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‘Mennonite Trek’ Presentation Set at EMU

Posted on March 5th, 2008

James C. Juhnke of Bethel College
James C. Juhnke, professor emeritus of history at Bethel College

James C. Juhnke, professor emeritus of history at Bethel College, N. Newton, Kan., will give an illustrated presentation on a strange, uncertain segment of Mennonite history 3:50-5:15 p.m. Thursday, Mar. 13, in room 123 of the seminary building.

Juhnke’s account of the 1880 story of the "Mennonite Great Trek" from the Ukraine to Central Asia is based on his recent travels and study and one that he believes "more accurately reflects the people and the events" of the period.

From May 27 to June 7, 2007, Juhnke was part of a group that retraced part of the route of those who migrated to the Russian frontier of Central Asia from the colonies of Molotschna in the Ukraine and the Trakt in the Volga region. Those migrants established two settlements – one in the Talas Valley north and east of Tashkent and one near Khiva in what is now western Uzbekistan.

It is generally believed that the group’s migration was largely triggered by the teachings and writings of Claas Epp, Jr., that set a schedule of millennial events culminating in the expected return of Christ in 1887, later revised to 1889.

"Dr. Junke’s revisionist account is less focused on a group of Russian Mennonites with apocalyptic illusions of Christ’s second coming and more on a prophetic vision to avoid military service, less a focus on abject suffering and futility and more on positive Muslim-Christian relationships," said Ray C. Gingerich, professor emeritus of theology and ethics at EMU and director of the Anabaptist Center for Religion and Society (ACRS).

The program is co-sponsored by EMU’s history department and ACRS. Refreshments will be served, and admission is free.

For more information, call 432-4465; email gingerrc@emu.edu.

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