Journey to Central Asia  (p. 140 - 144)


The story of Claas Epp (1818 - 1913) and his followers is an unusual event in the history of the Mennonites. From his earliest youth Epp was totally preoccupied with eschatological events. As a minister in Hannsau, Trakt Colony he preached that the Mennonites should move to central Asia to prepare the place of refuge described in Revelations and in Daniel. One hundred fifty-nine families (600 people) sold their property and prepared for the trek to Tashkent. The first group departed from Hannsau on July 3, 1880 and the fourth and last caravan arrived in Tashkent in December 1881.

The trek was almost 3,000 kilometres long, It was the most difficult migration Mennonites have made. Many children died along the way. In Tashkent Epp and Abraham Peters got into a disagreement. Finally Peters with his followers moved to Aulie Ata and Epp’s group went to Ak Metchet.

The Peters group settled in four villages along the Talas River. During the thirties, the villages which had grown into one continuous settlement, were renamed Leninopol.

Ak Metchet was settled in 1884 by a remnant of the Claas Epp group. It is located on an oasis about twelve kilometres southeast of Khiva. The villagers resisted collectivization. As a result they were sent to a labour camp. After the death of Stalin they moved to other parts of the Soviet Union.

In recent years many of the families from Leninopol and Ak Metchet have immigrated to Germany.