The Clerics in Mariental on the Volga
Obholz, Prof. Albert. "The Clerics in Mariental on the Volga" Volk auf dem Weg, June, 2009, 46
This translation from the original German-language text to American English is provided by Alex Herzog, Boulder, Colorado
Pastor Augustin Baumtrog
On the 70th Anniversary of the Elimination of Religious Life in Russia
Religious Life for the German colonists in Russia was a cornerstone of their existence. Their first goal after their immigration was to build a house of prayer or, better yet, a church.
In Mariental on the Volga, four churches were erected between 1766 and 1917. The first church, made of oak and pine tree beams, was given the sacred name of "The Assumption of Mary." Alongside the colonists, the clerics of this community survived the attacks from the Kirghiz, and a monk by the name of Johannes (Johann de Duela), who took care of souls in six communities, including Mariental, served two years as a slave with the Kirghiz.
The most important problem for the first settlers was that no clerics had emigrated with them. For that reason, the Russian government from the very beginning had to send for clerics of German descent from Riga, Reval and St. Petersburg for caring for the religious well-being of the colonists. These clerics did not receive any salary from the colonists, who were still very poor and needy.
The constant scarcity of clerics was demonstrated by the fact anyone of them usually was forced to take care of three or four villages. In an attempt toward improving this situation, new clerics were sent to the colonies who would form then on live on salaries from the churchgoers.
Still, many pastorships remained open, hence Polish clerics were ordered to the colonies, even though they did not know German. Higher church echelons eventually became active in solving this problem. Thus, for example, in 1800 a Senator Carl Hablinz (1752 - 1821) was sent to Saratov to investigate religious life there. On his return he promised to hire Jesuits for the colonies.
During the eighteen years that Jesuits worked in Mariental, all churches were well equipped, and the preaching was deemed beneficial. My own ancestor Anton Schneider (1798 - 1867) became acquainted with all of the Jesuit pastors in the colony, and he was very pleased with their service. In his manuscripts he mentions the following Jesuit priests who preached between 1802 and 1820: Peter Landes, the first Superior; Johannes Mejer, the second and final Superior; Aloysius Mortiz, who died in Mariental in 1805; Aloysius Averdankt; Father Assmus; Father Jakob; the siblings Gillemann; Father Schneiling; Father Franziskus Cornet; and Josephus Steidle, who gave a parting sermon on September 20, 1820.
After the Jesuits departed, clerics from Poland once again came to Mariental. Among them were Father Yatzkovsky (1826), Father Logaimsky (1844), Father Lopazinsky (1850), Father Rudnitzky (1851), and others.
During 1847, an agreement between the Vatican and the Russia government was signed. It permitted the opening of a bishop's seat and of a seminary for priests in Saratov. After the opening of the seminary, the problem of spiritual care of the colonies was finally solved.
The following clerics, listed in chronological order, served Mariental after 1877 (see Note 1): Johannes Burgardt (1877 - 1879), Josef Loran (18841885 - 1886), Deputy Pastor Joseph Graf (1892 - 1897), Johannes Bach (1897 - 1899?), Vicar Johannes Koeberlein (1897 - 1904?), Vicar Jakob Scherr (4 months during 1888), Michael Brungardt (1898 - 1901), Jakob Dobrowolsky (1899 - 1901), Johannes Albert (1901 - 1905), Andreas Zimmermann (1903 - 1904), Raphael Ehrhardt (1904 - 1905), Joesph Guetlein (1905 - ?), Vicar Karl Hopfauf (1905 - ?), Nikodemus Ihly (a few months in 1910), Nikolaus Kraft (1910 - 1921), and Peter Wegel (1921 - 1928) [spelled Weigel, below - Tr.].
Another source (see Note 2) lists the following names of clerics in Mariental: Josef Loran (1859 - 1893) was pastor from 1884 to 1886; Pastor Joseph Kruschinsky (1865 - post-1949) from 1896 to 1898(?); Vicar Michael Brungardt (1875 - 1935) from 1898 to 1901; Parish Administrator Johannes Albert (1875 - 1954) between 1901 and 1905. Pastor Nikolaus Kraft (1875 - 1921) preached in Mariental for more than ten years. After an uprising by the colonists was suppressed, he was shot to death.
Augustin Baumtrog (1883 - 1937), who was pastor in Mariental between 1917 and 1919, later became a famous personality: in May, 1926, he was appointed Canonicus and Apostolic Administrator for the Volga region. My mother, Maria Obholz, nee Schneider (1902 - 1994) has preserved the previously unpublished photo of the priest printed on this page.
Pastor Peter Weigel (1892 - 1937) spent many years at the parish in Mariental, first as a vicar (as of 1921) and then as a curate (as of 1928).
The last priest after 1928, Emanuel Bader (1881 - 1938), served as pastor in Louis and as deacon in Mariental.
In 1929, religious and church life in Russia, including the Volga region, was completely forbidden by the Bolshevist government. By early 1930, many priests who had served the Mariental community were arrested and sent to prison, where many were sentenced and shot to death, and some were sent into exile, where they eventually succumbed to their suffering.
1. Joseph Schnurr, Die Kirchen und das religioese Leben der Russlanddeutschen. Katholischer Teil; [The Churches and Religious Life of the German-Russians. Catholic Part], self-published by Joseph Schnurr, Stuttgart, 1980.
2. R. Dzvonkovski, Losy duchowviestva katolickiego v ZSSR 1917 - 1939. Martyrologium [Martyrology], Lublin, 1998, Tovarzystvo Naukove Katolickiego Universtitetu Lubelskiego. Germans from Russia Heritage Collection.
Our appreciation is extended to Alex Herzog for translation of this article.