Slavgorod Mennonite Church (Slavgorod Mennonite Settlement, Siberia, Russia)
Slavgorod Mennonite Church was established in 1908 in the Slavgorod Mennonite settlement in Siberia. Originally worship services were held in the village schools. In 1909 a congregational meeting was held in Orloff attended by Elder Jacob Gerbrandt and the ministers Franz Buller, Johann Bergmann, Peter J. Wiebe, Gerhard Wiebe, Dietrich Epp, and Isaak Löwen. In this brotherhood meeting the Slavgorod (Orloff) Mennonite Church was divided into five districts: (1) Orloff with 6 villages, (2) Grünfeld 5, (3) Reinfeld 8, (4) Kleefeld 8, and (5) Markovka 6. All ordained ministers were recognized as such, and Jakob Gerbrandt, who had attended Bethel College, North Newton, Kansas, was charged with the responsibility of baptizing, administering the Lord's Supper, and the ordination of ministers and deacons in all the districts. However, each district had its own leading minister. Between Easter and Pentecost the traditional catechetical instruction took place, and at Pentecost the first baptismal service and Lord's Supper were observed in the large shed of Johann Klassen, of Grünfeld. First the church of the settlement was known as Orloff, but later as Schönsee. This article treats this general area church under the name of the settlement, Slavgorod. The church records and the handing out of church certificates were in the hands of P. J. Wiebe.
When Cornelius D. Harder came to the Slavgorod Mennonite settlement in 1912, he was ordained elder of the Orloff (Schönsee) Mennonite Church. Another of the outstanding elders was Franz Buller, who was one of the delegates to look for land in the Kulundian Steppes. During the first years the responsibilities of the elder originally assigned to Jakob Gerbrandt were probably shared by some of the leading ministers. Gradually each of the congregations, particularly the larger ones, became independent. Of the churches listed above, those which should have been treated in the preceding volumes of this Encyclopedia will be reported in the following paragraphs. The others are found in alphabetical order in this volume. (See Schönsee [Orloff] Mennonite Church, Reinfeld Mennonite Church, Pashnya Mennonite Church, Tchayachy Mennonite Church, and Svistunovo Mennonite Church.)
Grünfeld Mennonite Church comprised five villages: Grünfeld, Nikolaidorf, Alexandrovka, Rosenwald, and Tchernovka. The first elder was Jakob Gerbrandt, who was originally elder at large. He was assisted by the ministers Isaak Löwen, Dietrich Epp, Peter P. Epp, and Martin von Kampen. Later were added Abram Block, Heinrich Unruh, and Heinrich Krahn. Jakob Gerbrandt was soon succeeded by Peter P. Epp as leader of the general congregation. The congregation did not have a church building, but worshiped in schoolhouses.
Kleefeld Mennonite Church served the following eight villages: Kleefeld, Shumanovka, Halbstadt, Alexanderkrone, Gnadenheim, Blumenort, Ebenfeld, and Hochstädt. The first leading minister was Abram Dück, who was succeeded by Cornelius Wiens (died 1918) as elder. Wiens was succeeded by Jacob Harder, who immigrated to Canada. After him Johann Goossen became the leading minister. In 1918 a spacious, beautiful church was erected in Kleefeld. Other ministers who served the congregation were Jacob Kliewer, Wilhelm Hübert, Jacob Voth, and Dietrich Geddert.
Markovka Mennonite Church served the following eight villages: Markovka, Chortitza, Stepnoye, Golyenkoye, Grishkovka, Karatal, Dolinovka, and Suvorovka. The first leading minister was Jacob Enns; he was succeeded by David Bäcker, who was ordained elder. Other ministers of the congregation were Anton Löwen, Peter Enns, Isaak Wiebe, Franz Derksen, Jacob Spenst, David Heidebrecht, and Peter Konrad. In 1913 the congregation built a church in Markovka. In 1923 Jacob Nickel started a Jehovah's Witnesses group in this congregation.
Khoroshoye (Nikolayevka) Mennonite Church served four villages: Khoroshoye, Nikolayevka, Saratov, and Silberfeld. The first leader was Dietrich Görzen. He was assisted by the following ministers: Jacob Harder, Abram Penner, Johann Derksen, Johann Krüger, Peter Voth, Jacob Enns, Abram Wiebe, and Salomon Derksen. In 1924 the congregation built a church in Khoroshoye.
Gnadental Mennonite Church served three villages: Gnadental, Fernheim, and Sergeyevka. The first leading minister was Isaak J. Fast, who was assisted by Franz Harder, Abram Unruh, Cornelius Penner, and Peter Wiens. The congregation started the building of a church under the Soviet government, which was then prohibited.
Glyaden Mennonite Church served the following four villages: Lichtfelde, Ebenfeld, Ivanovka, and Sluchaynoye. The elder of this congregation was Jacob Warkentin, assisted by Jacob Boldt, Samuel Boldt, and David Harder, who became a communist. The congregation built a church in Lichtfelde in 1920. At this place an Adventist group originated under the leadership of Peter Thiessen.
The Slavgorod Mennonite Church was unique in difficulties to be surmounted. The congregations had barely been organized and had barely overcome the first pioneer difficulties when World War I broke out, which ended with the Revolution of 1917 ushering in a civil war and finally the communistic regime. All the congregations, although they had been registered in Tomsk in 1912, had to be registered now under the new Soviet government in Omsk. The hardships and antireligious attitude of the government, together with the accompanying exile of ministers and the taxation of church property, resulted in the cessation by 1932 of all official religious and worship activities. A few church leaders had left for Canada; most had been exiled, and many perished in exile. Since the Slavgorod Mennonite settlement, unlike the settlements of the Ukraine, was not completely disrupted, religious activities have been resumed more readily since the death of Stalin (1953) than among some of the scattered Mennonites in other regions.
It has not become apparent to what extent the Slavgorod Mennonite settlement has benefited by the greater religious liberty which is noticeable throughout the Asiatic communities in which Mennonites live. However, great changes have taken place. A letter written by Margarete Koop, who is living in the Slavgorod settlement, states that she had not been able to attend any worship services for a number of years (published in Mennonitische Rundschau, 12 December 1956). Franz Thiessen, of Blumenort, Slavgorod, writes that there was no preaching of the Gospel in 1931-55. Now many, including Thiessen, are starting to preach. Scarcity of Bibles and hymnals compels them to copy hymnals by hand (Mennonitische Rundschau, 10 October 1956, p. 6). Another letter reports that many people have been converted and that some, of whom it was never expected, have started to preach the Gospel (Der Bote, 2 January 1957, p. 7). The Baptist church of the city of Slavgorod, which Klaus Mehnert visited in 1955, was attended by many Mennonites when there was no other possibility for Mennonite public services. The church did not yet have permission to enlarge its facilities, but in 1956 it received permission to have German preaching. A letter written by the daughter of Margarete Boldt, in Orloff, Slavgorod, states that Peter Voth is to serve as elder in the neighboring church which has just been opened (Der Bote, 25 January 1956, p. 7f.). Anna Stobbe of Ivanovka, Glyaden, Slavgorod, writes that many conversions are taking place and that a new Mennonite Brethren church has been organized (Mennonitische Rundschau, 12 December 1956, p. 11). Such information indicates that general revival of religious life and the permission for Mennonites to meet even though they are not registered are also noticeable in the Slavgorod Mennonite settlement.
Behrends, Ernst. Beata. Heilbronn, 1935.
Epp, D. H. Adressbüchlein. Berdyansk, 1913.
Fast, Gerhard. In den Steppen Sibiriens. Rosthern, 1957.
Hildebrand, J. J. Sibirien. Winnipeg, 1952.
Unser Blatt I, 45, 128, 279; II, 182, 208. 210, 277; III, 11-13, 15-16.
See also bibliography under "Slavgorod Mennonite Settlement."
Cite This Article
Krahn, Cornelius. "Slavgorod Mennonite Church (Slavgorod Mennonite Settlement, Siberia, Russia)." Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. 1959. Web. 18 Oct 2017. http://gameo.org/index.php?title=Slavgorod_Mennonite_Church_(Slavgorod_Mennonite_Settlement,_Siberia,_Russia)&oldid=111016.
Krahn, Cornelius. (1959). Slavgorod Mennonite Church (Slavgorod Mennonite Settlement, Siberia, Russia). Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. Retrieved 18 October 2017, from http://gameo.org/index.php?title=Slavgorod_Mennonite_Church_(Slavgorod_Mennonite_Settlement,_Siberia,_Russia)&oldid=111016.
Adapted by permission of Herald Press, Harrisonburg, Virginia, from Mennonite Encyclopedia, Vol. 4, pp. 538-539. All rights reserved.
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