Hutterites

Anabaptist* sect. They first emerge in Moravia in 1529; reorganized by Jacob Hutter in 1533, they were able despite their leader's martyrdom in 1536 to develop their distinctive ideas, in particular their pacifism and Christian communism, in the comparative peace and security of Moravia. Until 1599, in fact, they enjoyed their “golden period,” expanding into Slovakia and building up about a hundred bruderhofs, or farm colonies, with a membership of about 25,000. The Counter-Reformation at last caught up with them in the person of the persecuting Cardinal Franz von Dietrichstein, and their discomfiture was completed by the Catholic victory at the battle of the White Mountain (1620).

Moravia being lost to them, they retreated to Slovakia and Transylvania where despite Turkish invasions and Jesuit harassment they held out for 150 years, producing a rich devotional literature which is still the basis of their worship and witness. Renewed and vicious persecution fell upon them during the reign of Maria Theresa (1740-80), but in 1767 the rump of the sect, now confined to Transylvania, crossed the mountains into Walachia and in 1770 removed again to the Ukraine. In Russia they flourished under such leaders as Johannes Waldner (1794- 1824), but the introduction of military conscription in 1870 determined them to emigrate to the USA, where they settled mainly in South Dakota, Some again emigrated in 1917 when their pacifism proved unpopular, this time to Canada. They now number about 7,500 in the USA, still practice community of goods, learn German, cherish their ancient manuscripts, and maintain hostility to most forms of modern culture.

R. Friedman, Hutterite Studies (1961); P.K. Conkin, Paths to Utopia (1964); J.A. Hostetler and G.E. Huntington, Hutterites in North America (1966); V. Peters, All Things Common (1966); J.W. Bennett, Hutterian Brethren (1967).