The transition time from being a severely persecuted religious minority in the Reformation era to becoming a privileged ethnic minority in the 19th-century Russian empire makes the Dutch-Polish-Russian Mennonite story a very intriguing one. Yet the privileges granted these Mennonites by Russia in 1800- permanent exemption from military service, freedom of religion, self-government and control of their own schools- came under attack by imperial authorities with the government’s decision to implement russification policies in the 1860’s. The second section of this study documents how the Mennonites fought back, resisting the government’s attempt to assimilate them and to restrict their religious freedom.
When the war against Germany erupted, Mennonites were left with little support. They had largely alienated the Russian government through the opposition to is russification policies. Although Russian Mennonites were predominately of Dutch ancestry, they had become Germanized while in Poland/Prussia and now came to be considered part of the internal “German” threat. The third section deals with the Mennonite attempts to secure exemption from laws such as the land liquidation laws on the basis of their Dutch ethnicity.