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Manitoba from Russia in 1875 were descendants of a radical wing of the reformation, believing in the complete separation of church and state, the heinousness of all war, and any other actions not based on an ethic of love and respect for human life. 14 They were called Wiedertaeufer or Anabaptist because of their split with Zwingli over the issue of infant baptism and the nature of the church; the Anabaptists believed in the 'true church' into which members were baptized on the basis of volun tary faith.
The bitter persecution that followed taught them the value of a simple way of life, separated and as isolated as possible from modem secular society. These Anabaptist communities were organized on congregational and democratic principles with the ministers either being elected from the rank and file or chosen by lot.
The name Mennonite was taken from one of the outstanding leaders of the evangelical Anabaptists, Menno Simons. He had been a Roman Catholic priest but had renounced his faith to join the Anabap tists. He provided a rallying point and a solid institutional basis for the Anabaptists during a time of bitter persecution.
Many Dutch and North German Mennonites migrated to Prussia in the late 16th century when, under Polish rule, colonization of the Vistula Delta near the cities of Danzig and Elbing was begun. The pattern of colonization favoured group settlement, usually effected by contract between land owners and homogeneous groups of immigrant families. Poland was later partitioned and most of the Vistula area where the Mennonites were concentrated fell into the hands of Frederick the Great of Prussia who was pursuing a policy of military expansion. By 1774 Mennonites were limited in their land acquisitions, and paid high taxes for their refusal to support Prussian militarism.
In face of this threat over 10,000 Prussian Mennonites migrated to Russia in the next 60 years. They had been invited by Catherine the Great to settle the Ukraine and were offered many concessions to do so. They settled in colonies on the Dnieper, Molotschna and Volga Rivers where they were allowed to set up their closed social system and traditional village patterns. This system was motivated not only by a desire to escape a threat to their religion and economic well being, but even more of the hope of finally realizing a utopian community. 15
One of the first things the immigrants did after coming to Russia was form villages of 20 to 30 families, a practice they had begun in Prussia. The church owned the village land and the various villages functioned somewhat similar to communes, though each farmer oper ated his own strips of land and received the profits therefrom. Village land was divided into strips or Kagel and distributed equally among the