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          The Volga-German-Russians originated from the Hesse and the Rhineland of Germany.  During the reign of Empress Elizabeth, a plan to invite new settlers was being planned but did not transpire until Catherine II's reign.  The Germans immigrated to Russia in the 18th century when Catherine the Great (the first Russian-German Empress on July 22, 1763 publicized over all of Germany and other countries inviting new settlers to Russia.  Catherine II promised if they would settle in Russia, they would be given the choice land in her empire.  She promised the German immigrants land between the fiftieth and fifty-second parallels of North latitude, on both sides of the Volga River near the city of Saratov (Saratow) and along the Black Sea.  Farmland, meadows and forests would be available to the immigrants.  She would measure the amount of the   land and each family would receive according to the number of people in the family.  Money was given for the immigrants journey to Russia and for an additional year after their arrival on the settlement site.  Other terms were that the immigrants could retain their language, customs, their religion, and to be exempt forever from Russian military service.  Also, they were to be free of taxes for thirty years.

          Before 1762, much of Russia was inhabited by wild roving tribes from the West and from Mongolia.

          Catherine's Manifesto changed the lives of thousands of poor German people who were the victims of the economic depression.  The German people began leaving their homelands in 1764 to 1767.  The people from Germany were anxious to leave their troubled homeland because of the hunger and devastation and poverty resulting from the warfare (Seven Years War 1756-1763) on their soil.  Whole villages left Germany seeking a better life in Russia.  About 30,000 people migrated to Russia during this period.  Catherine the Great accepted everyone to her country regardless of circumstances.

          The first group of German settlers came to the lower Volga River region.  The Volga Colonies were founded from 1764 to 1776.   The colonies were named after the first mayor of each village. Each village had a Schreiber (Secretary) and a Richter (Judge).   Other officials enforced the law.  Many of the villages soon became over crowded and daughter colonies were then established on additional free land from the Crown.

          The German immigrants' religion was deeply implanted in their hearts.  They brought to Russia their Bibles, catechisms and hymnals.  Their small churches they developed and built on Christ as its one and only foundation.  From the beginning of their arrival to their new home, they were sustained by knowing the Lord which carried them through the rough years ahead.  Their faith remained and never faltered.  Their churches in Russia were the center of the village, which provided the spiritual security.  As soon as a village was settled, then a prayer house or church was built.  The priest kept a church registry on each individual in the community.  In German language each birth, baptism, religious education, confirmation, communion, marriage and death was recorded.  Also recorded was anyone joining or withdrawing from the church.



          Their customs in their new home were kept.  Schooling was an important function in the community also.

          The Germans contributed to Russia their agriculture ability since most to begin with had no previous experience before migrating to Russia.  Most of the immigrants were craftsmen.  Many farmers combined agriculture with a trade to make ends meet.  The Volga Germans were the oldest, largest and most compactly settled of all colonists in Russia.

          The German people in Russia stayed on good terms with their Russian neighbors.  They seldom intermixed and rarely intermarried.

          The German people achieved a limited amount of freedom and happiness in Russia until the early 1870's.  The German people prospered in Russia as long as the promise of Catherine's Manifesto was kept.  But, in 1871, Czar Alexander II (Alexander the No Good) didn't keep the agreement that Catherine II had made to the German immigrants.  Alexander II gave the Germans in Russia the choice of becoming Russian citizens, which included military service or leaving Russia within a ten-year period.  The German people had had the right to self-government, their own language and culture withdrawn when Alexander II came into power.  Beginning in the early 1870's, the young German men were obligated to military training in the Russian Army.  The Russian government took back some of the previously granted rights.

          Many of the Germans along the Volga sensing trouble and being afraid other privileges would be taken away from them, began immigrating to the United States, especially in the years of 1908 and 1913.


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of Mofcovia, Kiovia, Uladimiria, Novogardia, Czarina of Cafan, Czarina of Aftracan, Czarina of Siberia, Lady of Pfcovia, and Great Duchess of Smolensko, Duchess of Eftonia, Livonia, Corelia, Tueria, Iugoria, Permia, Viatka, Bolgaria and others Lady, and Great Duchess of Lower Novogardia, Tzernigovia, Refania, Roftovia, Laroslavia, Belooferia, Udoria, Obdoria, Condinia and of all the Northern Coasts Dominatrice, and Lady of the Land of Iberia, the Czars of Cartalinia and Gruzinia, as likewise of Cabardinia, The Dukes of Czircaffia and of the Mountains, and many others, Heir, Successor, lady and Ruler.


          Whereas, we knowing the vast Extent of Lands in our Empire, find amongst the rest a great many very advantageous and convenient Places for the settlement and Habitation of Mankind, which remains yet uncultivated, and amongst which many have unexhaustable Treasures of divers metals hidden in the Bottom of the Earth; and they having Woods, Rivers, Lakes, and Seas belonging to Commerce, enough, are very convenient for the increase and augmentation of many Manufactures, Fabrics, and other Works.  This induced us for the benefit of all our faithful subjects to issue out a Manifest the 4. day of December 1762. past. but having declared therein Our Will and Pleasure tending to those Foreigners, who are desirous to settle themselves in Our Empire, in Short; We, in addition thereto, order to be made known to all of the following ordinance, which we do most solemnly constitute and command to be observed.



          We allow and give Leave for all Foreigners to come into Our Empire and settle themselves wheresoever they shall desire in all Our Government.



          Such Foreigners may come and appear not only in Our Residence to the appointed for that purpose Guardian-Office for Foreigners, but even in other bordering City's of Our Empire, where any one may find it more convenient, to the Governors, and where are none, to the Chief Commander of those City's.



          As amongst the said Foreigners, that are desirous to settle themselves in Russia, may happen to be such, who have not substance enough for to undertake the voyage, those may appear to Our Ministers or Residents, residing at Foreign Courts, who will not only dispatch them forthwith to Russia upon Our own Cost and Expenses, but even supply them with money for their journey.



          As soon as the said Foreigners come into Our Residence, and appear to the Guardian-Office, or in any of Our bordering City's or Towns, they are to declare their final Intention, whether they desire to list themselves for Trades, or Handy-Crafts, and be Citizens, and in which City they wish to be, or whether they desire to settle themselves in Colonies or by Places upon the free and convenient Grounds for Tillage and many other advantages which will be immediately resolved upon, and be allowed them according to their desire.  As what tend's particularly to those Places in Our Empire, where the said free Grounds fit for Plantations only, they are to be seen in the following List, nevertheless there are a great many more vast spaces of Grounds, which do far exceed the above mentioned Number, supplied with all other necessary's for the substance of human life, which we give Leave likewise to be inhabited by all, whosoever shall choose for their Profit to settle themselves thereon.



          As soon as any Foreigner arrives into Our Empire for settlement, and appears to Our Guardian-Office, which is appointed for them, or in any other of our bordering City's or Towns, he is to declare at first, as is prescribed in the 4. precedent Article, his Intention and then conformably to his Religion and its Rite to take the usual Oath of subjection and Fidelity to Us.



          And to the end, that all Foreigners, as are desirous to settle themselves in Our Empire, may see, how far our good will extends to their Profit and Advantage, We do grant, that. (1) All such Comers into Our Empire for settlement may enjoy the free Exercise of their Religion conformable to their Rites and Ceremonies, without any hindrance or molestation; and that those, which are desirous to settle themselves not in the City's or Towns, but separately in the open Fields, in Colonies or by Places, may build themselves up Churches with steeples for Bells, and keep as many Parsons and Clergy-men as will be needful, excluding only buildings up Monastery's: admonishing however hereby, that none of the divers Christians dwelling in Russia presume under what Pretense soever it be, to persuade or turn any one to his Religion or Community, under Penalty of suffering the Rigor and severity of Our Laws, except the Mahometans of different Nations dwelling near to the Borders of Our Empire, whom we do allow in a decent manner to be persuaded to embrace the Christian Religions, but even to be made band-men to any one.  (2) Such Foreigners, as come for settlement to Russia, shall be exempt of all Tributs payable into Our Treasury and of all ordinary and extraordinary services or Duties, as likewise of giving Quarters to Soldiers, and in short, they shall be free from all Taxes and Burdens as follows this.


Those which come over by many Families and by whole Colony's and settle themselves on the open Fields or uncultivated Grounds are to enjoy the above said immunity for thirty Years; but those, which desire to abide in the City's, as also to list themselves for Handy-Crafts or Trade in Our Residence in St. Petersburg or in the adjacent places, in the Cities of Livonia and Eftonia, Ingermanlandia, Corelia, and Finland, or in Our Capital City of Moscow, for five Years; and in the other Cities of Our Governments and Provinces, for ten Years; moreover to every one of them, who come into Russia not for a short time, but for to settle themselves, will be given free Lodging for half a Year.  (3) All those Foreigners, which come for settlement to Russia, shall according to their Inclinations, either to Husbandry, or any Handy-Craft, or the settling up of Manufactures, Fabrics or Works, receive all aide and Assistance therein, as also shall be given them for that purpose sufficient Lands, and all needful help and assistance proportionable to every ones Condition, observing in the meantime the necessity and advantage of erecting new Fabrics and Works, especially such as have not been hitherto established in Russia.  (4) For the Building of Houses, and providing themselves with all Kind of Cattle needful in Husbandry, as likewise all necessary utensils for Tillage and Handy-Crafts, Provisions and Materials, shall be given them out of our Treasury a sufficient sum of money without Interest or percent, upon Condition of paying back only the said sum, after the Expiration of ten Years, in three Years time by equal Parts.  (5) Such as, have settled themselves in separate Colonies and Places, we leave their inner Jurisdiction to their own good disposition, so that Our Commanders shall no ways concern themselves with the Management of their Affairs; but in the rest they must submit themselves to Our Civil Law; and in case they should desire of Us, from themselves Civil Law; and in case they should desire of Us, from themselves to have a proper Person appointed to them with a Safe-Gard of well disciplined Troops, for their security and safety, till they become well acquainted with the neighboring inhabitants, it shall be granted to them.  (6)  Every one of those Foreigners, who are desirous to come and settle themselves in Russia, we do allow the Importation of their goods and Effects consisting in any things what so ever, without Toll or Custom, provided they be for their own use and not for sale: But in Case any one would import more Merchandise, than he has need of , for sale, we give him Liberty to do it, allowing every Family the Import of such goods with out paying any Toll or Custom, to the Value of, and not exceeding three hundred Rubles, on Condition, that they remain in Russia no less than ten years; otherwise they will be obliged at their Leaving Russia to pay down for the above said Merchandise the usual Toll and Customs of Importation and Exportation.  (7)  Such Foreigners, that have settled themselves in Russia, as long as they remain in the Empire, shall not be appointed to any Military or Civil-Duty against their will, except Land-Duties, and even that after the prescribed Years of Respite be expired; but in case any one should desire of his own accord to enter into Our Military service, and List himself for a soldier, such a one at his appointment into the Regiment shall receive a Reward of thirty Rubles above the usual salary.  (8) As soon as the said Foreigners appear to the appointed Guardian-Office for that purpose, or in any other of Our bordering Cities, and declare their desire to go and settle themselves into the inner Parts of Russia, they shall have Diet-money given them, as also free Horses to carry them to the intended Places.  (9) If any of those Foreigners that have settled themselves in Russia, shall erect Fabrics or Works, and manufacture there such Merchandises, as have not been made yet in Russia; We do allow and give Leave to sell and export the said Merchandises out of our Expire for ten Years, without paying any inland Tolls; Port-Duties or Customs on the Borders.  (10) If any Foreign Capitalist will erect Fabrics, Manufactures or Works in Russia, We allow him to purchase for the said Fabrics, Manufactures and Works a requisite Number of Bond-People and Peasants.  (11) To those Foreigners which have settled themselves in Our Empire by Colonies or Places, we do allow and give Leave to appoint such Markets and Fairs, as they themselves shall think most proper, without paying any Toll or Custom into Our Treasury.


          All the above said Advantages and Ordinance are to be enjoyed not only by those who have settled themselves in Our Empire, but even by their Children after them and their Posterity, though they might be born in Russia, reckoning the said Years from the Day of their Ancestors coming into Russia.



          After the Expiration of the above said Years of Respite, all those Foreigners, who have established themselves in Russia, must pay the accustomed Taxes, which are very tolerable, and perform the Land-Duties, as Our other Subjects do.



          At last, if any of the said Foreigners, which have settled themselves in Our Empire and are come under Our Subjection, should desire to go out of Our Empire, we give them Leave free Liberty always to do the same, on such conditions however, that they deliver, of all their well gotten Wealth into Our Treasury, as fallows, viz; those that have lived in Our Empire from one to five Years the fifth part; from five to ten years and further, the tenth Part; and then they may set out to any Parts, whither they have a mind, without any hindrance or Molestation.


          But in Case any of the Foreigners, which are desirous to settle themselves in Russia, shall for some particular Reasons demand besides the prescribed Conditions, other Privileges more:  Such may address themselves either in writing or Personally to Our Appointed Guardian-Office for Foreigners, which will circumstantially represent it to us, and then according to the Conjunctures, We shall give a more favorable Resolution there upon, which they may expect from Our Equity.  Given at Petroff the 22. day of July 1763. and of Our Reign the Second.


The Original Her Imperial Majesty Signed with Her own Hand thus: CATHERINE.

Printed in St. Petersburg at the Senate the 25, day of July 1763.


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          The movement from Russia to the United States began in the early 1870's and lasted until 1914.  Many Germans in Russia dissatisfied with the change in provisions of the Manifesto, which had lasted about 100 years, began leaving Russia at once.  The German people started immigrating to the United States of America, South America and some to Canada.  Also in 1879-1880 and 1890-1893 the Germans had crop failures which made many that much more dissatisfied, so when offers for jobs from the United States railroad companies came, many were attracted to leave Russia for the United States.  Many families sent their sons, first, to America so they could avoid being drafted into the Russian Army.  The rough sea voyage to the United States took at least 21 days time.  Coming to the United States many travelled by ship from Libau on the Baltic, then through the Kiel Canal and into the Elbe or to Hamburg, Germany and then to the United States.  Immigration from Russia to the United States began about 1875.  They brought to the United States their experiences, culture and heritage.

          From 1870's to 1914 it is believed that nearly 300,000 Germans from Russia came to the United States with over 19,000 settling in Nebraska, 16,000 in Colorado, and 11,000 in Washington and Oregon.  Many others settled in Kansas, Illinois, Michigan, California, Montana, Ohio, North Dakota, South Dakota and Wisconsin.

          When the Volga Germans came to the United States, they stayed together and formed their own communities.  After immigrating from Russia they encountered misunderstanding and prejudice from various directions.  They were called by many “dirty Rooshians.”

          Soon after arriving in the United States, they turned the sod into workable cropland and helped in developing the agriculture areas of the United States. 

          Many, after arriving in the United States, were very scared because they had not experienced the terrible electrical storms and the devastating tornadoes.  They were not accustomed to these storm conditions. 


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          The Passport issued by the Russian Imperial for the people to come to America was a very important document when they left Russia.  You had to have a Passport to leave Russia and cross the border - this was the legal way of getting into a foreign country.  However, some Germans from Russia did make it to the United States without a Passport.

          One Passport was issued per family.  If, however, the man of the household immigrated first and the rest of his family immigrated later, there would be two Passports issued to the family.  Sometimes an individual immigrant was listed with another travelling party on their Passport. 

          Application for a Passport to Travel Abroad was applied for at the Kanton (Canton-Main Government).  The application was then forwarded to the district and then forwarded to the main government or capital, which in the Reichert case would have been Saratov (Saratow).  In the capitals you could make an application directly at the Governor's office.  The government of Russia moved very slowly in processing the applications.  The immigrants to be would wait eagerly for the arrival of their Passports.  Many immigrants would pay the government officials to hurry up their passport.  A saying was “If you don't grease, you don't travel.”  Paying off an official was a widely accepted practice.  Sometimes after paying the officials, you were issued a passport in one day.

          The Passport was mainly written in the Russian language.  The Passport to Travel Abroad contained twenty-four pages.  The Title Page had the Russian emblem, the Passport Number and Province issued in.  A place for the immigrants signature was on the Title Page.  The next pages shows the names of members of the travelling party, the Governor's Seal and signature, office manager's signature, names and ages of immigrants, date of Passport issued.  This Passport also had pages repeating in the German and French language the above mentioned information.  The Passport contained some blank pages reserved for notations from the border customs.  Rules were stated for the passenger's belongings.


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          On August 28, 1941, Joseph Stalin ordered all Germans speaking people of the Soviet Union to be deported to Siberia and South Asia.  Adolf Hitler had invaded Russia and Stalin ordered the Volga Germans deported because they were accused of having sympathy toward and supporting the German war effort.  The Volga Germans were supposedly accused of not reporting the presence of spies sent there to receive orders from Hitler to invade Russia.  Even families that had lived in Russia for generations were deported.  It is believed about one million Germans were deported.  Four hundred thousand being Volga Germans and the remaining six hundred thousand being from other sections of Russia and Poland.

          On December 13, 1955, Russia allowed the Germans to regain their citizenship but they could not return to their former homes or ask to be reimbursed for the property left behind when deported years earlier.  Their property was in Russian control and given to Russian soldiers and refugees from the war.

          Many of the remaining Germans in Russia destroyed their valuable documents for self-preservation after the October Revolution of 1917.  Parochial certificates, birth, confirmation and marriage certificates, school certificates, military records, land deeds and property titles were destroyed.


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          The arrival of Germans from Russia helped develop the sugar beet industry in Northern Colorado and other states by providing the arduous hand labor necessary for the crop.  The beets needed work and the immigrants needed jobs.  The German-Russians worked long, hard, back-breaking hours in the sugar beet fields in the years before World War II.  The money earned during the sugar beet season carried them through the rest of the year.  Beet contractors lined up families to work for specific growers.  The father of each family would figure the amount of acres they could handle.  Large families were common with the German-Russian people, which worked well with the sugar beet business.  A grown man usually could handle ten acres, the average worker being able to handle about seven acres.

          After the sugar beets were planted and up to about the fourth leaf stage, the thinning process would begin.  Hoes were used to thin and block the beets.  The workers had to stoop over and cut out four inch sections of the beet plants, leaving blocked plants.  The remaining block had to be hand thinned to one plant.

          Babies and toddlers were left in the care of younger brothers and sisters not old enough to help thin beets.  The younger children played at the end rows of the beets where their mothers could keep an eye on them.

          After the thinning was finished, it was time to begin the first hoeing.  Each field was hoed from two to three times during the season, each operation taking about thirty days.

          During the peak season the field workers labored from sun-up to sun-down.  The mother in the early morning fed the family, cleaned the dishes, prepared a meal for noontime, then she would go work in the field with the other members of the family.  At noon the mother served the meal, did dishes and was back again in the field until supper time.  In the evening she had dishes to do, washing of clothes, mending, setting bread, and other necessary household jobs to keep the family going.

          Sundays were devoted to church.  These people were very religious and attended church.  This was their time to socialize with other people during the busy summer and fall months.

          The children attended school only six months of the year because they were an asset in the beet fields.  Their education suffered.  Most children quit school all together at an early age.  Some quit at the age of fourteen, until sixteen years of age became the legal age they could quit school.  In the spring the children were taken out of school to accompany their parents to work in the beet fields.  They would return back to school again at the end of October.

          Many German-Russians in the sugar beet areas later became land owners.  They had saved their money and eventually bought the land and became expert beet grower's themselves.



          In Russia the young women of the household had to replenish the water supply.  This was done by having buckets attached to a yoke and then the yoke was placed across the shoulders to transport the water to the house.  The yoke was called a tracht.

          Each village had a number of skilled shoemakers.  They made the boots and shoes and repaired them for the village people.

          Monday was set aside as wash day.  The wash day began early in the morning.  A boiler of water was heated on the cook stove.  Homemade soap was used to get the clothes clean.  the Germans took pride in their clothes being white and clean.

          Most of the women were handy at handcrafts.  They knitted, crocheted, made their own rugs, did embroidery work, and many other hard work items.

          Chicken noodle soup was a favorite food of the German-Russian people.  This soup was served on special occasions such as weddings and funerals.  they believed the noodle soup with butter balls (dumplings formed out of bread crumbs, butter, cream, eggs and allspice) helped to give nourishment to the sick and aged.  This soup was believed to be good for the strength of a new mother.  The noodles were made from flour and egg.

          Sauerkraut making was a fond dish served by the German-Russian people.  Sauerkraut is nutritious.  A brine made with salt and water is poured over shredded cabbage.  This is left to ferment and then usually put in jars for the winter supply.

          Grebles or Krepple are much like the raised doughnuts made in the United States.  Greble and fruit soup was a Lenten tradition.

          Butchering was usually done on a cold day so that the meat would cool properly.  Sausage was made with pork and beef added together and seasoned.  The sausage mixture was stuffed into a casing.  Many had their own secret recipe.

          Making syrup was a common preparation for the women of the household during the summer and fall months.  The sweet juices from watermelons was boiled down to use as a sweetener on baked goods.


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          Each colony's customs varied.  There was a definite order to a marriage.  A marriage took place when there was either the mutual consent of the young people involved, or by the instigation of the parents, or by a matchmaker.

          A young man wanting to get married had to first get permission from his family for the approval of the girl.  Then he needed to get the girl's family's approval.

          After the young man received permission from his parents, then the father, the godfather and the young man would go to the girl's home to ask permission for the daughter's hand in marriage.  The young man's father usually did most of the talking.  He told the girl's father about his son's merits and what a good wife their daughter would make for his son.  A gift was given to the girl from the young man's mother.  When consent was agreed on, much handshaking and gaiety took place.  Refreshments and drinks were served to celebrate the engagement.  Sometimes more than one visit was necessary to get the girl's family's approval.

          The German term for a couple to be married was “She sind gefreit,” meaning “they are engaged.”  A date for the wedding usually took place during the winter months because more time could be spent making the preparations.  No marriages were performed during the Lenten season.  Spring time the families were too busy in the fields to prepare for a celebration.  Weddings took place during the week so as not to interfere with the Sabbath.

          A dinner was held shortly after the marriage agreement with both the families attending.

          Three Sundays in advance of the wedding date planned, an announcement of the impending marriage was made at the village church service.  This gave any one a chance to speak out against the union of the couple to be.

          Invitations were given out by going from home to home in the evenings.  The group giving the invitations out usually consisted of the godfather and close male friends.  they carried a cane to which a ribbon was tied by the bride-to-be.  As an invitation was accepted, an additional ribbon was tied to the cane by the accepting household.

          The day before the wedding, a dance took place so that the couple, along with their friends, could have a last “fling.”

          The morning of the wedding day, the groom, his godfather and the best man went to the bride's home to take her to the church to be married.  The groom's group of people called to the bride to come out of the house.  Much teasing and excitement took place.  A procession to the church began.  The bride was dressed in a white gown and veil.  The groom wore in his lapel a large flower from which hung a long sash or ribbon.  The couple was escorted by the two best men and the two bridesmaids.

          Sometimes there were more than one couple getting married at the same service.  The wedding parties marched down the aisle with the couples sitting in the front benches.  A sermon was given first by the pastor and then the wedding ceremony was held.  A ring was placed on the bride's right hand finger by the groom.

          A reception was then held at the home of the groom's parents.  Guns were fired in the air to add to the celebration.  At the groom's family home, a receiving line was formed outside.  The guests extended their blessing and best wishes for the newly married couple.  The groom's mother then welcomed the new daughter-in-law into her home.  The bride then became a member of her husband's family household.

          The celebration lasted two and three days with dancing.  During these days the guests came and went.  Meals were served.  Money gifts were given by the guests.  When a man danced with the new bride, he pinned money on her gown.  Coin money was placed in drinks served to the bride.

          A wedding was a great celebration and social event of their lives.  The economic conditions of the families involved determined how much time and money they could afford toward the celebration.

          After the wedding celebration, the new wife began sharing duties with her husband's family.

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          Precautions were taken to insure an uncomplicated birth of a child and mother.  Doctors and modern medicines were rare.  There were very few doctors.  The mortality rate was high.

          Many of the village people resorted to supernatural practices when concerned with danger to an infant.  Some used certain recitals and other rituals such as pinning a bright red ribbon on an infant's garment to ward off the evil spirits.

          The midwife played an important role in the delivery of a child because they were readily available.  The midwife was held in high regards in the villages.  She was called Altmotter or Umfrau.  A midwife was usually an older woman of the village who had some medical training from Russian doctors.  Most of their knowledge came from experience and wisdom passed down.  Their fee was small or nothing at all.  Their services were in high demand by the villagers.

          A lot of mothers worked in the fields until the day the baby arrived.  Shortly before birth, the midwife was summoned.  The midwife usually was assisted by the expectant women's mother or mother-in-law.  If complications arose, other midwives were called on for help.  the Volga Germans had many superstitions about childbirth.

          The German-Russians cherished their children very much.  They sang lullabies to them, rhymes were used to entertain the young child and games were played to entertain and teach the child.  These traditions were passed down from generation to generation.

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The Colonization of Dietel


From Heinrich Kindsvater, “The Kindsvater Record” (1873), trans. by Arthur Fiegel, AHSGR Clues (1977), p. 35

          The settlers who established the village of Oleshna (Dietel) left their dear Fatherland during March and April of 1766, and arrived at Bannovka on the Volga on June 29, 1767.  The travel time from Germany to place of settlement in Russia took fourteen months.  Added to {this} account should be the fact that the food provided for the immigrants was not only of very poor quality, but also inadequate in quantity, so that many actually suffered from hunger.

          In total, there were seventy (70) families who arrived at Bannovka and were transported to the location by oxen-drawn wagons.  They created the Colony on July 1, 1767.  Their meager possessions were unloaded under the open sky.  Their first act was for all to come together to thank God for their successful journey and arrival.  That day, July 1st, is celebrated {in 1873) as Arrival Day.

          In Germany, the climate was considerably milder than in Russia during the winter months, a rude realization for the Colonists.  Another harsh experience was the freezing of two of their brethren, namely Schlickert and Vogt, as they were on the way to Tobowka (Topowka), ten miles northeast of Oleshna.  The bodies were not found until after the spring thaw of 1768.  It is a small wonder that many more did not perish from the cold, as their clothing was designed according to German standards where the cold is less extreme, because Germany lies in a much more temperate zone.

          As our forefathers came from various areas of Germany, so then were their dialects also varied.  Gradually, the dialect spoken by the majority of inhabitants in a community became the dominant one.  For example, in Oleshna, it was the Rhine Palatinate dialect.  Dialects did vary from village to village, as in the case of the four villages, Grimm, Oleshna, Norka and Hussenbach, where a different dialect was spoken in each.

          Oleshna lay in one of the most attractive areas surrounded by some of the best land on the Bergseite.  A surveyor had been sent by the crown to establish borders and allocate parcels of land to the settlers.  They were certain that the amount of land allotted them would amply take care of their needs as well as their children's children.  Therefore, their land measured slightly over 9,000 dessiantines (24,300 acres).


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          Dietel/Dittel (Jelschanka/Oleschna, Alescka) was located in the Kanton Frank.  The Russian name before 1941 was Oleschna.  This village was founded by Evangelicals and was located on the west side of the Volga River approximately eighty-six miles from the  Province of Saratov (Saratow), the main government of the Volga Colonies in Russia.  Oleschna laid in one of the most attractive areas.  The village had some of the best land on the “Bergseite” (hilly-side) of the Volga River.  The land was allotted to the immigrants by the Crown.

          On the first statistical report on February 14, 1769 shows there were sixty-seven (67)  families suited for agriculture and one family was not.  the population totaled 284 people, 158 being male and 126 females.  This statistical report on this Volga Colony was presented to Empress Catherine II by Count Orlov, the head of the Council, appointed to supervise the settlement of foreigners in Russia.  Many immigrants to Russia listed themselves as suited for agriculture even though they had no previous farming experience.  Also, listed on this report were 150 horses, 15 work oxen, 140 cows and calves, 15 sheep and no swine.  Grain harvested in the fall of 1768 amounted to 623 chetvert, 3 chetverik (1 chetvert equals 8 chetverik which equals 10 pood (pud) equals 360 pounds.  Rye sown for the summer of 1769 was 140 chetvert.  Houses constructed were 30, granaries 24 and stables 24.

          This colony and ten others were founded by DeBoffe, who was a French Commissioner to Catherine II.  He was assigned to bring new settlers to Russia.  DeBoffe was the least successful in getting people to come to Russia.  He brought only 434 families to Russia.

          The dialect in this village varied since the immigrants had come from all areas of Germany.  The dominant dialect was the Rhine Palatinate.  From village to village the dialect spoken varied even though not a far distance from each other.

          The colony of Oleschna measured over 9,000 dessiantines (1 dessistine equals 2,698 acres).

          Immigration Registration Book of the Saratov region lists 70 families arriving at Oleschna to establish the village.  Also listed is the places from where they emigrated.



          Dietel/Dittel today is one of the thirty-four former Mother Colonies that have retained their Russian names by which they were called in the 19th Century.

          Names known in this village around 1900 - 1923 are as follows:

Adler, Bach, Bangert, Barrick, Batt, Beret/Beirett, Bieresh, Busch/Bush, David, Deuter, Dietz, Dittel, Engelmann, Foss/Voss, Flegler/Flagler, Grauberger/Gruburger, Haas, Hettinger, Hildermann/Hiltermann, Hillman (?), Hoffmann, Jaeger/Jarger/Jerger/Yerger, Kautz, Kern, Kildau/Kiltau/Kultau, Kindsvater/Kindsfater, Kleemann/Klehmann/Clayman, Koch/Cook, Kramer, Lackman(m)/Lakmann, Leichler (?) Lutz/Lutt, Michel/Michiel, Mill, Muller/Miller, Pitsch/Peitch/Pietsch, Reichel/Richell, REICHERT, Ring, Ruf/Ruff, Schaadt, Schild(t), Schmidt, Simon, Spreuer/Spryer, Steinmetz, Stieber, Strecker, Strohmann/Strowman, Tautfest/Dautfest, Velte/Veldi/Felte, Wambold/Wumbolt, Weil, Weinmeister, Werkmeister (?), Zeig/Zeir




445 people




























          Other villages within a short distance of Dietel/Dittel were Kratzke, Merkel, Rothammel, Bauer, Kauz and Grimm.  All but Rothammel were Evangelical villages.  Rothammel was Catholic.  Dietel was a German Volga Mother Colony.       

          Of the 104 villages founded along the middle Volga River, all were German except for one French village.  The French colony was Rossoschi.  Most of the people in the French colony dispersed to other cities and other Germans took their places.  Most of the families who came to the Province of Saratov in Russia and established the Colony Oleschna were exclusively German from all districts of Germany, but the vast majority was from Southern Germany.  This took place during the years of 1764 to 1775 when a reported 8,000 families comprising of 27,000 individuals migrated from Germany to Russia and settled in the valley and meadows along the Volga River.  Generally the people were of Lutheran religion.   But, other religions also settled in that same area.

          Many of the people left Germany during March and April of 1766 to establish the village of Dietel/Dittel.  They arrived at Bannovka on the Volga, June 29, 1767.  It took fourteen months to travel from Germany to Russia.

          Seventy families arrived at Bannovka and were transported to their newly created colony of Dietel/Dittel on July 1, 1767.  Their meager possessions were unloaded under the open sky.  Their first act was for all to come together and thank God for their successful journey and arrival.  Arrival Day is celebrated on July 1st.

          The new German colonists were not used to the harsh winters of Russia.  Germany's climate was much milder.


The History of the German Settlement Along the Volga River, Russia


          The great Russian Empress Katherine II, a German princess, who ruled over Russia from 1762 to 1796, wanted skilled farmers from her native land for the colonization of the vast prairies east and west of the Volga River.

          To encourage the German immigration, she promised in her famous proclamation of July 22nd, 1763, free transportation, exemption from taxes for 30 years, liberation from military services, and lending of money free of interest for the erection of homes and purchase of agricultural implements.

            Her effort was not in vain.  At that time, Germany was suffering from the effects of the Seven Years' War and very impoverished.  Therefore, many poor farmers welcomed the accepted the invitation of the Russian empress.  About 8,000 families, altogether 27,000 souls, from all part of Germany, especially Hesse, immigrated into Russia and settled on both shores of the lower Volga in the governorship of Saratov.  Without doubt many more people would have left Germany but their rulers stopped the emigration.  Between 1764 and 1767, 103 German villages were founded.  Nichnaja Dobrinka was the first German settlement.  It was established on June 29th, 1764.  The city of Saratov was made the capitol of the new funded Germany colony.

            The German Volga colony was divided into counties, consisting of several villages.  The head of the colony was a Russian officer, but the local government of the counties and villages was in the hands of Germans.

            The villages were named after their first burgomaster: Doenhof, Huck, Anto, Frank, Balzer, Dittel, etc.  Later the Russian government gave Russian names to the villages.  Nevertheless, the people continued to use the German names.

            The first 20 years were most discouraging for the settlers.  Drought, diseases, attacks of the wild Asiatic tribes, etc. made their life very miserable.  They got homesick and tried to return to Germany, but the Russian government prohibited it.  From the year 1800 on, their situation became better and as a result, the population began to increase.  Soon the villages became overpopulated and new settlements had to be established.  By the year 1910, there were 192 German villages with 552,207 inhabitants.

            The majority of the German settlers, or 154 villages with 435,667 persons, belonged to the Evangelical church, the rest were Roman Catholics.  The Evangelical church was a union church of Lutheran and Reformed Christians like our Evangelical and Reformed Church of America.  The colonists were very religious.  They loved their church and led a pious life.

            Despite the great distance from Germany, they kept their German language.  In their churches and public schools only the German language was used.  Consequently, the majority of the colonists did not understand Russian.  They were proud to be Germans and did not allow their children to marry Russians.  To them it is an insult to be called a Russian.

            In 1874, when the Russian government broke her promise and drafted the young German colonists into the army, many Germans were opposed to it and began to emigrate to North and South American.  The emigration reached its highest number during the years 1905 to 1914.

            With the outbreak of the World War, great tribulations began for the Germans in Russia.  About 40,000 young Volga Germans had to serve in the war.  They did not want to fight against their brethren in Germany, but in vain.

            The situation of these German soldiers in the Russian army was terrible.  They were considered as enemies.  Daily they had to undergo privations; humiliations and ridicule.  After the victorious advance of the German army in 1915, the German-Russian soldiers had to “pay” for the German victory.  They were called traitors and transferred to the Turkish frontier.  The uncle of the Czar, Nicholas Nicolajewitsch, then the commanding officer of the Caucasian army, especially hated the German-Russians and like Joab with Uriah (II Samuel, 11:15) set them in the forefront of the hottest battle in order to get rid of them.  As a result, many lost their lives.

            The hatred against the German-Russian colonists became stronger every year.  On February 2nd, 1915, the Russian government issued the infamous law of expropriation of the farmlands of the German-Russians, which affected 3 million people.  Hundreds of thousands of Germans in Wolynia, Poland, Bessarabia, Caucasis, etc., were driven from their homes and were exiled to Siberia and the Asiatic border, and their farms were handed over to the Russians.  Many of the poor victims never reached their destination, but died on the trip from starvation and overstrain.

            The Volga colonies, as the oldest German settlements, were exempt from the decree until 1917.  But, just before it was carried into effect, the Kerenski revolution came and the Volga-Germans could stay in their villages and on the farms.  But, the liberty did not last very long.  In October, 1917, the Bolsheviks came to power and brought with them endless sufferings.  The unreasonable requisitions of money, clothes, food and cattle reduced the Germans to extreme poverty.  From 1921 to 1923, 165,000 Volga-Germans died from starvation.   Though the Bolsheviks founded an independent German-Volga Republic, with 14 cantons, their liberty was gone.  All religious services were stopped, the churches confiscated and either destroyed or used for worldly purposes, the schools were secularized and atheism was taught.  The ministers, who did not flee, were imprisoned or killed.  Many farmers and devout Christians lost all their possessions and were exiled to the icy region of North Russia and Siberia, where they had to do hard labor, particularly to cut and carry timber under unbearable circumstances, 16 hours daily.  Since the Soviet slave holders did not provide them with sufficient clothes and shoes and enough food, they died away like flies.  The Soviet officials called it “liquidation of the Kulaks.”

            Today grass is growing on the streets of the once rich villages of the Volga settlements and the houses look like ruins.  People are dressed in rags and would be glad if they could emigrate to America, but the Society government prohibited all emigration and since 1937, also all communication with their relatives in America.  The Soviet Union today is like an immense penitentiary.  Information about the present conditions in Russia was received from fugitives and few travelers who were able to see their native land.

            Our American Volga-Germans, who escaped in time the horror of war and the red revolution in Russia, helped their unfortunate brethren in the old country with food-drafts and money as long as it was possible.  Today, they can only pray to God Almighty for their liberation.  All hopes of human help for the poor victims are gone.  All petitions and reports to the civilized governments remained unanswered.  It is astonishing and heart-breaking to see that our so-called Christian nations not only are silent and idle about the terrible slaughtering and persecuting of millions of innocent Christian people, but are even trying to make an alliance with them.  This is the greatest tragedy of modern history.



 1. Immigration From Germany to Russia - p. 25 Spring, 1978  Early Chronicles Among Volga Germans - .Translated by Adam Giesinger

 2. Immigration From Germany to Russia - p. 21 Spring, 1976  A Hard Row to Hoe - Albert Hamburg

 3.Immigration From Germany to Russia - p. 1 Spring, 1977  Present-Day Names of Former German Volga      Colonies - Emma Schwabenland Haynes


 4. Immigration From Germany to Russia - p. 64 Fall, 1977  The Volga Germans in Russia and the Americans From 1763 to the Present by Fred C. Koch

 5.Immigration From Germany to Russia - p. 27 Winter, 1979  Passage to Russia:  Who Were the Emigrants? - Lew Malenowski

 6. Immigration From Germany to Russia - 71 Fall, 1979  We Honor Our Heritage Through Faith - Emil J. Roleder

 7. Immigration From Germany to Russia - p. 21 Spring, 1976  A Hard Row to Hoe - Albert Hamburg

 8. Immigration of Germans from Russia to the United States of America - p. 70 Fall, 1977  A Window Into Melai Meisner Lindsey -  Nancy Bernhardt Holland

9.  Immigration of Germans from Russia to the United States of America - p. a Winter, 1978 - Adam Giesinger

10, 11.  Immigration of Germans from Russia to the United States of America - p. 33 Fall, 1979  Pilgrims of the Earth - Richard D. Scheuerman

12.  Passport for Traveling Abroad - The Russian Passport Imperial Passport for Traveling Abroad - Alexander Duper

13.   Passport for Travelling Abroad - p. 50  Clues, 1980  My Immigration to America by Jacob Volz

14.   Passport for Traveling Abroad - p. 49-54  Passport for Travelling Abroad - The Russian Passport Imperial Passport for Travelling Abroad - Alexander Duper

15., 16., 17.   p. 5-10 Fall, 1977  The Deportation of the Soviet Germans - Emma Schwabenland Haynes

18. 19.  p. 5-10 Fall, 1977  The Deportation of the Soviet Germans - Emma Schwabenland Haynes

20.  p. 5-10 Fall, 1977  The Deportation of the Soviet Germans - Emma Schwabenland Haynes

21.  p. 29 Spring, 1976  “Die Rube Jacht” (“That Sugar Beet Business”) - Nancy Bernhardt Holland

22.,23.,24.,25.,26. p. 24  p. 26 Spring, 1976 - The Story of the Beeters in Adams County Nebraska - Dorothy Weyer Creigh

27.  p. 26 Spring, 1976 - The Story of the Beeters in Adams County Nebraska - Dorothy Weyer Creigh

28.,29.,30.,31.,32.  p. 29, Fall, 1976 - Heritage of the Germans from Russia in Russia and in America 

33.,34.,35.,36.,37.,38.,39.,40.,41.,42.,43.,44.,45   p. 37, 47-49, Spring, 1977 - Folklore Forum - Marriage Beliefs and Customs of the Germans from Russia - Timothy J. Kloberdanz; German-Russian Wedding Customs in Norka by William H. Burbach

46.,47.,48.  p. 31, Spring, 1978 - Folklore Forum:  Childbirth and Childhood Customs of the Germans from Russia - Timothy J. Kloberdan

49.  p. 38, Spring, 1978 - Childhood Folklore from Ellis County, Kansas - Lawrence A. Weigel

50.  p. 35, 37, 38 Clues, 1977 - The Kindsvater Record by Heinrich Kindsvater

51.,52.  p. 4, 8-9, Winter, 1977 - Studies on Foreign Colonization in Russia in the 18th Century by Pisarevsky

53.,54.  p. 35, 37, 38, Clues, 1977 - The Kindsvater Record by Heinrich Kindsvater

55. p. 35, 37, 38, Clues, 1977 - The Kindsvater Record by Heinrich Kindsvater

56.  p. 74 Clues, 1979 - names of Families Residing in the Volga Village Submitted by Gerda S. Walker and Arthur E. Flegel

57.,58.,59.  p. 35, 37-38 Clues, 1977 - The Kindsvater Record by Heinrich Kindsvater

60.  The History of the German Settlement Along the Volga River, Russia by Rev. Wm. Reitzer, Fort Collins, Colo.