The schools in Russia in the Mennonite colonies were held in German. Often a teacher was a craftsperson or herder, untrained but willing to fit teaching class around his occupation. In 1820 they started a secondary school in Orloff, with a teacher brought in from Prussia. More higher schools followed and those who wanted to pursue a further education attended universities in Switzerland, Germany and also in Russia.
Typically each village or group of villages formed an independent congregation. Each had slightly different traditions, but all believed in the fundamental Mennonite beliefs such as believer’s baptism (choosing by your own free will to be baptized, adult baptism), nonresistance (choosing not to join the military), and avoidance of oaths (“Above all, my brothers, do not swear—not by heaven or by earth or by anything else. Let your "Yes" be yes, and your "No," no, or you will be condemned.” James 5:12).
As nationalism grew in central Europe, the Russian government couldn’t justify the special status of the German colonists any longer. In 1870 they announced a plan to “Russificate” the colonists and end all special privileges by 1880. The Mennonites were worried about losing the right to stay out of the military, their German schools and their religious and cultural life as they knew it.
They sent delegates to Petersburg, but they failed to present the czar with their petition. A year later they tried again, but to no success.
Quote from Wiki: The image of Makhno as leader of the peasant uprising has been called "legendary" and a "colorful personality". However, in the view of the German and German Mennonite community in Ukraine, he was viewed as the instigator of "military ravages" against innocent farmers, an "inhuman monster" whose path is "literally drenched with blood.”
The Mennonites were looking for a new home. A larger migration of Mennonites from Russia occurred after World War I when in 1922-30 some 25,000 Mennonites went to Canada (21,000), Mexico, Brazil, and Paraguay. Many applied to go to Canada, but could not pass the medical exams, usually because of trachoma. The reasons for this mass migration were the threat of complete disintegration of the religious, cultural, and economic way of life of the Mennonites. A much larger number would have escaped, had not the Second World War intervened. Those that remained in their home villages were subject to exile to Siberia and other remote regions east of the Urals. From 1929 to 1940, one in eight men were removed, usually under the pretext of political accusations, to labor camps from which few ever returned or were heard from again.
My aunt, Dora Dueck, wrote a wonderful fictional novel called: Under the Still Standing Sun. It describes the start of our colony in the 1930. Here’s a link to read a review of this book.
After my parents married in the 60’s, they decided to pack up their baby daughter (my big sister, Daniela) and move to Manitoba, Canada. They lived there for a total of 11 years, in which Caroline, Me and Andrea were all born there. I went to grade school in Winnipeg and later in Calgary until I was 10. Then we moved back to Paraguay. That’s why I’m “Tri-lingual” (can you say it like that?) My first language is English, because I spoke only English until we moved here. Then I quickly learned German, because that is the main language in our schools and colony here. Then I learned Spanish in school, because it’s the language spoken in Paraguay.