09 February 2021

"Welcome to the Big Apple...in eastern Ukraine"

Scrolling through my Twitter feed last night, I saw these words: “Welcome to the Big Apple...in eastern Ukraine.” 

It was an article in Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty about the town of Novhorodske in Ukraine voting soon to restore its name back to its original name: New York. According to the article, it was changed in 1951 due to Cold War tensions with the United States.

I immediately thought, I know where New York is. That was a German Mennonite colony.

This morning, I looked it up on my map, and, indeed, it was a Mennonite daughter colony. The land was purchased by the Chortitza colony. 

AHSGR map #24Map of the German settlements in the Stalino region (former East part of the governorate of Jekaterinoslav and West part of the Don region), including the German villages in the eastern part of the Kharkov region

From the German-Russian Handbook (pp.564-565).
New-York, Don, Donets’k, Dzerzhinsk, Shelesnaya. The village was located on the Torez River and a steep mountain slope. #C 4. Founded in 1889. Mennonite; parish: New-York, also Mennonite Brethren; parish: Nikola(y)evka. A small number were part of the Nikola(y)evka Brethren community. A junior high school was founded in 1905, and a secondary school for girls (Progymnasium) in 1912. School for those unable to pay tuition, steam and rolling mills (Unger and Dyck, the owner and founder(s)), agricultural machinery factory (Niebuhr), brickyard (Unger), bookstore (Hamm); according to another source: cooperative and/or cooperative store, school with grades one to seven (as of 1926.) The mother colony of Khortitza bought the estate for people without land. Acreage: 3,138 dessi. Population: 426 in 1911; 926 in 1913; 926 in 1914; 926 in 1918; 953 in 1926. Also see York, New-.
Ignatyevo Colony from the Mennonite Historical Atlas, pg 31.

According to William Schroeder and Helmut T. Heubert’s Mennonite Historical Atlas, New York was a part of the Ignatyevo Colony.

New York was founded in 1889, one of the first six villages of the Ignatyevo Colony. It was situated along the banks of the Krivoy Torets River, close to the town of Zheleznaya. The name “New York” was in response to a request by the wife of Count Ignatieff (from whom the land was purchased), who, being an American, was likely pining for some reminder of her homeland. 

Besides the usual agriculture, industry soon developed in New York, especially because of the proximity of the Khar'kov-Mariupol' railroad. A number of factories were built, among them that of the J.G. Niebuhr company, which manufactured a wide range of farm implements. There were a number of steam mills, brickyards, stores and even a windmill. By 1913, [the] total population reached 926.

There were two elementary schools in New York. In 1905 a secondary school (Zentralschule) was founded. The first teachers were Heinrich Funk and Gerhard Froese. A girls’ school opened its doors in 1907, the principal sponsor being J.J. Thiessen, the leading teacher, Viktoria Klein.

The New York Mennonite Church was organized in 1892, the first elder being Abraham Unruh. By 1905, including affiliates in Borissovo, Grigoryevka and the Azov Forestry Camp, the congregation numbered 2,275, although local baptized membership was only 600. There were undoubtedly Mennonite Brethren living in New York, but their house of worship was in Nikolayevka. 

New York suffered the same fate in later years as the rest of the Ignatyevo Colony...including difficulties...during the revolutionary period, a particularly heavy raid by Makhno [Nestor Ivanovych Makhno, Ukrainian anarchist revolutionary and the commander of an independent anarchist army in Ukraine from 1917–21] coming in February, 1919. There appeared to be some economic recovery in the 1920s, but in 1942, the entire population of the colony was evacuated by the Soviets before the German armies reached the area...

Plat map of New York from the Mennonite Historical Atlas, pg. 32

If the vote passes, I look forward to changing the name back its original and restoring a little bit of German history.