Fall 1999 · Vol. 28 No. 2 · pp. 269–71 

Book Review

Evangelical Sectarianism in the Russian Empire and the USSR: A Bibliographic Guide

Albert W. Warden. Lanham, MD; London, UK: American Theological Library Association; Scarecrow, 1995. 867 pages.

Reviewed by Clarence Hiebert

This volume, the thirty-sixth in the ATLA Bibliographic Series published since 1974, was an ambitious and worthwhile undertaking. It is a much-needed reference for materials concerning fascinating topics. From the vantage point of Mennonites, and more specifically Mennonite Brethren with their history in the Russian Empire and the USSR, {270} researchers will find resources that will inform and enrich their studies.

This volume centers on Protestants (there are only secondary references to Russian Orthodoxy, Roman Catholicism, Jews, and Muslims), and Warden’s primary research has focused on Baptists (with whom he is affiliated) and Mennonites. However, bibliographic information is also included on more than twenty other denominations or parachurch organizations. For virtually all of these groups, the seventy-year Marxist Soviet era is a major concern.

The table of contents offers a fine detailed outline of the resources in three sections: I. Pietism and Protestant Societies and Missions (1693-1917); II. Evangelical Sectarianism in the Russian Empire (1855-1917); and III. Evangelical Sectarianism in the USSR and Adjoining Territories (1917-1990). Two comprehensive indexes are useful for researchers: thirty, two-column pages listing individuals (including about a hundred different so-called “ethnic” Mennonite names), and twenty-nine pages of topic and place listings. Tables clarifying abbreviations and symbols used in the citations, instructions and places where resources are available, periodicals and reference works cited, are helpful for research. Warden regrets that a few of the citations do not have adequate identification, but these simply were not available.

Warden notes that resources available on Mennonites in this geographic and time era have become prolific. His inclusion of noteworthy materials on Baptists, with whom the Mennonite Brethren associated freely, is a valuable supplement for those doing MB-related research.

Of the approximately eleven thousand listings covering 1693-1990, nearly five hundred are on the Mennonite Brethren, with more under Mennonites and Mennonite Central Committee. Warden regards 56 percent as major entries; the others are primarily a listing of periodical articles. Entries are in seventeen languages, the dominant of which are English (44 percent), Russian (36 percent), and German (17.5 percent).

Eight of the 104 archival libraries listed are those of North American Mennonite colleges: Newton and Hillsboro, Kansas; Goshen and Elkhart, Indiana; Fresno, California; Winnipeg, Manitoba; Bluffton, Ohio; and Harrisonburg, Virginia. Additional recent findings on Mennonites in the Odessa archives are still in process and should provide even more help in the future. Likewise, Hamburg-Horn holdings as well as those of the Weierhof in Germany should have been included. Obviously a task of this kind is almost endless; not citing these libraries is minor in comparison to the voluminous findings Warden lists.

Some of the matter included in this twenty-five year project is samizdat material. There are also reports by foreign visitors/researchers to the {271} USSR and from emigrants during this seventy-year period. Writings by Walter Sawatzky are included, a Canadian Mennonite Sovietologist who is one of the most knowledgeable and respected writers on the situation of Mennonites and Baptists during this era.

In particular, the influences which shaped the thought and life of Mennonites in Russia are of interest: Stundism, Oncken, German Baptists, Pietism, Wuest, Molokans, Lutherans, Bonekemper, Moravians, Black Sea Germans, Volga Germans, Dukhobors, Adventists, Plymouth Brethren, British and Foreign Bible Society, Don Region, Kharev, St. Petersburg Baptists, Caucausas, Volhynia, Ekaterinoslav, Kuban, Pentecostalism, Old Believers, Friedenstimme, the Wielers, Mennonite Russian Bible Society, Central Asia, Siberia, Omsk, and more.

Browsing through the thick volume was a pleasure for this reviewer. Memories triggered by my own interests, areas of teaching, people I came to know, and experiences I have had through frequent travels to the USSR (since 1972) and Europe were enlivened by looking through this remarkable collection of material. For any library, particularly those that focus on Christendom issues during the past three centuries, this volume is a must. Individuals doing research on the Marxist-Christian ideological and reality conflicts of those who have lived during the Soviet era and its influences would benefit greatly from this volume.

Clarence Hiebert
Prof. Emeritus of Biblical/Religious Studies and History
Tabor College, Hillsboro, Kansas