The German Colonists of Russia: The Repeal of Russia's Law of the Colonists in 1871 and its Effects on the German Colonist Population

Book review by Marion Mertz

Scholz, Harry G. The German Colonists of Russia: The Repeal of Russia’s Law of the Colonists in 1871 and it’s Effects on the German Colonist Population. Chapman College, 1969.

Germans from Russia Heritage Collection DK 34. G3 S35 1984. (not available on interlibrary loan).

In this thesis, written as a requirement for the Master of Arts Degree in History, the author, Harry A. Scholz, recounts the Law of 1763 in which Catherine II, Empress of
Russia, gave special dispensation to German citizens in exchange for their agreement to colonize the Russian steppes.

That law was repealed in 1871 by Alexander II, and the author examines the effects of that repeal on the German settlers who had enjoyed its benefits for over 100 years. This repeal changed the lives of approximately 900,000 German colonists.

The old Russia had created the German settlements. One hundred years had passed and the Germans, isolated on the steppes, had, with the passage of time, become the envy of the Russians because of their prosperity. They also were conspicuous because of their foreign appearance and practices. Russian hostility toward Germany was increasing in 1871. Russia did not trust the German Reich. Russians wanted Russia for the Russians.

The German colonists objected to consequent efforts to "Russify" them, and saw no benefit in becoming Russians, giving up the material and cultural advantages they had enjoyed under the old law. Voices from overseas beckoned the restless colonists. Canada, the United States, and South America, with their vast lands open to immigrant settlement, offered viable solutions to their predicament.

Several appendixes and an extensive bibliography provide statistics for reference.
Much of the bibliography is German in origin. The Manifesto of Catherine II is reproduced in part, and some quotes in German are not translated into English. The print is well spaced and readable in spite of the blurred lettering.

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