German Genealogy: Russia

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GERMANS IN RUSSIA and other C.I.S. States
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Contents:
General Information Societies Genealogical and Historical Records Gazetteers and Maps Bibliography and Literature Archives and Libraries Miscellaneous Other Internet Resources

General Information
This page covers most of the vast region of the former Soviet Union. It specifically excludes the Baltic States (Eastonia, Latvia, and Lithuania). Everything to the east of Poland and the Baltic States is included. One small region of Romania (BESSARABIA) is also included. Specific regions included in this scope are: - Bessarabia - Black Sea Colonies - Caucasus - Crimea - Kazakhstan - Siberia - Ukraine - Volga Region - Volhynia You may see references to Polish Volhynia, Russian Volhynia, or Ukrainian Volhynia. Such references only apply to the time period between World Wars I and II. Description of the research area: Hundreds of thousands of Germans have lived in the vast Russian regions for hundreds of years. The largest concentrations were in the Volga River Region, the Black Sea region, Bessarabia, and Volhynia. Smaller settlements existed in the Baltic area near St. Petersburg and the Caucaus. Later, many of these same Germans were exiled to the east and thus have connections to Kazakhstan and Siberia. Most of these Germans were LUTHERAN and MENNONITE. Other religions represented included JEWS, ROMAN CATHOLICS, BAPTISTS, REFORMED, and MORAVIAN. They had origins in

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German Genealogy: Russia

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many different German states. Some came from other east European countries like Poland and Hungary. History: Because of the extensive size of the Russian nation, the history of the Germans within it is varied and complex. Germans had lived in various parts of the Russian empire for centuries so perhaps the best way to describe their history is through a description of the migration waves that occurred. In 1763, Catherine II (Catherine the Great, German born empress of Russia) sent agents into the German states for the purpose of recruiting settlers. These colonists were to develop the fertile, uncultivated agricultural lands southeast of Moscow, specifically along the VOLGA River. There were several promises that made this offer attractive to the Germans: freedom from various forms of taxes and customs duties, self government for the towns, freedom of religion, and freedom from military service, to name a few. It is easy to see how attractive this would be to Germans who were suffering from widespread poverty, malnutrition, and unemployment brought on by feudal infighting, wars, religious persecution, and the general politics of the day. The extent of this migration was so great (4000 families in 1767 alone) that further migration was forbidden by the German Emperor Joseph II. Migration to the VOLGA effectively ended at this time. During these 4 years it is estimated that over 25,000 Germans migrated primarily from Hesse and the southwest states but nominally from other areas as well. In the next few years, Catherine the Great expanded Russian territory dramatically by conquering Turkish controlled land to the south and Polish land to the west. Catherine again wanted Germans to help in developing her new territories, especially around the north side of the BLACK SEA. This time she turned to the Mennonites of West Prussia. Mennonites are a pacifist denomination. Frederick William II was demanding payment of heavy fines in lieu of military service and forced the Mennonites to pay tithes to the established Lutheran Church on earlier land purchases from Lutherans. They were particularly attracted to Russia by the offer of freedom from military service. In 1789, 228 Mennonite families arrived at Chortitza on the Dnieper River. They had been preceeded to the general region by a smaller group of Lutherans. The Mennonite migration continued into the area for another 80 years with thousands more families answering the call. Thousands of other Germans followed the Mennonites. Lutherans and Catholics began flooding into the area, starting particular after the Napoleonic wars (1803 through 1810). They not only came from the southwest German states but also from West Prussia, Hungary, and Poland. Hundreds of German colonies sprang up in a semi circle around Odessa, now in the UKRAINE. Another war with Turkey brought Russia more territory, the region of BESSARABIA on the west side of the Black Sea. By 1816, over 1500 German families moved into this area, most of them from Poland. Migration continued with population increases coming from Baden, Wuerttemberg, Hesse, and Alsace. Further colonization took place north of the Sea of Azov, in the CRIMEA, and the CAUCASUS. In VOLHYNIA, early German settlement was sporadic. One of the first colonies was at Koretz in 1783. A few Mennonite agricultural villages were established prior to 1793 but most of them moved on to the Black Sea region within a few decades. The first permanent settlement came in 1816 but significant migration into Volhynia did not occur until the 1830s. The migration to Volhynia occurred under vastly different circumstances than that to other parts of the Russian empire. Polish landlords who had retained land after the Russian occupation were looking for qualified farmers to develop and farm their land. No special priviliges were extended to these immigrants except for that which could be provided by the local nobility. It was the shortage of land in their old homes that drove most of the Germans into this region. By 1860, there were only about 5000 in 35 small villages. Then, with the abolition of serfdom in 1861 and the failed Polish Insurrection of 1863, Germans began to flood into this area. By 1871, there were over 28,000 and by the turn of the century, over 200,000 lived in Volhynia. Most of them had

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German Genealogy: Russia

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come from Poland with a minority from Wuerttemberg, Pomerania, East Prussia, Silesia, and Galicia. Russian politics changed dramatically over these 100 years and it wasn't long before the Germans starting loosing the freedoms and privileges extended to them. The Mennonites were first to leave in large numbers. They were being forced to provide military service to the Russians so in the 1870s, thousands of them moved on to both North and South America. Persecution continued with Germans losing their right to language and property ownership so many more soon followed them. Animosity towards the Germans peaked during World War I with most being expelled eastward to KAZAKHSTAN and SIBERIA. Some made it back to their homelands after the war. Others stayed in these new areas, hoping to establish a new life. Still others escaped eastward through China and on to Australia and the Americas. After World War II, the Germans were no longer allowed back to their homelands. They were forced to stay in the east or in some cases were expelled back to Germany. [Primary historical source: From Catherine to Kruschev, The Story of Russia's Germans; by Adam Giesinger; Published by the American Historical Society of Germans from Russia] [Top of document]

Genealogical Societies
AHSGR the American Historical Society of Germans from Russia demonstrates expertise in the VOLGA, SIBERIA, and KAZAKHSTAN regions but also serves all the other areas including the BLACK SEA region, BESSARABIA, and VOLHYNIA. They have a TOPICAL INDEX available on the Odessa Pixel Library. GRHS the Germans from Russia Heritage Society focuses on the BLACK SEA and BESSARABIAN Germans but also helps those from the CAUCASUS, CRIMEA, and VOLHYNIA. Their TOPICAL INDEX is also on the Odessa Pixel Library. WANDERING VOLHYNIANS is not yet a society but offers a magazine which serves the Germans from VOLHYNIA and Congress Poland. Because it is an English language magazine, its readership is primarily North American but it is gaining significant recognition in Germany and other parts of the world as a primary resource. The Odessa Pixel Library maintains a TOPICAL INDEX for them too. A good place to start MENNONITE research is with the MENNONITE INDEX. Another good site in Winnipeg, Manitoba is MENNONITE HERITAGE CENTRE. Research for German JEWS in Russia is supported by the general Jewish genealogy groups. A good place to start is the JEWISH GENEALOGICAL SOCIETY OF ROCHESTER, NY. LANDSMANNSCHAFT DER DEUTSCHEN AUS RUSSLAND, an organization that supports Germans with both Volga and Black Sea region origins. [Top of document]

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Genealogical and Historical Records
Church Records Lutheran Germans who were expelled from BESSARABIA during World War II brought their church records with them. These have been microfilmed and are readily available through the Family History Centers of the LDS church. If information is missing there, it may appear in a duplicate set contained in the St. Petersburg Consistory microfilm series. Only the duplicate set of St. Petersburg Consistory records is available for Lutherans of the BLACK SEA region. The Odessa Pixel Library holds the results of an on-going Extraction Program for this area. Church records for the eastern VOLGA, KAZAKHSTAN, and SIBERIA regions are not readily available. Wandering Volhynians magazine offers lists of LDS microfilm numbers primarily applicable to Lutherans from VOLHYNIA and Congress Poland. Except for a few years of original records available for the Rozhischche parish, the only Volhynia information is from the St. Petersburg Consistory microfilms. Civil Registration Records Extraction of data from recently obtained census lists of the VOLGA region is an on-going project of the American Historical Society of Germans from Russia. Various individuals are making contact with local archives in Odessa, Zhitomir, Rowno, and other locations with the revealation that there is much significant information to be found. However, the data is not readily available due to poor cataloguing and maintenance systems in these archives. This is slowly changing with the new freedoms and openness of the emerging east. [Top of document]

Gazetteers and Maps
Gazetteers Gazetteers are not readily available for these areas but all the Societies have extensive village lists and other resources for assisting in locating German settlements. One such is Index to Place Names Found in From Catherine to Khrushchev by Adam Giesinger, compiled by Robert and Margaret (Zimmerman) Freeman, 1986 Atlases and Maps Extensive and detailed maps covering German settlements in most of these regions have been prepared by and are available through the American Historical Society of Germans from Russia. The different Societies publish detailed village maps of certain locations if resources allow. Detail maps of Volhynia and Congress Poland are also available through Wandering Volhynians. A variety of East European maps are available on line from the FEEFHS MAP ROOM In North America, there is at least one commercial resource for European historical and

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genealogical maps including the following. Details can be found at Genealogy Unlimited. 1:200,000 As far east as Kiew / Odessa 1:300,000 East Prussia, Pomerania, Silesia, Upper Silesia 1:25,000 & 1:100,000 German Empire of 1871 1:300,000 to 1:4,000,000 Euro-Reisatlas Russland (modern road map book) [Top of document]

Bibliography and Literature
Bibliography - Historical and Genealogical Many books are available for the general history of Germans in Russia as well as for detailed local regions. They are often available through the various societies mentioned above. Primary resources include the following: Die Auswanderung aus Deutschland nach Russland in den Jahren 1763 bis 1862 (Also available in English under the title: The Emigration From Germany to Russia in the Years 1763-1862), Karl Stumpp / American Historical Society of Germans From Russia - Lincoln, Nebraska From Catherine to Khruschev, The Story of Russia's Germans, Adam Giesinger / American Historical Society of Germans From Russia - Lincoln, Nebraska 1981 Die neiderlaendisch-niederdeutschen Hintergruende der mennonitischen Ostwanderungen im 16., 18. und 19 Jahrhundert, Benjamin H. Unruh / Karlsruhe, Deutschland: Im Selbstverlag 1955 Bessarabien-Heimatbücher [Top of document]

Archives and Libraries
Archives HEIMATMUSEUM DER DEUTSCHEN AUS BESSARABIEN is an archival repository for Germans from BESSARABIA. ODESSA DIGITAL LIBRARY contains extensive downloadable resource files for all of German Russian research. [Top of document]

Miscellaneous
Calendar Russia adopted the Gregorian Calendar in 1918, February 14 followed February 1. Customs Events

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AHSGR 1998 National Convention, June 14-21, Wichita, Kansas Publishers Professional Researchers This section under construction. [Top of document]

Other WWW Internet resources
Mailing Lists: GER-RUS2: This listserv offers on-line contact with other Germans from Russia. It operates like a newsgroup through your email system. To subscribe at no cost, send regular email to: listserv@listserv.nodak.edu. Leave the subject line blank. In the message area, type:
subscribe ger-rus2 [first name][last name]

BESS-GR: Offers on-line contact with other Germans from Bessarabia. Send regular email to: listserv@listserv.nodak.edu. Leave the subject line blank. In the message area, type:
subscribe BESS-GR [first name][last name]

FEEFHS, the Federation of East European Family History Societies, is an umbrella organization which includes data pages for other areas that your Germans from Russia may have migrated from or to. E-MAIL Master Listing of Germans from Russia Kutschurgan Web Site [Top of document] Last update: 31-Aug-97 (rmh) Please forward any comments and additions to this WWW-page to Jerry Frank, email: jfrank@cadvision.com or to: WebMaster

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