Lillia Belousova (center) assists Wally Duchscher, Havre, MT (left) and Mary Jaeger Maranda (right) with documents of the Kutschurgan villages.

The Odessa Region State Archives, Odessa, Ukraine

Presentation by Lilia Belousova, Researcher for English language, Odessa State Archives
Presented on June 2, 1998 for the Journey to the Homeland Tour members

This institution is 77 years old but its real history began in the 1830s of 19th century, when Apollon Skalkovsky, the famous local historian and Director of Statistics Committee, found and delivered to the Governor 200 year-old records. It was the documents of Zaporozsky Cossacks that started the beginning of the historical department in Governor's Archives.

During that time, there was not adequate state control of the archives to prevent many do

cuments from being lost during the wars, revolutions, and natural calamities. Even scholars couldn't use valuable historical sources because of restricted admittance to use them.

Since 1918, all valuable records are under protection of the State. The Odessa Archives was organized in 1920 with twenty collections. Today, 10,000 archival collections are here with more than two million files. The documents of various political offices, institutions, estates, schools, churches, and famous persons reflect the political, economic and cultural life of the South Ukrainian Region for 200 years.

Some of these documents, directly dealing with the history of Russian-Germans, are worthy of special attention.

Record 6: South Russian Foreign Settlements' Guardian Committee
Record 252: South Russian Foreign Settlers' Odessa Office

The Guardian Committee was founded in 1800 for governance over foreign colonies in New Russia (South Russia) since 1833, its Main Office was placed in Odessa. This office had three subordinate offices in Odessa, Ekaterynoslav and Kishinev. After the Guardian Committee was abolished in 1871, the Odessa Office continued from 1814 till 1834, where more than sixteen thousand files remained. These institutions had many duties such as: registering newcomers, delivery of passports, loans, various certificates, assistance in business, etc. Therefore, to be good mediators between German communities and the Russian world, which was so large, unknown and strange for foreigners, these records are always of great interest for scholars. The first foreign researcher, who studied them in 1927, was Georg Leibrandt, the professor from Stuttgart (Germany).

These archival collections contain passports, allotments given to colonists for entrance to Russia, directives to be included to certain colonies, to collect for allotments, to travel abroad for meeting their relatives and getting inheritances, etc.

Plans of various colonies;
Example: 1. Gross-Liebenthal (1824, #6-1-1657) was founded in 1803. The Russian government was very interested in attraction of Germans to settle close to Odessa. The first Odessa administrator, Duke de Richelieu, hoped to provide the city with colonists' fruits, vegetables and butter. But, the Russian officials didn't provide newcomers suitable quarters for winter. The colonists, who arrived before October, could prepare for winter and had comparatively easy life. Those who arrived later often fell ill and died.

After the bitter winter, some Germans returned to their homeland. Others, like a group from Gross-Liebenthal, lodged complaints. They told, that officials had packed them into crumbling buildings "like herring". Even worse, when some of the leaders tried to make their protest heard, they were physically beaten. The colonists were supposed to receive a daily allotment of forty kopecks per person, but were lucky to get ten kopecks.

Mysterious diseases ravaged the settlements. In one small colony, 150 persons died in a single day during February 1805. The Duke de Richelieu personally visited the devastated town and successfully restored the morale of the settlers. The colonists called him "Father".

2. The foreign passport given to the colonists of Gross-Liebenthal, Karl and Johann Zanzenbachers (1847, #6-2-9358-17, 18) to go to Wurttemberg and visit their relatives. They came to Russia in 1819. The history of the family is very interesting, from poor colonists to rich and famous merchants. One of them, the son of Johann, was the most industrious and enterprising. Wilhem was a man of character, recognized "self-made man". When he was twenty years old, he began to purchase property in Odessa; thus at the end of the 19th century, he was known as owner of four industrial works. Everyone in Odessa knew the famous Zanzenbacher's fragrant soap, candles and waterglass. He was the prominent entry in the records of Volost (District) and Village (Rural) Administration. These 19 records with 4,806 files are very valuable and interesting too. They contain information about the governance and economic state of colonies, their inhabitants.
The most typical documents are:

- certificates issued to settlers to get their passports. (these certificate includes information

about age, signature and sometimes members of person's family)
- lists of colonists;
- records about guardianships under orphans;
- decisions of peasants' meetings on various questions: elections of elders,firemen,
shepherds; education; some problems with getting inheritances, payment of taxes, etc.
- lists of men due for military enlistment (include information about birth date and members
of persons' family)
- birth, marriage and death entries;
- inventories of personal property and dowry.

Here are some examples about elections in Kandel and Gross-Liebenthal: the oath of the village mayor Valentin Roth to fulfil his duties according to laws, honesty and for the benefit of the community. Another document, the list of voters, shows that there were two candidates who wanted to be firemen; but the colonists of Liebenthal preferred candidate "N.", who the majority wrote only his name in the middle column of the election list (#53-1-233a-14; #67-1-100).

Another Example:
The lithograph of "Grunau" was printed in (date obscured). The picture of this German (Mennonite) colony is picturesque: straight clean streets with lines of trees, neat cottages, trim fences and bursting granaries. It was typical for German colonies in general. The colonists came to empty steppes; however, persistency and industry paid rewards. They produced wheat, grew fruits and vegetables, raised cattle and engaged in small manufacture.

Among the records, we found these water-color paintings depicting the harvester binder and the apparatus for annihilation of locusts. These insects were a serious problem for peasants in South Ukraine; hordes of these big black grasshoppers appeared unexpectedly and flew down on fields, destroying crops at once. There was a special state committee for struggle against locusts. Obviously, colonists attempted to create their own systems of defense. The travelers who visited the Germans, described them as humane, hard-working, abstinent people, who called their colonies an "oasis (paradise) on the steppe".


Religion played a very important role in the life of emigrants. The German Lutherans and Roman Catholics made up the entire population of Klein-Liebenthal and Josephsthal, two colonies established in 1804. Forty-four families arrived in the first year in Klein-Liebenthal and 116 persons in Josephsthal. They passed their first winter in Odessa. The Duke de Richelieu gave them employment and sent for a German-speaking pastor, since all the Catholic priests in the city of Odessa were Italian and spoke no German.

The pastor who came to serve them, Joseph Korizky, has left a description of the settlement's difficult early days. The air was humid, with stiff winds from the sea. The lack of forests meant a shortage of firewood, so the Germans burned seaweed to warm themselves and to cook their food. Snakes and rats infested their huts and fields. In early October 1815, more than 1,000 German colonists were reported ill, most from unknown diseases. Another German pastor, Schabel, reported in 1815: "I found the poor colonists in total desperation. Hundreds of them were dying of hunger and cold." And yet the colonies survived. Sometimes, belief in God was their only support.

Fortunately for us, some church records escaped destruction. I refer to the records of St. Paul's Evangelical Lutheran Church Parish in Odessa and St.Peter's Rome-Catholic Church Parish in Odessa. The first record (#630) contains 357 files for years 1811-1925, listing registration books of parishioners; birth, death, marriage and confirmation entries of Odessa and surrounding German colonies of Guldendorf, Lustdorf, Freudenthal, Petersthal, Annenthal and others; certificates given to different persons; and reports of priests, etc. The second record (#628) includes only 4 files for years 1814-1919, since the remaining records were lost.

1. The Register of Births of Guldendorf for 1851-1859 (#630-1-139a). This book helped to solve the riddle connected with genealogy of the Schaffers, the ancestors of Connie Schaeffer Knight. I have met her in May, 1996 in this room. She traveled with her father as participants of the Journey to the Homeland Tours; and after excursion she expressed her desire to research with records of Kandel Village administration herself.

We together checked on files in hopes to find her grandfather, Andreas Schaffer. The day came to an end, but we had no results. We found many Schaffers but there was no Andreas among Kandel residents. The next day we were more fortunate; his name was in the list of debtors and we were rewarded at last!. Suddenly Connie become thoughtful and said, "What a strange man my grandfather was! He never attended peasants' meetings, didn't pay taxes and didn't want to serve in Army". When parting, I promised her to finish our research. I told my colleagues about this inquiry, and all of them tried to help. Once they directed my attention on the Guldendorf Register, what unexpected discoveries: numerous Schaffers and Andreas were found. Perhaps he moved from Guldendorf to Kandel.

2. The records about Pastor Bonnekemper (#2-2-914), who after graduation from the college in Kiev, went to the USA to continue his training. He received seminary degrees, returned to South Russia and asked to send him to some German colony. Rohrbach became the place of his new residence.

3. Peter Martzinkevich (#252-1-316), Jesuit, Order of Karmelites, was the only priest in Beresan district in 1821 and had to perform occasional religious rites with all colonists, but refused to do that with Lutherans. He even said, "I shall not go to Rastadt and Munchen colonists, only if they kick the bucket (die)!". Martzincevich was accused in fanatical spreading of Catholicism, before transferred from Landau to Mannheim.

German Community In Odessa

There were many reasons for some colonists to leave their colonies and move to a large cosmopolitan city as Odessa: for better earnings, training, etc. Odessa was the capital of the New Russia, the center of education, science and cultural life. The German community in Odessa had its own traditions, however.

In 1861, the German Society "Harmonia" was founded. Their aim was to keep national ethnic traditions, to contribute to upbringing young Germans, to make life more enriched in content and beauty. Many musical parties, performances were organized, many people received moral and material support (#2-1-584).

So was the German Club in Odessa (1908-1915, #2-7-230)

The Germans engaged in making wagons, shoes, clothes, watches, etc. But for what they were most noted was their printing technology. The lithography advances by Gross, Munster, Braun, the Printing-house of Nitsche were well-known in New Russia (#89-1-1567).

About education: When the Germans came to Ukraine, opportunity was a difficult time. The main struggle was to survive. I found the records showing that the colonists didn't let their children visit schools, because the children worked much and helped their parents to keep households. But as time passed into the end of the 19th century we found many Germans among the students of the Novorossiysky (New Russia) University, the only institution of higher education in Odessa region at that time. They tried to register in 1909. Some students gave their application to the City Mayor to allow them a funding of the Teutonic Society "Teutoniu Euxina" (#2-7-350). The initiators were....

Here are excerpts from the University's records: Research this gentle, kind and noble young man. He is a student of Jurisprudence department, Boris Falz-Fein (#45-5-13478). He is well-educated, a real gentleman, and fourth generation of the family. The history of Falz-Feins is a bright example for anyone who wishes to reach success. The first generation was Johann Fein. He was forced to leave Wurttemberg because of violent conflict with his army commander, (He shoot at him and was wounded). Fein arrived to New Russia at the end of the 18th Century

Johann Fein had a great desire to became a rich and independent farmer. In spite of his terribly cold first winter in New Russia, he didn't give up. Without help of community, he lived alone for a long time in the Crimea steppe, studied local conditions, weather, way of life in that region and made his farm the best functioning model. He learned to defend his sheep herds from windy storms; find water in the hot steppe, and overcame winter periods. Johann married Elisabeth Pfalz on condition that her father would change family name of Pfalz (it sounded clumsy, he considered) into melodious Falz and get permission to carry the double-name Falz-Fein, like Russian nobles. Johann Pfalz did it. Czar Alexander II gave that exclusive privilege because of great services of both families.

Their grandson Friedrich became more famous, he founded the largest open-air Zoo in the world, Ascania Nova. Czar Nickolay II visited the zoo, was impressed with results and raised the whole family to the nobility. During the Russian Revolution of 1917, they left Russia. Today, Baron Edward von Falz-Fein, one of the last male descendants, is living in the Principality of Lichtenstein. He is a businessman, well-known in the world of sports and international trade. He always won awards in international exhibitions with golden medals and stars in Cologne, Madrid, Moscow, Saint Petersburg and Odessa.

But the last project, his "swan -song ", was the brewery, founded in 1890 as really remarkable: the newest modern equipment from Germany, France, England and even USA (the Firm "Gustav & Thompson") gathered wide attention. The brewery produced five types of beer; the best was "Kannenbier" in ceramic jugs. The daughter Ottilia and elder son Emil were expert assistants and partners. However, his younger son, Adolf, got into constant troubles. Being a waster, caused numerous debts and made Wilhelm unhappy.

The soap and beer king died in 1894, but his business is still alive. His children left Odessa after the Russian Revolution of 1917 and now the descendants live in Garnburg. Since the brewery transferred into a joint-stock Company "Gambrinus" two years ago, the results are very successful. These are all facts I know from archives files. We helped this company prepare materials for their history book and Museum of Beer.

Lists of colonists for various colonies exist for various years (newcomers, debtors, orphans, vaccinated peoples, and inhabitants, etc.).

Information about general welfare of colonies - statistical and personal lists of the births, death and marriages, especially about marriages and transfer of households in Beresan, Kutchurgan, Liebenthal, Glueckstal districts and Hoffnungsthal.

The Glückstal Colonies Research Association and the NDSU Libraries presented gifts of research books to the Odessa State Archives in May, 1998. Standing from left to right are: June M. Kraft, Bismarck, ND; Gerry Walth Sommer, Mesa, AZ; Duane W. Bittner, North Highlands, CA; Janice Huber Stangl, Sterling, VA; Lilia Belousova; and Vadim Vasilenko, Odessa researcher and born in the German village of Lustdorf.

Reprinted with permission of Lila Belousova, Odessa State Archives, Odessa, Ukraine.

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