A Treasure Trove for Historical Researchers -- Archive
Building in Engels to be Expanded
Eien Fundgrube Fuer Geschichtsforscher -- Das Archivegebaeude
Soll Ausgebaut Werden
"A Treasure Trove for Historical Researchers; Archive Building in Engels to be Expanded." Volk auf dem Weg, May 2005, 47.
Translation from the original German text to American English
Herzog, Boulder, Colorado
The Engels Branch of the State Archives for the Saratov Region
-- this is
the official designation for the archives for the history of the
Russia. With its extensive stock of valuable archived documents
history of that ethnic group, covering more than three centuries,
this is a
treasure trove for researchers of Russian and other people's history,
research, and for journalists.
View of the archive's
Based on archived manuscripts, several books have already been
published, among them the Geschichte der deutschen Kolonien [History
of the German Colonies] by Jakob Dietz, toward the end of the 1990s.
After that, the very informative research study Aus der Geschichte
der Kolonie Mariental an der Wolga [From the History of the Colony
of Mariental on the Volga], which appeared in Germany. Recent works
include Spirchwoerter und Redewendungen der Wolgadeutschen [Adages
and Idiomatic Expressions of the Volga-Germans] and Seiten der Geschichte.
Petrowsk-Engels [Pages of History. Petrovsk-Engels].
However, not only those interested in research are turning to the
The palette of questions of interest to people from Russia and in
countries is as broad as the fate of those affected [by history].
examples are confirmation of periods of employment or work, or information
concerning the correct spelling of family names or given names.
The archive has been of help to numerous Germans in the former
by providing the basis for applications for compensation payments
properties lost during repression and deportation. If requisite
proof happens to be
missing in the archives, its employees make a concerted effort to
other institutions. Nobody is sent away without a serious attempt
to be of
help. The energetic Director of the Archives, Elisaveta Erina (70)
is a member
of the Rehabilitation Commission and really takes these matters
the previous year, she had occupied this position for 40 years.
knows more about the history of the branch and the archives themselves,
which she is capable of talking for hours.
The Archive for German-Russians in Engels occupies a former grain
storage building erected in 1902. It was turned into its current
use in 1930. The archives of the Autonomous Republic of Volga-Germans
were deposited there. At the time it was a structure without windows
or doors, neither heated nor properly lit. Access to the grain store
was via a fire rescue ladder. There one found a huge pile of official
and archival documents. Each time, documents to be worked on would
be taken to the building of the Rayon Executive Committee, where
a small barn had been transformed into space for work on specific
archived documents. Subsequently, the documents would be returned
to the grain storage building. Gradually, the grain building was
actually expanded and turned into a storage building with shelf
space and an attic.
The history of the archives in Engels includes some fateful periods.
World War II constituted a decisive challenge. With the onset of
the deportation of the Volga-Germans in 1941, a portion of the archives
was simply transferred elsewhere, resulting in the loss of many
valuable documents. Today one appreciates even more the extent to
which other documents were preserved.
For all these reasons, a real tragedy occurred when toward the
end of the
1990s the roof of the archive building began to leak in various
the attic in particular contained the majority of unique documents
from the end of the 18th Century to the beginning of the 20th Century,
church records, documents from villages and regional administrative
the director sounded the alarm! The problem was contained, thanks
assistance of the German Consulate in Saratov and of the "Volga
However, for years now, a different kind of peril for the archives
existed. The spaces inside the former grain storage building simply
can no longer
hold the entirety of the archival stock. In addition, current methods
preserving the materials are for the most part rather inadequate
endanger the further preservation of irreplaceable documents. Furthermore,
there is no reading room, no recreation facility, and no space in
computer and other organziational/technical equipment can be housed.
Erina has been trying to convince various authorities of the necessity
of a new
building, or at least of an addition to the current building.
A decisive turn to this story occurred during the end of the previous
year (2004). October 2004 saw the conclusion of a contract between
German and Russian sides concerning the financing of an expansion.
The intent is to effect necessary measures such as renovation and
the erection of an expanded building, all in an expedited manner.
Our appreciation is extended to Alex Herzog for translation
of this article.