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Before the Russian conquest of 1873, society and technology in the Silk Road kingdom of Khiva had changed little in hundreds of years. The Mennonite community of Ak Metchet, founded in 1884, played an instrumental role in the khanate’s transition into the modern world. The Khan and his closest advisors relied on the Mennonites for their understanding of modern agricultural techniques and new technologies, as well as their example as entrepreneurs. Their contributions had a lasting impact on the region.
This presentation will highlight important contributions by Mennonites in Khiva, including the introduction of photography and filmmaking, modern cotton harvesting, and electricity to the khanate. It will also highlight their role as model business owners in the kingdom prior to the introduction of Communism.
The community of Ak Metchet is most often remembered for its connection to the millennial hopes of Claas Epp Jr. and his followers. After Epp’s prophecies failed, a majority of the community rejected his teachings and remained in Khiva for more than fifty years. Their close relationship with Khiva’s power brokers and Muslim reformists helped ease the khanate’s transition from a traditional society to a modern nation on the fringes of the Russian empire.