Karaganda, a city of (in 1987) 650,000 inhabitants (in 1999, 437,000 inhabitants), is located in the heart of the steppes of the Republic of Kazakhstan. (Kazakhstan gained independence from the former Soviet Union in 1991). The city was founded in the 1930s and became the coal mining center of the Soviet Union. From its beginning Mennonites, especially ministers, were exiled there as criminals. In 1941, the entire Alexandertal (Alt-Samara) settlement was exiled to this area.
A small Baptist congregation was founded in the city immediately following World War II. This also served the spiritual needs of many homeless Mennonites. After 1956, when Germans were allowed to move more freely, a steady stream of Mennonites who had been scattered throughout the land came to Karaganda. The first Mennonite Brethren congregation was founded here in December 1956 and grew to a membership of 900 by 1958. A Mennonite church (kirchliche Mennoniten) was also established, both congregations working cordially with each other. In 1967 both congregations were registered with the Soviet Union's Ministry of Cults. The Mennonite Brethren congregation was permitted to build its own house of worship, which the Mennonite church also used. After 1986 the latter had their own meetinghouse. Preaching and singing was done exclusively in German in both congregations, but exceptions were made at weddings and funerals since Russian-speaking visitors also participated. The probability of increasing use of the Russian language was clear.
Membership in the Mennonite Brethren congregation exceeded 1,000 in 1986. Choirs, Sunday school activities for children, and youth work were carried out. The Mennonite church congregation was not as large. A second Mennonite Brethren congregation, unregistered, met in private homes throughout the city. Circa 20,000 of the 70-80,000 German inhabitants of the city are of Mennonite background.
Wölk, Heinrich and Gerhard Wölk. Die Mennoniten Brüdergemeinde in Rußland, 1925-1980. Fresno: Center for Mennonite Brethren Studies, 1981. English translation as A Wilderness Journey. Fresno, CA, 1982.
Adapted by permission of Herald Press, Harrisonburg, Virginia, and Waterloo, Ontario, from Mennonite Encyclopedia, Vol. 5, p. 480. All rights reserved. For information on ordering the encyclopedia visit the Herald Press website.
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MLA style: Wölk, Heinrich. "Karaganda (Kazakhstan)." Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. 1987. Web. 24 May 2013. http://www.gameo.org/encyclopedia/contents/K371.html.
APA style: Wölk, Heinrich. (1987). Karaganda (Kazakhstan). Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. Retrieved 24 May 2013, from http://www.gameo.org/encyclopedia/contents/K371.html.