Lured and Banished: From Germany to Russia to America: Varying History of the Germans From Russia
Angelockt und vertrieben: Von Deutschland über Russland nach Amerika: Die wechselhafte
Geschichte der Russlanddeutschen
Kriessmann, Wilhelm. "Lured and Banished: From Germany to Russia to America: Varying History of the Germans From Russia." Amerika Woche, 17 November 2001, 14.
Translation from German to English provided by Alex Herzog,
Bismarck, ND -- The long trek of the Germans from Russia from
continent to continent began around 1760. At that time, the German
Princess Sophie von Anhalt-Zerbst, whose name has gone down in world
history as Tsarina Catherine the Great, began to lure German settlers
into the Russian Empire.
She was very familiar with the diligence and work ethic of her
own compatriots, she also knew of their religious, economical and
political distress. The means she used to lure them consisted of
a clever immigration policy, which absolved the new settlers of
all loan interest payments for ten years, provided them with free
farmland, granted them religious freedom and exempted them from
conscription to military service.
The majority of the new settlers came from Germany's Southwest.
They made their way to Russia on land or on boats down the Danube
River and, at least at first, settled down between the Dnieper and
Don rivers and on the shores of the lower Volga River.
Catherine's grandson, Alexander I, from about 1804 on, continued
to lure even more settlers under the same conditions as before.
They tended to settle between the Dniester, Bug and Don rivers.
The immigrants overcame the great initial difficulties of a raw
climate, primitive living conditions, and grasshopper plagues with
their tenacity and hard work. Eventually they enjoyed a measure
of agricultural prosperity. They built churches and schools, acquired
additional farmland, and founded new settlements in the Northern
and Eastern parts of the Ukraine.
Toward the turn of the century [1900, tr.] conditions suddenly
changed rather drastically. Successors of Catherine and Alexander
I simply rescinded the privileges that had been granted to the German-Russian
settlers and their descendants. The government restricted instruction
in German schools to Sunday School only and introduced schooling
in Russian for all. As a result many Black Sea German-Russians emigrated.
Their goal: America.
The U.S. government offered favorable conditions to these new settlers,
among them farmland of up to 65 hectares. Black Sea Germans mainly
settled in the vast Midwest regions of North and South Dakota. After
they conquered initial hardships once again, they saw their efforts
flower in successful agricultural endeavors.
The groups remaining in the Volga, Don, and North Caucasus areas
for the most part were left once again to suffer persecution amidst
the turmoil between Tsarist Eagle and Red Star, the terrible Stalinist
suppression of farmers, and the wave of collectivization.
The male portion of the ethnic group was decimated, properties
and land were confiscated by the State, and the rest of the population
was subjected to a state of slavery. At the beginning of the [German]
military campaign against Russia in 1941, the Volga Germans were
forcibly removed to inhospitable regions such as Kazakhstan. The
initial successes of the German campaign provided the remaining
German-Russians with a measure of hope, which eventually ended in
deep desperation and, under untold suffering, arduous flight back
their land of origin. There some of the Germans from Russia rediscovered
their roots, and from there many immigrated to all parts of the
world. Volga Germans who had settled in Kazakhstan often met with
good reception in the German Federal Republic and, to a much lesser
extent, in Ukraine and in certain areas of former East Prussia.
Our appreciation is extended to Alex Herzog for translation
of this article.
Reprinted with permission of Amerika Woche.