Intensifying Cultural Activities for our Countrymen

Intensivierung der Landsmannschaftlichen Kulturarbeit

"Intensifying Cultural Activities for our Countrymen." Volk auf dem Weg, August/September 2007, 8-9.

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

In a series of talks with experts, patrons and the assistance organizations for Germans from Russia, the national board of the Landsmannschaft der Deutschen aus Russland has been discussing goals for cultural activities in the coming years and has developed a number of projects on that basis.

Dr. Alfred Eisfeld talking with the Orthodox priest Ioann concerning the restoration of the church in Karlsruhe
On May 27, 2007, [at the Bundestreffen] in Wiesbaden, these projects were presented by the cultural consultant of the Landsmannschaft, Dr. Alfred Eisfeld as part of the framework of the I. Partnership Conference of representatives from societies of Germans from Russia in the Russian Federation and the Ukraine as well as our countrymen from the US (American Historical Society for Germans from Russia). The Landsmannschaft will exercise oversight of the projects within Germany, while the cultural organizations of German-Russians will tend to projects within Ukraine and Russia. Of particular importance in Germany is the establishment of a central museum for Germans from Russia in Stuttgart and of a Volga-German House within the open-air Hessenpark (in Neu-Aspach). Regional and local initiatives toward creating exhibitions, particularly in Detmold and Berlin, will continue to be supported as much as possible, even though the main interest will be directed to the central museums.

The State of Baden-Wuerttemberg has assumed sponsorship of all Germans from Russia and has been supporting us for many years. The establishment of the German-Russian Cultural Prize by the State of Baden-Wuerttemberg provides a visible and unique signal. Consequently, the central museum for Germans from Russia should take its rightful place in the capital city of our sponsoring State. In all its efforts, our national board relies heavily on the support from the government of Baden-Wuerttemberg, and at its forefront, the prime minister Guenter Ottinger, as well as support from the representative for Aussiedler, Herbert Reich. The search for a suitable building continues.

A Volga-German House for the Hessenpark

Inside the village museum of Karlsruhe

The majority of Volga-Germans is of Hessian descent. The State of Hessen has expressly signified this solidarity by assuming sponsorship of the Volga-Germans. The open-air museum Hessenpark encompasses buildings that are typically representative of the individual Hessian countryside. The museum plays a significantly important role in strengthening the communal spirit for all Hessians. A logical consequence of the declared solidarity of Volga-Germans with Hessen and by Hessen with its Volga-German countrymen is to erect in the Hessenpark a Volga-German House to contain a Volga-German Museum. And it should not be a matter of creating a new building or a copy of some building, rather a wooden house from the Volga region should be brought to the Hessenpark and erected therein. Technically it should not be a complex matter, since wooden structures consist of separate parts that can be put back together without losing their structural substance.

Even prior to the and during the 29th Bundestreffen in Wiesbaden of the Landsmannschaft der Deutschen aus Russland, Silke Launtenschlaeger, Hessian Social Minister, and Rudolf Friedrich, the State's representative for Aussiedler, reaffirmed the support of the Hessian government.

The governments of the Saratov and Volgograd regions are to be persuaded to provide Volga-German structure for the Hessenpark in a timely manner so that it can be erected and furnished as a museum by the 250th anniversary (in 2014) of the immigration of Hessian colonists to Russia. It would constitute a true sign of recognition for the contributions by the Volga-Germans toward the opening up and development of the Volga region.

Engels, Karlsruhe, Speyer

The Karlsruhe church, exterior
The Karlsruhe church, interior
In the former settlement regions in the Volga area and near the Black Sea, the relief organizations of German-Russians will work toward building up the archives in Engels into a central archive and will support the renovation of former Catholic churches in Karlsruhe and Speyer in the Nikolayev region.

The archive in Engels is home to a large portion of the archival objects of Volga-German colonies and their furnishings Others are located in Volgograd and Samara and furnish archives along territorial lines. Thanks to assistance from the German government, the Engels archive has now been provided with a new building, which will make it possible to bring together in one place all Volga-German archival objects as originals or in copy form, for restoration, for study, and for research.

The church buildings in Karlsruhe and Speyer are among the architecturally most interesting structures still remaining. For decades, they and all the other churches were used for entirely different and strange purposes, and also damaged. Both of the structures under discussion have been returned to Christian uses. No Germans or even Catholic communities remain in the two locales, and Russian-Orthodox communities of the Moscow Patriarchate are the new owners. Thereby these buildings can once again become houses of worship.

With funds from its own poor community and with other contributions, the church in Speyer has once again been reestablished as a house of worship. Damages to the roof from a storm had to be repaired this year. The church tower is to be rebuilt. The former cemetery will be freed of its decade-long trash and as a green space will serve as memorial to the former German residents.

The church building in Karlsurhe still stands without a roof. Construction drawings and requisite building permits for renovating the building are now available. What is lacking is money. In view of a third straight year of drought, there will be no progress in the renovation this year without direct assistance from the outside.

The fall of 2009 will mark the 200th anniversary of the founding of the German colonies of Landau, Speyer and Rohrbach. The administration of the Nikolayev region, the clergy and the communities in Karlsruhe and in Speyer are fully aware of the necessity of the restoration of the church structures as a significant part of the common heritage of the former German and current Ukrainian and Russian residents of these locales. And they are doing what is in their power to get it done.

The Landsmannschaft der Deutschen aus Russland and the cultural organizations of German-Russians wish to continue these efforts and to do their part in promoting support for these projects among their countrymen in Germany and overseas as well as in industry and among foundations.

Photos of the churches in question, as well as other documentation, may be viewed on the web pages of the Landsmannschaft der Deutschen aus Russland,

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