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Fall 2002 · Vol. 31 No. 2 · pp. 206–19 

Revival and Mission in Early Communist Russia (1917—1927)

John B. Toews

Early in 1914 no one would have predicted that the peaceable and self-contained world of the Russian Mennonites was about to be radically altered and eventually destroyed. The demands of World War I, while unsettling, nevertheless proved manageable. During the conflict Mennonites expressed their loyalty to Russia by providing medical service on Red Cross trains, setting aside beds for wounded soldiers in Mennonite hospitals, and collecting monies and goods to aid the families of poor soldiers.

Amid the dislocation and discontinuity of the 1920s, a spiritual renewal swept through many Mennonite villages in the Ukraine.

There were tense moments. Germany was at war with Russia and for a time the use of the German language was banned, and the state threatened to confiscate German held lands. The overthrow of the tsar in February of 1917 generated some hope for a return to normality. Such optimism was short-lived. The Bolshevik seizure of power in October 1917, and the subsequent outbreak of a ruthless civil war soon devastated existing political, economic, and social structures. By 1921 famine, disease, and marauding bands virtually destroyed the viability of industry and agriculture and severely undermined public morale in the majority of Mennonite settlements.

As the Bolsheviks solidified their political and military power, it became increasingly apparent that nothing in the Russian Mennonite past fit the new reality: their belief in God clashed with a militant {207} atheism, their local autonomy clashed with state control, and their commitment to free enterprise clashed with radical socialism. Was reconciliation with the new order possible? Some felt their past industrial and agricultural accomplishments might, with economic development, win the tolerance of the regime and allow them to survive as a distinct minority. It gradually became apparent, however, that this was not to be, and those who could emigrated to Canada in the mid-1920s. Whatever alternatives individuals faced, the reality of personal suffering led many back to faith.

Personal and public disaster brought varied responses in the context of the larger Mennonite world. Some Mennonites were products of a closed ethnic community who, while religious, possibly reflected a cradle Mennonitism untested by the vicissitudes of life. Still others, thanks to the renewal movements emerging at the turn of the century, had committed themselves to a decisive Christian pathway involving repentance, conversion, and a life of visible discipleship in the context of the local church.

In part this may explain the contrasting reactions to the prevailing chaos of the immediate, post revolutionary period. There are those reports which cite a revitalized spiritual life, missions among the Russians, and acts of compassion and kindness to bandits and terrorists. Some speak of spiritual deterioration, of bitterness and cruelty, of the fact that the spiritual and moral life of the people, like the economy, was in shambles. 1 Others mention that the virtues of simplicity, humility, selflessness, and compassion were now replaced by extravagance, pride, selfishness, and callousness. 2

Yet amid the dislocation and discontinuity of the 1920s, a spiritual renewal swept through many Mennonite villages in the Ukraine, in some instances beginning as early as 1920. The revival, which expressed itself in various forms, saw significant participation by Mennonite Brethren adherents, yet cut across traditional church boundaries and included many leaders in the Mennonite Church. As we have seen in an earlier article, the Blankenburg Allianz, with its call for the unity and fellowship of all believers, meant both separation and cooperation among pre-World War I Russian Mennonite communities. 3 The very people who quarreled about the blurring of congregational distinctives, involving communion and baptismal practice, often agreed on issues pertaining to evangelism. Whether influenced by Allianz rhetoric or impacted by the heightened spirituality of the times, persons from the Mennonite Church, Brethren, and Allianz persuasions frequently crossed denominational lines in the interests of evangelism. {208}


Current documentation suggests that the post revolution revival was associated in part with the ministry of David and Barbara Hofer between December 1922 and May 1, 1923, when Bolshevik authorities forbade David all further preaching. Most of their efforts were focused in the Molotschna settlement where David successively preached in five villages: beginning in Waldheim, then on to Tiegenhagen, Halbstadt, Rueckenau, and Lindenau. Born in the Ukraine in 1869, David Hofer migrated to South Dakota with his parents some ten years later. As a member of the Krimmer Mennonite Brethren, he edited their publication, Wahrheitsfreund, for sixteen years. The couples’ gifts in evangelism were already recognized in the United States prior to their departure to Ukraine.

Shortly after the founding of the Mennonite Central Committee (1920), David and Barbara were asked to join the agency’s relief effort in Southern Ukraine. It was here that local Mennonite leaders discovered their talent for evangelism and requested them to engage in special services. 4 Local leaders not only cooperated but often shared the pulpit with Hofer, though some disagreed with his “American style” methods.

Hofer’s own account as well as the recollections of several participants allows a partial reconstruction of the distinguishing features of the revival. Most often one- or two-week services were arranged in a village with daily preaching. When Hofer began his services in Waldheim, the initial attendance was small but increased with each meeting. “More people came every evening, more and more believers were revitalized each night. Some sinners reached out to God asking forgiveness for their sins. 5 Long after the Hofers left, preaching and special services, whether in churches or in homes, remained characteristic of the ongoing awakening.

The records left by Hofer and others suggest that most converts experienced a deep sense of personal sinfulness and a repentance characterized by a deep penitential agony and confession of sin. Recalling his services in Waldheim, Hofer cites an experience with a teacher and preacher from a nearby village who, in the presence of those assembled, proclaimed:

I am the most wretched person. I preached and thought to lead others but am nothing but a blind leader of the blind. Lord you know my heart is as hard as stone. Be merciful to me, a sinner, and create in me a clean heart. 6 {209}

Services in the village of Lindenau saw scores of people on their knees confessing their sins to God.

On this and the previous evening services brother Hofer completely lost control of the service. Almost the entire congregation stood up, some cried, others sobbed, still others hugged and asked each other for forgiveness. There were those who simply cried to God for pardon, others praised the Lord while some sang quietly in small groups which generated an awe-inspiring sense of reverence. 7

During the meetings in Rueckenau there was a “wrestling and travailing, a crying and sobbing” which lasted almost an hour. 8 Other reports cited dramatic scenes in which the individual soul agony lasted for hours.

During the Hofer revival, the conversion struggle often culminated in a public confession of faith. Repentance generated the “moment of truth,” when the penitential agony was over and the individual reached a state of assurance. There was a feeling of happiness and ecstasy, a sense of unassailable faith. One man confessed that he had “been a church member for 3,650 days but have never spoken a word for my Lord. Now I can no longer contain myself and must confess my Savior.” Another exclaimed, “Rejoice with me. I now have a Savior who will never leave me.” 9

Hofer encouraged such declarations by giving opportunity for prayer or testimony after every service. For traditional Mennonites who considered religious feelings as something very personal and private and possibly considered a public declaration of faith as an arrogant act, such confessions were indeed significant. Little wonder that one observer wrote: “I found this method to be very appropriate and a great blessing, especially for us Mennonites.” 10 The accounts say little else about the evangelism strategies of Hofer except to cite singing, preaching, public testimony, and the fact that “many were deeply moved by the solos which sister Hofer sang.” 11

Hofer’s preaching produced impressive results. He reported that 300 persons were converted in Waldheim, 100 in Tiegenhagen, 162 in Rueckenau and more than 90 in Halbstadt. 12 In Lindenau there were 222 converts, 150 of whom were adults. 13 In most villages the services filled the church to capacity night after night. In the Zagradovka settlement, where Hofer conducted fourteen services in seven days, some 1,500 people crowded into the Nikolaidorf church for a single service. 14 {210}

The drama and success associated with the Hofers’ ministry tended to overshadow the less visible, more quietist forms of evangelism which found expression prior to their coming and continued after they left. The activities of Gerhard P. Schroeder in part illustrate the character and style of this type of evangelism.


In his memoirs Gerhard P. Schroeder recalls how in late 1917 and “throughout 1918 we had Bible studies in various private homes. We had free discussions with questions and answers, together with prayers. Ere long there was peace in my heart.” 15 Schroeder lived in the Schoenfeld volost (district) east of present day Zaporozhye and northeast of Guliai, Pole, the home of the famed anarchist Nestor Makhno. During 1918-1919, Makhno adherents from the nearby villages of Sherebetz and Lubitzkoje (Lubimovka) engaged in a reign of terror and destruction which caused all the Mennonites in the Schoenfeld region to flee.

During this upheaval Schroeder together with his student Jacob J. Dick, later a missionary to India carried on some personal evangelism in Lubitzkoje. Their work was nurtured by the 1918 return of a Russian prisoner of war, converted while incarcerated in Germany. Besides conducting Saturday night prayer meetings and Sunday services, he read the Bible and explained it to the people as best he could and prayed with them. 16 By 1925 the Lubizkoje Baptist church increased from seven to sixty. Many of its members once belonged to Makhno’s army of anarchists who had plundered and murdered in the region. The church was shepherded by Jacob G. Friesen, a Mennonite missionary to the Russians. 17

Schroeder made his last visit to his former home in Schoenfeld in the summer of 1922 only to find that home completely destroyed. 18 One year later he again visited the churches in Lubitzkoje and Sherebetz. While in Sherebetz he witnessed a large baptismal service. It was a gripping experience. “How many of our Schoenfeld people had been murdered by men from this village, and now we had such wonderful Christian fellowship with some of the people here.” 19 Once in North America, Schroeder was the recipient of a steady stream of letters which detailed the progress of churches comprised of his former enemies, enemies whom he had chosen to love. 20

Schroeder’s diaries of the early 1920s not only document the terror, famine, and disease prevailing in his world, but also amply illustrate the ongoing evangelistic efforts of others. Home Bible studies, village meetings, special Sunday evening services, brief evangelistic {211} crusades—these were normal activities for the minister Schroeder and his associates. He notes that Adolf Reimer, Heinrich Enns, and David P. Isaak visited Schoenfeld in October 1921 and held preaching services. In January 1922 he relates that he and Abram Hamm evangelized in a home. During March, services were held in Hochfeld, Morosovo (Yasykovo), in November in Rosental. The diary entries for the early months of 1923 cite regular Sunday evening evangelistic meetings. 21

Schroeder’s interest in evangelism was not unrelated to the impact of Allianz theology. Following his flight from Schoental he settled in Chortiza where he became a member of the Rosental Evangelical Mennonite Church, which practiced open communion regardless of the form of baptism, and even accepted converted members who were not baptized. 22


Our knowledge of the Molotschna renewal movement is limited to fragmentary images of events and personalities. We know, for example, that a Johann Becker and an Isaak Poettker were active evangelists with fruitful ministries, but little in the way of details. 23

The limited source materials nevertheless allow us to isolate some of the elements characterizing the revival. These consistently document that the Mennonite and Brethren churches worked closely together. Members of their respective mission boards conferred together to plan strategy and appoint itinerant evangelists. Similarly, Bible conferences and preaching seminars were jointly planned and featured inter-Mennonite participation. The Mennonite minister Aron A. Dick, from Prangenau, and Johann A. Toews, from the Brethren, were not only commissioned to preach in the Molotschna but sent to Mennonite settlements in Siberia, Orenburg, and the Kuban where they served both churches.

Special preaching services constituted only one aspect of the renewal movement. It also found expression in Bible conferences, deeper life preaching series, special Bible courses, and seminars aimed at training young ministers. Observers listed home visitations, prayer meetings, home Bible studies, and choir singing as vital ingredients in the revival. It was also characterized by mutual confession and reconciliation between neighbors and friends. In some instances this occurred at the village level. For example in Elizabethtal and Pordenau, where strong antagonism between the Brethren and Mennonite churches existed, special village meetings were called for confession and mutual reconciliation.

The long-standing itinerant ministry played a significant role in the {212} revival. The diverse ministries which, historically, such individuals played blended easily into the multifaceted activities associated with the movement. They understood the village ethos, spoke the prevailing languages and identified with their listeners’ suffering and economic deprivation. Furthermore the majority in their Mennonite audiences had, in their youth, received some form of catechetical instruction which could be revitalized by preaching and visitation. In some services such itinerants would simply ask people to stay behind if they needed help. At times half the audience did so. Little wonder that two observers wrote,

Today there are more than seven thousand who no longer bend their knees before Baal. In many Mennonite villages the fire of Golgotha burns brightly. Our feet have walked on holy ground. It seems that heaven has been opened for us. 24


Early twentieth century inter-Mennonite cooperation in the area of evangelism took several additional forms. In 1904, the Molotschna Tract Society was founded with the express intent of distributing evangelistic tracts, New Testaments, and other literature which addressed questions of public morality. Broadly focused, it boasted one hundred and eighty-eight members belonging to various affiliate groups in nine provinces of the Russian Empire. 25 For reasons presently not known, the Society became inactive around 1910, only to be revived when ten persons met in the Molotschna on August 23, 1917. 26

Less than a year later (July 21, 1918) its new name, the Evangelical Christian Tract Society of the Molotschna, was changed to the Philadelphia Society for Evangelism at a special meeting held in the Mennonite Brethren church in Rueckenau. 27 Its purpose was to evangelize through preaching, Scripture distribution, and the training of young evangelists via special courses. In Moscow, for example, the society encouraged the Moscow Christian Soldiers Union in its street services and its distribution of New Testaments and individual Gospels. 28 David J. Dick of Apanlee, the one-time founder of the Tract Society, became chairperson of the revamped organization.

The mission association Majak (Lighthouse), founded in Alexandertal, Alt-Samara on April 6, 1920, not only reflected a concern with evangelism but also signified a new level of inter-Mennonite cooperation. Its avowed purpose: “to evangelize the various peoples of Russia.” The new society declared itself to be transdenominational, avoiding theological dogmatics and church politics, and accepting all “who have {213} had a personal encounter with the Lord Jesus.” Majak soon engaged in a variety of activities. The society sent evangelists to preach in Russian, German, and Mordvin villages, held children’s services and Sunday schools in Russian villages, sponsored specialized conferences for ministers and Sunday school teachers, and sought to distribute Bibles and tracts. 29 Nor was the association lacking in social conscience. They planned medical missions, children’s homes, poor houses, old age homes, homes for the disabled, and hoped to open a food distribution agency.

By 1922, Majak had three operational centers. In Alexandertal, Alt-Samara, it sought to work among the diverse population of the rather large village which included Chinese, Jews, Tatars, and Bashkirs. A special evangelism project saw a Jacob Toews active as a missionary among the Mordvin. In Moscow their work was medically oriented, focusing on the blind, disabled, and chronically ill. In Turkestan, the society decided to build feeding kitchens in order to feed starving Kirghiz populations. Mennonite settlers from Auli-Ata supplied meat, flour, potatoes, beans, and red beets. A small missionary group worked among the one hundred to three hundred persons utilizing the two feeding centers. Mennonites fluent in Kirghiz read the Gospel to adults while others encouraged children to memorize Scripture verses. 30

Another type of evangelism which emerged in the wake of the Bolshevik Revolution was the so-called Zeltmission (Tent Mission). The idea apparently originated with Mennonite medics serving with the Russian Red Cross. A young engineer, Jakob J. Dick, studied in Germany and, upon his return to Russia, served as a nonresistant medic in Moscow. Here he organized a Christian Soldiers Association not long after the February Revolution of 1917 overthrew the tsarist regime. 31 Encouraged by the missionary Heinrich Sukkau, Dick organized a society for the support of the Zeltmission. After considerable searching, the society managed to purchase a tent capable of holding four hundred people. Following a dedication ceremony on July 22, 1918, the tent, together with a supply of books and Bibles, was sent to Tambov where evangelistic services began on July 28. 32

The Zeltmission, as the name suggests, engaged in a highly mobile, itinerant style of evangelism. It was not, however, limited to tent meetings. In June 1919, twelve women and twelve men were commissioned in the Rueckenau Brethren church. They included a Latvian, a Russian, and a converted Jewess. These lay workers were specially trained, then sent out to the villages in teams of five. 33 There, depending on the local situation, they might live in granaries, barns, or private homes. If the {214} large tent was not available, meetings were held in local schools, private homes or yards, machine sheds, or, in larger cities, in the local theaters. The Zeltmission targeted both Mennonite and Russian villages and often its operations were characterized by close cooperation between Mennonites and Russian Baptists. When in 1919 the Makhnovzi bandits left over eighty dead in the Mennonite village of Eichenfeld (Dubovka), they included all five members of the local Zeltmission team. Among those hacked to death by sabers were the Zeltmission founder and director Jakob J. Dick, the Latvian Juschkevitsch, the Russian Galizin, the Jewess Regina Rosenberg, and the Mennonite Luise Huebert-Sukkau. 34


Another example of the concern with Russian evangelism involved Johann Peters, Johann’s sister Helene, Paul Beer, and Johann Kehler. Peters and his wife studied at the Allianz Bible School in Berlin and returned to Russia with the outbreak of World War I. Inspired by Karl Benzien, a missionary who lived among the Ostyaks of the Ob river region as early as 1905, the group decided to evangelize the scattered ethnic groups living along the tributaries of this massive river. Leaving Tomsk with a Russian guide just after the end of the civil war, they followed the inland waterways by canal, eventually settling some two hundred miles (three hundred kilometers) north of the city. 35 They became self-supporting by spinning, carpentry, fishing, gathering nuts and berries, keeping a few sheep and chickens, and planting a garden. In addition, occasional financial support from the Slavgorod and Pavlodar Mennonite settlements enabled them to carry on. 36

These Siberian evangelists worked under very difficult and primitive conditions. They coped with long winters and extreme cold, biting insects, geographic isolation as well as indigenous tribes given to superstition, idol worship, tobacco and alcohol addiction, and endemic wife abuse. 37 Evangelism occurred through home services or singing and preaching around a campfire where smoke kept away the ever-present mosquitoes. Moving along the Ob and its tributaries, the stalwart group covered over six hundred fifty miles (one thousand kilometers) of the massive river system in order to reach the scattered Ostyaks. 38

By 1926-1927, members of the Siberian churches began to take an active interest in evangelism. Peters and others visited the Slavgorod, Pavlodar, and Orenburg Mennonite settlements as early as 1923 in order to generate interest and recruit workers. 39 Before long, churches dispatched special delegates to visit the remote mission field. Their {215} arduous journeys took them to remote towns like Obdorsk, Beresovo, Krivolutzk, Migdipulsk, Alexandrovo, and Passal. All these stations were staffed by one or more families who held regular services with their converts. 40 The story of this endeavor can only be told until 1928 when the inter-Mennonite church publication, Unser Blatt, was shut down by Communist authorities. It is rather remarkable that all the extant documents portraying this evangelistic effort make no references to Brethren-Mennonite Church differences. Perhaps Allianz had done its work, or the sheer enormity of the endeavor made such distinctions irrelevant.


By the mid-1920s most Mennonites living in Russia realized that the violence of civil war and banditry, as well as the social and economic changes demanded by the Communists, meant an end to their traditional way of life. Those who could do so emigrated by 1927. A second wave of potential Mennonite migrants traveled to Moscow in 1929 in a desperate attempt to obtain exit visas. Only a third were successful. Those who remained behind were often accused of disloyalty to the Soviet state and, as the Stalinist terror increased, experienced arrest, internment, or execution. Amid all this the last vestiges of church life vanished in the early 1930s.

The revivals of the immediate pre-World War I and postrevolutionary periods nevertheless left their mark. Stalin’s determination to eliminate the leadership of all religions meant that the majority of Mennonite ministers perished in the camps or were executed. Those who remained in the villages during the 1930s had no church to provide community and hope. Then, in 1941, the Nazi invasion of the Soviet Union resulted in the deportation of Germans living in the western Soviet Union. The dispersion was carefully orchestrated to ensure that no concentration of German nationals occurred. In 1943, the widespread induction into the so-called Work Army, especially of females, appeared to destroy the last vestiges of Mennonite faith and peoplehood.

Yet during all the chaos and suffering, the religious memories and experiences of the past still lingered. Today an emerging documentation increasingly confirms that during the worst years of dispersion, women, by relating Bible stories, reciting memorized verses, and singing songs, brought the first wave of revival to youth who knew little or nothing of the Christian story. In most instances, their blueprint of the Gospel message was drawn in the 1920s. Similarly the few surviving and aging ministers who began returning from the exile camps following Stalin’s {216} death in 1953 brought with them memories and knowledge from the 1920s. Regrettably, the contribution of the Mennonite women, who frequently stood alone and persisted in the face of incredible odds, was often minimized in the subsequent rebuilding of the church.

The evangelical churches emerging in the late 1950s and early 1960s were often a mix of varied memories and experiences. Men and women of Mennonite background might reemerge as Baptists, Menno-nites, or Mennonite Brethren. For many who emerged as leaders, the revivals of the 1920s marked the last input of spiritual energy into their lives. Little wonder that they found comfort and reassurance in past knowledge and patterns and that newly emerging congregations often felt that old leaders provided authoritative guidance for new structures. In many congregations the laying on of hands by someone ordained in the 1920s symbolized continuity with what once had been. Ancient wisdom was to guide newly ordained deacons and ministers.

Certainly the work of the Holy Spirit among the Mennonites of the Soviet dispersion during the 1950s and 1960s was not dependent on the past. Yet the people often built on what they remembered. Renewal in any age appears to be associated with the proclamation of the Word, conversion involving repentance and faith assurance, a concern with public confession, and a focus on building the body of Christ. Realities of the present and memories of the past were curiously blended among the varied Evangelicals of Mennonite background in the Soviet empire. As was true for their forebears of the 1920s, renewal meant a lay ministry seeking to revitalize the local congregation, special Bible courses, evangelists moving from village to village, summer missions utilizing tents, tract distribution, and missions among the Uzbeks, Kazakhs, and Kirghiz.


  1. D. M. Hofer, Die Hungersnot in Russland und Unsere Reise um die Welt (Chicago, IL: K. M. B., 1924), 69.
  2. Dietrich H. Doerksen and Peter J. Kornelsen, “An unsere Menno-niten-Geschwister in Amerika,” Der Wahrheitsfreund, 1923, no. 23, 9, 12.
  3. See John B. Toews, “The Calm Before the Storm: Mennonite Brethren in Russia, 1900–1914,” Direction 31 (spring 2002): 74-95.
  4. Hofer, 70-77.
  5. Ibid. {217}
  6. Hofer, 71.
  7. Jakob A. Loewen, “Nachklang von den Erweckungsversammlungen im Dorfe Lindenau, Russland,” Der Wahrheitsfreund, 1923, no. 28, 9.
  8. Hofer, 75.
  9. Ibid., 71, 73.
  10. Loewen, 12.
  11. Franz Martens to Wilhelm W. Martens, Altona, Zagradovka, Der Wahrheitsfreund, 1923, no. 24, 12. “Some people in Halbstadt were very critical of the work of the brother. They ridiculed his method of evangelism and especially the fact that the Hofers often sang duets,” N. J. Fehderau to J. G. Neufeld, Kitchener, Ontario, April 29, 1980 (I. G. Neufeld file, Center for Mennonite Brethren Studies, Fresno, CA). In his memoirs, Nicholas J. Fehderau attributed his own conversion to Hofer’s preaching (“Skizzen aus meinem Leben in Sued-Russland,” 688-91). In a condensed version of his memoirs he observes that the Hofers evangelized “in the American style” (213). I want to thank his daughter, Elenore M. Fast of Winnipeg, for making this material available to me.
  12. Hofer, 70-75.
  13. Loewen, 12.
  14. “F. Martens to W. Martens,” 12.
  15. Gerhard P. Schroeder, Miracles of Grace and Judgment (Kingsport, TN: Kingsport Press, 1974), 30.
  16. Ibid., 179.
  17. Ibid., 182, 186-88; J. G. Friesen, “Bericht ueber die Reichsgottesarbeit unter den Russen in Sued-Russland” (G. P. Schroeder collection, Center for Mennonite Brethren Studies, Fresno, CA).
  18. Ibid., 223.
  19. Ibid., 243-47.
  20. See Ibid., 180-89. Many of these letters are preserved in the G. P. Schroeder collection (Center for Mennonite Brethren Studies, Fresno, CA).
  21. G. P. Schroeder Diaries (Center for Mennonite Brethren Studies, Fresno, CA), January 20, 1922; March 20, 1922; November 19, 192?; February 1923; March 4, 25, 1923; April 9, 22, 29, 1923.
  22. Ibid., February 17, 1923; Miracles of Grace, 161.
  23. The following provide intriguing examples: Johann Toews, “Tagebuch eines Evangelisten,” Zionsbote, 16 April 1924, 11-12; W. J. Martens, “Bericht ueber die Erwaechungszeit 1923-25 in Suedrussland and der Molotschna Colony, April, 1982” (I. G. Neufeld file, {218} Center for Mennonite Brethren Studies, Fresno, CA); Aron A. Toews, Mennonite Martyrs: People Who Suffered for Their Faith, 1920-1940, vol. 6 of Perspectives on Mennonite Life and Thought (Winnipeg, MB, and Hillsboro, KS: Kindred, 1990), 22, 174.
  24. Dietrich H. Doerksen and Peter J. Kornelsen, “Russland,” Der Wahrheitsfreund, 1923, no. 23, 1.
  25. K. Bergmann, “Einiges ueber den Molotschnaer Traktatverein,” Friedensstimme, 1906, no. 24, 252.
  26. D. Dick, “Stehen heute noch Tote auf?” Friedensstimme, 1918, no. 36, 7.
  27. “Evangelisationsverein ‘Philadelphia,’ ” Friedensstimme, 1918, no. 36, 7.
  28. A. Toews, “Traktiermission in Moskau,” Friedensstimme, 1918, no. 42, 1.
  29. “Die Entstehung des Christlichen Vereins ‘Majak’ ” (C. E. Krehbiel Collection, file 47, Mennonite Library and Archives, North Newton, KS). The Mordvin, linguistically related to the Western Finns, are found in the provinces of Tambov, Simbirsk, Penza, Saratov, and Orenburg. Though widely scattered, about one-third live in the Mordivinian Autonomous Region, South of the city of Gorki.
  30. “Mitteilungen aus der Arbeit unseres Vereins ‘Majak’ ” (C. E. Krehbiel collection, file 47, Mennonite Library and Archives, North Newton, KS).
  31. Abraham Kroeker, Bilder aus Sowjet-Russland (Striegau in Schlesien, 1930), 49-50.
  32. E. Henselmann, “Einweihung der Zeltmission im Christlichen Soldatenverein in Moskau,” Friedensstimme, 1918, no. 44, 2-3.
  33. “Die Maertyrer der Zeltmission in Russland,” in A. A. Toews, Mennonitische Maertyrer, vol. 1 (Winnipeg, MB: Christian, 1949), 130-31.
  34. Ibid., 131-36; Kroeker, Bilder, 51-55. On the day-to-day activities of the mission see “Aus der Zeltmission,” Friedensstimme, 1914, no. 21, 6-7. For a recent study of the Zeltmission, see Leona Gislason, “The Tent Mission in South Russia: 1918-1923,” Journal of Mennonite Studies 115 (1977): 80-97. The personal character and spiritual motivation of Jakob Dick find excellent portrayal in the memoirs of his brother-in-law, Nicholas J. Fehderau, From the Heights into the Depths, translated and privately published by his daughter, Elenore M. Fehderau Fast, in 1997. See pp. 159ff.
  35. Johann Peters, “Bericht ueber das Missionfeld im Norden Asiens am Obstrom und den Nebenfluessen,” Unser Blatt, 1925-1926, {219} no. 1, 3-5; no. 2, 24-26. Most of evangelistic activity was probably carried on among the Samoyed Ostyak, most of whom lived in the Narym District of Tomsk province. There were two other district tribes: the Ugrian Ostyak and Yenisei Ostyak. There were about 4,000-5,000 Samoyed Ostyak in 1928.
  36. Ibid., Unser Blatt, 1925-1926, no. 9, 216-18; no. 10, 242-44.
  37. Ibid., no. 2, 24-26; no. 12, 309-10.
  38. Ibid., no. 10, 242-44.
  39. Ibid.
  40. Heinrich Wiens, “Sibirien,” Unser Blatt, 1927, no. 5, 141-42; Herman Heinrichs, “Unsere zweite Reise nach Obdorsk und Beresowo,” Unser Blatt, 1927, no. 12, 374-75; Heinrich Voth, “Bericht ueber unsere Besuchsreise zu den Geschwistern am Flusse Ob,” Unser Blatt, 1927-1928, no. 1, 16-18. Herman Heinrichs, “Ein Bericht aus dem Norden zu Gottes Ehren,” Unser Blatt, 1927-1928, no. 8, 188-90. For a comprehensive treatment of the Ostyak mission, see Johannes Reimer, Bis an die Enden Sibirrens Aus dem leben und Wirken des Ostjaken Missionars, Johann Peters (Lage, Germany: Historische Kommission des Bundes Taufgesinnter Gemeinden, 1998). An earlier work (1997) by the same author tells the fascinating story of missions in Kirghizia, Sein Letzten Worte waren ein Lied, Leben und Wirken des Kirgisen Missionars, Martin Thielmann.
John B. Toews is Professor of Church History and Anabaptist Studies at Regent College, Vancouver, British Columbia.

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