Colonies, Colonists, Mennonite

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Mennonite Colonies or Colonists are terms used in re­ferring to Mennonite settlements, particularly in Russia. A. Klaus, author of Unsere Kolonien (1887), uses this term for all foreign rural settlements in Russia as seen from the Russian government's point of view as an attempt to settle unoccupied lands with permanent foreign settlers to serve as models for the native population, a policy which was begun under the reign of Czarina Elizabeth (1741-1762) around 1750. The borders were closed to immi­grants in 1819 with the exception of some Men­nonites. The Russian colonization policy was de­scribed by Ehrt, Das Mennonitentum in Russland (Langensalza, 1932) 25-26.

The modern usage of the term to mean a "group of people transplanted from a mother country to another country but remaining subject to the parent state and country" is not quite accurate in the case of the Mennonites in Russia. The so-called "daugh­ter colonies" in Russia were a result of a natural expansion sponsored by the mother settlements (colonies), to some degree promoted by the gov­ernment. The Mennonite settlements later estab­lished in America (Manitoba, Mexico, Paraguay) were actually "colonies" of the mother settlements in Russia in a somewhat similar sense though never so called.

The term "colony" was not only used to desig­nate a large compact settlement, but also some­times to refer to single villages. The Hutterite Bruderhofs in Russia were referred to as "colonies."

All foreign settlers in Russia were referred to by the government as "colonists," while the Mennon­ites usually spoke of themselves as "Mennonites" or "Germans" (Dietsche) and of other foreign set­tlers as "colonists."  In order to avoid confusion it is best to speak of the Mennonites in Russia as "settlers" and "settlements" rather than "colonies" and "colonists."

See Colonization


Ehrt, Adolf. Das Mennonitentum in Russland: Von Seiner Einwanderung Bis Zur Gegenwart. Langensalza: Julius Beltz, 1932

Klaus, A. Unsere Kolonien: Studien Und Materialien Zur Geschichte Und Statistik Der Ausländischen Kolonisation in Russland. Odessa: Verlag der "Odessaer Zeitung", 1887. Available in full electronic text at

Author(s) Cornelius Krahn
Date Published 1953

Cite This Article

MLA style

Krahn, Cornelius. "Colonies, Colonists, Mennonite." Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. 1953. Web. 21 Aug 2019.,_Colonists,_Mennonite&oldid=79798.

APA style

Krahn, Cornelius. (1953). Colonies, Colonists, Mennonite. Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. Retrieved 21 August 2019, from,_Colonists,_Mennonite&oldid=79798.


Adapted by permission of Herald Press, Harrisonburg, Virginia, from Mennonite Encyclopedia, Vol. 1, p. 644. All rights reserved.

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