Refugees Leaving Russia Hold a Train Platform Religious Service, 1920s (11 Kb): "The Chortitza Colony," slide 74
Refugee Religious Service on a Train Platform, Russia (1920s)

In the "History" section we concentrated on the Mennonite groups that eventually found their way to Canada. Canada, however, was not the only destination for Mennonites in the 20th century. Many moved to the United States, as well as Mexico, Brazil, Argentina, Uruguay, and Paraguay.

From Europe to the Americas

Following World War I, some 4,000 Mennonites moved from Russia to Mexico, Brazil, and Paraguay from 1922-1930. Like those who came to Canada during that time, these groups felt compelled to leave because of economic troubles, new regulations regarding service in the military, and attempts by the government to have them become more "Russian."

Mennonite Migration from Russia to the Americas (38 Kb): by Clifford Snyder
Mennonite Migrations from Europe to the Americas

As the German army retreated towards the end of World War II, it took German-speaking residents with it. This arduous journey from the steppes of the Ukraine into Germany later became referred to as the Great Trek. Although approximately 2/3 of these Mennonites were forced to return to Russia, about 12,000 remained in Western Europe. This prompted another wave of Mennonite migration to the Americas. The group pictured below is about to leave a German refugee camp for Paraguay, around 1950.

Group preparing to leave a German refugee camp for Paraguay, ca. 1950. (30 Kb): Mennonite Archives of Ontario (1994 - 14.214)
Refugees Preparing to Leave Europe for Paraguay (ca. 1950)

Despite the large-scale migrations to Canada, there were also some Mennonite groups that stayed in Russia after World War II. From the 1970s into the early 1990s there was also a significant migration of Mennonites from the former Soviet Union into Germany.

Within the Americas

In addition to these migrations from Europe, Mennonites have also moved within the American continents. After WWI a significant number moved from the Canadian prairies to establish colonies in Mexico as well as to join others in the Paraguayan "Chaco" (prairie). The extraordinary growth of Mexican Mennonite groups prompted them to begin several new settlements in Belize, Bolivia, Paraguay, Argentina, and a small one in Texas. There has also been some movement between these places, with some returning to Canada.

Perhaps one of the most important migrations has happened within these countries themselves. During the 20th century there has been a general movement toward cities and away from agriculture. This "urbanization" trend has also affected Mennonites and has been an important reason why some groups, wanting to maintain a rural lifestyle, decided to move away from Canada.

Created 1998 by Derek Suderman