|The Soul of the Germans from Russia
Germans from Russia Heritage Society Convention
Bismarck, North Dakota
September 23rd, 1972
Presentation by Dr. Joseph S. Height, Franklin College, Franklin,
Transcribed by Jane D. Trygg
Proofread by Acacia Jonas
Mr. President, Judge Friederich, members of the board of this association,
members of the society:
When Judge Friederich phoned me several weeks ago, inquiring whether
I would accept an invitation to Bismarck to attend this convention,
I did not hesitate for a moment to accept. I'm glad to be in North
Dakota. I'm delighted to be in Bismarck here tonight. I'm pleased
and gratified to see many of you here this evening, and you have
to be really congratulated.
This bodes good for the future of the society. There's more and
more interest created. I wish to thank President Friederich for
his bestowing this honor upon me to address you here tonight.
I've been thinking of Dr. Stumpp with whom I traveled last summer
for ten days. I've been in correspondence with him almost twice
a week since he left here last fall. I'd like to express my public
appreciation to him, my personal appreciation, for having helped
me publish the book which appeared about two months ago.
It was Dr. Stumpp who saw the book through the press into being.
He tells me that he used to drop over there almost every day, asking
the printer, "Are you getting on with Dr. Height's book? How
are you doing?" He has taken a great interest in my work. I
have collaborated with him in his book, and the English parts of
that book I translated for him. That book is now in the press. It's
being printed right now and, as far as I can judge, it should be
out, perhaps even before Christmas. I'm sure the society will inform
its members whenever that book becomes available.
I'm no stranger to North Dakota. I've been through this state several
times in the last 20 or 25 years. In fact, it's the road, the best
road, in fact the shortest road from Indiana to my native hometown
in Saskatchewan. I also feel somewhat a native of North Dakota because
my father, my grandfather, my uncles, pioneered, for sometime, in
this country, in North Dakota, for about five years. Then, they
moved on to Saskatchewan where they found maybe green pastured,
but blacker earth. So I feel right at home here. Your family names
are familiar to me. I have friends and even relatives in North Dakota,
along the Devil's Lake and Rugby line.
So, I am pleased to address you here tonight. I had at first thought
of speaking about certain types of history of our people in Russia,
but after I heard Colonel Wenzlaff, my good friend, I felt I would
probably be just repeating perhaps much of what he had said. He
did such an excellent job, such an excellent review of the German
history, of the Germans from Russia that I am going to change my
approach to my talk tonight.
There's a certain step that I consider a sole portrait of the German
Russian people. It so impressed Dr. Stumpp, particularly when he
was here last summer, that so many of our people were tremendously
interested in genealogy. He saw complete books, family histories
and so on. He told me even those in Germany haven't got this kind
of interest. That is why he feels that his book, which is soon to
come out, will be of considerable interest, of great interest, to
very many of us. I'm sure that the society here will publicize the
book as they have publicized mine.
I would also like to take on this occasion, the opportunity to
thank President Friederich and the society for supporting my book
financially. Also, by promoting it, by advertising it, and helping
me to distribute the book among the people for whom it was written,
the Black Sea German people. You would not be here tonight if you
did not have what I like to call "ancestral piety", a
feeling of reverence, a feeling of love, for your forefathers who
came to this country and those who, of course, lived and died in
the old country.
Every day there is a kind of ethnic awareness alive in this country.
People are becoming conscious of their ethnic heritage. There is
a kind of search for ethnic identity. This is good. It would be
a pity if in that melting pot; we were all melted down to the same
metal, whether it was base or precious. It would be a pity. The
greatness of this country, in my opinion, and I'm sure you would
agree with me, is its diversity, its great variety. And I think
today more and more people are proud of the individuality as people
or as groups, as ethnic groups. After all, is said and done, what
is America? A nation of immigrants, as John F. Kennedy wrote in
his book. We are a nation of immigrants. For all of us have contributed
something to the nature and essence of what we call America.
The Russian German people have contributed their part through some
of their traditions. I would like to review with you a little bit
of something of the character and internal essence of what is a
German Russian or a Russian German.
Dr. Stumpp, in his book, The German Russians, pointed out the four
or five different qualities that he thought described the German
He said they were industrious, hard-working. They were a people
that were striving, trying to get ahead. They were people who were
modest and unassuming in their general bearing and yet proud of
their achievements. They were a people with a deeply religious soul.
This characterized the Russian Germans whether from the Volga or
from the Black Sea, a deeply religious people. They were a people
who were also a progressive people, which is indicated by the fact
that in Russia, the most prosperous, the most beautiful villages,
were German Russian villages. This is already recognized by Czar
Alexander I, when he visited the colonies in the early pioneer period,
around 1816 and 1817.
I would like, therefore, to supplement some of these words that
Dr. Stumpp very briefly indicated in his book. I am impressed in
my research of our forefathers. First of all, by one quality which
characterizes every immigrant, namely the spirit of enterprise.
After all, to uproot your- self from your homeland requires a good
deal of courage, a good deal of determination. It's not an easy
thing to do. When our people uprooted themselves from the banks
of the Rhine, they moved into the unknown, eighteen hundred and
even up to two thousand and more miles. It is this spirit of adventure
in the good sense; you have to have something of the spirit of adventure
to leave your home for good. These people never had any hope of
ever returning again.
This spirit of enterprise, a bold intrepidity, was demonstrated
already in the Exodus when they left Europe, their homeland. It
was demonstrated on that long and fateful trek from Germany, from
the banks of the Rhine to the shores of the Black Sea. It was greater
than that, of course, to the shores of the Volga.
Sometimes I think we have no clear conception of what such a journey
meant. The evidence shows that this journey required three and a
half to four months. Now, that's a long time to be on the road with
your wife and family, in the summer, fall weather, and a rainstorm.
It was very poor transportation. But that's a fact. It was a four
month trip if you went overland. It was even longer if you took
the water way, the Danube. Unfortunately, we don't have records
of the dangers and hazards of the overland trip, how many people
may have perished, and died along the way. But the Danube journey
was one of the most dangerous, fated journeys probably ever taken
When we come to consider, it took them longer to go from home to
Odessa, than it took Columbus to cross the Pacific. It was more
dangerous. I don't recall how many men Columbus lost on his three
ships, but we do know that in 18171,300 immigrants perished in the
mouth of the Danube. They were buried in reeds and grass, in mass
This same spirit of enterprise, of course, was exhibited in the
early pioneer years. Imagine arriving from a vast steppe and not
a home or a place to live. The Russians hadn't prepared anything
for them. They put them up in these wattle huts. People had to literally
dig in or die. Dugouts made in the earth, covered with more earth
for a roof for the shelter.
And then a couple years later there was a heavy death toll in some
of those colonies. To start, cultivating they must start, with wooden
plows of the most wretched variety. The most wretched kind of wooden
plow, must have taxed the strength of not only the horses but of
the poor men who had to tear up that soil with these poor plows.
Now these people had hope, they had endurance and perseverance.
In a few years, they had established themselves in better homes.
By 1822, they had invented a better plow, an iron plow. It didn't
take long to finally get the colonist house, of stone in many places.
They got rid of these earth houses and built houses of stone.
I'm not going to go into the story of the progress through a hundred
years of the development. I'll point out a few things. They introduced
new methods of farming, crop rotation, and new breeds of cattle.
The planting of trees was a great enterprise. Around 1840, every
German village could be identified by the bank of trees around the
village, around the home.
Our German Russians had another characteristic. They were soul
minded, law abiding people. There are many records, quite a few
records in the villages, of village discipline, village order. But
I assure you, it was no wild west in Russia. Our people did not
develop a wild west, you know, gun slinging and killing and so on.
It was remarkable how calm people, despite all kinds of problems,
lived even in the pioneer period. It was remarkably hard to relax.
We don't think of it too much. They were probably trying to drown
their homesickness in vodka.
But on the whole, there were no major crimes. In going through
old records, I find that there was one case where two German colonists
broke into the head office, the colonist office at Odessa, and stole
some money. They were sentenced to life imprisonment in Siberia.
This was a terrible, severe punishment.
But there is one thing that is remarkable about our people in Russia.
Around 1840, a German colonist was convicted of murder, killed a
man. A wall of grief and sorrow and shock went through all the German
colonies from the Volga to the Black Sea to the Crimea. The colonists
were stunned that any one of their number should have committed
a serious crime, a crime like murder. It never happened before,
it was the first time.
Discipline was one of the strong characteristics of all the colonies.
The mayor of the village strictly enforced the laws and the people
had to obey. They were fined or given labor sentences, common labor.
Through the decades this developed in the German colonists, men
and women, of discipline, of order.
There was no youth problem. Obedience was taken for granted by
the young people. There was no generation gap. Children knew their
Another quality which I find predominant and very significant in
our German Russian people, basically they were a conservative people.
This is indicated by the fact that they preserved their dialect
and language almost pure, with the exception of some Russian words
they added, for over 150 years. Basically kept their mother tongue.
It is also indicated by the fact that those traditions which they
brought with them from Germany, those customs were also faithfully
retained, one generation after the other. Whether it was the way
they made sausage, the way they sang their folk songs, the way they
danced, or celebrated their feast days or festivals. This was tradition,
this was a ritual. The most amazing thing I discovered in my research
was that the young people were responsible for preserving this culture.
By young, I mean people in their teens, unmarried young people in
their teens, up to 20 years of age. They were the ones who kept
up the festivals, the folk festivals, the folk songs. It was not
the old people. Of course, they learned it from the old people,
but they were the ones who kept them up from one generation to the
That may seem a bit amazing to us today that the bearers of tradition
should be the young people. We usually associate tradition with
the old. But the fact is that young people gathered on the street
corners and sang their songs which they heard from their fathers.
They learned these songs from one generation to the next. There
was no generation gap as far as tradition was concerned.
The other thing that amazes me is the wealth of tradition. You
know, the colonists came from Germany. They were poor, I mean really
poor. They eventually had no money. They got loans for getting established.
But they were rich in one thing. Not only rich in the spirit, they
had an interior wealth of tradition and custom which helped them
over the difficulties which they faced, the hardships that they
Another quality, which I find most fascinating, is that our people
were a very sociable people. They had to be practically. After all,
they were limited in their abilities, sort of isolation from the
Russian people. They formed kind of a compact, unified community.
Their sociability, carried on over 150 years, is seen in the fact
that they delighted to be in company. They loved company. It's sort
of a Russian German proverb, "If you don't have company, you
go to company." Well, what about this? Well, it was a lively
gay affair, unorganized, people got together to chat, talked, but
they also sang, drank some wine, sometimes ate, told stories. They
loved to tell stories.
It has struck me, again and again, among the older generation,
hardly living any more today. I've often been amazed about the gift
of storytelling that many of our people had, men and women. It's
an art, you know. Not everyone can tell a story. But they were good
story tellers. Maybe they became so good because they told their
stories so often.
Well, this was pretty typical of our people, this art of story
telling. As far as the young people are concerned, they had one
weakness, or shall I call it strength. Now, our young people in
Russia were probably the greatest pranksters and tricksters that
you can imagine. They were always up to tricks. It was a form of
amusement, I mean nothing harmful, like burning down somebody's
haystack. You were escaping boredom, you know, you had to do something.
There wasn't too much to do in these villages, I mean, there were
no organized ball games or anything. It became much of a tradition
that a prank was sort of fair play. You couldn't take it out on
anyone, if they played a trick on you. As long as you did not do
any damage or harm.
So a typical trick might be for young people to break into somebody's
hen house and steal a couple chickens, and maybe into a pantry to
get a ham. Then have a party, a feed, a get together and fry the
chickens and have a little party. But the owner of this property
was always invited. He was informed in the course of the meal where
the chicken, ham and the eggs came from. Well, he put on a good
face and enjoyed the compliments. He didn't take it out on them.
It was sort of a democracy, you know, from a democratic level, "Okay,
you played a trick on me. I may get back on you."
Sometimes it backfired on these tricks. There was one good example
of that in the colony of Strassburg, in Baden. The fellows from
Strassburg had planned to steal some beef to slaughter in the fall.
They were going to steal some beef from a nearby town only about
a half mile away, three quarters of a mile away. And they went somewhere,
stole a few chunks of beef.
The boys of Baden, they didn't call them gangs, they were groups
of fellows. They had gotten wind of this plan of the Strassburg
fellows. They took away the beef and substituted a freshly slaughtered
whippet, a hunting dog. The Strassburg boys got it home, fried it,
cooked it, and enjoyed the meal until they found out that they were
eating dog meat. Which led to the nickname for the Strassburgers,
which remains to this day, dog eaters.
Another thing that characterized our people was their love of laughter.
They also had weakness for jibes and criticism or teasing. They
loved to tease. Nicknames were so common that almost everybody in
the community had some kind of nickname, most of them not flattery.
There was a certain amount of opposition and rivalry between two
villages. This was caused, I think, largely by the fact that the
boys from one village would try to court the girls in the next village.
The boys would send them back. So there was quite a bit of animosity
sometimes from village to village. It was harmless; it was expressed
mostly in words, not in actions. For example, little rhymes started
circulating, ridiculing some of the towns. There was one that was
There were six villages down in the Kutschurgan area, very close
together. There was a windmill that was always whistling. In the
morning it would start up with a whistle that could be heard allover
the colony. (Here he tells rhyme in German.)
Now, there was a certain amount of rivalry between Lutheran and
Catholic villages that were in the same colonies. The typical nickname
for the Lutherans, given them, of course, by the Catholics was "(German
phrase)". But the enjoinder came back for the Catholics "(German
phrase)". Meaning they were illiterate, they had to use a cross
to sign their name. Of course, they had nicknames also for the Russians,
you know, and the Russians had nicknames for their German colonists,
potato eaters. The Germans said the Russians were cabbage eaters.
You see, our German Russian people didn't have the opportunity
to buy amusement. They had to create it themselves and sometimes
it was a little rough. They tried their best to create some amusement,
particularly in the village.
Our people were a peace-loving people. In fact, that's one of the
reasons why they left Germany. Because, as I said, there were wars
and revolutions, and what have you. They came to Russia because
they were promised peace. At least they didn't have to serve in
the Army, but were given freedom from military service.
Our people did not like war. They refused to fight for Napoleon,
during Napoleon's campaigns, Spain and so on. Young fellows just
ran away. They are a peace loving people. They are people of whom
it has been said, in Russia, that they opposed war because it was
a waste of time and a waste of resources. It was not because they
were cowards. They had shown enough courage in peace time without
having to demonstrate it in war time.
There was a fine saying which was written on inscription in one
of the colonies in Bessarabia. "Not with the sword, conquer
with the plow, children of peace, heroes of work." And I think
those words pretty well sum up the philosophy of the German Russian
people. Work, not war. Plow, not the sword.
Now, I'm not going to depict our people as saints or anything of
the kind. They had their weaknesses and I could spend a couple of
hours just going into them. The men didn't want to go to war. But
they didn't mind a darn good fight, you know, occasionally, in town
on the streets. In particularly they enjoyed altercation with the
Russians. Those were the Russian peasants. Usually it took at least
three to stand up against one (German) colonist. As it was pointed
out by a German traveler who visited Russia in 1838, the Russian
peasant was not a scrapper.
I've already pointed out that our people were religious. I should
add to fill out the picture, they were also quite superstitious.
It was not the same thing as being religious. They had all kinds
of funny beliefs about the weather, about the crops, and all kinds
of remedies for sicknesses and diseases and so on.
Practically every grandmother had at least 20 or 30 rhymes to cure
practically anything, you know. But I don't know how seriously you
took it. Frankly, I think it was just another kind of game, just
another distraction. They made a few pennies, a few kopecks, for
the service. It did not give you any harm; a lot of it did not do
much good for some of the ailments. But they were very superstitious
in many respects.
But that does not deter from the fact that they were a deeply religious
people. The extent of evidence is impressive when you consider that
even the smallest and poorest village had a very beautiful church.
The fact that the church was always in the center of the village,
a landmark with a towering steeple pointing to heaven, indicated
what philosophy the people had. On the other hand, when the Communists
came in and lopped off the church steeples, cut off all the steeples,
this, to our people, was a sacrilege and an obvious evident sign
of an anti-religious and godless act. The fact that they removed
the bells, regardless of their significance.
There's another fact. After all, to hear the bells ringing three
times a day through the village summoning people to work or to prayer,
one of the joyful things, and now the villages were dead. There
was no ringing of bells. The Sunday was observed by our people with
an almost real and unorthodox due in Russia, whether Lutheran or
Catholic. You could do no work whatever on Sundays of any kind,
except eat which probably wasn't considered work. You were not permitted
to use a needle, or hammer, thread. You were not permitted to sew
on a button. This was considered desecrating a Sunday. Very many
of our people in this country in the early years, in the pioneer
period, were likewise very strict about Sundays.
I have a little story for you, which combines, or at least illustrates,
this point about being very religious on Sunday. Also with a bit
of superstition about what could happen to you if you don't sanctify
the Sabbath. I'm going to give this story in dialect form. And for
those of you who don't understand my dialect which is Alsatian,
I'll just briefly summarize a little bit about the story without
giving away the whole point of it.
Trinity Sunday was considered by the Catholic people, I believe
and by the Lutheran people, to be the greatest Sunday of the year.
Trinity Sunday was sacred. On Monday, two men were out fishing,
on Monday after Trinity Sunday, they go out fishing. After trying
for a few hours they had no luck.
One of them just started swearing his head off, you know, no luck,
so he started swearing. The other man complained, said, "What
are you swearing for? It won't do you any good." And all of
a sudden a storm comes up. A very heavy lightning and thunderstorm.
The other man with him is religious. He gets a bit frightened and
confesses to his friend, "You know, yesterday I sewed on a
The other man says, "What! You desecrated a Sunday yesterday,
sewing on a button. You just desecrated Monday by swearing. Why
did you do that?"
And finally he says, "Throw those pants into the water, into
the river, and get rid of that curse, the storm!" He does so
and they had a good catch of fish. Then he was happy.
(Here he tells the story in German.)
Well, I suppose if you can get used to the dialect, the story's
pretty funny. I'm sorry if some of you didn't get all of it. They
say you can never translate a joke. When I think of it, the old
people had a whole repertoire of jokes. Many of them were a little
crude maybe, but our people were farmers and had no inhibitions,
almost obscene or blasphemous, jokes. I can give you a good example.
Our people are pretty frank and outspoken and honest. I mean there
was no pretense of being something that you weren’t.
This is a true story about a Bishop who was the first son of a
colonist to become Bishop of the diocese, which was the second largest
diocese in the world. The Bishop retired from office around 1901
and retired in the Crimea, later in Odessa, because of his health.
Later he came to the village of Selz. This was under the Communist
domination. But he was no longer committed to exercise any Episcopal
functions. He'd rather be a private individual. He was a stately
man, six foot three, six foot four inches tall, and walked with
great dignity down the streets. People would bow to him; kiss his
hand, as was the custom.
One day while he was at home, an elderly lady came who knew him
quite well. And she started complaining about how much work she
had to do, how hard her life was, because she had to get up so early
in the morning. The Bishop consoled her, I suppose, comforted her
a bit. He told her about an old German proverb.
(Here he goes on to tell several stories in German.)
Our German Russian people were the most persecuted people in all
of Russia in the last 160 years. Just about the saddest chapters
in the history of our people is that after the pain, prosperity,
wealth, beautiful homes, beautiful villages, everything started
to crumble. Everything started to fall by the power of the Communists
and finally to disintegrate into nothing. This is a terribly tragic
thing when you consider that all they had built up through their
hard work, after all those years, to see everything go to ruin,
every- thing destroyed.
The story of those 50 years under Communism has not yet been written.
I tried in five chapters in my book to give some idea of what really
went on. First of all, before the Communist revolution in World
War I, there was already a certain Russian animosity against the
German people. They were forbidden to speak German on the streets,
to speak German in public, forbidden to publish their newspapers.
At the same time, German colonist’s sons were fighting in
the front, in the Russian army. Then came the revolution. Here was
where the Germans became the great enemy of the Communists. Why?
Because so many German colonists and colonies were well to do.
They had horses, they had cows, they had sheep, and they had nice
homes. They had lots of grain, they had lots of food. So when the
Russians started rounding up food, breaking in to homes, the first
ones to suffer were our people. They were robbed and plundered from
attic to cellar so that in 1920, they didn't have enough seed to
plant their crop. You know what happened? The great famine that
struck down millions of Russians and hundreds of thousands of Germans.
That was just the beginning of their hard- ships and of their peril.
When Stalin was in power he took away all their grain, all their
cattle, all their goods, and made them slaves of a big collective
Now, can you imagine our people who were free farmers, independent
farmers for 150 or more years, suddenly confronted by such a situation
where they didn't own a cow, didn't even own a horse. When you come
to think of it, our German people in the colonies had beautiful
horses, had fine cattle, and to lose all that.
But that was not yet the worst. The next came when Stalin decided
to get rid of the kulaks. At that time, the rich men, anybody who
owned two horses and a cow and a few acres of land. They had to
get rid of the kulaks as enemies of the state. How did they get
rid of them? Not by proper legal process, but by trial or by death
No, there was no trial. The kind of procedure was very simple for
the Russians. They came, simply, into the house, and arrested the
men. Always, at night, at midnight, but never in the daytime. They'd
haul the man out of bed, gave him 30 minutes, 25 minutes, to get
dressed, get his clothes together, and enough food for two or three
weeks. He was hauled off without having the opportunity to say goodbye
to his sleeping children. The neighbors were not notified.
He was taken to the local jail. The next morning or very soon after,
they'd get transportation on cattle cars. He, with hundreds of others,
were shipped to the unknown. Many of them never again returned.
Their family never knew where they were, whether they were alive
or dead. Many of them served for 15 or 20 years in slave labor camps
to come back, their house ruined, and to meet perhaps their family,
if their relatives were alive.
This was going on, on such a vast scale, all over Russia that it's
estimated that 20 million people, Russians and others, were in the
slave labor camps, at the peak of Stalin's career. How many millions
died? That's never been published of course in Russia, but a good
estimation is that at least 15 million of these people died in those
camps. This was one of the most atrocious, disastrous crimes against
humanity in modern times.
You always think of Hitler's gas chambers. I'm not for a moment
saying that isn't the most horrible, but Stalin did his crime against
his own people, against his own nation. The German people certainly
had their, keep more than their share, of suffering in this period.
But that was not the end of the road of the long, road of suffering,
because after the war, when hundreds and thousands were cleaned
out of Russia, leaving their homes behind, leaving their cattle
behind, keep bringing the rest in their wagons, and the way the
pioneers had come 120-140 years earlier. On another 3 month trek,
some of them 2 and 3 months trek, trying to get back to Germany.
They had a loss of life on that road from disease, from cold and
hunger, going through enemy territory, unfriendly territory, unfriendly
countries and neighbors. And then, to make this long trek and find
out that it was all in vain. Of the 300,000 that left the Ukraine
to try to get back to Germany, only 70,000 made it. The others were
caught by the Russian army under the promise that they would be
sent back to their colonies. Not one was sent back. They were all
sent to Siberia, to Central Asia. Scattered, like the dust before
the wind. All of our people in eastern Russia are very scattered,
far and wide, over a territory more than twice the size of the USA.
We had, in the Ukraine, maybe five and a half percent farmers.
That was about the only thing around, grain farmers less than ten
percent. At least eighty percent of our people are living in towns,
cities, and villages, as carpenters, craftsmen, truck drivers, and
so on. They had to make quite a transformation. They no longer lived
in individual communities where they have any kind of community
at all. They had no churches for them available, and they no longer
had their own school system.
This has been a terrible blow to our people. However, they are
living a little better than they did under Stalin. They are no longer
starving. They're working hard for their living. Both the man and
the woman have to work to support a family. These are some of the
*** End of Tape 1. Beginning of Tape 2. A small portion was missed
when someone at the convention changed tapes.***
...the history of our people in Russia and our people in this country
for present and future generations.
It would be a pity if after another 50 years, hardly anybody would
be able to know or say much of anything about our people. It is
all the more important because the Communists have, for the last
50 years, been making an attempt to erase and eradicate and obliterate
the whole history of yours and my people in Russia.
There isn't a single Russian book published that ever mentions
the German colonists of the Volga or the Black Sea. You can look
up the biggest best encyclopedia, and look up Odessa, and you won't
find a single reference in that encyclopedia of 20 volumes. You
won't find a single line about the German Russian people. The names
of all the German villages and colonies in South Russia and on the
Volga have been completely renamed. Even the former Russian names
have been dropped. The German ones are no longer in evidence anywhere.
There is evidence in the Ukraine, or South Russia, that gravestones
were removed from most of the cemeteries for building purposes.
In a large colony like Selz of 3,000 people, a woman who has visited
this colony says, "Today, it is a pasture for cows."
Now, it seems pretty terrible when you contemplate that people
who have spent their sweat, blood and tears for 160 years in a country
and contributed so much to the economy of the country, that their
very name should be obliterated for all time.
I, and I'm sure our Society, feels a moral obligation to our ancestors
who are dead, to our people who are still living, that the history
of our people dare not be extinguished, mutilated, but must be preserved.
If not in Russia, at least in the rest of the world, as much as
It is with this intention that I have published my book. I could
not bear to see that all of this history should go down the drain
and perish. Therefore, we who are gathered here have a serious purpose.
Everyone can do something to help preserve our history. Any document,
any paper, any photo, any book, pertaining to our people should
be made known to the Society and, if possible, eventually given
to the Society. This should be done before it is too late. I know
from various places that a lot of material has been lost and destroyed
and forgotten and mislaid that would be very useful to us, if not
in the near future but in future years. And after all, it is for
the honor of our people and it is for the honor of the living generation
A great poet wrote the following four lines which I'm going to
read to you in translation:
Happy the man who fondly thinks of his forebears
Who likes to tell the willing listeners the tale of their achievements
And is proud to see himself a link in the beautiful chain.
Another thought: Courtesy past and courtesy present -depends upon
your life! Your ancestors thank you, existing and striving. Your
ascendants carry on your aspirations and yearnings. And between
the two, you ought to preserve and enhance what you have inherited:
A valuable link in the unending chain!
I thank you.