The Russian Germans under the Double Eagle and the Soviet Star: Including a Pictorial History of Cities, Landscapes and People
By Bernd G. Längin
Translated by Jack Thiessen and Audrey Poetker.
Edited by Alex Herzog and Dr. Nancy Herzog.
Pictorial Documentation by Hanns-Michael Schindler.
Germans from Russia Heritage Collection, North Dakota State University Libraries, Fargo, North Dakota, 2013, 134 pages, softcover.
Book Review by James T. Gessele, Minneapolis, Minnesota
Called by the Czars, banned by the Soviets, the Russian-Germans are well portrayed in this book with outstanding, dramatic historical black and white photographs. Bernd Längin blends these photo images with the important story about the various Germans from Russia ethnic groups.
The Russian Germans great contributions advanced the cause of the Russian Empire for two hundred years. Twenty years later they became the driftwood of history. For some two million Russian-Germans the question of autonomy or immigration commenced with the onset of glasnost and perestroika.
Bernd Längin paints a picture of the rise and fall of a German minority under the Double Eagle and the Soviet Star. With an effectively unknown fate, a history is recalled before all traces of the German generations on the Volga, in Ukraine, in the Caucasus, Bessarabia, and Volhynia are completely obliterated.
The Table of Contents includes these chapters: The Russian Germans – The Siren Call of the Czarina and First Called, then Banned; The Volga Germans; Ukraine; Germans in the Caucasus; Bessarabia; Volhynia; Siberia, Steppe Regions and Middle Asia.
Längin writes at the Introduction:
“We want to remain who we are” – and yet – “Who are we?” Nemtzy?...Russian Germans, Soviet Germans, Baltic Germans, Soviet citizens of German nationality – “our people” – Germans from the Volga, the Black Sea area, Volnhynia, the Caucasus, Siberia, and Kazakhstan”? Russian Germans from Karlsruhe, Landau or Worms in the Kherson District. Or simply Germans who regard it as a slight when they are called merely, “of German descent”? A people, certainly – Nemtzy in Russian usage, -- but a people as complex and irritatingly ambiguous as its origin, as its national homelessness; a community of people with the same language, meaning, with one national, that is, linguistic identity, with a uniqueness that was formed early on by the mystical triple forces comprised of God, primeval creation, and agriculture – with a more or less share history, particularly if one views it in the emotional space between the imperial manifestos of Catherine the Great and the banishment by Stalin .”
The author shares: “Russian Germans is the term and not the least of all because the German colonists – with the sole exception of the Mennonites – over the centuries were commonly but falsely collectively described as Swabians (Schwoba). Just as the Siebenbürgers were termed Saxons, and the Germans in America were called the Palatinates, while in Poland they were again called Swabians.”
About the Author
Bernd G. Längin (1941 – 2008) was born in Karlsruhe, Germany. He spent much of his life in Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada. His publications have appeared in German language magazines, Globus, and Merian Monatschefte. In 1988, Bernd Längin became a correspondent for CBC Radio Canada International. He had a deep interest about the heritage and culture of the Germans from Russia in the Dakotas. His dream was to see this book translated and published in the English language. The book is a wonderful tribute to his important work as a journalist and writer.
Längin had a particular interest in the Amish, Hutterites and Mennonite German communities. He wrote more than twenty-four books in his lifetime. He traveled the world many times and dedicated his life to the impact that leaving Europe and German in particular had on its many emigrants.
The wife of Bernd Längin of Winnipeg, Christiane Längin, donated his important personal library for the Bernd G. Längin Collection at the NDSU Libraries’ Germans from Russia Heritage Collection.
Further biographical information about Bernd G. Längin is at http://library.ndsu.edu/grhc/outreach/friends/index.htm