Researching the Germans from Russia

Annotated Bibliography of the Germans from Russia Heritage Collection

Compiled by Michael M. Miller

Published by the North Dakota Institute for Regional Studies, North Dakota State University Libraries, Fargo, ND, 1987, 224 pages, softcover.

The story of the Germans from Russia had its beginning in 1763 when Catherine II, a former princess of the principality of Anhalt-Zerbst, was Empress of Russia. In possession of large tracts of virgin land along the lower course of the Volga River in Russia, Catherine issued a manifesto inviting foreigners to settle in Russia and turn this region into productive agricultural land and populate the area as a protective barrier against the nomadic Asiatic tribes who inhabited the region.

The Seven Years War had just ended in 1763 and whole regions in Germany lay devastated. Poverty was widespread. Many Germans emigrated at this time to other lands including Russia. Approximately 300 mother colonies were founded throughout Russia during the settlement years, and as the population grew, more acreage had to be acquired for the landless. Eventually there were more than 3000 ethnic settlements in Russia.

Their schools and churches provided instruction in their native language, German. Life was generally good for the colonists and they maintained the distinct customs, dress, musical tastes, and dialects of their ancestral homelands.

However, in 1871, Tsar Alexander II revoked their preferential rights and privileges and the colonists, as a result, were reduced to the level of the Russian peasants. In 1872 as emigration movement to the United States, Canada, and South America was set in motion which continued more or less unabated until the outbreak of World War I.

The first settlement of the German-Russians in the Middle West, specifically Dakota Territory, occurred in the spring of 1873. As more and more immigrant Black Sea Germans continued to arrive in Dakota Territory in search of land, their homesteads spread in 1884 into what is now North Dakota. Eventually, their homesteads were located in all arable parts of North Dakota. As a result, North Dakota numbers twice as many Germans from Russia as does any other state in the United States.

Researching the Germans from Russia is an annotated bibliography of the Germans from Russia Heritage Collection (GRHC), North Dakota State University Libraries, Fargo. GRHC is the most comprehensive and detailed annotated bibliography in the United States and Canada of books and materials about the Germans from Russia.

Listed in the publication are books on the Black Sea Germans, Hutterites, Mennonites, Vohlynian Germans, Volga Germans, and Germans from Russia in the two Dakotas and throughout the United States. Also included are church histories, literature, folklore, sound recordings, cassette tapes, community and county histories for North Dakota, family histories, maps, newspapers, census material, cookery, and periodicals.

A title index, name index, and a colony-district index provide easy access to the publication. Photographs are found throughout.

Professor Timothy J. Kloberdanz writes in the preface to Researching the Germans from Russia, "As the mere size of this bibliography attests, the Germans from Russia Heritage Collection is one of the largest archives of its kind in the New World. One greatly envies the new researcher who, hungry for information about the Germans from Russia, will discover this annotated bibliography for the first time."

Comments about the book:

"Miller's bibliography of the Germans from Russia Collection is something we have needed for a long time. Who are we? What is our background? These questions have been asked a thousand times, but until recently the answers were tucked away in obscure archives or remote foreign journals. Thanks to Mr. Miller we can now tap the European sources, if we wish, and survey the English language publications which have been appearing in remarkable large numbers."

-- Rev. William C. Sherman, Associate Professor of Sociology Emeritus, North Dakota State University, Fargo, author of Prairie Mosaic: An Ethnic Atlas of Rural North Dakota

"Searching for information on our ethnicity is made easier with this compilation of sources. This publication is essential for the entire spectrum of interest level in the Germans from Russia."

-- Dr. Armand Bauer, past editor of Heritage Review, Germans from Russia Heritage Society, Bismarck, North Dakota, author of German Russian Settlements in the United States

"The annotated bibliography constitutes for every scholar and lay person interested in the Germans from Russia that all important point of departure. In the publication we find as part of the annotation the crucial overview of what most of us need to begin. As a result of the wonderful organization into which the publications have been categorized, we can isolate and zero in on the specific information needed. The Institute deserves the highest congratulations for its endeavors."

-- Dr. La Vern J. Rippley, St. Olaf College, Northfield, Minnesota, Professor of German, author of German Russian Settlements in the United States and The Immigrant Experience in Wisconsin

About the compiler...

A native of Strasburg, North Dakota, Michael M. Miller grew up in the German-Russian community when its most famous native son, Lawrence Welk, was playing champagne music to America's audiences. Miller's grandparents immigrated to south central North Dakota from the colonies of Strassburg, Black Sea, South Russia, and Krasna, Bessarabia.

Miller has been a member of the staff of the North Dakota State University Libraries since 1967. He is Bibliographer for the Germans from Russia, North Dakota State University Libraries, Fargo. He has traveled extensively in Europe working closely with German-Russian societies in Germany as well as the two organizations in the United States. A graduate of Valley City State University, he has two master's degrees from the University of North Dakota.

John Schmaltz and family in front of his meat market in Strasburg, North Dakota, 1914. Photo courtesy of Emmons Country Historical Society, Linton, North Dakota
Marketplace before harvest in Tarutino, Bessarabia. Bildkalender 1973 Bessarabien: Heimat im Bild.
German-Russian farmers hauling their grain to market to the William H. Brown Company, Mandan, North Dakota, 1905. Brown Collection, State Historical Society of North Dakota.
Distant view of Holy Trinity Catholic Church, Krasna area, Emmons County, North Dakota, 1976, by Fred Schumacher, Dakota Photo Documentary Project, State Historical Society of North Dakota.

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Researching the Germans from Russia

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Permission to use any images from the GRHC website may be requested by contacting Michael M. Miller