838, but when economic conditions changed in the 1840s the state did not introduce new policies to supersede the old. Meanwhile modifications to Cornies' existing policies were based on the economic needs of Mennonites, not Nogais.
Still, for rich Nogais the first ten years after the creation of the Ministry of State Domains were a time of prosperity. Akkerman thrived; Baron von Haxthausen reported of his 1843 visit:
I was not a little surprised to see a completely German village after the Mennonite model. . . . All the houses . . . were completely alike and sturdily built. They had chimneys and stood in enclosed yards. Before the house door there was usually a couple of poplars and to the right and left small flower beds. In the gardens we found a large number of grafted fruit trees; in the yard there were ploughs, harrows, and carts like those of the Mennonites.
Haxthausen claimed that Nogais had "already built a large number of villages according to [Cornies'] instructions" with 17,000 people living in them, but this was an exaggeration. Cornies planned four other villages, but only one, Aknokas, was ever built. Nonetheless, he reported successes extending far beyond Akkerman, filling his official correspondence with accounts of Nogai progress:
Now when one looks at them, he sees that they live in houses that are well and attractively built, with tables, chairs, and mirrors, and outbuildings such as stables and stalls for cattle, [and] storage-sheds for agricultural equipment. . . . So they now live proper, ordinary lives, and it is no longer a concern that they will lapse into their old ways.
This optimism found its way into the Governor of Tavride's annual reports to St. Petersburg, a typical 1842 example reading, "The Nogais are far better than the Tatars, and are progressing by the year."
Merino sheep acquired from Mennonites through share-pasturing contracts remained an important source of Nogai wealth in the 1840s. The attraction of share-pasturing to both Nogais and Mennonites must be understood within the context of the rapid growth of the Molochna economy after 1836 (Table 2). This occurred despite a serious slump in international wool markets, which bottomed out in 1847. At the same time grain prices rose and Mennonite landowners reacted by gradually shifting from raising sheep to growing grain. As Table 3 shows, between 1835 and 1847 Mennonites increased the amount of their arable land by 55%, while reducing their cattle and sheep holdings. Only the number of horses, needed as draft animals, stayed roughly constant.
Average Annual Trade Volume Berdiansk Exports
At Fairs (Paper Rubles) (Paper Rubles)
1843-1845 263,283 1836 112,085
1846-1850 549,748 1838 2,971,426
1851-1855 1,252,326 1840 4,282,221
1856-1860 1,392,249 1860 6,423,812
Sources: Tavricheskaia Gubernskaia Vedomosti 26 (1 July 1841); Khanatskii, ed., Pamiatnaia Knizhka Tavricheskoi gubernii, 434; PJBRMA, file 1858; "Otchetov Tavricheskikh Gubernatorov," RGIA, f. 1281, o.4, d. 49a-1844, d. 49-1845, d 69a-1846, d. 50-1847, d.35a-1848, & d. 45a-1849; RGIA, f. 1281, o. 5, d. 52-1850, d.30a-1851, d. 48a-1852, d. 73a-1853, & d. 60a-1854; RGIA, f. 1283, o. 1, d. 2481; RGIA, f. 1281, o. 6, d. 97-1856, d. 97-1857, d. 86-1858, 52-1859, d. 20 1860, d. 48-1861, & d. 47-1862.
(per fullholding) (974 fullholdings)* (621 fullholdings)**
Desiatinas sown 12.36 19.17
Horses 6.19 5.97
Cattle 7.93 5.88
Sheep 115.00 91.00
* Includes complete data from all 42 villages.
** Includes data only from 27 villages.
Sources: "Tabellen. Ueber den Zustand der Molotschner Mennonisten Gemeinde in Zahlen im Jahre 1835," 1837, PJBRMA, file 1138. This document provides only the number of chetverts of grain and other crops sown (1 chetvert = 2.1 hectoliters). The number of desiatinas sown has been calculated using figures from "Verzeichniss. Des Molotschner Mennonisten Gebeits Amtes ueber die Aussaat des Sommergetreides im Jahre 1857," and "Ueber die Winterssaat in der Kolonie des Molotschner Kolonisten Gebeit," 1858, GAOO, f. 6, o. 4, d. 18086; "S vedomostiami o blagosostoianii Molochanskago kolonistskago i menonistskago okruga," 1847, GAOO, f. 6, o. 2, d. 10080.
The transformation to arable husbandry closely paralleled a growing shortage of land in the Molochna Mennonite settlement and was in part a reaction to this land shortage. The cost of renting pastureland had already undergone a sharp inflation in the 1820s, and as early as 1826 Cornies told a Prussian acquaintance:
From the interior of the Empire, where the overcrowded population is causing a great dearth of land, thousands are streaming to the southern and eastern steppes. Where ten or fifteen years ago one saw nothing but sky and steppe on a journey of several days, now the most poverty-stricken villages of 1000 to 2000 souls have been established.
Although Mennonites had access to large areas of reserve land to lease as pasture, by 1835 the number of sheep in the Molochna settlement had already exceeded the carrying capacity of this land, and Mennonites were increasingly dependent on pastureland rented from neighboring settlers and estate owners. Under such circumstances the share-pasturing system, originally conceived as a way to improve the quality of Nogai sheep, was soon transformed into an outlet for Mennonite agricultural investment.
The workings of the share-pasturing system in the mid-1840s are detailed in two lists describing 188 contracts concluded between 1843 and 1847. Ninety-three Mennonites took part, providing 10,279 sheep to Nogais. Just 6 contractors, including Cornies, supplied over a third of the sheep, the remaining 87 providing an average of just 77 each. As for the Nogais, no single share-pasturer engaged in more than one contract and no contract exceeded 120 sheep. Fullholder (Vollwirtschaft) inventories from 1847 exist for 27 of the 44 Molochna Mennonite villages, affording an economic profile of 30 of the 93 Mennonite share-pasturing contractors. As Table 4 shows, on average contractors kept substantially more livestock of all kinds than other Mennonites but sowed less land. As market forces pushed them to put more land under crops, they needed either to sell their livestock or to move it to different land. Share-pasturing contracts furnished a way to keep part of the income from displaced sheep without incurring any direct costs for land rental, fodder or labor at a time when investment was better directed into grain-growing. Most of these contractors continued to keep unusually large herds of sheep on their own land in addition to those they contracted to Nogais, but there were interesting exceptions. Peter Regier of Altona, who kept just 78 sheep on his own land, contracted 852 sheep to Nogais, using share-pasturing as a significant form of agricultural investment. In contrast, a few contractors were unusually poor, such as the brothers Heinrich and Gerhard Wiens, who shared a fullholding in Blumenort and had only 7 sheep between them, apart from the 194 they contracted to Nogais.
Contractors All Mennonites
Horses 6.16 5.97
Cattle 6.39 5.88
Sheep 111.81 91.00
Land Sown 17.31 19.17
Source: "mesiachnymi vedomostiami o blagosostoianii kolonii berdianskago okruga za Ianvar 1847," GAOO, f. 6, o. 2, d. 10063.
A second important group of Mennonite share-pasturing contractors can also be identified-the landless. Twenty can be identified as landless because they lived in one or another of the 27 villages for which fullholding inventories exist but their names did not appear in the inventories. Unfortunately, little more is known of their circumstances. Peter Loewen of Altonau was the single largest contractor, supplying 978 sheep to Nogai share-pasturers. Even at deflated 1840s prices this must have represented an investment of over 20,000 rubles, making the landless Loewen a rich man. By comparison the other 19 landless averaged just 65 sheep under contract, much fewer than most land-owning contractors. Landlessness was a growing problem in the Molochna Mennonite colony in the 1840s, with over 53% of all Mennonites landless by 1847. The depression in wool prices permitted landless Mennonites to buy merino sheep at deflated prices from landowners who were putting pasture lands to the plow, while share-pasturing permitted them to keep the sheep without incurring direct costs beyond the original purchase price. In this manner the share-pasturing program, which began as a way to improve Nogai sheep, became a way for landless Mennonites to invest in the agricultural economy.
Share-pasturing made economic sense for Nogais, too. Due to the five-fold gap between the price of merino and kurdiuch wool, Nogais could make more money raising merinos with prices at their lowest than they ever did raising kurdiuch sheep. One indication of the profitability of raising merinos comes from a different program introduced by Cornies in 1843 to sell sheep to Nogais on credit. A record of 30 sales survives. Credit was interest-free, averaging 277 rubles per purchase, although whether in silver or paper rubles is unclear, as is the number of sheep involved. As Table 5 shows, Nogais had no difficulty repaying the loans, which suggests that raising merino sheep was profitable.
Year Paid Owed
1843 -- 8,312.00
1844 2,964.15 5,347.85
1845 1,277.80 4,070.05
1846 3,021.52 1,048.53
1847 1,023.40 25.13
Source: "Nogaier Schaafschuld von 1844 an zu bezahlen mit den Beimerkung wie viel von Zeit zu Zeit dieselbe darant abgetragen haben," n.d., PJBRMA, file 916.
Such positive evidence must be balanced by contrary indications of problems, both for Nogai share-pasturers and their Mennonite suppliers. Cornies had always been less optimistic about Nogai progress in his private correspondence than in official reports. As early as 1836 he wrote to his friend Aleksander Fadeev, head of the Guardianship Committee that supervised colonists in New Russia: "These people lack patience and perseverance, and . . . knowledge of the methods of raising [merino] sheep." Some Mennonites apparently lacked "patience and perseverance" with Nogais as well, for that same year Cornies asked the Inspector of Colonies to caution Mennonites not to "mock or ridicule Nogais about their inability to accomplish what they have started." Cornies showed dissatisfaction with the terms of share-pasturing contracts in 1837, proposing a revised twenty-two-clause contract that, if implemented, would have rigorously redefined Nogai obligations. It foresaw monthly inspections and stipulated when sheep would be moved to pasture, when they would be mated and when they would receive fodder. It also defined procedures for removing weak sheep from the flock and sharply redefined the treatment of sick sheep by specifying that "regardless of whether the sheep are well or sick, [the share-pasturer] may not slaughter them under any circumstances, and if he does he will have to pay for them, and beyond that will face punishment in court."
Nogais also had concerns; in 1839 a group from Akkerman petitioned their "esteemed benefactor" Cornies for help. They described how their merinos had been afflicted since 1837 with a disease that reduced wool production and prevented successful breeding so that in 1837 and 1838 they realized no profits. Because drought destroyed fodder crops in 1839 they anticipated even greater losses. Because of this, they said, "many of our people want to breed only [kurdiuch] sheep," and they asked Cornies to intervene to help cure the disease and end their losses.
In the 1840s Mennonite contractors began subtly manipulating the terms of contracts to their own advantage. They gradually increased the proportion of lambs included in contracts from 10% to over 19%, thus reducing wool production and, because ewes could not safely be bred before the age of 2.5 years, also reducing reproductive potential. At the same time they began supplying some male lambs in place of female lambs. A herd of 50 ewes-the standard contract amount-needed only one ram, so for Nogais the 10 to 15 male lambs that began to be included in some contracts were superfluous while the corresponding reduction in female lambs reduced the reproductive potential of the herd. Moreover, male sheep were less valuable wool producers because, while they produced more total wool, they produced less clothing wool, which brought a far higher price on international markets.
The same conditions that made share-pasturing a preserve of wealthy Nogais in the 1830s still applied in the 1840s, with important implications for the growth of differentiation in Nogai society. Merino sheep pastured on Nogai commons competed for land with the livestock of poor Nogais. The amount of useful grazing land was limited by the aridity of Nogai land, and wealthy Nogais kept disproportionately large flocks, thus monopolizing the commons. Ukrainian state peasants in the Molochna, faced with the same problem, decreased their commons, increased their arable land, and instituted communal land repartition on the arable portion, thus ensuring adequate access to land for the poor. Poor Nogais may have tried similar tactics, for in November 1846 Mennonite suppliers began requiring Nogai share-pasturers to provide written guarantees from village elders confirming their right to use the commons for contracted sheep, which implies that this right was in dispute. That Nogai share-pasturers successfully obtained such guarantees suggests that, unlike Ukrainian state peasants, the Nogai poor were unsuccessful in asserting their claims. Consequently, they could not follow the example of Ukrainian peasants and turn to growing grain, for the land best suited to arable husbandry was also that best suited as pasture. The structure of Nogai-Mennonite economic relations thus encouraged a sheep monoculture at just the time when market demand dictated transition to arable husbandry. Meanwhile, the introduction of pasture guarantees to Nogai share-pasturers was an important symbolic juncture in Nogai history, for it formally abrogated the customary nomadic right of common access to pasture.
Despite changes that served Mennonite interests, the period 1838 to 1847 marked the peak of both share-pasturing and prosperity for wealthy Nogais. However, in the winter of 1847 a severe sheep epidemic, worsened by drought, threw the Nogais into crisis. To survive, they turned to Mennonites for help, and the consequences, in the form of unpayable debts, were disastrous.
The epidemic that swept through New Russia between 1847 and 1849 saw 46% of livestock in the region die. In Tavride province alone 85,692 horses, 505,577 cattle and 678,583 sheep died, and Berdiansk uezd (administrative district) where the Nogais and Mennonites lived, was particularly hard hit. The epidemic signalled the end of sheep share-pasturing-from 1848 to 1850 there were only 41 new contracts and after 1850 there were none. That is probably because the destruction of Nogai herds was enormously costly to everyone involved. For Nogais, the immediate expenses involved in new share-pasturing contracts remained, but income from existing herds was gone, making it difficult to afford new contracts. For Mennonites, their capital investment disappeared with the death of the sheep. Even if they could afford to replace them-a doubtful proposition, particularly for the landless-the risks, freshly demonstrated by the epidemic, must have been forbidding.
Meanwhile, in early 1848 Nogais borrowed money, not sheep, from Mennonites for the first time. The interest-free loans were small, averaging just 73 rubles, due in full from six months to two years later. Records of 31 loans survive, although there is no indication that they were repaid on time or indeed repaid at all. Other sources show that Nogais had great difficulty repaying their debts after 1848. After Johann Cornies' death in 1848 his heirs again sold sheep from his Iushanlee estate to Nogais on credit. The amount involved, 21,134 rubles, was almost three times that granted in 1843. The 1843 loans were almost fully repaid within four years; by comparison, repayment of the 1848 and 1849 loans stretched over nine years, and in the end 5844 rubles, almost 28% of the total, were never repaid. Records from 1848, 1849 and 1851 show that other Mennonites also sold sheep worth over 28,000 rubles on credit to Nogais, and although there are no payment records, it is unlikely that they were better repaid than the debts owed Cornies' heirs.
The most compelling evidence of a crisis in Nogai society after 1848 comes from the two model villages, Akkerman and Aknokas. In January and February 1851, 33 Nogais from the model villages each rented an average of 3.6 desiatinas to Mennonites, for between 3.5 and 4.5 paper rubles per desiatina. The rent was to be paid directly to the treasury to cover tax arrears. The rental price was high-pasture land still rented for as little as 1.38 rubles per desiatina in the Molochna in 1851 -but this was because the land in question was river floodplain, the most valuable land in the region. Pre-revolutionary Russian historian A. A. Sergeev suggests that renting out land to pay tax arrears was common to all Molochna Nogais in the 1850s, although he credits the practice to laziness: "The Nogais were indifferent to agriculture and gardening and rented their land . . . on the easiest of terms."
An 1850 report on the condition of the two model villages shows that while some residents were still wealthy, many had been reduced to abject poverty. Differentiation in the model villages in 1850 was an extreme version of that in Shuiut Dzhuret in 1836. A much larger percentage of households in Akkerman and Aknokas owned sheep, and the rich in Akkerman and Aknokas were much richer than those in Shuiut Dzhuret, although the poor were poorer (Table 6). The report details the economic condition of some Nogais involved in rental transactions. Unfortunately, inconsistent spellings of Nogai names and the use of only first names in some contracts makes it impossible to identify all participants, but 10 of the 33 can be identified. Eight of these 10 were poor, owning no sheep and on average fewer than 3 head of livestock, while the other 2 owned 84 sheep between them, putting them at the bottom end of the sheep-owning households. Thus, as might be expected, Nogais who rented out their land to pay tax arrears were poor. The loss of use of their best land could only make them poorer. Confirming this, records for Akkerman from 1853 show the amount of land rented to Mennonites had climbed to an average of 12.75 desiatinas per participating household, while the number of households involved grew from 33 to 37. Unlike with share-pasturing contracts in the 1840s, the majority of identifiable Mennonite renters-17 of 24-were landless, while none of the landed renters owned exceptionally large sheep herds.
Shuiut Dzhuret (1836) Akkerman & Aknokas (1850)
Sheep Owning Other Sheep Owning Other
Households (%) 22 78 48 52
Sheep/Household 50 0 119.46 0
Horses/Household 12.11 4.59 8.70 2.04
Cattle/Household 2.09 3.07 1.12
Sources: "Imennyi Spisok Pogorevshim Khoziaievam Melitopol'skago Okruga Dzhuretskoi Volosti Derevni Shuiut-Dzhureta," 1836, PJBRMA, file 374; "Vedomost' o sostoianii Sel. Aknokas v 1850 godu," and "Vedomost' o sostoianii kolonii Akkermana. 1 Maia 1850," 1850, PJBRMA, file 1463.
While poor Nogais in Akkerman and Aknokas were losing control of their land, the parallel process of sharecropping also appeared-in 38 extant contracts Mennonites contracted to Nogais as sharecroppers. The contracts called for Nogais to provide ploughed land that the Mennonites were to sow. Nogais would harvest the crops and the product would be split evenly. Twenty-nine of the 38 Nogais involved can be identified, 13 of them coming from the wealthy sheep-owning group. Only 13 Mennonites can be identified, and of these only 3 held fullholdings. Thus in some instances wealthy Nogais were becoming landlords to poor Mennonites, showing that consequences of the 1848 epidemic were dire for landless Mennonites, too.
Evidence of conditions in the Nogai villages in the 1850s is much scarcer than in earlier decades. Travellers to the region continued to report that the model villages were shining examples of order and prosperity-a description sharply contradicted by the data presented above. In 1855 Alexander Petzholdt described somewhat less idyllic conditions in the Nogai village of Baurdak just south of Akkerman and Aknokas. He was dismayed by the haphazard layout of the village and the homes built of manure-and-straw bricks with crooked chimneys and badly thatched roofs. Yet even here there was no hint of the deep-rooted problems that were soon to provoke a wholesale exodus of the Nogais to Turkey.
Russian officials were under no misconception about the decline in Nogai conditions. In 1853 the Governor of Tavride reported to the Ministry of State Domains: "The Nogais . . . are almost completely identical to the Tatars." This contrasted sharply with the 1842 report that "Nogais are far better than the Tatars, and are progressing by the year." The optimism that had permeated official reports before 1848 had vanished. Nogais too were no longer optimistic. In the 1850s their leaders increasingly aligned themselves with the Crimean Tatars, ultimately joining in the Tatar exodus to Turkey in 1860.
A full explanation of the Nogai exodus from the Molochna requires a brief detour into the subject of relations between the Russian state and the Crimean Tatars. Never good, these relations deteriorated rapidly in the 1840s and 1850s, hitting bottom during the Crimean war when suspicions of Tatar collaboration with Turkish forces caused the state to consider evicting large numbers of Tatars from their homes and relocating them inland. Tatar dissatisfaction with the tsarist state centered on Russian nobles who had acquired large parcels of Tatar land, often through dishonest means. The last straw for the Tatars was the Ministry of State Domains' rejection in 1859 of Tatar petitions for new land grants to ameliorate their poverty.
No evidence suggests that the Nogais were subject to the same suspicions as the Crimean Tatars during the war. Like other residents of the southern provinces, they were obliged to contribute to the war effort, sending 940 head of cattle to feed the troops at Sevastopol and supplying 75 wagons to transport materials. Such contributions must have been a heavy burden for the already struggling Nogais. Just as significantly, war-induced shortages drove grain prices to new heights in 1854 and 1855. Grain producers profited, but grain buyers suffered as a result of the inflation. Land values soared along with wheat prices, but the best Nogai land had already been leased to Mennonites at pre-war prices and Nogais were left to buy grain produced on their own fields at prices that far outstripped the rents they received.
After the war, Nogai leaders aligned themselves closely with their Crimean Tatar neighbors. In 1857 a group of Nogai murzas joined in Tatar petitions for increased land grants. Justifying their claims with stories of the services their forebears had provided the state, they protested that, "not having private land, we not only have been reduced to poverty, but a great many among us are compelled, in order to obtain subsistence, to work as simple servants." In the ruling that rejected the Nogai petition, the Ministry of State Domains concluded that, although many of the murzas possessed legitimate proof of the noble status granted their ancestors by Catherine II in the eighteenth century, those ancestors were already long dead and claims based on their service had no significance. With a stroke of the pen those that remained were reduced from murzas to state peasants with no claim to special privileges.
In the fall of 1859 some 16,000 Nogais from the Caucasus obtained permission to emigrate to Turkey. They travelled overland to the Molochna, wintering with their Molochna cousins, then journeyed on in the summer of 1860 to the Crimea, where they continued by ship. When they left, the Molochna Nogais went with them. In 1859 there were 35,149 Nogais in the Molochna. By October 1860 there were 105. By January 1862 there were 20. Nogai land-including that rented by Mennonites-reverted to the state, which assigned much of it to Bulgarian colonists. Landless Mennonites, deprived of an important source of rental land, soon demanded a redistribution of Mennonite land, and their demands became an important factor helping to ignite the landlessness crisis of the 1860s.
The story of Mennonite-Nogai economic relations has several important lessons for historians of Mennonites in Russia. First, Mennonites were neither isolated from surrounding populations nor simply paternal benefactors to backward neighbors. Whatever Cornies intended, Mennonite-Nogai relations soon came to be governed by pragmatic economic considerations, with Nogais providing a significant avenue for Mennonite investment. Some Nogais grew rich in consequence but most grew poor, and by encouraging animal husbandry to the exclusion of arable husbandry in contradiction of shifting market demand, Mennonites unintentionally set up the Nogais for a fall.
Of course, by 1825 traditional Nogai pastoral practices had already led to the brink of disaster through overgrazing. Something had to change and Cornies' programs were intended to guide that change along manifestly successful Mennonite paths. Even after Cornies' death, when the 1848 epidemic wiped out Nogai herds, Mennonites gave interest-free loans to Nogais despite being hard-hit by the disaster themselves. Moreover the Mennonite solution to the problem, transition to arable husbandry, was not necessarily a panacea. Nogai land was the poorest in the Molochna region, and only a relatively small proportion of it along the banks of the Molochna and Iushanlee rivers was truly suited to crop agriculture. The Bulgarian colonists who inherited the land in the 1860s quickly pronounced much of it uninhabitable and were persuaded to stay only by a large-scale state-funded well-digging program. Still, some Nogai land was suited to arable husbandry, and indeed was ploughed and planted in the 1850s-mainly by landless Mennonite renters.
Placed in the context of Mennonite-Nogai economic relations and the role of landless Mennonite leasers in the post-1848 Nogai economic collapse, the Nogai exodus itself appears to be at least partly a product of Mennonite landlessness and not simply a contributor to the landlessness crisis, as has been argued in the past. Because the landlessness crisis occurred in the 1860s, the significance of landlessness in earlier decades has received less attention than it deserves. However, the Nogai story suggests that it needs to be reassessed. The role of Mennonites as models to surrounding settlers was hotly debated in the 1830s and 1840s. Progressive Mennonites, led by Cornies and supported by the state, argued that the terms of the Mennonite Charter obliged them to act as model settlers. Conservative Mennonites responded that Mennonite faith was founded on separation from "the world" and thus precluded active involvement with other settlers. Participation by landless Mennonites in Cornies' share-pasturing program is a pointed reminder that the conservative ideal of living as "the quiet in the land" was possible only for those with land. For the 53% of Molochna Mennonites without land by 1847, the insular ideals of conservative congregations offered but cold comfort.
On the other hand, the extent of landlessness raises questions about the ability of Mennonites to fill the role envisioned by progressive colonists. The progressive program, which held up Mennonite prosperity as a model to other settlers, was based on the agricultural success of the landed. Cornies' program to "civilize" the Nogais was the most prominent practical attempt to provide a Mennonite model for neighboring peoples, but it failed because landless Mennonites, who were in no position to be philanthropic, reshaped the program to meet their own economic needs. Increasing involvement in the scheme by the landless in the 1840s suggests that the Mennonite agricultural model was far less healthy than Cornies and the state thought. Indeed, the health of the Molochna Mennonite model may have derived far more from early diversification into arable husbandry and from proto-industrialization than from the pastoral economy that Cornies promoted to the Nogais. An important aspect of that economic diversification involved Nogai share-pasturers providing an outlet for agricultural investment by landless Mennonites. This raises the possibility that the only thing standing between the civility of Molochna Mennonite society of the 1840s and the landlessness crisis of the 1860s was the presence of "uncivilized" Nogai share-pasturers.
[*] John R. Staples is a post-doctoral fellow in Russian environmental history at the University of Waterloo and Secretary of the Research Program in Russian and Soviet Mennonite Studies at the University of Toronto. 1. For a more thorough statement of the problem, and an important contribution to its resolution, see Leonard G. Friesen, "Mennonites and Their Peasant Neighbours in Ukraine Before 1900," Journal of Mennonite Studies 10 (1992), 56-69. Other notable recent work touching on the subject includes Harvey L. Dyck, "Landlessness in the Old Colony: The Judenplan Experiment 1850-1880," in John Friesen, ed., Mennonites in Russia 1788-1988: Essays in Honour of Gerhard Lohrenz (Winnipeg: CMBC, 1989), 183-202, and James Urry, "Mennonites, Nationalism and the State in Imperial Russia," Journal of Mennonite Studies 12 (1994), 65-88. Return to Text
 . See, e.g., Heinrich Goerz, The Molotschna Settlement, trans. Al Reimer and John B. Toews (Winnipeg: CMBC/Manitoba Mennonite Historical Society, 1993), 12. Most recent work avoids the paternalistic tone of earlier in-group histories, but because it is still largely reliant on those histories as sources, the basic elements of the story remain the same. The objective of "civilizing" Nogais is frequently repeated in Mennonite correspondence, the phrase borrowed for the title of this essay coming from a draft essay written by Cornies. See Peter J. Braun Russian Mennonite Archive [hereafter PJBRMA], file 814. Return to Text
 . For the 1796 group, see Pallas to Governor Zubov, March 19, 1796, State Archive of the Crimean Oblast (hereafter GAKO), fond 801, opis 1, delo 58. On the 1807 and 1810 groups, see Pamiatnaia Knizhka Tavricheskoi gubernii, ed. K. B. Khanatskii (Simferopol: Tipografiia Tavricheskoi gubernskoi pravlenii, 1867), 210. Return to Text
 . Philip Burnham, "Spatial Mobility and Political Centralization in Pastoral Societies," in Pastoral Production and Society: Proceedings of the International Meeting on Nomadic Pastoralism (Cambridge: Cambridge U. Press, 1979), 351. Return to Text
 . Jean-Pierre Digard, "The Segmental System: Native Model or Anthropological Construction? Discussion of an Iranian Example," in The Nomadic Alternative: Modes and Models of Interaction in the African-Asian Deserts and Steppes (The Hague: Mouton, 1978), 315. See also Khazanov, Nomads and the Outside World, 127. Return to Text
 . The most detailed record I am aware of on the physical geography of the Molochna is B. G. Karpova, "Formy poverkhnosti i stroenie zemnoe kory v peredelakh Novorossii," in Rossiia. Polnoe Geograficheskoe Opisanie Nashego Otechestva, ed. V. P. Semenov-Tian-Shanskii (St. Petersburg: A. F. Devriena, 1910) [hereafter, Rossiia], 14:1-48. The Encyclopedia of Ukraine, s.v. Azov Lowland, and Azov Upland, is also a valuable source. A brief but useful summary can be found in John Friesen, Against the Wind: The Story of Four Mennonite Villages (Gnadenthal, Gruendfeld, Neu-Chortitza, and Steinfeld) in Southern Ukraine, 1872-1943 (Winnipeg: Henderson Books, 1994), 13-17. Return to Text
 . On flora, see V. G. Karatygina, "Rastitelnyi i zhivotnyi mir," in Rossiia, 14:72-125. On climate, see P. A. Fedulova, "Klimat," Rossiia, 14:49-71; and M. Y. Nuttonson, Ecology and Crop Geography of the Ukraine and the Ukrainian Agro-Climatic Analogues in North America (Washington, D.C.: American Institute of Crop Ecology, 1947). Return to Text
 . Demaison (c. 1760 - 1826), who signed himself "le Comte de Maison," in his French-language correspondence, entered Russian service with the rank of College Assessor in 1802, when he became an inspector at the Aleksandrovskii state factory in Ekaterinoslav. On April 21, 1808 he was made Chief of the Nogai Horde, a post he would hold until one year before his death in 1826. His complete service record can be found in GAKO, fond 26, opis 1, delo 5509. Return to Text
 . On the threat of exodus, see Cornies, "Einiges ber die Nogair-Tataren in Russland," 1825, PJBRMA, file 69, 6-7. On Nogai accusations against Demaison, see "Po zhalobam nogaitsov na nachal'nika svoego Demezona," 1820, GAKO, fond 26, opis 1, delo 4906. Return to Text
 . Six adult sheep are usually equated to one cow or horse. Cattle and horses in New Russia averaged 200 kg., while sheep averaged about eighty kg. Hence, for the Molochna one nominal 450 kg. Animal Unit (AU) was equal to 2.25 cows or horses, or six sheep. At best, arid natural pasture lands like those in the Molochna produce about 1226 kg. of dry matter per desiatina. Thus the AUM for one desiatina in the Molochna was 3.35. In other words, since one desiatina could support one AU for 3.35 months, about 3.5 desiatinas were required per AU per year. On AUMs, see A. T. Semple, Grassland Improvement (Cleveland: CRC Press, 1970), 26-28. On Molochna livestock, see "Statisticheskii ocherk torgovli skotom v s. Petrburge," Zhurnal Ministerstva Gosudarstvenikh Imushchestv [hereafter ZhMGI] 31 (1848), 248-49; I. U. Witte, "O sel'skom khoziaistve v Khersonskoi, Tavricheskoi i Ekaterinoslavskoi guberniiakh," Zhurnal Ministerstva Vnutrennykh Del 3 (1834), 110; O. Koeppen, "Neskol'ko slov o razvedenii kormovykh trav v Tavricheskoi gubernii," ZhMGI 83 (May 1863), 269-74. Return to Text
 . Nogai cattle raids are mentioned in many Mennonite sources (e.g., Goerz, The Molotschna Settlement, 12), and are confirmed by fragmentary district court records (e.g., "Vedomosti perechnevaia Melitopol'skago Uezdnogo suda o delakh reshennykh i nereshennykh ugolovnykh sledstvennykh i prositel'skikh," 1819, GAKO, fond 26, opis 1, delo 3983). On the disarming of the Nogais, see Goerz, The Molotschna Settlement, 12. Return to Text
 . On cameralism, see Marc Raeff, The Well-Ordered Police State: Society and Institutional Change through Law in the Germanies and Russia, 1600-1800 (New Haven: Yale U. Press, 1983). Return to Text
 . For a more detailed account of the founding of Akkerman, see my "The Molochna River Basin, 1783-1861: Settlement, Assimilation, and Alienation on the New Russian Steppe" (PhD. Diss., U. of Toronto, 1999), 177-80. Return to Text
 . Urry, None But Saints, 88. For an early report on the success of the program, see "Doneseniia glavnogo sud'i kontoru v MVD o razvitii ovtsevodstva v koloniiakh," Jan. 29, 1809, GADO, fond 134, opis 1, delo 225. Return to Text
 . For a typical report on sheep-rearing, see "Vedomosti Molochanskikh kolonii smotritelia ob ovtsevodstva," 1815, GADO, fond 134, opis 1, delo 402. On the creation of the "Organization for the Improvement of Sheep Breeding," see Urry, None But Saints, 111. Return to Text
 . In fact sharecroppers sometimes provide draft animals and even agricultural implements, but these form a small part of total capital input. For a useful summary of sharecropping and its economic analysis, see Frank Ellis, Peasant Economics: Farm Households and Agrarian Development (Cambridge: Cambridge U. Press, 1988), 141-59. Return to Text
 . This is particularly true of Marxist analysts, for whom the concentration of the means of production in the hands of landowners is, by definition, exploitation.-R. Pearce, "Sharecropping: Towards a Marxist View," Sharecropping and Sharecroppers, ed. T. J. Byres (London: Frank Cass, 1983), 42-70. The historical literature is summarized by Byres, "Historical Perspectives on Sharecropping," in Sharecropping and Sharecroppers, 7-40. Return to Text
 . "Po tsirkuliarnomu predpisaniiu nekotorym Palatami Gosudarstvenykh Imushchestv ob ustroistve kolodtsev na bezvodnam obrochnykh uchastkakh," 1840, RGIA, fond 383, opis 3, delo 2530. Return to Text
 . The standard work on state peasants is N. M. Druzhinin, Gosudarstvennye krest'iane i reforma P.D. Kiseleva, 2 vols. (Moscow: Nauka, 1946 and 1958). An English-language overview is provided by Olga Crisp, "The State Peasants Under Nicholas I," in Studies in the Russian Economy Before 1914 (London: MacMillan, 1976). See also George Bolotenko, "Administration of the State Peasants in Russia before the Reforms of 1838" (PhD. Diss., U. of Toronto, 1979). Return to Text
 . August von Haxthausen, Studies on the Interior of Russia, trans. Eleanore L. M. Schmidt (Chicago: U. of Chicago Press, 1972), 165-66. Haxthausen incorrectly calls the village Akeima, although it is clear from the context that he means Akkerman. Return to Text
 . "Verzeichniss! Über die im November 1843 unter den Nogaier auf Condition gegebene Schafe," 1843, PJBRMA, file 903; "Verzeichniss: Über die auf rechtmassige Weise unter den Nogaiern befindt. Schafe und deren Contract," 1847, PJBRMA, file 1269. Return to Text
 . See "Otchetov Tavricheskikh Gubernatorov . . . za 1846," RGIA, fond 1281, opis 4, delo 50-1846; & "Otchetov Tavricheskikh Gubernatorov . . . za 1847," RGIA, fond 1281, opis 4, delo 35a-1848. Return to Text
 . See Alexander Petzholdt, Reise im westlichen und suedlichen Russland im Jahre 1855 (Leipzig: Hermann Fries, 1864), 211-31; A. Bode, Notizen, gesammelt auf einer Forstreise durch einen Theil des Europaishen Russlands (1969 rpd; Osnabrueck: Verlag, 1854), 291-316. Return to Text
 . Pinson, "Russian Policy and the Emigration of the Crimean Tatars," 38-39. The standard survey of Crimean Tatar history is Alan W. Fisher, The Crimean Tatars (Stanford, CA.: Hoover Institution, 1978). Return to Text
 . Khanatskii, ed., Pamiatnaia Knizhka Tavricheskoi gubernii, 168-69. For the hydrographic survey prompted by the complaints, see "Raboty po snabzheniiu vodiiu pereselentsev, proizvedennyia v Tavricheskoi gubernii v 1862 godu," ZhMGI 83 (July 1863). Return to Text
 . Urry, None But Saints, 108-37. 264 The Mennonite Quarterly Review 257 Mennonite-Nogai Economic Relations 229
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