Bells are Ringing Again in Omsk, Western Siberia

Volk auf dem Weg: Deutsche in Rußland und in der GUS: 1763 - 1997

"Bells are Ringing Again in Omsk, Western Siberia." Volk auf dem Weg, 1997.

Translation from German to English by Ingeborg W. Smith, Western Springs, Illinois

A People on the Move: Germans in Russia and in the Fomer Soviet Union: 1763 - 1997
Decree of the Presidium of the Supreme Soviet of 8/28/1941
Manifesto of Catherine, The Great
My Homeland
Settlement Areas for Germans on the Volga Identified
To my Mother Tongue

The first new Lutheran church in Russia is dedicated/For 160,000 Germans in 82 "deeply religious" congregations.

German HANNOVER, November 7. The first new construction of an Evangelical-Lutheran church in the area of the former Soviet Union stands on the shore of the Irtysch in Omsk, a city; of a million people. For the approximately 160,000 Germans who live in the region, 2,700 kilometers east of Moscow, it is a sign that they have a future here. This hope also links the German Ministry of the interior and the federal official in charge of emigrants, Dr. Waffenschmidt, with the 4.3 million mark financing of the community center. The Lutheran Church in Germany is defraying one-tenth of the costs.

The still uncompleted Christus Church in Omsk was dedicated on Reformation Sunday, in the presence of the Hannoverian state bishop, Hirschler. This weekend in Hannover, Hirschler described the moving moment, when the bells, poured in sections by a Hessian foundry and brought to the site at the last minute, proclaimed the official opening. Omsk Superintendent Schneider seized the initiative for the new construction in 1989, after the city had decided to demolish the old structure. A project was started in cooperation with the Hannoverian state church, which would appeal, in addition to the 82 Lutheran congregations in the Omsk region, to the far-flung Diaspora in Siberia. Under the supervision of the chief master-builder of the state church of Hannover, Elgeti, the plan of a Göttingen architect was carried out by a local contractor using mostly Russian-German workers. The complex consists of, in addition to the church, with a capacity of 700, seminary rooms for the education of preachers, community shelter for 40 persons, two residences and four guest-apartments. Hirschler acknowledged the support of the city of Omsk, which had made an attractive building-site in the city center available to the German community. The construction, of brick and wooden headers, unusual for Russian circumstances, presented plenty of difficulties. Therefore, the festival celebrating, the completion of the complex had to be postponed until the summer of 1994.

The villages in the Omsk region have been in part settled by Germans for centuries. There were several additional waves of those resettled by force. Thousands died of starvation or were shot by commandos. Organized religion was banned for decades; it was also only partly tolerated after de-Stalinisation. During the persecution, in Hirschler's words, an unusual religiosity appeared among the Germans, which to this day shapes their feeling of belonging together and for many of them is a substantial reason for not leaving Siberia. He pleaded that these ties should be supported. To this end, those staying must be guaranteed the right to resettle in Germany at any time, if their existence in their present home should be threatened. Hirschler described pastoral care for youth as "greatly in need of development". Until very recently, this kind of activity was absolutely forbidden. The young Germans speak almost nothing but Russian.

Russian-German discuss self-rule

MOSCOW, November 7. (dpa). On Sunday delegates of the Russian-German movement "wiedergeburt" came together in a two-day congress in the Siberian city, Novosibirsk, to discuss questions of self-rule. Chairman Jakob Maurer said that many Russian-Germans had not yet decided whether they wished to emigrate to Germany or to stay in Russia. He informed them that 196.000 Russian-Germans had left in 1992; in the first ten months of this year the number was 170,000. A scant 170,000 Germans had resettled to Russia from the politically unstable central Asian republics.

Our appreciation is extended to Ingeborg W. Smith for translation of this article.

FAZ 8.11.93

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