A Journey to the Volga
Eine Reise in das Wolgagebiet
Eisfeld, Dr. Alfred. "A Journey to the Volga Region." Volk auf dem Weg, December 2007, 8-9.
This translation from the original German-language
text to American English
is provided by Alex Herzog, Boulder, Colorado
Following the conclusion of the 6th Forum in Moscow
of Encounter Centers for German-Russians, Waldemar Axt,
national vice-chairman; Lilli Bischof, member of the
national board; and Dr. Alfred Eisfeld, North-East Institute
of Goeppingen together undertook a journey to the Volga
region. One goal of this trip was to gather information
on the progress of certain projects and to get in contact
with interested authorities and personalities concerning
the 250th anniversary of the Volga-Germans.
On page 47 of the May, 2007 issue, Volk auf dem
Weg reported on the condition of the Engels Archive,
which houses the largest portion of archived documents
concerning the Volga-Germans. An agreement between
the Russian and German governments to erect an addition
to the existing grain storage structure that had until
then be used as the archive has now been realized.
Our delegation was able to inspect the new magazine
and work rooms, to whose furnishings the administration
of the Saratov Region had contributed. By now the
documents were stored in a dry atmosphere, with regulated
temperature and humidity. To increase the life of
the documents and improve their
usability, ongoing restoration work and at least partial
microfilming is needed. Primarily, these include the
districting and siting plans for the colonies, church
books, and documents from local and county administration
The female Director of the Archives, Yelizaveta Yerina,
looking toward a North-East Institute, expressed the
desire for continuation of ongoing research and publication
projects. Clearly, cooperation with the Landsmannschaft
is a desirable matter. Fort the upcoming anniversary
celebration, Mrs. Yerina proposed several projects
that would evoke interest in our countrymen.
A thorough discussion, with an exchange of opinions
concerning the upcoming anniversary, took place with
Prof. Dr. Igor Pleve, minister of education in the
government of the Saratov Region. Prof. Pleve is familiar
to many of our countrymen and readers as a historian
who concentrates on the history of the Volga-Germans
and has published several books and essays on it.
The conversations in the Rayon Administration in Engels
and the visit in Marx were made possible by his preparatory
A meeting with the deputy of the Saratov Governor
with responsibility in the social and humanitarian
arenas had to be postponed, due to the unexpected
resignation of the mayor of the city of Saratov. This
will have to be taken care of at the next best opportunity.
Prof. Pleve supports the plan by the Landsmnnschaft
to erect a Volga-German House in the Hessen-Park (see
also Volk auf dem Weg, August, 2007, pages 8-9), and
he proved very helpful to our delegation in this matter.
He was also fully supportive with suggestions for
a common effort of preparation for the 250-year anniversary
of the Volga-Germans, in which the Land Hessen, the
regions of Saratov and Volgograd, our own Landsmannschaft
and the Landsmannschaft of Volga-Germans in Saratov,
as well as overseas associations of Volga-Germans
and personalities from the churches, the sciences,
the arts, and politics would participate. The conversation
with the administrative chief of the Engels Rayon,
Andrey Rutchkin, was conducted in an objective and
friendly atmosphere. He was quite familiar with the
project concerning a Volga-German House in the Hessen-Park.
The rural county administration promised us information
concerning an appropriate building structure in the
former colonies to be provided within the next few
weeks. That there still are such buildings was apparent,
for example, in Orlovskoye. The dismantling and reconstruction
of a wooden home at another place is known to lack
any technical issues. The delegation was able to prove
this to itself in the open-air museum of Saratov since
a Volga-German home had just been re-built there.
The visit to Marx was a though-provoking one. How
close to one another (even in spatial terms) light
and shadow can be, became apparent in the Ev.-Lutheran
church and, a few hundred meters from there, in the
German-Russian House as well as at the newly erected
memorial to Catherine II. This memorial was made possible
through private efforts. [No real explanation of what
the author really means . Tr.]
Catherine now faces the Ev.-Lutheran church that
stands on a rise, from which not only the bell tower
is missing. Thus far some restoration projects have
been performed with assistance from Germany. (Cf.
VadW, 01/2007, p. 24). Inside the church building
the crumbling plaster, caused by water damage, is
making this quite clear: This structure can not be
saved solely by the community of Marx.
The Gustav-Adolf Project of the Berlin-Brandenburg-Silesian-Oberlausitz
Church has called for donations for the church. That
alone, however, will likely not suffice. The church
building in Marx is the architectural and structural
center of the city. It is under historical landmark
protection, which is a responsibility imposed by the
State. The State, on the other hand, is also responsible
for the damages that came about as a result of the
misuse of the building as a cinema and for the historical
lack of maintenance of the structure. Therefore it
must become a combined concern for the administrations
of the Saratov Region, the Marx City officials, the
Ev.-Lutheran Church, the Landsmannschaft of Volga-Germans
and our own Landsmannschaft to renovate this church.
As soon as the coming weeks, there will be discussions
about appropriate steps to take.
We received a comprehensively positive impression
during our visit of the German-Russian House in Marx.
In great demand are language, computers, and crafts
classes, and there is a small library. Simply judging
from the number and good condition of rowboats, then
not only the report on the activities of the youth
group was convincing, but so was an invitation to
youth groups of our own Landsmannschaft for cooperative
partnership and for youth exchanges.
Finally, two questions might be posed: Was the trip
worth it? What were its results? Above all, new information
and new contacts. After such a trip, one begins to
see and understand many things better, and one will
therefore be able to work with more conviction and
more effort toward the realization of our projects.
Our appreciation is extended
to Alex Herzog for translation of this article.