A Journey to the Volga Region

Eine Reise in das Wolgagebiet

Eisfeld, Dr. Alfred. "A Journey to the Volga Region." Volk auf dem Weg, December 2007, 8-9.

This translation from the original German-language text to American English
is provided by Alex Herzog, Boulder, Colorado

Following the conclusion of the 6th Forum in Moscow of Encounter Centers for German-Russians, Waldemar Axt, national vice-chairman; Lilli Bischof, member of the national board; and Dr. Alfred Eisfeld, North-East Institute of Goeppingen together undertook a journey to the Volga region. One goal of this trip was to gather information on the progress of certain projects and to get in contact with interested authorities and personalities concerning the 250th anniversary of the Volga-Germans.

On page 47 of the May, 2007 issue, Volk auf dem Weg reported on the condition of the Engels Archive, which houses the largest portion of archived documents concerning the Volga-Germans. An agreement between the Russian and German governments to erect an addition to the existing grain storage structure that had until then be used as the archive has now been realized. Our delegation was able to inspect the new magazine and work rooms, to whose furnishings the administration of the Saratov Region had contributed. By now the documents were stored in a dry atmosphere, with regulated temperature and humidity. To increase the life of the documents and improve their
usability, ongoing restoration work and at least partial microfilming is needed. Primarily, these include the districting and siting plans for the colonies, church books, and documents from local and county administration offices.

The female Director of the Archives, Yelizaveta Yerina, looking toward a North-East Institute, expressed the desire for continuation of ongoing research and publication projects. Clearly, cooperation with the Landsmannschaft is a desirable matter. Fort the upcoming anniversary celebration, Mrs. Yerina proposed several projects that would evoke interest in our countrymen.

A thorough discussion, with an exchange of opinions concerning the upcoming anniversary, took place with Prof. Dr. Igor Pleve, minister of education in the government of the Saratov Region. Prof. Pleve is familiar to many of our countrymen and readers as a historian who concentrates on the history of the Volga-Germans and has published several books and essays on it. The conversations in the Rayon Administration in Engels and the visit in Marx were made possible by his preparatory work.

A meeting with the deputy of the Saratov Governor with responsibility in the social and humanitarian arenas had to be postponed, due to the unexpected resignation of the mayor of the city of Saratov. This will have to be taken care of at the next best opportunity.

Prof. Pleve supports the plan by the Landsmnnschaft to erect a Volga-German House in the Hessen-Park (see also Volk auf dem Weg, August, 2007, pages 8-9), and he proved very helpful to our delegation in this matter. He was also fully supportive with suggestions for a common effort of preparation for the 250-year anniversary of the Volga-Germans, in which the Land Hessen, the regions of Saratov and Volgograd, our own Landsmannschaft and the Landsmannschaft of Volga-Germans in Saratov, as well as overseas associations of Volga-Germans and personalities from the churches, the sciences, the arts, and politics would participate. The conversation with the administrative chief of the Engels Rayon, Andrey Rutchkin, was conducted in an objective and friendly atmosphere. He was quite familiar with the project concerning a Volga-German House in the Hessen-Park. The rural county administration promised us information concerning an appropriate building structure in the former colonies to be provided within the next few weeks. That there still are such buildings was apparent, for example, in Orlovskoye. The dismantling and reconstruction of a wooden home at another place is known to lack any technical issues. The delegation was able to prove this to itself in the open-air museum of Saratov since a Volga-German home had just been re-built there.

The visit to Marx was a though-provoking one. How close to one another (even in spatial terms) light and shadow can be, became apparent in the Ev.-Lutheran church and, a few hundred meters from there, in the German-Russian House as well as at the newly erected memorial to Catherine II. This memorial was made possible through private efforts. [No real explanation of what the author really means . Tr.]

Catherine now faces the Ev.-Lutheran church that stands on a rise, from which not only the bell tower is missing. Thus far some restoration projects have been performed with assistance from Germany. (Cf. VadW, 01/2007, p. 24). Inside the church building the crumbling plaster, caused by water damage, is making this quite clear: This structure can not be saved solely by the community of Marx.

The Gustav-Adolf Project of the Berlin-Brandenburg-Silesian-Oberlausitz Church has called for donations for the church. That alone, however, will likely not suffice. The church building in Marx is the architectural and structural center of the city. It is under historical landmark protection, which is a responsibility imposed by the State. The State, on the other hand, is also responsible for the damages that came about as a result of the misuse of the building as a cinema and for the historical lack of maintenance of the structure. Therefore it must become a combined concern for the administrations of the Saratov Region, the Marx City officials, the Ev.-Lutheran Church, the Landsmannschaft of Volga-Germans and our own Landsmannschaft to renovate this church. As soon as the coming weeks, there will be discussions about appropriate steps to take.

We received a comprehensively positive impression during our visit of the German-Russian House in Marx. In great demand are language, computers, and crafts classes, and there is a small library. Simply judging from the number and good condition of rowboats, then not only the report on the activities of the youth group was convincing, but so was an invitation to youth groups of our own Landsmannschaft for cooperative partnership and for youth exchanges.

Finally, two questions might be posed: Was the trip worth it? What were its results? Above all, new information and new contacts. After such a trip, one begins to see and understand many things better, and one will therefore be able to work with more conviction and more effort toward the realization of our projects.

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

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