The Hutterian Brethren
The Hutterites are the
most radical sect of Anabaptists still in existence. They are related to the
Mennonites and the Amish, who also practise adult baptism, but the Hutterite
doctrine follows strictly a passage from Acts 2:44: "And all that believed
were together, and had all things in common." Absolute and eternal
authority comes from God, and those that follow Him must give up the transitory
nature of worldly living in order to reflect His spiritual permanence. Man's
natural rebellious nature is given expression in life outside the community
that is afflicted with countless social problems and individual misery, but
communal living leads man closer to God. 
Settlement history in Central and Eastern Europe
The history of the
Hutterites is largely one of persecution. In 1528, Moravian (today located in
the Czech Republic) and Tyrolese peasants organized under Jakob Hut[t]er in
order to oppose war and war taxes. But their collective way of living and
religious non-conformity (adult baptism, separation of church and state, and
unwillingness to bear arms) angered the authorities, and in 1536 Huter was
arrested and burned at the stake, as had been several of the early founders of
the movement. Many Hutterites found refuge with Moravian nobles throughout the
16th century, and by 1600 there were over 15,000 members in Moravia.
Yet, all Hutterites in Russia were descended from
a small founding population of less than 24 families (about 150 individuals)
which joined the Brethren between the years 1755-1790 in Deutschkreuz
(Siebenbuergen) and later in Wallachia (southern Romania) and Ukraine. 
religious wars of the 17th century forced the Hutterites to flee from Moravia
to Slovakia, then on to Hungary, and to Transylvania (in Rumania) and Wallachia
(also in Rumania). In 1770, under the threat of continued attacks from Turks, robber bands and
Cossacks, the Hutterite brethren (66 individuals) fled to Russia and established a Bruderhof on a private
estate at Vishenka, 200 km northeast of Kiev. It was dismantled in 1802, and in
its stead the Radichev colony was established nearby with 44 families. When Empress
Maria Theresa displaced all non-Catholics to the fringes of her domains in
1755, Lutherans from Carinthia (Austria), named Waldner, Wipf, Hofer, Stahl,
Kleinsasser, Wurtz—still common names among the Hutterites today—came into
contact with the Hutterites and helped the movement. In Russia, peace and
prosperity existed for many years, but the Brethren also experienced
difficulties in maintaining their isolated, communal life style.
In 1842 the Hutterthal
Colony on the Molotschna River was founded. The Hutterites abandoned Radichev
and moved to the Taurida province near the Mennonite colony of Molotschna where
they would stay until 1874. In 1852 Johannesruh was set up. Due to expansion of
the colony 17 families left Hutterthal and establisheded a new colony four kilometers
north of the site. In 1859, Hutterdorf
(Kushcheva) was founded.
In 1868, the communities
of Johannesruh and Hutterthal were dissolved and private ownership was
re-adopted. Only the Schmiedeleut maintained community living. They attempted
to sell all their belongings and set up a new colony in Scheromet in Tauria.
David Hofer and Samuel Kleinsasser moved with their family to Scheromet at this
time. In 1868, Neu Hutterthal (Dabritcha) was established.
The Hutterites in the
The Russification policies of the Tsarist government in the second half of
the 19th century pressured the Hutterite colonies into assimilation.
In April 1873, Paul
Tschetter and his uncle Lorenz Tschetter were sent as emissaries for the
Hutterites to search for new potential settlements in North America. They
returned to the colonies in in July 1873. Tschetter suggested that the Hutterites
settle in America. In May 1874, the Schmiedeleut under Michel Waldner of
Scheromet immigrated to Bon Homme County in South Dakota where they flourished. The Dariusleut and
Lehrerleut followed shortly thereafter. 
the outbreak of the First World War, the Hutterites were again compelled to
search for another country that would have them. In the U.S., they experienced
strong discrimination because—although they could hardly be called
"German" after 400 years of travails in Switzerland and Central and
Eastern Europe—they were identified with the Kaiser's "Teutons" by a
sometimes fanatical local patriotism. Young Hutterites decided to register and
be examined by military physicians, but they refused the uniform and service in
the war. As a consequence, many were beaten, and several were killed.
The Hutterites in
The Hutterite colonies in the U.S. suffered greatly during the First
World War. Their livestock was seized and the money was used for the war
effort; they were not allowed to use the German language or their dialect in
school or worship. However, Canada wanted the Hutterites to help develop the
agricultural potential of the Prairies. The authorities gave the Hutterites
assurances that they would not be forced to do military service, and they were
also assured religious freedom.
From early summer 1918
on, there were occasional reports of "Germans" entering Alberta from
the U.S. and buying up huge tracts of fertile farmland in the south. These
"Germans," the Hutterites, were met with great hostility because of
their anti-war convictions, their land purchases, and their clannishness and
refusal to integrate in Canadian society. After the establishment of six
colonies in Manitoba and four colonies in Alberta, the government, under
pressure from the local population, withdrew its promise and stopped further
immigration of Hutterites. After the end of the War, the hostilities decreased
and four more colonies were established in Manitoba and eleven in Alberta.
But the rapid expansion
of the Hutterites and the additional Mennonite settlements alarmed the local
population, and strong protests arose against their purchases of the best land.
By 1940, there were 52 colonies in Canada. The beginning of the Second World
War again brought an end to any goodwill towards the Hutterites. This time, the
right to refuse military service was granted by the Canadian government, and
Hutterites did substitute service in public institutions, hospitals, national
parks, paper mills, etc. and supported the hospital field services financially.
represented a stiff competition in agriculture, and again the government ceded
to demands of the local population who blamed them for the decline of the
family farm. Alberta's Social Credit government passed the Communal Property Act in 1942 which
prevented the Hutterites from buying land if the site was closer than 60 km
from an existing colony, and the land holding was limited to not more than
6,400 acres. In 1960, the Act was amended, but complaints against further
expansion continued. The Hutterites were criticized for
- staying aloof from the surrounding community,
- for buying supplies in large quantities wherever prices were lowest, not necessarily in the surrounding communities,
- their ostensibly tax-free status,
- providing only inferior education to their children.
Small towns and villages
feared the collapse of the public schools if non-Hutterite families moved away.
In 1972, the new
Progressive Conservative government passed a Bill of Rights, and repealed the
Communal Property Act in 1973 against strong protests from members of the
legislature in southern Alberta. An advisory committee on the expansion of
colonies consisting of representatives from the Government and the Hutterites
was set up, but it could only make suggestions not to locate a new colony
within 15 miles of an existing colony.
Source: Canadian Mennonite Encyclopedia Online, "Alberta," http://www.mhsc.ca/encyclopedia/contents/A434ME.html.
Accessed on August 22, 2003.
The Hutterites have
fought the Federal government in several tax cases, but since the 1970s,
relationships between the Hutterites and the local population have improved
considerably, and the Alberta government has strongly supported their rights as
a religious community. But there has been some residual resentment and resistance
against them. In 2000, the MLA from Little Bow in southern Alberta introduced—unsuccessfully—a private bill which would make it illegal for anyone to own
in excess of 15 per cent of the total amount of arable farmland in any
municipal district or county. At that time, a spokesman for the Hutterites
defended their colonies saying that they were family farms just like everyone
else's; the colonies just happened to have more families living on them. Each
colony is, after all, a separate legal identity. It was pointed out that in
Warner County—the county with the largest Hutterite holdings—59,792 hectares or
13.5% was owned by the Hutterites in 2000, but the Mormon Church owned the
41,600 hectare Desert Ranch, by far the largest Alberta farm corporation, and
no complaints have been made about this fact.
In 2003, the same MLA
introduced a private member's bill to raise the dropout age for Alberta's school
children from 16 to 17. He maintained that Hutterite children were being
short-changed in their education, and this could even be dangerous for them in the workplace.
Critics maintained that this was another thinly-veiled attack on the
Hutterites' exercise of their religious freedom because they take their
children out at 15. It was nonsense to say that Hutterites cannot understand
pesticide labels because their children quit school at 15 or after Grade 9,
said the spiritual leader of one of the Hutterite colonies. At any rate, they
would not comply with the provisions of such an act. The bill passed, but has
not been proclaimed, and is not likely to be.
Nowadays, the Hutterites
have colonies in Canada, the U.S., Japan, Paraguay and Uruguay, and—once
more—in Germany. There are three different groups of Hutterites living in North
America, the Schmiedeleut, the Dariusleut and the Lehrerleut, numbering
altogether 36,000 on ca. 430 colonies.
In 2003, there were 166
colonies in Alberta, 97 belonging to the Dariusleut and 69 to the Lehrerleut.
According to the 2001 Census, Alberta's colonies had 12,330 members. The great
majority lives in the south of the province, ca. 4,400 in the Lethbridge area,
1,680 in the Medicine Hat area, but there are Hutterites as well in the Calgary area
(ca 2,000), east of Drumheller (ca. 400), in the Red Deer region (ca. 2,200),
north and east of Edmonton (N=1,100), and in the Grande Prairie area (N=400).
Life on the colonies
Hutterite colony (Bruderhof), the minister or spiritual leader is also the
"chief executive" and he, along with an advisory board, makes the
day-to-day decisions. The minister's duties include conducting church sermons,
marriages, baptisms, funerals, and disciplining members of the church. The
advisory board consists of the colony manager, the farm manager, and two or
three witness brothers who are elected for life.
All members of the
colony are provided for and nothing is kept for personal gain. Hutterites do
not have personal bank accounts; rather, all earnings are held communally and
funding for necessities is distributed according to one's needs.
proper education is a very important goal in many colonies. Children from two
and a half to five years start their education in kindergarten. There they
learn how to sing Hutterian songs, to pray, to play, to share, and to eat
properly. After the age of five, they attend regular English and German
classes. In addition, they graduate to the children's dining room
(Essensschule) where table manners, thankfulness, respect, and obedience are
strongly encouraged. Hutterite children are initiated into adulthood when they
are 15 years old. They start eating with the adults and are considered adults.
Hutterite schools follow
the approved Alberta curriculum during the regular school day. Normally, the
colony supplies the building, heating, and the maintenance costs. The local
public school board selects and pays the salary of the teachers, administers
the school, and in most cases, pays a small rent for the building. The children
are taught the basics like math, language arts, social studies, science, and
German. Usually there are other optional courses such as music, biology, or
carpentry. On the less conservative colonies in Manitoba, older children are
taught by distance education, and some schools use teleconferencing. They may
also take courses in computer literacy.
Due to increased
sophistication in livestock production, farming, and manufacturing, Hutterites
have realized that a solid education is a necessity. Many colonies in Manitoba
are finding it necessary for students to complete at least a Grade 12
education, and some of them are even sending a few of their members to the
university to obtain a teaching degree. There is a program at Brandon
University in Manitoba where Hutterites are being trained to become teachers on
their own colonies. It is felt that a colony's own teachers will offset the
worldly influence of the outside teacher.
There are also
vocational training courses. In addition to formal education, Hutterites
emphasize work education. Young people are assigned different jobs on the
colonies for months at a time to learn a trade. For example, a young man would
work with the farm manager for the summer months, and spend the winter months
with the carpenter on a building project or in a hog-raising facility.
receive two hours of German instruction daily from their own German teacher.
Many teachers have replaced the Tyrolean dialect with the use of standard
German as the language of instruction. In Alberta, university-outreach programs
as described above for Manitoba do not exist, but the German language
consultant at Alberta Learning assists the German teacher.
colony has to provide for between 60 and 160 persons. Most are crop producers
and farms and raise a large amount of life stock. In addition, manufacturing is
gaining momentum on many colonies.
Every member of the
Bruderhof is willing to do any work as a service for the whole body. The
brotherly atmosphere within and between the different work departments is more
important than economic considerations. There is no differentiation in value
between income-producing work, such as farming and colony industries, and the
many services needed for the daily life of the community.
Every person on a colony
is assigned a job. Some assignments may be carpenter, chicken man, farm boss,
etc. Each person is in charge of a team with usually one or two helpers.
The Hutterites have
always tried to obtain maximum return on their investment—the money to be
used for the establishment of more colonies—by rationalization and
mechanization. They were among the first to use computers to manage cattle
identification and feeding patterns, and they quickly set up wind-powered
turbines where this was economically possible. They have also ventured into
large-scale operations, and have been very successful in doing so. In 1973, the
7,200 Hutterites in Alberta owned 580,000 acres—1.2% of the total arable land
areathen. By 1997, Alberta's 151 colonies owned 1.5 million acres of land (1% of
the total farmland), but produced one third of the dairy products, eggs, and
hogs in Alberta and had a virtual monopoly on down feathers. 10% of the
country's milk supply came from Hutterite farms. Recently, attempts to increase
intensive farming (e.g., by setting up huge farms with 5,000 to 6,000 pigs or
15,000 chickens) have led to resistance from surrounding communities who
opposed the inevitable environmental pollution by these "factory
Hutterite men and women
in their black clothes are familiar sight at farmer's markets across the
province where they sell their produce for a good price.
do different things in their leisure time. Boys and men play sports, such as
hockey, volleyball, baseball, soccer, football, and lacrosse. Females are more
involved in crafts, such as creating flower arrangements, knitting, crocheting,
needle-point and rug-making. Both males and females spend a lot of time
A favorite pastime is
visiting other colonies. Young people from different colonies get to know each
other by visiting for the day or the weekend for social purposes or for helping
others pick vegetables or erect buildings.
Hutterites attend a
half-hour church service almost every day besides a 1 to 1.5 hour service every
Sunday and common religious holidays.
German language maintenance
Among Albertan Hutterites, the age distribution in 1991 was the following: 4,035 Hutterites were less than 15 years of age (=33%); 1,765 were between 15 and 24; 2,585 Hutterites ranged between 25 and 44 years; 1,170 were between 45 and 64, and 415 Hutterites were 65 years of age or older,—a distribution very much younger than in the rest of the Albertan population. In 2001, 37% of the Hutterites were children ranging in age from 0 to 14, another 19% were between 15 and 24 years of age.
The fact that Hutterite
families have many children has important implications for the maintenance of
German in the province. Of the 27,550 Albertans who used German as their home
language in 2001, almost half (N=12,330) were Hutterites. By contrast, more
than 150,000 Albertans claimed to have German origin and another 423,000 gave
German as one of their origins, and 78,000 had German as their mother tongue.
Among non-Hutterite Albertans who spoke German at home, more than 60% were 45
years of age or older. Clearly, German as a home language is dying out among the post-WW II immigrants, but thriving
among the Hutterites.
It would seem
to be difficult for Hutterite families to keep their children from leaving the
colony; after all, colony life is highly structured and disciplined, leaving
little freedom for the individual. Also, the children are more familiar than
ever with the outside world and its lures. Yet, only very few Hutterites do
leave the colony every year, and when they do they are on their own; in most
cases, the colony breaks off all relations with those who haven chosen life
"on the outside." Those who have left find it difficult, at least
initially, to start their new life.
Critics maintain that
the Bruderhof indoctrinates its member with the benefits of communal living and
that children are deliberately kept at a minimum level of education. Over the
years, "well-meaning" critics have charged that by compelling the
Hutterite colonies to offer high-quality publication the "Hutterite
problem" would be solved because well-educated children would want to
escape the authoritarian environment in which they live. The recent attempt to
raise the drop-out age may also be considered an attempt to
"liberate" the children from the shackles of Hutterite ideology.
Yet, when asked
Hutterites—even those who have left the colony—have high praise for the
supportive communal atmosphere and the loving care with which the Bruderhof
looks after the needs of individuals. Critics will, of course, claim that
indoctrination has been successful.
Click here for maps of German settlements and
Mennonite and Hutterite colonies in Alberta.
Accessed on February 13, 2004.
 Evan Eichler, "Hutterite Genealogy, Founding Families,
Churchbook Extractions," http://feefhs.org/hut/hff-2.html. Accessed on
May 3, 2004.
 Evan Eichler, "A
Brief History of the Hutterian Brethren (1755-1879)," http://feefhs.org/hut/hut-hist.html. Accessed on May 3, 2004.
This section is
based, in large part, on
1. "The Hutterian
Brethren. Hutterites living in Community in North America," http://www.hutterites.org/. Sections on history, religion, structure,
education, teachers, livelihood, leisure time, and organizational structure.
2. The Canadian
Mennonite Encyclopedia Online, "Hutterian Brethren." http://www.mhsc.ca/encyclopedia/contents/ H8888ME.html. Accessed on February 13, 2004.
"Hutterites: An Historical Overview," http://mtprof.msun.edu/Spr1993/TBP.html. Accessed on February 13, 2004.
4. Manfred Prokop and Gerhard Bassler, German
language maintenance across Canada (Edmonton: 2004).