Germans and the History of Siberia

Deutsche in der Geschichte Sibiriens

Cross-Regional Traveling Exhibition in the German National Rayon Halbstadt

Ueberegionale Wanderausstellung im Deutschen Nationalen Rayon Halbstadt

From "Zeitung Fuer Dich"
Nach "Zeitung Fuer Dich"

"Germans and the History of Siberia." Volk auf dem Weg, Jannuary 2004, 11.

Translation from German to English by Alex Herzog, Boulder, Colorado

For a month and a half, the Kulturhaus [House of Culture] of the German National Rayon (DNR) was the central home for a cross-regional historic-ethnographic exhibition entitled "Germans and the History of Siberia, Siberia and the Fate of Germans."

Among the organizers of the exhibition: the Regional Russian-German House in Novosibirsk, the German Research Center at the State University at Novosibirsk, and the State Museum of Regional History at Novosibirsk. The exhibition was created at the behest of the Deutsche Gesellschaft fuer Technische Zusammenarbeit (GTZ) [German Society for Technical Cooperation] and was financed by it.

The main purpose of the unique exhibition is to present the most important phases of the history of Germans in Siberia, the unique culture of the German-Russians, and their role in the development of Siberia.

The prime locale of the exhibition was the convention center "Sonnenstrahl [Ray of Sunshine]," where guests and initial visitors were received by the musical group "Gute Laune [Good Mood]" playing German folk melodies. "It is my hope that as many people as possible will be able to view this exhibition, so that they may observe how much the German-Russians have done for Siberia. Also, that the visitors might appreciate the contributions by German-Russians of the German National Rayon to the economy of Siberia," commented Fyodor Ekkert, governor of the DNR Halbstadt.

Related to this topic, the general director for the Development Society Halbstadt, Detlev Proefrock, expressed his readiness to make available transportation to make it possible for groups of residents of neighboring rayons to view the exhibition. Josef Dukven, director of the Russian-German House at Novosibirsk, announced that negotiations were underway regarding the showing of the exhibit in Germany, where a great number of Siberia-Germans have found a new home.

The special character of this exhibition consists in that it reflects all periods of the history of Germans in Siberia from the 17th Century until the present. The exhibition also shows as completely as possible the geography of compact and scattered German settlements in Siberia. Furthermore, it deals with a multiplicity of themes such as: the role of Germans in the economic, social, cultural and scientific development of Siberia; the special characteristics of the ethnic culture of the German-Russians; the fate of the ethnic Germans in the context of Russian/Soviet history and Russian/German relations. The traveling exhibition also offers those interested a supplementary and deepening virtual version.

Via numerous individual exhibits, historical documents, and archival materials, the exhibition illuminates, among others, the following areas:

  • the work of Germans in Russia from the 17th to the 19th century;
  • the emergence of and unique characteristics of German colonies in Siberia
    at the end of the 19th century and the beginning of the 20th century;
  • the migration of Russian-Germans to Siberia in the 20th century;
  • unique characteristics of the ethnic culture;
  • the role of religion in the lives of Germans in Siberia;
  • the establishment of self-government for Germans in Siberia, German
    National Rayons, centers for German culture;
  • the cooperation between Siberia and Germany: history and current
  • the work of German institutions in Siberia;
  • fateful individual histories, portraits, biographies.

Each of the more than 1,500 original documents reflects the spirit of the times and the uniqueness of the German ethnic group. In effect, thousands of people from the various regions of Siberia are co-authors of the exhibition. Many individual exhibits are from the German National Rayon itself. One can observe in great detail the establishment of the German Rayon in 1927, its
dissolution in 1938, and the reestablishment in 1991 of the German National Rayon with its former borders.

This exhibition should make it possible for any viewer to gain insight into the history, culture and the fate of the German ethnic group in Siberia. For the older generation of German-Russians, it might be an encounter with their shared memories. For the younger generation it presents an opportunity to become more familiar with their parents' and grandparents' history. For anyone else with an interest, of any nationality, the exhibition transmits a familiarity with the culture of Germans in Siberia and with their participation in intercultural dialog.

Our appreciation is extended to Alex Herzog for translation of this article.

Permission to use any images from the GRHC website may be requested by contacting Michael M. Miller