Toews earns Fulbright Scholarship to travel to Ukraine

A Fulbright Scholarship will allow a Fresno Pacific University faculty member to impart American history while rescuing Mennonite history.

Paul Toews, history faculty and director of the Center for Mennonite Brethren Studies, will be in the Ukraine September 1 to June 30 on a Fulbright lecture-research award. He will teach U.S. History at Zaporizhzhia State University and visit archives throughout the former Soviet republic in search of documents relating to Mennonite history.

The Fulbright program is sponsored by the U.S. Department of State. For 57 years this international educational exchange has sent Americans to study, teach and do research abroad, and brought international scholars to the United States. More than 250,000 university faculty, students, elementary and secondary teachers and other professionals have participated in a Fulbright program. Recipients include Milton Friedman, Nobel Prize winning economist; Alan Leshner, CEO of the American Association for the Advancement of Science; Rita Dove, Pulitzer Prize-winning poet; and Craig Barrett, CEO of Intel Corporation.

Toews research will focus on finding documents relating to Mennonites in Russia, a story forgotten by the very archivists who store the records, which altogether run into the millions of pages. Mennonites came to Russia at the request of Czar Catherine II to farm the Ukraine. They were later persecuted and those not imprisoned left the country. Classed by the Soviets as “national minorities” along with Jews, Tartars, religious dissenters and other groups, they were treated officially as though they never existed.

In one and sometimes two trips per year since 1996, Toews has searched archives throughout the Ukraine, working to identify and secure reproduction rights for a consortium of five archives in Kansas, Winnipeg and British Columbia. What he and other Mennonite scholars are doing “will ultimately reshape the Mennonite story,” Toews said. His work has also sparked the interest of Ukrainians themselves. “This is part of their history, as well,” Toews said.

At Zaporizhzhia State University, Toews hopes to teach a mix of U.S. intellectual and political history, as well look at how American history has been interpreted. The university enrolls about 8,300 students, 4,800 full time and the rest by correspondence, in 31 fields. Its roots go back to the end of the 19thcentury.

Among other activities, Toews will lead his 10thMennonite Heritage Cruise. More than 1,500 North American Mennonites have taken these cruises, visiting sites and connecting with their own history. It was through these cruises that Toews first traveled to the Ukraine in 1989.

Toews came to FPU in1967. He earned a bachelor’s degree from Tabor College, a master’ s from the University of Kansas and a doctorate from the University of Southern California.