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Alsace immigration to Russia

Alsace immigration to Russia



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Published by: carmenlynn3 on May 31, 2008
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 Home History Culture
The Alsace Emigration To Russia
From:Homeland Book of the Germans from Russia 1967/1968Revised by Joseph SchnurrPublished by Countrymen’s Alliance of Germans from RussiaThe Alsace Emigration to RussiaBy Dr. Joseph S. Height, Franklin, Indiana
 It is generally known that a significant number of Alsatians emigrated to Russia in 1803-1817. There were several Alsace villages in the Odessa district as one can clearlyrecognize by the location names of Straszburg, Elsasz, Seltz, Mariental and Sulz.Unknown to our countrymen were the particular circumstances and actual reasons thatgave rise to this emigration. Up to now one has been satisfied with the supposition andgeneral conclusions of other South German emigration areas. But as we shall see, therewere special circumstances and reasons in Alsace that were decisive factors.Through a lucky coincidence some years ago I found a scientific investigation report of the Russian emigration of the Alsatians released by the French Homeland Researcher PaulLeuilliot. It was published in 1930 in the “Revue Historique” under the title:“L'emigration Alsacienne.” I wish to hereby present to the readers of the Homeland Book a broader view found in the research article.It must be emphasized that the emigration was limited mostly to Lower Alsace. Cominginto question are mainly the districts of Weiszenburg, Hagenau and Zabern. Also the“Kantone” that bordered on South Pfalz and Nord Baden.That the districts of Weiszenburg and Hagenau were in particular so deeply involved inthe emigration is due to the economic and political situation existing in that time period.This area was particularly victimized in the Revolution years and therefore was muchpoorer than the other cantons in Lower Alsace.The trouble began when the Prussians and Austrians who, to support the Royalists, hadoccupied Lower Alsace from the Lauter to Moder before the year's end were driven back over the border by the Revolutionary army. With the retreat of the troops, the terrorizedinhabitants hurriedly fled from house and yard in panic and fright to cross the Rhine. Thatwas the “great flight” of 1793 during which at least 40,000 people became homeless.It was not until years later (1795-1798) that these so called “Emigrierten” [emigrated
Page 1of 4The NDSU Libraries: Germans From Russia4/14/2007http://www.lib.ndsu.nodak.edu/grhc/history_culture/history/height.html
persons] set foot on home soil again. But they never found their own homes. Thegovernment had sold their goods to those who remained and to new arrivals. Since thenew regime was “enemy-minded,” it was hard for them to reconcile with the changedconditions. Dispossessed, uprooted and discouraged, the farmers, once owners of goodsand property, now had to serve as hired men and field workers to earn their miserablebread.Employment opportunities were rare and unsure. Money was scarce and wages werehighly taxed. For those who returned there was no possibility of owning property since allcommunity property had been divided among those who remained. In addition there werethe abuses. The poor people complained about the unjust demands for outstanding taxes,the increased demands for contributions, and especially the severe strictness insupervising the community forest lands. Two citizens from Seltz, for instance, complainedin their own names as well as in the names of their fellow citizens about the government'sauthority to impose excessive punishment and fines for forest wantonness, particularly asto the strong prohibition against gathering the dead foliage in the community forests. "Weare not able to pay fines of up to thirteen to eighteen franks." The mayor of Seltz added:"We unconditionally need the dead foliage. We live on potatoes and cheese curds. If wedo not get foliage we cannot fertilize our potato fields." (March 17, 1808). When animmigrant from Lobsann was asked why he was leaving, he declared that he would notrisk not gathering firewood in the forest and then finding himself freezing to death in thecoming winter.A further complaint was about the cost of wood. Because of the speculation bymiddlemen and a senseless labor dispute between Weiszenburg and Speyer, the cost of lumber was tripled. A modest but diligent day laborer declared, for instance, that he wasleaving because lumber was so expensive that he could not build a house for himself.The real and deepest reason that convinced the Lower Alsatian to move was hisunshakeable desire to own ground. In an effort on the part of three emigrants fromRoppenheim, Schirrhoffen and Leutenheim to obtain travel visas, they protested that itwas not the spirit of dissatisfaction and not laziness that induced them to move away, butiron necessity. "We are farmers without land. We could be day laborers but those are sonumerous that each addition to their number only increases the need of the individualbecause the wages constantly get lower. In our communities the landed property is alreadydivided into small farms in such a manner that each family can handle its own essentialwork."The Straszburger Barrister Flaxland referred to "the massive parcelling out of commodities" and confessed that it was pointless to advise the emigrants to remain slaves,dig at the Napoleon Canal, or manage a trade because of a burning desire that drives themto emigrate. A married man cannot decide to serve as a hired man. As head of a family, hedoes not want to work for a boss and in case his share of community property is notenough, he would rather go to a foreign land where he is promised his own property. “Itis, therefor, not surprising that, for instance, on one list of thirty-one emigrants, the namesof ten so-called "servant small farmers," twenty day-laborers, and only a single craftsmanappeared.The Russian emigration of the Alsatians began in 1803 when the invitation of CzarPage 2of 4The NDSU Libraries: Germans From Russia4/14/2007http://www.lib.ndsu.nodak.edu/grhc/history_culture/history/height.html
Alexander was announced. During that year and the years following many families movedfrom Lauterecke to Odessa and settled in the four Catholic colonies in the Groszliebentaldistrict near Odessa and in the Krim [Crimea].Because of the war unrest caused by Napoleon, emigration was almost totally interrupted.Not until 1808 and 1809 did the swell of emigration develop. It spread not only over theWeiszburger and Haugenauer land, but also included the Südpfalz and the Dukedom of Baden. These emigrants became the settlers of the Catholic colonies in the Kutschurganerand Beresaner district. A considerable number of Alsatians of the Evangelical faith settledin the colonies of Worms and Rohrbach at that time.In spite of little attention being paid these emigrants in 1803, great attention was paid bythe government officials to the massive departures in 1808 and 1809. They observed nowthat the emigration fever attacked not only poor farmers and day laborers, but also well-established landlords and craftsmen who set out to move to the land of promise, "NewRussia.” As early as in the summer of 1808 more than 1,000 people moved afar from thedistrict of Weisenburg. That was only the beginning. Soon there was hardly a villagebetween the Lauter and the Moder where not at least one family had decided to emigrate.In the districts of Seltz and Lauterburg there were several villages from which thirty toforty families moved to Russia. In 1809 in the Dukedom of Baden more than 900emigrants were counted.The Alsatian government at that time was occupied with the question of whether theemigration was spontaneous or organized. As early as 1808 the "Präfekten" [governor] of Weisenburg knew that there were Russian agents in Rastatt and that foreign envoys werein contact with the inhabitants. The mayor of Seltz knew that the former postmaster atRastatt held meetings on a nearby hill and won many citizens over to emigration. Themayor of Kesseldorf gave his colleague in Seltz the news that an official from Rastattappeared in the Village Management Office to register the Alsacers as subjects of theGrand Duke. He had the printed Russian visas with him and announced that the emigrantsshould gather at the stone wall at Rastatt to begin the June 25th journey.Still better known is the Russian Organization. The Consul in Frankfort, a banker namedMaurice Bethmann was commissioned to provide the emigrants with visas and travelingmoney. And in Weifienburg in May of 1809 a certain Anton, previous Austrian Husar,was arrested because in public houses he openly delivered the emigration visas that wereobtained by Bethmann. It is not known whether flyers were used. It is certain that theletters of the earlier departed emigrants contributed much in promoting further emigration.For example: A citizen from Lobsann mentioned that he received a letter from a brother-in-law in the Krim [Crimea] with the information that destitute emigrants should go toVienna where the Russian ambassador would advance the money necessary to travel toRussia. Copies of these letters from Russia were even made and addressed to Rastattgeneral delivery. It is also known that between 1803 and 1808 Russian immigrantcolonists sent many letters to relatives and friends back in the old homeland. Some of these letters were intercepted upon arrival and held by the Alsatian authorities. There was,for instance, the letter that Johann-Adam Hieb wrote in 1808 to his brother-in-law, GeorgeKoch, saying, “I am writing to you, my brother-in-law, to ask you to come to this landwith your family and all relatives whose circumstances permit it. Here we are providedPage 3of 4The NDSU Libraries: Germans From Russia4/14/2007http://www.lib.ndsu.nodak.edu/grhc/history_culture/history/height.html

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