Miller Preserving Germans From Russia History
Rirkl, Toni. "Miller Preserving Germans From Russia History." Jamestown Sun, 11 August 2006.
Since 1978, the heritage of the Germans from Russia has been collected,
preserved and is documented by North Dakota State University Libraries
And for that long, Michael Miller has been the Germans form Russia
Heritage Collection’s caretaker and bibliographer. He’s
considered the NDSU Germans from Russia specialist and is proud
of the collection he oversees.
“It’s grown to be one of the most comprehensive collections
in the world,” he said.
Miller will be at the Jamestown Culture Festival Saturday, displaying
and selling some of the items and music of the ethnic group that
settled the prairie.
A descendent of Germans from Russia settlers himself, Miller grew
up in Strasburg. For him, the collection and preserving the history
are ongoing efforts to tell the story of this unique ethnic group.
“When I was going to school, the nuns said it was important
to preserve the culture,” he said and he took that to heart.
The collection covers mot of the culture’s facet, including
its folklore, food and clothing. Although designated generally as
Germans from Russia, different groups came from different areas.
They’re called Bessarabian Germans, Black Sea Germans, Crimean
Germans, Dobrudscha Germans and Volhynian Germans.
Last spring, Miller said, he and the NDSU Department of History
began an oral history project. Miller said they wanted to collect
as many of the stories form older descendents of the original Germans
from Russia settlers as they could for future generations.
“This was a pilot project and it was a huge success”,
Miller said. “It’s our biggest focus now.”
The project took interviewers to the Gackle, Streeter and Kulm
areas to collect stories. This summer they’ve continued the
project in other areas with high concentrations of Germans form
Russia descendents including Miller’s hometown. Essentially,
the largest population of the group settled the region from Rugby
to South Dakota. The project also took interviewers into Saskatchewan.
“The oral history is becoming very detailed,” Miller
said. “We’ve also really getting active with photos.”
Coming this fall is a new series on North Dakota Public Radio,
featuring clips of the oral history as spoken by those elders who
remember the early years.
“Eventually, we’ll make a CD of those,” he said.
The heritage collection was also the basis for four award-winning
documentaries produced by Prairie Public Television on the Germans
from Russia. Miller worked with Prairie Public on “Children
of the Steppe, Children of the Prairie,” Schmeckfest: Food
Tradition,” Prairie Crosses, Prairie voices: Iron Crosses
of the Great Plains” and: A Soulful Sound: Music of the Germans
The Jamestown College Concert Choir participated in the music documentary,
Miller said. A DVD of the choir’s performance of the music
of the Germans from Russia will be on sale at the festival.
Other items for sale are cookbooks, key maps, and popular books.
Miller and the heritage collection are good resources on the Germans
from Russia for those who live in the region. And for those who
don’t, there’s the Internet. Miller said the collection’s
Web site library.ndsu.edu get 8,000 hits a day. And a lot
of those hits are checking out the food and recipe pages. It’s
also a great way for descendents around the country to connect with
“The Internet has changed everything,” Miller said.
Reprinted with permission of the Jamestown Sun.