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sizable factories and a modern flour milling and food processing indus try. This economic growth, however, had also brought some of the less admirable features of capitalism including: hereditary factory, land ownership and the exploitation of the landless proletariat for low cost labour." These developments became important factors in the repres sion of the Mennonite colonies following the Bolshevik seizure of power.
The February Revolution of 1917 had little direct influence on the Mennonites since the Provisional Government was committed to con tinuing the war. It was only after the Bolshevik seizure of power in November of 1917 and the Treaty of Brest Litovsk, that the full ramifica tions of the Revolution began to be felt in the Mennonite Colonies. The transfer of authority to local soviets effectively ended Mennonite local self-government. These soviets, composed largely of the poorer work ers and peasants, eagerly exploited their new rights and exacted a heavy price from the Mennonite colonies, and almost everywhere lawless elements created a reign of terror. 35
The protracted civil war, in which battle lines see sawed back and forth across the Mennonite lands, devasted Mennonite villages in the Ukraine. Farms were stripped of grain and livestock, famine and disease flourished and terror ruled the countryside. More damaging in the long term, however, was the support the Mennonites gave the invading German Army, the formation of the Mennonite Selbstschutz, a military organization for self defense, and the identification of this body with the White Army. These actions not only led to severe reprisals, but impli cated most Mennonites in the area as counter-revolutionaries. While the formation of the Selbstschutz and support of the White Army can be understood against the background of anarchy, terror and civil war, these actions permanently affected Bolshevik attitudes towards the Mennonites.
Even without these physical conflicts, there was a deep seated ideological antithesis separating the Mennonites from the new Bolshe vik rulers.
Thus, economic collapse, famine, disease, terror, loss of local control of schools and villages, and fundamental ideological differences with the new Soviet regime, convinced more and more Mennonites that the only available alternative was emigration.
By late 1919 a study commission had been formed in the Mo lotchna Colony and dispatched to Europe and North America. Its task was fourfold: to report on the conditions in Russia; secure immediate material aid for the sick and starving; seek long term assistance to rebuild the colonies; and investigate the possibilities of emigration.