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P. M. Friesen (1849-1914)

Die Alt-Evangelische Mennonitische Brüderschaft in Russland (1789-1910), im Rahmen der Mennonitischen Gesamtgeschichte is an important historical work by Peter M. Friesen, published at Halbstadt, South Russia, in 1911 by the Mennonite publishing firm Raduga, of which 776 pages deal with the Mennonites of Russia and 154 with the Mennonites of America. In two introductory chapters Friesen briefly sketches the history of the Mennonites prior to their migration to Russia, followed by a chapter dealing with the Mennonites in Russia from 1789 to 1860. The next chapter, containing more than 400 pages, is devoted to the origin and development of the Mennonite Brethren Church. Successive chapters are devoted to nonresistance, patriotism, doctrines, practices, missions, education, mutual aid, the spread of the Mennonites, industry, business, and statistics pertaining to the development of the Mennonites in Russia. The portion of the book presenting the Mennonites in America has chapters on the Mennonite Brethren, the General Conference Mennonites, and the (old) Mennonites. The preface is most informative about the origin of the book, the author's attitudes, and the religious and cultural situation of the Mennonites in Russia before World War I.

In 1887 P. M. Friesen, a member of the Mennonite Brethren Church, was given the assignment of writing the history of the first 25 years of his church, which had been established in 1860. Visiting churches and archives, "continually looking, listening, and gathering material," he completed his task after 25 years. The nearly 1,000-page volume contained much more in scope and content than he had been asked to write. His continual addition of new materials, chapters, and documents to his manuscript has caused a certain lack of organization in the composition of the book, making it somewhat difficult to locate specific information in the bulky volume.

While at work the author became so enchanted by the total history of the Mennonites that he soon gave up his original plan of presenting only the first 25 years of the history of the Mennonite Brethren Church, and gave a fairly objective picture of the whole. As a university-trained educator who had lived and taught in non-Mennonite communities, and who had become a Russian patriot and lover of the Russian language and literature, and who had above all attained an appreciation of his own Mennonite people from a distance, he freely criticized the weaknesses of all groups within the brotherhood. In his evaluation of traditional Mennonitism in comparison to the more recent pietistic influences he is probably a little prejudiced in favor of the latter and in his attitude toward those who left Russia in 1874-1880 for conscience' sake he is somewhat blinded by his Russian patriotism. Although the book does not present an integrated story of the Mennonites of Russia, it is an indispensable illustrated collection of historical material, especially now that the documents in Russia are no longer available, and will remain a mine of information in this field.

An English translation of the work, with indexes, was published Mennonite Brethren Board of Christian Literature in 1978.


Friesen, Peter M. The Mennonite Brotherhood in Russia (1789-1910), trans. J. B. Toews and others. Fresno, CA: Board of Christian Literature [M.B.], 1978, rev. ed. 1980.

Friesen, Peter M. Die Alt-Evangelische Mennonitische Brüderschaft in Russland (1789-1910) im Rahmen der mennonitischen Gesamtgeschichte. Halbstadt: Verlagsgesellschaft "Raduga", 1911.

Additional Information

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Author(s) Cornelius Krahn
Sam Steiner
Date Published 2009

Cite This Article

MLA style

Krahn, Cornelius and Sam Steiner. "Alt-Evangelische Mennonitische Brüderschaft in Russland (1789-1910)." Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. 2009. Web. 31 May 2016.

APA style

Krahn, Cornelius and Sam Steiner. (2009). Alt-Evangelische Mennonitische Brüderschaft in Russland (1789-1910). Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. Retrieved 31 May 2016, from

Adapted by permission of Herald Press, Harrisonburg, Virginia, and Waterloo, Ontario, from Mennonite Encyclopedia, Vol. 1, p. 78. All rights reserved. For information on ordering the encyclopedia visit the Herald Press website.

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