Selz, Russia: Home Colony

By William C. Sherman

University of Mary Press, Bismarck, North Dakota, 2011, 32 pages, softcover.

Early in the 1800’s the Russian government invited German families to take land on the open steppe not far from Odessa on the Black Sea.

Beginning with a cluster of clay houses, a village grew up along the Kutschurgan River, which took the Alsatian name of Selz. Within several generations it became a thriving town, which served as a religious, cultural, and commercial center for a dozen smaller German communities. The population reached well over three thousand.

The communist Revolution, rising Russian nationalism, and two bloody world wars gave rise to enormous resentment. The Germans were seen as intruders. Religious persecution, Siberian exile, labor camps, and deliberate starvation darkened the atmosphere. Many fortunate ones had already migrated to the Americas and became pioneers in other open plains regions.

Today in Selz, no Germans remain. The town that remains is called Limanskoye. Ukrainian refugees from war-torn villages now occupy the good solid houses built by the Germans.

This small volume details the heroic and sad moments of the German past. Only memories remain. But with the fall of Communism, some historical details have become available. For thousands of Americans and Canadians who see the name Selz in their genealogies, this book will fill in details about the world their ancestors built and what happened to their relatives who were not fortunate enough to get to the New World.

Main street of Selz, North Dakota, circa, 1922
Catholic Church of the Assumption, Selz, Russia.
The Selz church as seen by German soldiers in 1942. Its towering spires are gone, and the building was being used as a granary.

About the Author

William C Sherman is a Catholic priest and professor emeritus in Sociology at North Dakota State University. He is also the author of Prairie Mosaic co-author of Plains Folk; Prairie Peddlers: Syrian Lebanese in North Dakota; Valerian Paczek; Priest, Soldier, and Quiet Hero; and Wagons North: Minnesota to Oregon.

Selz, Russia: Home Colony

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