July 1999 Urry

July 1999

Of Borders and Boundaries: Reflections on Mennonite Unity
and Separation in the Modern World


Abstract: The writing of national
Mennonite histories, such as those recently completed in the United States
and Canada, assumes a certain unity among Mennonites while also acknowledging
the differences in the histories of the varied groups in North America
before and after migration from Europe. The tendency towards maintaining
distinctiveness while pursuing cooperation in many aspects of life, implicit
in the Mennonite experience at the national and international level, is
considered at the local level against the background of the contemporary
situation in a community of Russian Mennonites in southeastern Manitoba.
Situating Mennonites in the wider world of socio-economic transformations
in Europe and North America since the nineteenth century, the essay highlights
some of the social, religious and political causes and consequences of
their internal self-categories, alliances, divisions and attempts at unity.
Historians and other scholars do not just reflect these conditions, but
are involved in their formation.

Off and on for the last decade I have been
studying a community of Russian Mennonites centered on a rural service
township in southeastern Manitoba. I cannot disguise from Mennonites the
name of the township-it is Grunthal, the rather prosaic modern name pronounced
“grunt-thal” for a once proud German Green Valley: Grünthal.[1]
My interest in Grunthal is that its township and surrounding community,
although founded by the pioneers of Russian Mennonite settlement to Manitoba
in the 1870s, was largely rebuilt in the 1930s by a new wave of Mennonites
who emigrated from the Soviet Union to Canada in the 1920s.[2]
The new immigrants came to be known as Russländer, the older settlers
as Kanadier, and at least on the prairies during the 1920s through to
the 1940s these terms marked a major divide between people in areas where
Mennonites of the old and new immigration interacted.[3]
In usage, these terms today are archaic even though many of the social
and religious fault lines between the descendants of the different immigrations

During the 1920s a large number of the
descendants of the first settlers to the area around Grunthal emigrated
to Paraguay, and their vacated farms were taken over largely by the new
Mennonite immigrants from the Soviet Union. The ways of life of the two
peoples, although separated only by two generations from common roots
in Russia, were surprisingly different, as were their views of culture
and aspirations for the future. The rebuilding of the Grunthal community,
however, was an achievement of not just the new Russländer immigrants.
It also involved some of the original settlers who had not emigrated to
Paraguay or who had returned, and descendants of other 1870s immigrants
from other areas of Manitoba who entered the area during the Depression
years of the 1930s. In the wider context it also involved non-Mennonites:
Ukrainians, French Manitobans and the “English,” a term which included
more than just British Canadians.

On numerous occasions Mennonites from Grunthal
have driven me to and from Winnipeg. On return trips that pass through
the French Manitoban village of St. Pierre-Jolys, we turn east off the
main highway and as we drive towards Grunthal they point out in the distance
the silo towers of the “first” Mennonite farm visible from the highway.
Then, at a strategic point in the road, they announce proudly, “We are
now entering Mennonite land.” In a sense we are “home” before actually
arriving at our specific destination. We have crossed an invisible boundary
and entered Mennoland.

One day, this time driving with my wife,
I asked her to stop close to where this statement is usually made. Beside
the road is the “last” French farm homestead and in the past something
had caught my eye as we sped past. Sure enough, almost lost against the
trees, is a large, steel-framed crucifix depicting Christ crucified. Some
French Manitoban obviously has marked where their world ends and another
begins; on the road from St. Pierre more than one people have a clear
idea of a boundary. Indeed, the church graveyard of St Pierre, visible
from the highway, is full of large crosses and figures of angels, the
Madonna and other “idolatrous” statuary. In contrast, the Grunthal cemetery
lies away from the town’s main road and contains only plain headstones;
the erection of any cross or statue is, by community agreement, strictly
As one local Mennonite pointed out to me, the Catholics have got Christianity
all wrong: it is not the crucifixion of Christ which is important, but
His resurrection.

The purpose of this paper though is not
theological, but social-scientific. Obviously the verbal statement made
by my Mennonite drivers and the symbolic statement of the crucifix mark
a clear ethnic-religious boundary. The subject of “boundaries” has long
been discussed by political scientists and geographers while in recent
years social scientists interested in ethnic studies have developed new
approaches to the topic.[5]
Discussions of Mennonites, Amish and Hutterites by social scientists have
used concepts such as boundary marking, boundary maintenance, etc.[6]
But can all that is going on here, on my road to Grunthal, be reduced
to yet another discussion of ethnicity and socio-religious boundaries
among a Mennonite group?

The marked and unmarked boundary between
Grunthal and St. Pierre is obviously of significance to both Mennonites
and French Manitobans. It is backed by mutual distrust founded primarily
on differences in language, religion and history. However, even though
social contacts between Mennonites and the local Manitoban French were
and remain almost non-existent, Mennonites in this area for a long time
were represented in provincial assemblies and federal parliament by French
Manitobans. St. Pierre was where local Mennonites banked. Recently consolidated
schooling and increased mobility have created new contacts; there are
even cases of intermarriage, but such connections are still extremely

On the other hand, the boundaries are not
so clear between the other major non-Mennonite neighbor of the Grunthalers,
the Ukrainians. Like the French, these Ukrainians are also of different
faiths (Orthodox or Catholic – Orthodox) and speak a different language.
However, for both there is a sense of a shared history in terms of a common
eastern European origin, migrant status and, in a sense, language. Local
Ukrainians (then known as Ruthenians) came mostly from Galicia, part of
the Austro-Hungarian Empire, and spoke Ukrainian with German loan words;
Mennonites spoke Low German with Ukrainian loan words acquired in the
old Russian Empire. Following emigration they both lived in the same administrative
territory as Ukrainians settled in the scrub areas rejected by Mennonite
farmers. Social interaction has been of long standing; descendants of
the first Mennonite settlers in the area socialized with Ukrainians, danced
with them and, if that sounds scandalous, some also drank home-brew (hooch)
with them! Sarto, the nearest Ukrainian “place” to Grunthal, consists
of two Ukrainian churches (one Orthodox, the other Uniate), an old schoolhouse,
a shop and a large, modern community center. The community center is always
referred to by local Mennonites as the “beer hall.” Grunthal is righteously
dry-at least in the sense of having no public places for the sale or consumption
of alcohol. If you are a Mennonite and wanted to celebrate, for example,
your twenty-fifth wedding anniversary in style, you would get blessed
in a Mennonite church in Grunthal and party in Sarto. In the past the
only clearly marked boundaries between the Ukrainians and Mennonites involved
intermarriage, and again this has weakened. No one has ever said to me,
as we drive down the road from Grunthal towards Sarto, that we are leaving
Mennonite land, and, as far as I am aware, neither are there crucifixes
marking crucial points by the road side.

To confuse matters further, just north
of Grunthal lies Mennonite Kleefeld, a place with a shop, a scatter of
homes and mechanics’ workshops to service farm machinery. Most Grunthalers
have few dealings with the people in and around Kleefeld. Although it
is just a few minutes up the road, an invisible boundary separates Mennonite
from Mennonite. The invisible boundary is mainly religious, combined with
an absence of a common recent history and any reinforcement through continued
social interaction. But by religion the people of Kleefeld are also Mennonite;
they speak Low German and their ancestors settled at the same period as
those of the present-day Bergthaler and Chortitz inhabitants of Grunthal.
However, the Kleefelders are descendants of the Kleine Gemeinde who, back
in the 1870s, came to Canada from a different colony in Russia, Molochna,
and so they lack the Old Colony connections of the Chortitz and Bergthalers.
Some, clearly visible in their dress and features, are also Holdeman converts
to a North American religious revival. Where in principle no religious
or ethnic boundaries should exist, in reality they do.

Through association the Kleefelders’ connection
with the Kleine Gemeinde links them with the inhabitants of the town (now
the city) of Steinbach, also dominated by descendants of the Kleine Gemeinde.
Steinbach, situated to the northeast of Grunthal, is Grunthal’s long-time
rival in economic and political matters, although today Steinbach is obviously
the dominant center of the region. So even within Mennoland a complex
combination of religion, language and history unite and separate Mennonite
from Mennonite as much or perhaps even more than Mennonite from non-Mennonite.

Within the Grunthal area local Mennonites
also recognize important internal differences in their own community.
Currently in Grunthal, an area with a population of between 600 to 700,
there are six different congregations, five with public worship places.
Religious differences combine with historical factors and economic practices
to divide the community into separate social and economic parts. The descendants
of the Russländer who remain on the land mainly own dairy farms; the Bergthalers
and Chortitzer concentrate on broiler chickens and hog raising. However,
hog production’s high capital investment costs, high profits with risk,
is increasingly favored by Bergthaler. The grandchildren of the original
Russländer tend to live outside the community; some remain but commute
to Winnipeg, all of which reflects the greater value the Russländer placed
on higher education and their acceptance of social mobility. Families
of the Russländer are smaller than those of the Bergthalers, who drive
around in mini-vans, referred to by the descendants of Russländer as “Bergthaler
Baby Wagons.” Bergthalers are more aggressive in business than most of
the other Mennonites and with demographic superiority slowly are dominating
the religious and economic life of the community.

To an outsider, even if they were aware
of it, this degree of diversity in a local community might appear surprising.[7]
To Mennonites it may not. Many years ago in an unpublished paper on Russian
Mennonite history, I reflected on the paradox that Mennonites facing external
persecution on account of their faith, or restrictions on the reproduction
of their way of life, often manage to stand united in their faith. The
evil “world,” in part a product of their own internal ideology, was confirmed
outside the boundaries of their own communities. But in environments of
toleration and unrestricted opportunity there was often a tendency to
seek the evil within; schism and disunity followed.[8]
The religious differences among Mennonites in Grunthal and elsewhere in
North America often reflect these paradoxes. In Manitoba some of these
differences date back to Russia or even earlier; others, like the aforementioned
Holdemans, emerged in the new environment of North America. The migrations
which brought Mennonites back into direct contact, forced them to recognize
their differences as well; in a land of relative toleration and a supermarket
of competing religious groups and ideas, this moved initial co-operation
into a degree of distance. Later efforts at unity were prompted more by
external circumstance and threats, such as the entry of Canada and the
United States into international wars and by the plight of Mennonite refugees
overseas, than by internal factors.

Religious differences creating different
communities of faith, however, form only part of the complex reasons for
Mennonite unity and disunity in the region; different patterns of immigration,
family linkages, occupation and social position, overlay religion to produce
complex outcomes. Local identity is very important. Viewed from the bottom
up, being Mennonite involves belonging not just to a community of faith,
but also to a community of place. This is inter-connected with a community
of social relatedness reflected in the web of kinship and marriage which
also binds Mennonites together. In Russia these places and peoples were
primarily located in village communities which developed their own identities,
names and traditions, often in opposition to adjacent Mennonite villages
and their inhabitants. After the departure of many Mennonites to North
America in the 1870s, another sense of community was formed in Russia
as the Mennonite Commonwealth emerged in the face of Russian industrialization
and nationalism, uniting Mennonites in different colonies, estates and
urban areas into a fragile unity. This produced a community of cultural
distinctiveness, almost a “state within a state” where Mennonites distinguished
themselves from non-Mennonites on the basis of claims to cultural difference,
stressing a sense of peoplehood which went beyond just religious separateness.[9]

In Manitoba these varied forms of community
continued to develop among the Mennonites, enriched and complicated by
immigration and local influences until they took on new forms of unity
and differentiation. One aspect of this is the sports rivalry between
rural areas, villages and towns involving different Mennonites and non-Mennonites.
From the 1920s through to the 1970s (but in decline in recent years) the
confrontations between Mennonite teams in ice hockey and baseball made
a mockery of the principle of nonresistance.[10]

Thus it is obvious that any sense of Mennonite
unity and separation at the local level is a complex matter. If we return
to Grunthal (once famous for its “competitive” sports teams), we can see
that unity, while highly problematic in terms of faith is segmentary in
practice. Living in this segmentary system, Grunthalers are conscious
of the fact they inhabit an area of Mennonite settlement, that they are
Mennonite rather than French, Ukrainian or English, that they are members
of a particular congregation and are connected through kinship and marriage
with a number of people, locally and farther away. When it comes to Steinbach,
on occasion most Grunthalers are united in opposition to the place and
its people, but when it comes to the French, all Mennonites are Mennonites
and even Steinbachers are welcome at the table. Boundaries-ethnic, religious
and otherwise, real or imagined-are obviously contextual.

But does this mean that beyond the local
and particular contexts, no general sense of being “Mennonite” actually
exists? Is there no sense of being “One People” other than that which
is linked to local communities of faith, of place, social relatedness
and recent inter-connected pasts? Is the general category “Mennonite,”
which supposedly links Mennonites in Canada, or in America and beyond,
merely an illusion of scholars, conference leaders, and MCC bureaucrats’[11]

Perhaps first we need to ask a more basic
question: When did Mennonites become “Mennonite'” This is not as obvious
as it might first appear. When did Mennonites come to recognize and act
upon a greater, unified identity than the highly localized sense of being
and belonging that still lies at the heart of Mennonite peoplehood? In
other words, when did separateness from others, non-Mennonite and Mennonite,
give way to a recognition of some kind of connectedness?

One could argue that many of the varied
Anabaptist groups which scattered from their diverse places of origin,
never really lost touch with each other, in spite of the immense distances
and troubled histories separating them. Throughout the centuries following
the Reformation various communities and individuals, sometimes with direct
ancestral connections, sometimes without, rediscovered each other or even
sought each other out. The cases are numerous and would justify a separate
study in themselves. Two examples though will suffice. In the eighteenth
century Mennonites in Polish Prussia not only maintained links with their
Dutch brethren but also were in contact with Hutterites in Russia before
they ever contemplated their own Drang nach Osten. There were also
links between the Dutch, the South German and Swiss Mennonites and connections
across the Atlantic world long before the modern age. Benjamin Eby in
Lower Canada in the 1830s wrote to the scattered Mennonite groups in America
and Europe before anyone would have contemplated the massive Mennonite
diaspora of the next one hundred years.

It was however primarily these massive
migrations, bringing Mennonites from the Old World to the New and covering
roughly the century between 1850 and 1950, which really brought Mennonites
back in touch with each other, or more correctly for many, into touch
for the first time. This period of migrations helped establish complex
forms of interaction between communities and individuals, some through
social relatedness but others only through the recognition of a common
faith and apparently similar ideas and practices. Contact was also often
justified through the discovery of a shared past, either in terms of actual
history or common experiences such as suffering. “History” has always
played an ambiguous role in Mennonite life, as it can both unite and divide
people and groups. But a recognition of similarities of faith and linkages
in history has permitted groups and individuals to speak of “Mennonite”
in a generic, rather than a specific, localized sense.

To understand how this occurred, however,
requires a consideration of the larger context in which Mennonites have
lived. During the nineteenth century in Europe and America, localized
agrarian communities gave way to new social forms involving a massive
transformation of social and economic life. The new movement of Mennonites
from the Old World to the New took place in an environment where mobility,
physical and social, was to become the leitmotif of the transition from
“Agraria” to “Industria.”[12]
This transformation and transition occurred within newly-emergent political
structures. Industrial societies were created within nation-states, and
people identified with these new nations as their old communities were
subordinated to new social and political structures. Subject people became
citizens, with civil rights, including the right of political participation.
In North America these conditions were often more favorable to ordinary
people than in Europe, where some of the old institutions of the elites
were reproduced and even strengthened in the face of such transformations.
Among Mennonites in America, the same processes occurred in the formation
of a conscious conservatism in some communities.

Everywhere, however, Mennonites were directly
or indirectly advantaged by the new social, economic and political conditions,
even if many thought, and some continue to think, otherwise. While some
Mennonites emigrants thought that by moving to America they could escape
such transformations, they were to discover that in the long term change
here was as great, if not greater, than in their old homelands. Indeed
groups who settled prior to the nineteenth century in North America, like
those who settled from the late eighteenth century in New Russia, soon
became part of a market economy at odds with the idea of communities closed
to external influences.[13]
Subsequently some groups attempted to avoid many of the features of Industria
(social, political and technological), but in reality their stance was
a product of the very same forces they denied. It is not Industria which
creates discontinuities; they are an inevitable feature of the reproduction
of all social and cultural systems over time, as human life is never totally
replicable. In Industria such discontinuities are just more visible, programmatic
and ultimately positively marked.

While some communities embraced and exploited
the new technologies of the industrial world, others attempted to control
them. In the long term though, none could have avoided their profound
influence. Regular systems of transport, starting with the steam train
and the steam ship and leading to the airplane, encouraged Mennonites
to become increasingly footloose, not only as migrants but later as tourists
and visitors. From the nineteenth century onwards Mennonite newspapers
are full of travel accounts of people visiting relatives not just locally,
but also over quite large distances within and beyond the North American
continent. These include Canadian and American Mennonites of Russian descent
who went back to Russia before 1914 to “visit” relatives and friends (and
conduct business), and rich Russian relatives who came to North America
for the same reason. Today Mennonites keep numerous Mennonite tour agencies
in business. At an institutional level this has become a small-scale industry.
When I was first in Canada in 1974 and stayed at the Canadian Mennonite
Bible College, I witnessed the endless comings and goings of delegates
to Mennonite meetings. I recall commenting at the time that this seemed
to be “community courtesy of Air Canada” when during the coffee breaks
people caught up on the latest births, deaths, marriages and movements
of people in their communities. This process of social and communal reconnecting
often seemed far more important than the actual agendas of the meetings.

The contacts created through migration
occurred between older established communities of Mennonites in North
America and Europe and also between the old and new communities in North
America. This increased contact and the emergence of a more generic sense
of “Mennonite” had the effect of both furthering links between communities
and encouraging continuing separation. Where contacts were sustained,
they were often more institutional than social. The institutional links
involved the creation of new bodies often beyond the immediate social
ties which bound localized congregational-communities together. New committees,
boards and conferences came into being and, as befitted the spirit of
the age, their structures and practices became increasingly bureaucratic
and business orientated. The new Mennonite organizations paralleled the
administrative structures of commercial enterprises and the bureaucracies
of emergent nation-states. It is not sufficient to discuss this process
in terms of abstract sociological sub-categories; the process must be
seen in its wider context as part of a larger restructuring of the entire
social and political worlds in which all Mennonites lived.[14]

In spite of an apparent ambiguous relationship
with many of the technologies of the new age, access to communications
technology was also important in the development of both unity and separation.
Cheap printing presses and the freedom to publish, an unrestricted freedom
often denied Mennonites in Europe, gave American Mennonites new opportunities
to engage in an exchange of information, sometimes to assist unity, at
other times to mark and reinforce differences. The production of newspapers
was perhaps more significant than the printing of books or pamphlets.
Numerous newspapers linked Mennonites within local communities, between
communities in America, and even between North America and Europe. Denied
the right to publish their own newspapers until the twentieth century,
Russian Mennonites received regular supplies of American newspapers from
the 1880s onwards, with even a special Russian edition of the Mennonitische
Rundschau being printed for a period. These newspapers aided communication
between ordinary Mennonites. As well as reports from distant communities
and conferences the newspapers contain columns of private correspondence
given a more general airing. The contents of these papers were dependent
on another of the very important new technologies essential to the continuation
of Mennonite social unity: the postal service. Most of the letters exchanged
have long since vanished, but we should not underestimate their significance.
The majority of these contacts occurred along well-established lines of
social and communal connections, but there was also increasing “leakage”
to other groups previously unconnected. In all these ways, from individuals,
families, congregational-communities and conferences, Mennonites were
increasingly drawn together from the middle of the nineteenth century
onwards, across the continent and, among recent immigrants, with Mennonites
who remained in Europe.[15]

At another level, however, the very opening
of contacts facilitated by the new industrial environment and its technologies
limited and controlled free movement and the exchange of information between
Mennonites. The emergent nation-states created a new category of person-citizens-who
were expected to commit their allegiance to the abstract idea of a nation
and not to those of faith, family or region. Gradually the state assumed
social responsibilities once reserved for local kin groups and communities.
It required all citizens to be registered at birth and recorded at death.
Documents were also essential to become mobile, internally and certainly
to move beyond the frontiers of a nation-state, and to return. So the
borders of states were no longer just a concern of elites or vague marks
on maps, but became physically manifest and in some areas strictly controlled,
at least at crucial border crossings. Old linkages and boundaries became
irrelevant as new frontiers attempted to control peoples, goods and ideas
through a process of inclusion or exclusion by law ultimately backed by
the threat of force. Within the border frontiers of nation-states old
boundaries came down; regions, villages, communities, families were subsumed
into the larger nation; old identities and allegiances were subordinated
to an inclusive nationalism. The rights and duties of citizens were defined
by state law, not local custom. Citizens were required to be soldiers
and jurors, given the right to vote and eligible for benefits in education,
health, and welfare such as pensions. The schoolhouse and the barracks
forced a new generation together and inculcated them with this new sense
of being and belonging to an imagined community. National identity was
made retrospective while a flimsy flag and a shallow anthem were combined
with accounts of fabricated pasts to suggest that the new social and political
order was ancient, natural and ordained.

Within the frontiers of the new nation-states
the primacy of belonging to a local community of faith, and the sense
of being part of a historical tradition, were challenged, contradicted
and even denied. In the heartland of industrializing Europe some of those
who stayed and were swept into the new orders assumed new identities with
ease. Mennonites in the Vistula and Danzig region, for instance, became
Prussian and then German in a state which muddled (and continues to muddle)
nationality with biological inheritance. Elsewhere the processes and pace
of incorporation varied considerably; for some it is still occurring.
But the process of nation-building, territorial demarcation and the construction
of frontiers to include or exclude peoples was as much a reality of the
New World as it was of the Old, even if the bases and forms of the nationalism
have differed.

Understanding this complex process in Europe
and North America since the nineteenth century suggests another possible
interpretation of the statement on the road to Grunthal. The reference
to entering Mennonite land implies crossing a border rather than
just a boundary, a frontier which marks off a particular territory.
I was not told “we are now crossing a Mennonite boundary;” instead I was
informed we were entering Mennonite land, a particular demarcated and
delimited area. Rather than just marking areas of ethnic or religious
difference, the statement clearly suggests a territory, an idea with distinct
political overtones. There is other evidence to support this contention.
There is a Low German saying used by some around Grunthal which goes,
“Wua se de Welt met’e Pankuake toohaenje,” which may be translated as
“Where they hang a pancake closure to the world” or “Where they close
off the world with a hanging of pancakes.”[16]
It was explained to me that (of course imaginary) pancakes marked the
limits of Mennonite influence, control and domination; clearly this is
a territorial concept associated with power relations. It is also clearly
political in the “worldly” sense; I was told with that typical Low German
sense of humor that there were once three great geo-political boundaries
in the world: “the Iron Curtain, the Bamboo Curtain and the Pancake Curtain!”

But surely this emphasis on politics and
territoriality cannot be right? All Mennonites are apolitical, are they
not? Politics is an activity of the “world” and lies outside the bounds
of Mennonite faith communities (overlooking, of course, those endless
internal power games that are a feature of Mennonite congregations and
conferences). Mennonites have never possessed a territorial state of their
own and no one, apart from J. J. Hildebrand with his idea of a Mennostaat
developed in Canada in the 1930s, has ever proposed a distinct Mennonite
The very idea of a Mennonite territorial state is so contrary to the principles
of Mennonite faith, with obvious implications for non-resistance and separation
from the world, that it appears absurd.

The existence, however, of concentrated
and named Mennonite communities of place necessarily implies the idea
of territory and potentially has political implications. Where such units
have been recognized by external authorities and Mennonites given control
of their affairs, then distinct Mennonite areas of potential political
significance have emerged.

The major reason why I think my Mennonite
drivers are suggesting that we have traversed a Mennonite territorial
border is because close to the point where they speak we have indeed crossed
a kind of political frontier. In this case we have crossed an administrative
border and entered a local government area: the Rural Municipality of
Hanover. Incorporated within the Municipality’s borders is an older, Mennonite-only
territory: the East Reserve, founded in 1874. This was the area of land
set aside by the Canadian authorities for exclusive Mennonite settlement;
another, larger area called the West Reserve, lying along the United States
border, was mandated to the west “on the other side” of the Red River
(orjantsied as Mennonites still say).[18]
The term “reserve” in a wider North American context indicates a land
area set aside for a particular group. In the United States it was used
almost exclusively for areas where the remnants of once-proud Indian peoples
were herded in order to be controlled and eventually die out in the face
of the inevitable triumph of civilization. In Manitoba Indian peoples
were given reserves, but so were the Metis and various immigrant groups
including Mennonites and, for instance, Icelanders. This practice of establishing
reserves did not last long. In Mennonite consciousness, however, the sense
of territorial exclusiveness has left a lasting impression. It suggests
a continuity in the sense of a community of place and a community of social
relatedness involving a long period of Mennonite settlement and land ownership,
intergenerational succession and a degree of political autonomy.

The sense of a bounded, “territorial” community,
however, already existed before the emigration of Mennonites from Russia
to Canada in the 1870s. In Russia it was based upon the “colony” system
established by the Russian authorities in New Russia almost from the start
of settlement. At the local level the colony-community was reinforced
through the establishment of village-communities, and these village structures
were also transferred to Canada. Both these structures had semi-secular
systems of administration with political implications. The older tradition
of localized, but non-territorial, congregational-communities with a theocratic
power structure added to the organizational complexity. During the initial
period of settlement in Canada, these three aspects-congregational-community,
village-community, and colony- (or in Canada reserve-) community-were
transferred and reconstituted; briefly they coincided in terms of territory
and authority even if the religious leaders reasserted a degree of dominance
they had lost in Russia. Within a generation, however, external factors
such as individuated land ownership eroded the village-communities, while
factors such as mixed settlement by different Mennonite congregational-communities
within the reserves and internal religious schism shattered the unity
and solidarity of Mennonite territorial integrity. The idea of village-communities
strangely survives in a nostalgia for a lost sense of communal life, not
disconnected with powerful feelings of social connectedness, pursued by
modern Mennonites through genealogical research.

The territorial sense of the Reserves,
complete with imagined boundaries, has also remained, especially in the
Rural Municipality of Hanover. Mennonites living in the Municipality today
admit that they can and do conceive of the area in the form of its shape
on the map: an abbreviated “T.” This is “their land” governed by their
own “people.” Although by the turn of the twentieth century the Mennonite
system of administration brought from Russia had given way to Manitoban
local municipal government, the old territory, still predominantly inhabited
by Mennonites, continued under a new name.[19]
Gradually the territory and administration of the municipality acquired
new political significance. The arrival of the Russländer in the 1930s
further strengthened these trends, as in pre-revolutionary Russia the
Mennonites had continued to develop complex social and institutional structures
within their territories which some later claimed constituted almost a
state within a state.

The generally accepted view of the association
of Mennonites with politics is that while they have always lived under
the political control of “worldly” leaders, and since the emergence of
nations they have lived within the borders of some kind of nation-state,
actual Mennonite involvement in politics has remained minimal. Mennonite
negotiations with the rulers, and later politicians and bureaucrats of
political states in order to secure the recognition of their principles,
special rights and privileges, is not the same as becoming involved in
the processes of politics and government. Such Mennonite involvement,
including voting and standing for political office, is so recent an event
in Mennonite history that the subject barely ranks a mention in the recently
completed books on the histories of Mennonites in Canada and the United
While details are given as to Mennonite “official” positions on political
issues such as non-resistance, conscription, schooling, and taxation by
conferences, church leaders and Mennonite intellectuals, studies of Mennonites
and politics at the grass roots are rare.[21]

My recent research on aspects of Russian
Mennonite involvement in politics in pre-revolutionary Russia, the early
Soviet Union and Canada suggests that the view of Mennonite non-involvement
in politics is in urgent need of revision. Just as Mennonites have long
been involved in market production, so also have they been involved in
politics. Such a view should not really surprise us if we accept that
all these factors are interconnected; the transition from Agraria to Industria
necessarily involves economic, social and political transformations.

My Canadian research has involved looking
at Mennonite involvement in local, provincial and national politics in
southern Manitoba where Mennonites formed a majority of the population.
Here local rural municipal administration gave way to a more general Mennonite
involvement in politics beyond the politics of their own immediate communities.
It appears that at least from the early 1890s individual Mennonites became
active behind the scenes in provincial and national politics, mainly through
being involved with local party organizations, and even standing for office.
While only one Mennonite was elected in provincial politics before 1945,
after this date increasing numbers stood for election to local provincial
and federal seats. The sudden appearance of Mennonites, or at least people
with Mennonite names, standing as candidates and winning seats in provincial
and national politics in the 1970s, and even gaining office in government,
was thus not such a remarkable turn for the Quiet in the Land. Mennonites
had not suddenly crossed the political boundary between a closed, apolitical,
communal life and entered the wider world as is sometimes suggested. Instead
Mennonites simply reached a stage where private, closet interests and
activities entered the public domain; in many local areas political interests
and activity which had been commonplace for generations became open.

One of the more interesting aspects of
this research are the commentaries written at the time by non-Mennonites
(and even Mennonite “experts”), about this apparently sudden and recent
Mennonite interest and involvement in politics. A number of the outsiders
assumed that Mennonites, even in apparently conservative rural communities
of southeastern Manitoba, were a homogeneous people. It followed that,
united by faith and linked by ethnicity, Mennonites were just another
manifestation of the ethnic or ethnic-religious bloc vote, a political
phenomenon whose time had come, a triumph of Canadian multiculturalism.
But it soon became clear in electorates populated predominantly by Mennonites
that any idea that Mennonite political actions could be reduced to a simple
formula of religion plus ethnicity could not explain voting patterns.

For instance, since the mid-1940s Mennonite
political allegiances as expressed in local voting have undergone dramatic
shifts in the Grunthal and surrounding area. Local concerns have given
way to provincial and national issues as Mennonites have become more involved
with the wider social and economic world. As rural inhabitants, dependent
directly or indirectly on commercial production, they vote conservatively.
In this area of Manitoba Mennonites in recent years have tended to support
conservative parties. The fact that politicians of the correct conservative
persuasion have also been locals has merely added to their support, but
claiming a Mennonite connection is far from a guarantee of being elected.
A Mennonite politician of the wrong persuasion is not greatly supported,
however “local” their connections. The reverse also holds true: a non-Mennonite
of the correct political persuasion will receive support. The fact that
religious conservatism and political conservatism have become comfortable
companions is only a small part of the equation. Politics, like business,
is a serious matter and not to be clouded by religious or cultural differences
between the different varieties of Mennonite and non-Mennonites in the
area. Here the localized social, religious and historical patterns of
segmentation give way to new allegiances built on very different principles.
So much for Mennonite religious and ethnic solidarity!

The wider context of Mennonite association
with politics has played its part in the unity and separation of Mennonites.
For some Mennonites the process of identification with nation-states began
before their emigration to North America, for others not until much later.
Mennonites in Russia became Russian Mennonites, at first more because
of their location than as a result of an inclusive state nationalism.
Yet the tag “Russian” strangely persists to this day in Canada and in
parts of the United States but covers all those whose ancestors emigrated
from Russia or its successor states.

However, the term “Russian” also possessed
a more nationalist meaning, particularly for those who emigrated to Canada
in the 1920s and came to be known, by themselves and others, as Russländer.
Of any Mennonite group the Russländer were probably the most integrated
into a modern sense of national allegiance before emigration to North
America before 1920, with the exception perhaps of some Prussian Mennonites.[22]
The Russländer, however, like many refugees from the old Russian Empire
during the 1920s, were not so much immigrants in search of a new land
as exiles forced away from their homeland by war, civil war and the triumph
of Soviet power. The Russländer often spoke and wrote articles and poems
about die Heimat[23]
and for many it played a significant part in their self-identity and thoughts
until the day they died. One only has to read their obituaries, often
self-written, published in Mennonite newspapers from the 1960s and 70s,
to realize the hold Russia still had over them. Although they spent most
of their lives in Canada, the greater part of the text often is devoted
to placing them in their “lost” Russian homeland.

When the early Russländer immigrants from
Russia discovered fellow “Mennonites” in Canada, they named one set “Swiss”
and the other “Kanadier” (Canadian).[24]
Those with whom they had the least connection were identified with a place
“back there,” indicating perhaps distance and separation from themselves
on the continent of Europe. The Russländers separated the people they
were most closely related to by locating them not with their own lost
Russian homeland, but with the new land. The 1870s groups, through their
emigration, obviously had abandoned the right to be connected with the
“Russia” to which so many Russländer still felt attached. Linking the
1870 groups with Canada also contained a negative element as at first
Russländer were profoundly suspicious of Canada as a land, society and
state; some also viewed the supposed backwardness of the previous immigrants
as a consequence of their degeneration on the frontiers of this uncivilized

Attributing this labeling purely to the
1920s immigrants is undoubtedly too simple an explanation; on the prairies
the process of terminological usage was probably not just one-way. The
first immigrants to Manitoba from Russia after 1874 had already named
the later immigrants from Russia who arrived between 1890 and 1914 not
as members of congregational-communities but as individuals or in small
groups, as “Russländer,” and the name was later transferred to those of
the large immigration from the Soviet Union after 1923.[25]
The 1874 immigrants though do not appear to have developed a term for
self-identification among themselves, preferring to use their local congregational-community
terms. Thus “Kanadier” appears to have been an invention of the 1920s
immigrants. Both terms possessed positive and negative connotations. To
Russländer it was always “us Russländer”-cultured, sophisticated immigrants
struggling to re-establish a distinct way of life; “those Kanadier” were
the backward, uncultured earlier groups who had abandoned the homeland
and either failed to develop civilized ways or somehow lost them in the
experience of pioneering the harsh frontiers of Canada. To the descendants
of the 1874 immigration it was always “those Russländer”-proud, aggressive
and “worldly” interlopers-who seemed to want to dominate everything and
everyone. But the idea of “us Kanadier” was weakly developed except as
a generalized alternative to the Russländer. The application of such conceptual
labels all depended on who was speaking to whom, about whom, where and
when. However, in the encounter between the different Mennonite groups
within a new context of nationalist and international rhetoric, an almost
sub-Mennonite nationalism had emerged.

At least the Kanadier were permitted a
North American identity and even one close to home, although few at this
time were concerned with such a nationalist affiliation.[26]
Interestingly many were actually in the process of becoming Canadian,
at least through involvement in the economy and politics of the country.
As I have indicated this began for some before 1900, for others later.
Many Russländer, the exiled rather than the immigrant, waited until after
World War II before they acknowledged, often begrudgingly, a political
identification with Canada even if they had become involved earlier in
local politics. But the children of the 1920s immigrants often felt otherwise.
Russländer offspring born in Canada have often remarked to me that “this
is my country.” Here they refer not just to their local region; they also
mean the Canadian nation-state. The obvious interpretation of their statement,
which they have confirmed to me in subsequent discussions, is that they
feel Canadian, whereas they are less sure about their parents’ feelings
and allegiances.[27]

It should be remembered, however, that
as the United States had ended large-scale immigration after World War
I, in the 1920s the Russländer settled almost exclusively in Canada. In
this respect they therefore are quite unlike earlier Mennonite immigrants
to North America, non-Russian and Russian, whose members moved freely
across the borders between the United States and Canada once the frontier
had been established.[28]
The Russländer therefore developed a decidedly less continental vision
than probably any other Mennonite group in North America. The first generation
immigrants were the most “pre-prepared” of any Mennonite immigrant group
(except perhaps some Prussians)[29]
to accept a nationalist identity as part of their identity. The fact that
their children often were alienated from their parents’ ambiguous sense
of “national” allegiance might help to explain why second-generation Russländer
have been among the strongest supporters of Canadian nationalism.[30]

The situation in the Grunthal area is revealing.
Not far to the south of Grunthal lies the United States-Canadian border.
Surprisingly, and in contrast to the discussions I have had with Mennonite
intellectuals in Winnipeg, I have never felt that the presence of Big-Brother-to-the-South
impinges strongly upon the consciousness of my Grunthal hosts.[31]
Perhaps this is because it is not the United States, it is only North
Dakota. Across the border, I was told, was the place to stock-up on cheap
gasoline, beer and liquor. Annoyance at American restrictions on the sale
of hog meat were mentioned, but I can recall few other overtly negative
political comments. The border is almost invisible, but perhaps for different
reasons for different groups.

Russländer have a marked West-to-East vision
of the North American Mennonite community, especially in terms of social
relatedness backed by actual social exchanges. As such it is strongly
Canadian. Russländer descendants have connections with communities and
families ranging from British Columbia to Ontario, but only limited, individual
links to the United States usually reflecting recent moves in search of
employment. Other groups, while also sharing a West-to-East connectedness
(although often more restricted to the prairies), also possess a North-to-South
vision with exchanges that extend beyond North America in Central and
South America. The ancestors of the present Kleine Gemeinde settled both
in Canada and the United States in the 1870s and maintained considerable
contact even after immigration laws prevented easy movement of people
and resettlement across the United States-Canada border.[32]
Descendants of the original Kleine Gemeinde later moved to Mexico and
Belize, expanding the North-to-South connections; so did some Old Colony
Mennonites from the West Reserve. What unites these people and negates
the international border and the dominance of a sense of nationalism are
social connections, greatly enhanced by a passion for genealogy. The Chortitz
and Bergthalers have fewer links with the United States as their ancestors
settled almost entirely as congregational-communities in Canada, but some
have very wide North-to-South links, for Chortitz reaching as far south
as Paraguay. The connectedness of these groups is predominantly social
and historical, much like that of Kleine Gemeinde descendants.[33]
Here then is another level of segmentation in Mennonite-Mennonite relations
within the local area and one which cuts across more than one national
border, perhaps without even worrying about the frontiers of nation-states.

This reminds me of other situations I have
experienced. In 1974 the late Frank H. Epp took me to meet various “Swiss”
Mennonite groups in Ontario. We ended at a service of “black bumper” Mennonites,
with a clear gender division in the meeting house and a confusing habit
of praying backwards. The preacher was from the United States, but as
Frank listened to his sermon I noticed he was increasingly agitated. As
we made our way back to his car he exploded with indignation. The preacher
had kept using the phrase “in this country” as if, Frank insisted, he
did not know Canada was a separate sovereign state. He told me that “these
people” came across the border without recognizing Canada was a sovereign
nation, not just another state of the U.S.A. Later it occurred to me that
perhaps the problem lay more with Frank than with the preacher; the very
idea of a border and a separate territory might be somewhat irrelevant
to the preacher. Mennonites were Mennonites, they lived on the same continent,
but in matters of common faith who cared which nation or nationality you
belonged to?

I recalled this event years later when
listening to a paper at a Mennonite symposium on nationalism in Winnipeg.
The paper was on Canadian Mennonite nationalism. The argument stressed
structural differences between Canadian and American Mennonites particularly
in their organizations and the need to recognize the force of nationalism
in Mennonite life and work in North America.[34]
An obviously puzzled Kansas Mennonite sitting close by, leaned across
to me, stretched his suspenders beneath his thumbs and confided, “Hogs
is hogs whichever side of the border you’re on.”

The obvious point is that there might be
just as much difference between Mennonite groups within Canada and the
United States as there are differences of Mennonites viewed as nationals
between the two countries. Moreover, there may be as much similarity between
groups of Mennonites across the continental divide as there are similarities
between Mennonites living within their respective nation-states. History,
theology and regionalism have to be taken into account, but so does the
reality of grass-roots practice of Mennonite unity and separateness. The
views, opinions and actions of Mennonite church leaders and intellectuals
may not be a good guide to the thought and practice of ordinary Mennonite

So where does this leave attempts to understand
the larger picture of Mennonite social and cultural life, in the past
and present?

While the existence of imagined national
communities has influenced the cultural distinctiveness of Mennonites,
the inclusion in “national” histories or general sociological surveys
of all those who appear to share a common religious affiliation and/or
a very distant “origin” in some Anabaptist past is not always helpful
in understanding the complexity of Mennonite life.[36]
The existence of national conferences fails to recognize the essential
similarities and differences still uniting and separating Mennonites,
irrespective of national boundaries. The existence of communities of social
relatedness and local identity, as well as diverse religious affiliations,
may in fact be of greater significance to understanding aspects of Mennonite
unity than those of assumed cultural association based on a shared national
identity. Of course there has been an increased tendency towards greater
homogenization among Mennonites, itself a direct reflection of the processes
of social transformation associated with nation-building within modern
states. The development of nation-states and feelings of nationalism have
been dominant forces in the lives of all peoples since the nineteenth
century. But modern conditions and concerns should not be used to fabricate
views of the past which assume dormant connections before they emerge
or to claim an implicit relationship between peoples where they still
had to emerge. The nationalist rhetoric of some sectors of the educated,
urban Mennonite elite requires testing through the examination of historical
sources and current realities at the grass roots.

Early in 1998 I received within weeks of
each other two Mennonite newsletters from the North American continent
with conflicting messages. The March edition of the Mennonite Historian
from Winnipeg reported that a new “Canadian” Mennonite encyclopedia based
on the latest communication technology, the internet, was being established
and reported a proposal for a single-volume history of the Mennonites
in Canada for students: “One People, One Story” I presume.[37]
The other, the February Newsletter of the Mennonite Historical
Society from Goshen, contained a progress report on a “Global Mennonite
Historical Project”: “Many People, Many Stories” I presume.[38]
Up go the borders, down come the boundaries.

With the Iron Curtain now history, the
Bamboo Curtain swinging free, I wonder if I will glimpse pancakes hanging
beyond the crucifix the next time I take the road to Grunthal?

James Urry is
Reader in Anthropology at the Victoria University of Wellington, New Zealand.
Return to Text

. On the name
shift see Jack Thiessen, “Grünthal,” Mennonite Mirror 2 (October
1973), 17. Return to Text

. There is an
interesting account of the community’s past published in 1974 to mark
the centenary of settlement, Grunthal History 1874-1974
(Grunthal, MB: Grunthal History Book Committee, 1974). Return to Text

. Of course,
neither the Russländer nor the so-called Kanadier formed homogeneous units;
the Russländer were divided by a number of differences often established
prior to immigration. one of the most significant of which was the religious
difference between membership of the Mennonite Brethren and other congregations;
Kanadier was a category defined in opposition to Russländer and in many
senses just meant “not-Russländer” (see below for a longer discussion
of these issues). Return to Text

. A recent visit
has revealed a pink headstone in the shape of a heart; times change. Return
to Text

. Originally
the concepts of boundaries and border primarily referred to geo-political
issues, but even geographers now seem to have adopted a more socio-cultural
rather than a geo-political usage. Ladis K. D. Kristof’s “The nature of
frontiers and boundaries” Annals of the Association of American Geographers,
49 (1959), 269-82, provides an excellent overview of the history of geo-political
usage. The classic text on social and ethnic boundaries is Frederik Barth,
ed., Ethnic Groups and Boundaries: The Social Organization of Cultural
Difference (Oslo: Universitets Forlaget. 1969). More recently the
issue of borders and boundaries, including the importance of national
frontiers, has been of increasing interest among anthropologists, see
A. P. Cohen ed., Symbolizing Boundaries: Identity and Diversity in
British Cultures (Manchester: Manchester University Press, 1986) and
H. Donnan and T. M. Wilson, eds., Border Approaches: Anthropological
Perspectives on Frontiers (Lanham, MD: University Press of America
in conjunction with the Anthropological Association of Ireland, 1994).
Return to Text

. For an indication
of the popularity of using the term “boundary” in studies of Mennonite,
Amish and Hutterite society see the references in Don E. Smucker’s The
Sociology of Mennonites, Hutterites and Amish: a Bibliography with Annotations.
Vol. 2: 1977-1990 (Waterloo, ON: Wilfrid Laurier University Press, 1991)
and in review articles such as Leo Driedger and Calvin Redekop’s “Sociology
of Mennonites: State of the Art and Science,” Journal of Mennonite
Studies 1 (1983), 33-63. Return to Text

. For a puzzled
outsider’s view of Grunthal and its diversity of Mennonite congregations
see Mark Abley, Beyond Forget: Rediscovering the Prairies (London:
Chatto and Windus, 1988), 47-48. Return to Text

. James Urry,
“The transformation and polarization of the Mennonites in Russia, 1789-1914,”
(Unpublished paper, Seminar on Russian Mennonite History, Winnipeg, November,
1977). Return to Text

. This was the
subject of the first of my 1994 Fall Lectures in Winnipeg titled “Peoplehood,
Power and Politics. Aspects of the Russian Mennonite Experience in Imperial
Russia, the Soviet Union and Canada 1880-1940.” I am currently revising
and extending these lectures. Return to Text

. This is not
surprising in the wider context of sports; in spite of all the high ideals
surrounding competition in the Olympic Games, ugly nationalistic fervor
and ideological claims for the superiority of one political system over
another show that sport is but war by other means. Return to Text

1. But as Rodney
Sawatsky pointed out some years ago, there appear to be more terms to
express Mennonite plurality than unity.-“Defining ‘Mennonite’ Diversity
and Unity,” MQR 57 (April 1983), 291. Return to Text

2. Agraria is
where the dominant mode of production and the reproduction of social and
cultural life involve farming or related activities often for self-sustenance
within local, kinship-based communities. Agraria developed with the domestication
of plants and animals, is less than 10,000 years old and in places possessed
complex forms. On a global scale Industria is less 200 years old and developed
from Agraria; many of the social and cultural categories of Agraria survive
in modern Industria. In Industria a majority live in urban areas and are
employed in the commercial production of industrial goods or services
industries needed to support the production and reproduction of its complex
social system; agricultural production has been industrialized and only
a small part of the population are involved in commercial food and resource
production, utilizing capital and advanced technology. The economic system
is based on continuous growth which affects the reproduction of social
life and the transference of knowledge between generations. The forms
of cultural knowledge required to achieve competency in life are learned
through formal education and training rather than acquired informally
during the process maturation. Persons acquire personal skills, assert
their individuated selves and are highly mobile in terms of physical location
and social status. Return to Text

3. This is one
of the significant findings of Richard K. MacMaster in his Land, Piety
and Peoplehood: the Establishment of Mennonite Communities in America
1683-1790 (Scottdale, PA: Herald Press, 1985), esp. 282-83; on the Russian
situation see David G. Rempel, “The Mennonite Commonwealth in Russia:
a sketch of its founding and endurance, 1789-1919,” MQR 47 (April
1973), 259-308; 48 (Jan. 1974), 5-54; and my None But Saints: the Transformation
of Mennonite Life in Russia, 1789-1889 (Winnipeg: Hyperion Press,
1989). Return to Text

4. By sociological
sub-categories I am referring to the uncritical use of terms such as ethnicity,
sectarianism and denominationalism, often used to facilitate the appropriate
taxonomic placement and academic dissection of groups along proper theoretical
lines. Historians should realize these terms are not value-free and involve
complex semantic issues which need to be critically examined in their
particular historical contexts; see Philip Gleason, Speaking of Diversity:
Language and Ethnicity in Twentieth-century America (Baltimore: The
Johns Hopkins U. Press, 1992). Return to Text

5. Historians,
and genealogists have tended to concentrate on specifically “Mennonite”
newspapers while neglecting the non-Mennonite general German-language
newspapers which surprisingly contain a great deal of Mennonite activity
in letters and reports. These sources also reveal that Mennonites had
a window to, and voice in, the wider world not always apparent in the
Mennonite newspapers which were more constrained in their coverage. I
am thinking here of such sources at the Odessaer Zeitung in Russia
and in Manitoba the Nordwesten where Mennonites discuss non-religious
issues and differences in their communities. Return to Text

6. Literally
translated this is “where they the world with pancakes to shut-hang.”
I am grateful to Ernie Braun of Niverville for pointing the saying out
to me and also to Reuben Epp, Al Reimer and Jack Thiessen for advice on
transliteration, translation and meaning. Return to Text

7. James Urry,
“A Mennostaat for the Mennovolk? Mennonite Immigrant Fantasies in Canada
in the 1930s,” Journal of Mennonite Studies 14 (1996), 65-80. Return
to Text

8. Jantsied
is a relative term; to Mennonites in the west the East Reserve is jantsied,
as opposed to dietsied; a Saskatchewan Mennonite once noted that
all Manitoba Mennonites are jantsied to him! Return to Text

9. Two local
histories of the area are Abe Warkentin, ed., Reflections on our Heritage:
a History of Steinbach and the R.M. of Hanover from 1874 (Steinbach,
MB: Derksen Printers, 1971), and a municipal history, Lydia Penner, Hanover:
One Hundred Years (Steinbach, MB: Derksen Printers, 1982). Also, a
very active Hanover Steinbach Historical Society produces working papers
on the local settlements and peoples of the area and a newsletter, Preservings,
which is almost a journal in its own right. Return to Text

0. The issue
of nationalism is barely addressed either apart from Theron Schlabach’s
interesting comments on nationalism and civil religion in his Peace,
Faith, Nation: Mennonites and Amish in Nineteenth-century America
(Scottdale, PA: Herald Press, 1988), points which are not followed up
in detail in subsequent volumes in spite of their increasing significance.
I would suggest that in the Canadian volumes the idea of a Canadian nation
and Canadian nationalism are implicit assumptions rather than subjects
in need of critical examination. Ted Regehr’s latest volume Mennonites
in Canada, 1939-1970: a People Transformed (Toronto: U. of Toronto
Press, 1997) has no index entry under “politics” and, in spite of increasing
Mennonite participation in politics and government, no discussion of the
topic. Return to Text

1. The major
account of Mennonite politicization is James Juhnke’s A People of Two
Kingdoms: the Political Acculturation of the Kansas Mennonites (Newton,
KS: Faith and Life Press, 1975), and more recently Royden Loewen’s “American
Nationalism and the Rural Immigrant: A Case study of Two Midwestern Communities
1900-1925,” in Abe J. Dueck, ed., Canadian Mennonites and the Challenge
of Nationalism (Winnipeg, MB: Manitoba Mennonite Historical Society,
1994), 165-90. Recently, Adolf Ens has published a major account of the
relationship between Canadian governments and the Mennonites who emigrated
from Russia to Canada after 1870, Subjects or Citizens? The Mennonite
Experience in Canada, 1870-1925 (Ottawa, ON: U. of Ottawa Press, 1994).
John H. Redekop, a political scientist, provides a listing and commentary
on Mennonites involved in politics in “Mennonites and Politics in Canada
and the United States,” Journal of Mennonite Studies 1 (1983),
79-105; Redekop has updated his listing of Mennonites involved in elections
in “Decades of Transition: North American Mennonite Brethren in Politics”
in Paul Toews, ed., Bridging Troubled Waters: the Mennonite Brethren
at Mid-[Twentieth] Century (Winnipeg: Kindred Press, 1995, 39-66);
although useful, it is not complete and in places inaccurate. Return
to Text

2. George K.
Epp, “Russian Patriotism among Nineteenth-century Russian Mennonites”
Journal of Mennonite Studies 4 (1986), 120-34; James Urry, “The
Russian Mennonites, Nationalism and the State 1789-1917” in Abe J. Dueck,
ed., Canadian Mennonites and the Challenge of Nationalism (Winnipeg:
Manitoba Mennonite Historical Society, 1994), 21-67 (abbreviated as “Mennonites,
Nationalism and the State in Imperial Russia,” Journal of Mennonite
Studies 12 (1994), 65-88). Return to Text

3. “The homeland,”
although this does not quite catch the more emotional sense of the term
in German; see also the term Heimatlos which may be translated
as “loss of homeland,” but again this loses something in translation.
Return to Text

4. Frank Epp
in his Mennonites in Canada 1920-1940: A People’s Struggle for Survival
(Toronto: Macmillan, 1982), 242-44, discusses some of these issues although
without indicating the origins and varied use of the terms. Return
to Text

5. I am grateful
to Adolf Ens for first pointing this out to me; Gerhard Ens has reminded
me that at first the 1920s immigrants were also known as “the Newly Immigrated”
(die neu eingewanderten Mennoniten). Return to Text

6. I do not
have space to explore what “American” meant for the different groups only
to note that like the term, like “English,” it could have rather ambiguous
connotations. For Russländer in the 1920s and ’30s “American” certainly
was more negative than “English” as it was associated with the excesses
of “democracy” and the impurity of race associated in part with the presence
of “Negroes” (African-Americans) and their music-jazz! Return to Text

7. During the
early 1970s their parents often asked me who I thought the Mennonites
were, a question reflecting their own confused sense of identity and national
allegiance; see my “Who are the Mennonites'” in Archives Europennes
Sociologie 24 (1983), 241-62. Return to Text

8. One could
make a very good case for arguing that the one really significant factor
that separates Mennonites in Canada from those in the United States can
be attributed to the dominance of the Russländer and their descendants
in Canada and their almost complete absence in the United States. This
could be an interesting topic for comparative analysis in a number of
fields. Of course one should not underestimate other influences or the
fact that many individual Russländer and/or their descendants from Canada
have been influential in the United States. Return to Text

9. The “Prussian”
influence, not just in nineteenth century America, but also earlier in
Russia, would be well worth investigating. Raised in a powerful new state
some of these Prussian Mennonites had an impact on other Mennonites quite
disproportionate to their numbers. Return to Text

0. One could
suggest a degree of “overcompensation” is at issue here. But there are
many other factors involved such as higher education, reaction to the
Vietnam War and other American policies, developments in Canadian international
policy and of course the changes in what it means to be “Canadian.” Return
to Text

1. I am not
suggesting that the people of Grunthal do not identify with Canada or
do not feel Canadian. Of course, being “Canadian” has its own complex
history; Canadian nationalism has a complex past and has manifest itself
very differently in various parts of the country, even if we forget about
Quebec. As Seymour Lipset points out, one aspect of Canadian nationalism
is that it has often been defined by “stressing what it is not: the United
States.”-Continental Divide: the Values and Institutions of the United
States and Canada (New York: Routledge, 1990), xv. But then, what
is the United States? Return to Text

. Royden Loewen’s
work clearly reflects the significance of these connections, see for instance
his Family, Church, and Market: a Mennonite Community in the Old and
the New Worlds, 1850-1930 (Toronto: U. of Toronto Press, 1993). Return
to Text

. In the area
two kinds of Mennonite history publications interest people, the first
concern genealogy, the second local communities, church histories or regional
studies of administrative districts, villages or towns. Return to Text

. The paper
in question was by Rodney J. Sawatsky, later published as “Canadian Mennonite
Nationalism? The 49th Parallel in the Structuring of Mennonite Life,”
in Abe J. Dueck, ed., Canadian Mennonites and the Challenge of Nationalism
(Winnipeg: Manitoba Mennonite Historical Society, 1994), 89-110. Return
to Text

. The use of
questionnaires, although useful in tracing shifts in normative responses
over a period of time, in my opinion do not reflect always life as lived
or opinions as practiced by Mennonites. It is an old anthropological truism
that people say one thing, but do another; in my experience this applies
to Mennonites as much as to any other group. Return to Text

. For an interesting
attempt to differentiate between U.S. and Canadian Mennonites on the basis
of history and institutions see Rodney J. Sawatsky, “Domesticated Sectarianism:
Mennonites in the U.S. and Canada in Comparative Perspective” Canadian
Journal of Sociology 3 (1978), 233-74. Return to Text

. Ken Reddig,
“Historical Society to Produce Canadian Mennonite Encyclopedia,” Mennonite
Historian 24 (Jan 1998), 1. Return to Text

. L[eonard]
G[ross], “Progress Report: The Global Mennonite Historical Project,” Mennonite
Historical Society Newsletter 4 (1998), 1.
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