The Apostolische Brüdergemeinde (Apostolic Brethren, also known as Brotbrechergemeinde) originated during the formative years of the Mennonite Brethren in 1865-1866 in the Molotschna settlement, South Russia, and was organized as a separate brotherhood under the leadership of Elder Hermann Peters. The group, consisting of some 20 families, soon moved to the Crimea, where other Mennonite families joined them. During the years 1900-1901 the whole group moved from the Crimea to Siberia, settling north and east of the city of Omsk, near Kiryanovka and Trussovka, and on smaller places and estates. Hermann Peters continued as the elder of the congregation and resided at Kiryanovka.
The group consisted mostly of farmers and a few businessmen. Kiryanovka had a cooperative and produced an especially good quality of butter, which was exported to foreign countries. The Trussovka group raised and prepared barley for cereal and sunflowers for oil, which was extracted in its own refineries. Several large flour mills were operated and owned by the members of the congregation.
The Apostolic Brethren Congregation was extremely conservative in retaining Mennonite traditions but was at the same time strongly influenced by the revival movement of the middle of the 19th century. Baptism by immersion was practiced. The group followed a very strict practice of nonconformity to the outside world and church discipline. Instead of the common greetings when friends met or departed they used the words "grace" and "peace." Only the German Du was permissible and not the formal Sie. No physicians were consulted in cases of sickness in order not to interfere with the will of God. The name Brotbrecher (bread-breaker) was a nickname received because of the group's original practice of never using a knife to cut the bread, since "Jesus took the bread and broke it." Later this practice was discontinued and only followed during the commemoration of the Lord's Supper. The group did not observe any festivals such as Christmas or Easter, but practiced fasting. No pictures were allowed anywhere. All prayer was audible and those praying either raised their hands or knelt.
Up until World War I the young men refused to register for government alternative service, and when they were forcibly transported to the forestry camps where other Mennonite men served, they refused to do any work. Yet these families would not leave for America as so many other Mennonites had done. Before World War I the group discontinued the practice of not registering for military service and accepted the alternative service. At this time the name "Apostolic Brethren Congregation" was changed into "Evangelical Mennonite Church of God" (Evangelische Mennoniten-Gottesgemeinde). From that time on there was more cooperation between the group and the other Mennonite churches, especially in matters pertaining to military service.
Hermann Peters, the founder, was succeeded by H. J. Warkentin as elder. The total number of members was about 150 with a total population of 400. Under Communism the group was dissolved as were also the other Mennonite congregations.
Friesen, Peter M. Die Alt-Evangelische Mennonitische Brüderschaft in Russland (1789-1910) im Rahmen der mennonitischen Gesamtgeschichte. Halbstadt: Verlagsgesellschaft "Raduga", 1911.
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.
Hege, Christian and Christian Neff. Mennonitisches Lexikon, 4 vols. Frankfurt & Weierhof: Hege; Karlsruhe; Schneider, 1913-1967: v. I, 78.
Hildebrand, J. J. Geschichte der Evangelischen Mennoniten Gottesgemeinde, Part II: Sibirien. Winnipeg, 1952: 53-80.
Adapted by permission of Herald Press, Harrisonburg, Virginia, and Waterloo, Ontario, from Mennonite Encyclopedia, Vol. 1, pp. 141-142. All rights reserved. For information on ordering the encyclopedia visit the Herald Press website.
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MLA style: Krahn, Cornelius. "Apostolische Brüdergemeinde." Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. 1953. Web. 24 May 2013. http://www.gameo.org/encyclopedia/contents/A6738.html.
APA style: Krahn, Cornelius. (1953). Apostolische Brüdergemeinde. Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. Retrieved 24 May 2013, from http://www.gameo.org/encyclopedia/contents/A6738.html.