ket regional interest group chapter


Religion in the KET Region

Of the thousands of Germans who migrated to Russia, the majority were of the Protestant religion. The remaining  people were mainly Catholic or Mennonite. Most of the Mennonites migrated to the KET region. There are very few Catholic villages located in the KET regionThe KET region also was home to other

Mennonite Church Halbstadt

Photo by Alix Kroeger

splinter religions such as Separatists, Reformed, and Baptists.  Below is a brief history of the migrations these regligious groups to Russia.


At the invitation of Catherine the Great, 228 Mennonite families left West Prussia to settle in South Russia in 1788. Although these first colonists had been promised a parcel of land near Bereslav, Potemkin required that they settle near the Alexandrovsk Fort, which is the present day city of Zaporozhye. Here they established the Chortitza Colony. After humble beginnings the colony grew in both population and wealth in the
1800s. Initially the Mennonites established 8 villages, but in later years as more Mennonites immigrated to the colony and as the population grew 10more villages were added to the colony.

A second Mennonite colony called the Molotschna Colony was established about 100 kilometers southeast of the Chortitza Colony in 1803 by about 310 families who also had come from West Prussia. A second wave of about 400 families immigrated and joined the Molotschna Colony in the years 1818-1824. The Molotschna Colony grew to become the largest Mennonite colony and was well known as a major agricultural center in the 1800s.

Many daughter colonies were established by both the Chortitza Colony and the Molotschna Colony in the 1800s. The first of these, the Bergthal Colony, was established in 1836. Most of these colonies were established in South Russia, but later colonies were established as far away as Siberia.

Approximately one third of the Mennonites in Russia (about 20,000 people) immigrated to the United States and Canada between 1873 and 1890 after the Russian government withdrew its promise of exemption from military service for the Mennonites. The Mennonites who remained in Russia prospered until 1914 when World War 1 broke out. The Bolshevik Revolution brought in a communist government in 1917 and subsequent years of famine, deportation to labor camps, and executions caused severe hardships for the Mennonites in Ukraine in the 1920s and 1930s. Thousands of Mennonites emigrated to Canada and South America between 1922 and 1929.

In 1941 after the German Army began to invade Ukraine many Mennonites were forcibly shipped east to Kazakhstan and nearby areas by the Soviet government. The remaining Mennonites in Ukraine went to Poland and Germany after the German troops in Ukraine were forced to withdraw in 1943. Most of these people were later forced to return to Russia, but they were not resettled in their original homes in
Ukraine. Those that were fortunate escaped to areas that were not under Russian control and eventually emigrated Canada or South America. Today, only about 200 hundred people of Mennonite ancestry live in Ukraine.