A Mennonite in Russia: The Diaries of Jacob D. Epp, 1851-1880

A Mennonite in Russia: The Diaries of Jacob D. Epp, 1851-1880


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A Mennonite in Russia: The Diaries of Jacob D. Epp, 1851-1880 by University of Toronto Press, Scholarly Publishing Division

In the lives of ordinary people are the truths of history. Such truths abound in the diaries of Jacob Epp, a Russian Mennonite school-teacher, lay minister, farmer, and village secretary in southern Ukraine. This abridged translation of his diaries offers a remarkably vivid picture of Mennonite community life in Imperial Russia during a period of troubled change. Epp’s writings reveal a skilled and honest diarist of deep feelings, and tell a human story that no conventional historical account could hope to equal.

The diaries overflow with the details of his workaday world. Family, village, church, and community routines are broken by trips to market, visits to other Mennonite settlements, and a memorable steamer voyage to boomtown Odessa on the Black Sea. He chronicles his long-time involvement in an unusual Imperial experiment in which Mennonites were “model farmers” in Jewish villages.

Harvey L. Dyck places the diaries in their historical, ethnocultural, social, religious, economic, and political settings. Based on archival research, interviews, travels, and consultations with other scholars, his detailed and perceptive introduction and analysis trace Jacob Epp’s life and present a sketch and interpretation of his larger family, community, and Imperial world.

With striking clarity the diaries and introduction together re-create a time and way of life marked by controversy and flux. They reflect significant facets of the experience of ethno-religious minorities in Imperial Russia and of the development of the southern Ukrainian frontier. Above all, they fill significant missing pages of the great community-centred story of Russian Mennonite life.

This book is richly illustrated with maps, black-and-white photographs, and watercolour paintings by Cornelius Hildebrand, Jacob Epp’s former village school pupil and later brother-in-law.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781442615410
Publisher: University of Toronto Press, Scholarly Publishing Division
Publication date: 02/15/2013
Series: Tsarist and Soviet Mennonite Studies Series
Edition description: Reprint
Pages: 492
Product dimensions: 14.00(w) x 8.90(h) x 1.30(d)

About the Author

Harvey L. Dyck is a professor emeritus in the History Department at the University of Toronto.

Table of Contents


Introduction and Analysis

BOOK I, 1851-1853
Old Colony Teacher and Judenplan Settler

BOOK II, 1860-1866
Family and Village Life on the Judenplan

BOOK III, 1867-1870
Contending with Change

BOOK IV, 1871-1880
Balancing the Old and the New



Genealogy of the Jacob D. Epp Family


What People are Saying About This

Peter Brock

“These diaries represent a valuable source for the history of Imperial Russia and of southern Ukraine. They have been carefully translated and edited by Harvey L. Dyck, who provides a comprehensive and insightful introduction and analysis that is indeed a model of its kind.”

David G. Rempel

‘The Epp diaries are a tremendously important primary source, superbly edited and introduced … deserving of the widest circulation.’

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