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Explanation of the term “Colonist”

Stangl, Thomas A. "Explanation of the term 'Colonist.'" Electronic email message, 9 June 2012.


The term "Colonist" was used throughout South Russia to designate those family heads-of-household who were formally "accepted" into a colony by the local membership of the colony, with the approval of the Welfare or Guardian Committee of the Russian government. One of the "benefits" of being a "Colonist" was that the family became tax-paying members of the colony, but also were eligible for more positive benefits, such as being able to obtain land rights, loans and welfare assistance, if needed. Each "Colonist" head-of-household also had the right to vote as a member of the Gemeinde [Community Assembly] in any elections or in actions which may have accepted other "Colonists" to the community. Only tax-paying "accepted" members of a colony appear in the Revision Lists [which are Tax Lists, not census lists]. The 1850 document you refer to is not a census of all the residents in the colony.

Anyone who was not "accepted" into the membership of a colony was called an Ausländer [foreigner]. These non-members were often given permission to live in a colony, but they were not "Colonists." These folks were often itinerant craftsmen who might have been given the right to establish their trade in the colony, but were not assigned land or any of the other "Colonist" rights. They may have been given permission to establish a household in the colony or rent someone else's household. There was one very much unspoken benefit for remaining an Ausländer because they were not required to pay taxes to the Russian government. Often these folks retained their foreign passports, but were still required to obtain permission from the government to live in a community or to move to another. These folks were not included in the various Revision Lists, nor do they appear in the various Family Books [Personelbuch] of the colonies. If they were married, had children, or died in a colony, these family events were recorded in the Church Books [Traubuch, Taufbuch or Totbuch] of the colony. If they were Lutheran, these events were reported to the St. Petersburg Consistory in the annual reports -- these are often the only records we have to note that these families lived in the colonies. Families in Bessarabia who were "Separatists" may completely fall through the cracks, because their family events were not reported to St. Petersburg; however, they may appear in the colony's Church Books, and may appear in the Revision Lists, if they were tax-paying members of the colony.

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