UWinnipeg Russian Mennonite Fellowship to crack open KGB archives

WINNIPEG, MB – In the 1930s, thousands of Mennonites disappeared in the former Soviet Union without a trace. The KGB archives in Ukraine has thousands of files on these missing Mennonites and a newly announced UWinnipeg Fellowship wants to crack into these archives to uncover the stories of lost relatives, ancestors and much more.

Dr. Paul Toews, photo supplied

Dr. Paul Toews, photo supplied

Through the Centre for Transnational Mennonite Studies at the University of Winnipeg the newly created Paul Toews Fellowship in Russian Mennonite History will help mine these archives.

The Paul Toews Fellowship will fund researchers in recording, translating and archiving these KGB materials in the Mennonite Heritage Archives in Winnipeg. 

The Fellowship will also support other research programs. These include history conferences, graduate and post-doctoral fellowships on Russian Mennonite history, funds for visiting scholarships, and other archival research in in both Ukraine and Russia. 

This Fellowship is named in honour of the late Dr. Paul Toews, who was the resident historian of the Mennonite Heritage Cruise that took thousands of Mennonite ‘pilgrims’ on a journey back to Ukraine over the past two decades. 

Rudy Friesen, resident architectural historian on the Heritage Cruise notes that with this Fellowship, “we can continue the important work that Paul Toews began and give new energy and vision to Russian Mennonite studies for decades to come.”

The Fellowship is based on a $450,000 endowment fund that has been pledged or donated to date.  This Fellowship is part of the broader campaign goal of raising $3,000,000 for the establishment of a Professorship in Russian Mennonite History. 

While the wider $3,000,000 campaign continue, the Paul Toews Fellowship will guarantee that earnings from monies donated to the campaign will go to work at once.  It is estimated that the Fellowship will eventually provide some $20,000 per year in the support of numerous research programs.

Dr. Royden Lowen, ©Maximilian Schönherr

Dr. Royden Lowen, ©Maximilian Schönherr

Dr. Royden Loewen, Chair in Mennonite Studies and Director of the Centre notes, “it is great to reach this significant milestone in the campaign and as a Centre we are deeply grateful to the fundraising committee for their work in recognizing the significance and timeliness of this initiative.”

The Centre is very pleased to be working closely on this project with the Winnipeg-based Mennonite Heritage Archives, which the Centre co-owns with Canadian Mennonite University and Mennonite Church Canada.  Loewen says he “looks forward to close collaboration with all the partners on this enhanced study of Mennonites in Russia and the Soviet Union.”

The late Dr. Paul Toews was Professor of Mennonite and US history at Fresno Pacific University in California; he was an active participant in the Mennonite Studies program at UWinnipeg having co-chaired the Mennonites in Siberia conference with Royden Loewen in Omsk in 2010. He was also Resident Historian on the Mennonite Heritage Cruise which sent more than 3000 North American Mennonites to visit the birthplace of their parents in Ukraine over the last 20 years.

The Centre for Transnational Mennonite Studies facilitates the study of transnational relations among Mennonites who today are spread around the world. This Centre is a research and educational hub that brings a global perspective to Mennonites in the Americas, Europe, Africa and Asia.

For further information contact Dr. Royden Loewen at r.loewen@uwinnipeg.ca.

UWinnipeg is noted for academic excellence, Indigenous scholarship, environmental commitment, small class sizes and campus diversity. We are committed to improving access to post-secondary education for all individuals, especially those taking non-traditional paths to university. Find out more at uwinnipeg.ca. Follow us on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and LinkedIn.

Naniece Ibrahim, Communications Officer, The University of Winnipeg
P: 204.988.7130, E: n.ibrahim@uwinnipeg.ca



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