A mystical sect of prerevolutionary Russia, founded on tenets from Father John of Kronstadt. The sect published a periodical and spread their propaganda by means of itinerant pamphlet sellers. They were said to abduct Jewish children, and because of this rumor they sometimes came under police supervision. On various occasions they unsuccessfully forecast the date of the Last Judgment. They declared that all the powers of heaven had descended into Kronstadt and were personified in the entourage of Father John.
They exhorted all believers to make confession to Father John, who alone could rescue sinners from the depths of hell. The orthodox clergy would not know the Lord, but Father John would gather together in Kronstadt 144,000 of the blessed and then "leave the earth." Another tenet of the Johannities was that all newborn babies were "little devils" who must be "stamped out" immediately after birth.
The Johannites urged people to sell all their possessions and send the proceeds to Father John, or entrust them to the keeping of the pamphlet sellers. It seems, however, that Father John was unaware of the abuse of his name, and on one occasion, in reply to a telegram from Bishop Nikander of Perm, he strongly repudiated any connection with certain Johannite propagandists in the Perm government.
Another well-known sect of Johannites existed in seventeenth-century Holland. They were a less rigid branch called the Mennonites. They were first known as Anabaptists, but this name became distasteful because of the excesses of the Anabaptists under such fanatics as John of Leyden, and in 1537 the priest Menno Simonis gave his name to the movement. The members of the Johannite branch were also known as "Waterlanders," from the name of the Waterland district in North Holland where they lived. Other Mennonite sects immigrated to the United States.