Baptists and Mennonites in Russia
The influence of the Baptists on the Mennonites in Russia and the share which the Mennonites had in the origin and spread of the Baptist movement in Russia has not yet been fully investigated. However, that there was a mutual influence is an established fact. The Baptist influence among the Mennonites in Russia coincided with the revival that was started through the work of Eduard Wüst and became noticeable when the traditional Mennonite form of baptism was changed on 23 September 1860 by the group which introduced baptism by immersion. When the newly founded Mennonite Brethren Church in 1862 made immersion compulsory it adopted a characteristic Baptist practice, which it apparently took over from that group.
Peter M. Friesen reported that Jacob Reimer claimed that he had read the life story of the Baptist Anna Judson in 1837, on which occasion he learned that there were some Christians who practiced baptism by immersion. By 1860 other literature had reached the Mennonites in Russia in which baptism by immersion was advocated. During the winter of 1860-1861 a correspondence was begun with the Baptist evangelist Gottfried F. Alf in Poland and the Mennonite elder Peter Ewert of the Deutsch-Wymysle Mennonites who had also just introduced baptism by immersion. The founding and organization of the Einlage Mennonite Brethren Church at Chortitza took place in close cooperation with the father of the German Baptist movement, Johann G. Oncken of Hamburg. He ordained Abraham Unger as elder of the congregation in 1869. Other Baptist ministers such as K. Benzien, F. W. Baedeker, and August Liebig exerted a very definite influence on the newly organized Mennonite Brethren Church. Although the Baptists did not succeed in achieving an organic union with this Mennonite group, the spiritual ties and spheres of co-operation continued throughout the decades. Some Mennonite Brethren ministers received their training in the Baptist Seminary at Hamburg and many of their missionaries went out to the Baptist mission field in India a part of which was later obtained as a Mennonite Brethren mission field.
On the other hand, the Mennonites and particularly the Mennonite Brethren in Russia had a definite share in the origin and development of the evangelical movement in Russia which resulted in two major groups, the Baptists and Evangelical Christians. Especially the groups which had separated from the Greek Catholic Church, such as the Dukhobors and the Molokans, were a fertile field. The Pietists, Wüst and Bonekämper, introduced into the German settlements of South Russia meetings for devotional purposes called Stunden (hours). Those attending these meetings became known as "Stundists." These practices were also accepted by the Mennonites. Gradually some hired Russian helpers attending such meetings were converted. Having observed public baptisms by the Mennonite Brethren, some desired also to be baptized. Thus J. Wider and his brother G. Wider baptized the first Russians in 1863. Elder A. Unger of the Einlage Mennonite Brethren congregation baptized a Yefim Zembal who in turn baptized other Russian Stundists, outstanding among whom was Ivan Ryaboshapka, who became a leading evangelist. Cornelius Jansen of Berdyansk, and the Molotschna Mennonites, helped Scottish Presbyterian evangelist William Melville, who had been working in Russia since 1823, in the distribution of Bibles in Russia, which paved the way for the revival and renewed spread of the Stundist movement which had begun somewhat earlier.
Another source of the Stundist or Evangelical movement originated through the Englishman Lord Radstock, who in St. Petersburg started a tract mission in 1875, primarily among the aristocracy. Outstanding among the leaders were W. A. Pashkov and Korff. Although this movement originally had little to do with the Mennonites, later contacts were established through such men as Jakob Kroeker. After the Bolshevik Revolution in 1917, Licht im Osten, Wernigerode a.H., Germany, under the directorship of the Mennonite preacher, Jakob Kroeker, became the spiritual center of the Russian Baptist and Evangelical Christian refugees in Germany, from which Christian literature was sent to Russia, and where young people were trained for evangelistic work in Slavic countries. Among the leaders and teachers of the institution who had come from Russia in addition to Jakob Kroeker were W. Jack, Wl. Marzinkowskij, B. Harder, J. S. Prochanov.
In Russia itself co-operation between the Mennonites, and the Baptists and
Evangelical Christians, continued particularly after the Revolution. To what
degree the Mennonites or the followers of Tolstoy were responsible for the
fact that many of the Evangelicals and Baptists became conscientious
objectors to war is not definitely established. Prior to the severe persecutions
under the Soviets, the number of the two groups (Baptists and
Evangelicals) was estimated as being above two million.
During the 1950s the groups were supposed to have united (according to the Bolshaya Sovietskaya Encyclopedia) under the chairmanship of Zhidkov.
For bibliography see Baptists
Adapted by permission of Herald Press, Harrisonburg, Virginia, and Waterloo, Ontario, from Mennonite Encyclopedia, Vol. 1, pp. 230-231. All rights reserved. For information on ordering the encyclopedia visit the Herald Press website.
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MLA style: Händiges, Emil and Cornelius Krahn. "Baptists and Mennonites in Russia." Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. 1953. Web. 18 June 2013. http://www.gameo.org/encyclopedia/contents/B37104.html.
APA style: Händiges, Emil and Cornelius Krahn. (1953). Baptists and Mennonites in Russia. Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. Retrieved 18 June 2013, from http://www.gameo.org/encyclopedia/contents/B37104.html.