In Kyrgystan, at the foothills of the Tien Shan mountains bordering China, a small settlement of Mennonites holds out. Centuries ago, their forefathers left the Netherlands and Germany in all directions. They fled from worldliness and went looking for better pastures to start anew a life according to their strict interpretation of the bible. A few pioneering families who went all the way to Central Asia found themselves trapped when the borders of the emerging Soviet Union got drawn. Despite harsh times, their descendants managed to preserve a good part of their culture, independence and religious beliefs.Wim Klerkx, 1996-1997.

In Kyrgystan, at the foothills of the Tien Shan mountains bordering China, a small settlement of Mennonites holds out. Centuries ago, their forefathers left the Netherlands and Germany in all directions. They fled from worldliness and went looking for better pastures to start anew a life according to their strict interpretation of the bible. A few pioneering families who went all the way to Central Asia found themselves trapped when the borders of the emerging Soviet Union got drawn. Despite harsh times, their descendants managed to preserve a good part of their culture, independence and religious beliefs.
Wim Klerkx, 1996-1997.

Workers have lunch in the freshly sowed fields. Most inhabitants of Rotfront, as the Mennonite's settlement is named, work on the collective farm of the community. They grow wheat and vegetables and raise cows and horses for milk and meat. Most of the produce is for their own consumption, the surplus is sold or donated.

Workers have lunch in the freshly sowed fields. Most inhabitants of Rotfront, as the Mennonite's settlement is named, work on the collective farm of the community. They grow wheat and vegetables and raise cows and horses for milk and meat. Most of the produce is for their own consumption, the surplus is sold or donated.

Rotfronts’ youth at a Sunday-outing to a nearby orphanage. The community of Rotfront donates food and medicines to institutes like this regularly. For the youth of Rotfront it’s one of the rare opportunities to have a look outside their usual boundaries.

Rotfronts’ youth at a Sunday-outing to a nearby orphanage. The community of Rotfront donates food and medicines to institutes like this regularly. For the youth of Rotfront it’s one of the rare opportunities to have a look outside their usual boundaries.

The butchers’ children are finishing their fathers’ work. In a predominant muslim country, raising pork is profitable. For the Russian minority who mainly live in the Kyrgyz cities, pork is considered a delicatesse. The 'Germans', as the descendants of Mennonites are generally called here, are known for producing the best pork. Most families in Rotfront raise a few pigs in the yard. If for some reason they need cash, they’ll ask the butcher to slaughter one and sell its meat on the market in Kyrgystans capital Bishkek.

The butchers’ children are finishing their fathers’ work. In a predominant muslim country, raising pork is profitable. For the Russian minority who mainly live in the Kyrgyz cities, pork is considered a delicatesse. The 'Germans', as the descendants of Mennonites are generally called here, are known for producing the best pork. Most families in Rotfront raise a few pigs in the yard. If for some reason they need cash, they’ll ask the butcher to slaughter one and sell its meat on the market in Kyrgystans capital Bishkek.

Rotfronts' inhabitants unload a truck with donations from family in Germany. Every two months a truck full of donations arrives from Detmold. Donations vary from food and clothes to agricultural machinery. Part of the donations will be carried on to needy Kyrgyz people. After the collapse of the Soviet Union, many inhabitants of Rotfront migrated to Germany. They are still in close contact and support the community that stayed behind.

Rotfronts' inhabitants unload a truck with donations from family in Germany. Every two months a truck full of donations arrives from Detmold. Donations vary from food and clothes to agricultural machinery. Part of the donations will be carried on to needy Kyrgyz people. After the collapse of the Soviet Union, many inhabitants of Rotfront migrated to Germany. They are still in close contact and support the community that stayed behind.

A bakery run by Rotfronts' collective farm. The economy of Kyrgystan has seen a sharp downturn since the collapse of the Soviet union and supplies and energy are at times not available. To ensure daily bread, the community started its own bakery that can run both on gasolene or electricity for if any one kind is too expensive or unavailable.

A bakery run by Rotfronts' collective farm. The economy of Kyrgystan has seen a sharp downturn since the collapse of the Soviet union and supplies and energy are at times not available. To ensure daily bread, the community started its own bakery that can run both on gasolene or electricity for if any one kind is too expensive or unavailable.

A ride out from the summerfarm in the mountains. The horses of the collective farm are kept high in the mountains during the summer-season to escape the heat. The horses are kept to produce Kumis, fermented mare's milk which is a renowned Kyrgyz drink.

A ride out from the summerfarm in the mountains. The horses of the collective farm are kept high in the mountains during the summer-season to escape the heat. The horses are kept to produce Kumis, fermented mare's milk which is a renowned Kyrgyz drink.

Rotfronts prayer house just after Sunday morning mass. Every evening and also on Sunday mornings, all baptists from Rotfront and surrounding villages gather for a two-hour mass. Although their community is registered as ‘free-Christian’, their doctrine is based on what survived from the communities' Mennonite past. This involves a strict and sober life to the exact words of the bible and regular readings of the texts of Menno Simons. Only adults can be baptised.

Rotfronts prayer house just after Sunday morning mass. Every evening and also on Sunday mornings, all baptists from Rotfront and surrounding villages gather for a two-hour mass. Although their community is registered as ‘free-Christian’, their doctrine is based on what survived from the communities' Mennonite past. This involves a strict and sober life to the exact words of the bible and regular readings of the texts of Menno Simons. Only adults can be baptised.

A girl watches the families’ cow return from its daily trip to pastures in the mountains. Some Kyrgyz herders make a living by herding the German’s livestock during the day. Every family has a cow, some pigs and a market garden. With the produce from the collective farm, they are self-sufficient.

A girl watches the families’ cow return from its daily trip to pastures in the mountains. Some Kyrgyz herders make a living by herding the German’s livestock during the day. Every family has a cow, some pigs and a market garden. With the produce from the collective farm, they are self-sufficient.

Mother and daughter are preparing dinner at home. Families are usually big and men and women have clear and separated tasks in daily life. The cooking is still based on old Mennonite recipes, with a major influence from Central Asian and Russian cooking.

Mother and daughter are preparing dinner at home. Families are usually big and men and women have clear and separated tasks in daily life. The cooking is still based on old Mennonite recipes, with a major influence from Central Asian and Russian cooking.

These kids are picking cherries from the trees along Rotfronts’ main road. Kyrgystan, landlocked and far from tempering effects, knows a climate of harsh winters quickly turning into hot summers. Children have long summer vacations in which they can help their parents harvesting.

These kids are picking cherries from the trees along Rotfronts’ main road. Kyrgystan, landlocked and far from tempering effects, knows a climate of harsh winters quickly turning into hot summers. Children have long summer vacations in which they can help their parents harvesting.

A lecture from the bible before lunch at the summerfarm in the mountains. Two families from Rotfront take up residence here during the summerseason to take care of the horses of the collective farm.

A lecture from the bible before lunch at the summerfarm in the mountains. Two families from Rotfront take up residence here during the summerseason to take care of the horses of the collective farm.

Youth returning home from work at the collective farm. Life in Rotfront is very rural and the community appreciates its isolation. The strict Mennonite traditions and religion further ensure that youth of Rotfront generally keep among themselves for amusement.

Youth returning home from work at the collective farm. Life in Rotfront is very rural and the community appreciates its isolation. The strict Mennonite traditions and religion further ensure that youth of Rotfront generally keep among themselves for amusement.

Workers of Rotfronts’ collective farm sow wheat. From the time their forefathers left Europe, Mennonites and their descendants have always been farmers able to make a living from land that at first seemed unfit to support a community. In a way this succes is their tragedy. Time and again they have unlocked regions for agriculture, followed by more people, infrastructure and towns. Eventually this was always the worldliness from which they then felt they had to move away from again.

Workers of Rotfronts’ collective farm sow wheat. From the time their forefathers left Europe, Mennonites and their descendants have always been farmers able to make a living from land that at first seemed unfit to support a community. In a way this succes is their tragedy. Time and again they have unlocked regions for agriculture, followed by more people, infrastructure and towns. Eventually this was always the worldliness from which they then felt they had to move away from again.