Germans From Russia Have new Bond
Lubenow, Wayne. "Germans From Russia Have new Bond." Forum, 6 January 1971.
If you're a German who lives in North Dakota, I think that's just
great. Me too.
But now, I find, if you're a North Dakota German who came from
Russia--man, there's a society to preserve your culture.
It is called the "North Dakota Historical Society Of Germans
From Russia, Inc." The name is not too original but I suppose
it beats "Rusger" or "Gerruss."
Articles of incorporation have been filed and the list of incorporators
is impressive: The Honorable Ray R. Friedrich, district judge from
Rugby, N.D.; Dr. Armand Bauer, Fargo; Arthur Leno,
Bismarck; William H. Simpfenderfer, Bismarck; and LaVern C. Neff,
Among the purposes: To seek to bring together those people interested
in history and especially those interested in the history of the
Germans from Russia; and to "aid, assist, promote, encourage
and undertake the discovery, collection, preservation and publishing
of biographies, genealogies, histories, newspapers, letters, etc.,
of those people."
My contact in the project is Art Leno and in a day or two, Leno
will furnish me with statistics on how many Germans from Russia
we have here in North Dakota. The figure, friends, will be impressive.
Equally interesting is how Germans happened to migrate to Russia.
Well, Russian Czar Ivan the Terrible (1533-1584) and Peter the Great
started it all by calling foreign specialists into the country -
especially German engineers, scientists, officers, merchants and
administrative officials, to build up the cities and modernize the
(If that sounds familiar, just remember that it was Werner
von Braun who sent up the first United States satellite and space
But it was really that old sweetheart, Catherine II (also call
the Great) who really moved the people in.
Golly, in 1763 she began issuing manifestos that really got the
flood of Germans into Russia.
Maybe it was because she was a princess of German birth and became
the wife of Peter III (whose assassination she apparently didn't
object to because it made her ruler of Russia.)
But she was a Christian, a cultured humanitarian and, above all,
a top-notch politican - and she undertook the task of writing a
new codification of existing Russian law.
It was a liberal program. And this is what may have brought family
Germans to her land in great numbers. They were guaranteed:
* Religious freedom and toleration.
* Possession of land as a common good forever to each colony, with
privileges of purchase for individuals.
* Freedom from taxation for 30 years. (Now there's an offer that
could draw some people today.)
* Loans without interest, on borrowed money for expansion.
* Exemption from compulsory military service (a real zinger in
* The right to establish their own schools and churches.
* Provisions for land from the crown.
* On arrival, each person to receive 10 Kopeka, six for children
as a means of subsistence. No payments to be made.
Oh, there was more including: Privilege to leave Russia at option
of individual families, but with repayment of debts to the crown.
Oh, and the immigration was on. From Hessen, the Rheinlands, southwest
Germany and West Prussia they came. And they settled near Petersburg,
on the Volga, around the Black Sea, in the South Caucasians and
World War II, of course, killed it all - although the liberal
grants were ended in 1871 and blunted the immigration.
That was the year those Germans began coming over here.
Actually, it is an amazing story and a cracking good one. And
that is the story the new society will try to tell.
And they have a great place to start. One of the best-known North
Dakota Germans from Russia: Lawrence Welk.
Reprinted with permission of The Forum.