Germans From Russia

Tobin, Paulette. "Germans From Russia." Grand Forks Herald, 22 August 1999.

The ethnic group known as the Germans from Russia left Germany about 200 years ago to escape wars, economic hardship and religious conflict.

They settled in south-central Russia at the invitation of Czarina Catherine the Great and later her grandson, Czar Alexander, and were promised local self-rule, freedom from military service and other benefits if they would farm the land and buffer Russia from hostile neighbors.

But by the late 1800s, Russian rulers had forgotten their promises to the Germans, sparking a new migration to America. Many of the Germans from Russia settled in the Midwest. Even today, an area of North Dakota beginning at the South Dakota line and extending north to an apex at Rugby is known as the German-Russian Triangle.

Today about a third of all North Dakotans can trace their family roots to this unique ethnic group, whose history and heritage is explored in this section's stories by Herald Staff writer Paulette Haupt Tobin, a Germans-from-Russia descendent and native of Eureka, S.D.

Women's character

When Sally Roesch Wagner was growing up, her Aunt Annie used to drive her crazy by insisting on telling her the latest news about her large and far-flung family members, some of whom Wagner barely knew. Today, with the perspective of years and a greater understanding of her ethnic roots and the role of women, Wagner appreciates the importance of what her aunt was sharing.

Researching roots

Most descendents of the Germans from Russia in North Dakota probably know something about why their ancestors lived in Russia and how their families came to America. But that's only part of the story.

"We eat, not dine"

The history of the Germans from Russia includes 200 years of migration from Germany to the steppes of Russia to the American Midwest, and that's meant some hard times for this food-loving ethnic group. On the other hand, it also gave Germans a lot of experience in making delicious, hearty dishes even when the cupboard was pretty bare.

"Our aunt has kept us all networked. We can get together when we haven't seen each other for years and pick up the conversation where we left it because our aunt has been sharing information." Sally Roesch Wagner, talking about her Aunt Annie

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