Volga Germans: history, surnames, lists, photos, traditions, customs, legends, deportation

Manifestos of Catherine II

In the years 1762-1763. Empress Catherine II signed two manifestos, thanks to which later Volga Germans appeared in Russia. These documents allowed foreigners to enter the empire, receiving benefits and privileges. The biggest wave of colonists came from Germany. Arrivals were temporarily exempted from tax duties. A special register was created, which included lands that received the status of free for settlement. If Volga Germans settled on them, they could not pay taxes for 30 years.

In addition, the colonists received a loan withoutpercent for a ten-year period. You could spend money on building your own new houses, buying livestock, food needed before the first harvest, inventory for working in agriculture, etc. The colonies were noticeably different from neighboring ordinary Russian settlements. They established internal self-government. State officials could not interfere in the life of the arriving colonists.

Volga Germans

Set of colonists in Germany

Preparing for the influx of foreigners into Russia, CatherineII (herself a German national) created the Office of Guardianship. It was headed by the favorite of the Empress Grigory Orlov. The Chancellery acted on a par with other colleges.

Manifestoes have been published on a variety of Europeanlanguages. The most intensive agitation campaign was launched in Germany (which is why the Volga Germans appeared). Most of the colonists were found in Frankfurt am Main and Ulm. Those wishing to move to Russia were sent to Lubeck, and from there, first to St. Petersburg. Not only government officials engaged in the recruitment, but also private entrepreneurs, who became known as callers. These people contracted with the Office of Guardianship and acted on its behalf. Callers founded new settlements, recruited colonists, ruled their communities and left part of their income from them.

New life

In the 1760's. by joint efforts, the callers and the state sagittised to move 30 thousand people. At first the Germans settled in St. Petersburg and Oranienbaum. There they swore allegiance to the Russian crown and became subjects of the empress. All these colonists moved to the Volga region, where Saratov province was later formed. In the first few years 105 settlements appeared. It is noteworthy that they all bore Russian names. Despite this, the Germans retained their identity.

The authorities undertook an experiment with the colonies forto develop Russian agriculture. The government wanted to check how Western norms of farming would get accustomed. Volga Germans brought with them to their new homeland a scythe, a wooden thresher, a plow and other tools that were unknown to Russian peasants. Foreigners began to grow up the potatoes that had not been known before. They also cultivated cannabis, flax, tobacco and other crops. The first Russian population was suspicious or vague about strangers. Today, researchers continue to study what legends went about the Volga Germans and what their relationship with the neighbors was.

Volga German history


Time has shown that the experiment of Catherine IIproved to be extremely successful. The most advanced and successful farms in the Russian village were settlements in which Volga Germans lived. The history of their colonies is an example of a stable prosperity. Growth of well-being due to effective farming allowed the Volga Germans to acquire their own industry. At the beginning of the 19th century, water mills appeared in the settlements, which became an instrument for flour production. The oil industry, the manufacture of agricultural implements and wool also developed. Under Alexander II in the Saratov Gubernia there were already more than a hundred tanneries, which the Volga Germans founded.

The story of their success is impressive. The appearance of the colonists gave impetus to the development of industrial weaving. Its center was Sarepta, which existed in the present borders of Volgograd. Enterprises for the production of shawls and fabrics used high-quality European yarn from Saxony and Silesia, as well as silk from Italy.


Confessional affiliation and traditionThe Volga Germans were not uniform. They came from different regions at a time when there was no united Germany and in each province there were separate orders. It touched on religion. The lists of the Volga Germans compiled by the Office of Guardianship show that among them were Lutherans, Catholics, Mennonites, Baptists, as well as representatives of other confessional currents and groups.

According to the manifesto, the colonists could buildown churches only in settlements where the non-Russian population was the overwhelming majority. The Germans who lived in large cities, for the first time such rights were denied. It was also forbidden to propagate Lutheran and Catholic teachings. In other words, in the religious policy, the Russian authorities gave the colonists just as much freedom as could not damage the interests of the Orthodox Church. It is curious that at the same time, the settlers could baptize Muslims according to their rite, and also make serfs out of them.

Many traditions and legends were associated with religionthe Volga Germans. Holidays, they celebrated the Lutheran calendar. In addition, the colonists had preserved national customs. Among them is the Harvest Festival, which is still celebrated in Germany itself.

pomolzhskie Germans photo

Under Soviet power

The Revolution of 1917 changed the lives of all citizensthe former Russian Empire. The Volga Germans were no exception. Photos of their colonies at the end of the Tsarist era show that the descendants of immigrants from Europe lived in a milieu isolated from their neighbors. They retained their language, customs and self-awareness. For many years the national question remained unresolved. But with the coming to power of the Bolsheviks, the Germans got a chance to create their own autonomy within Soviet Russia.

Desire of the descendants of the colonists to live in their ownthe subject of the federation was met in Moscow with understanding. In 1918, according to the decision of the Council of People's Commissars, an autonomous region of the Germans of the Volga region was established, which in 1924 was renamed the Autonomous Soviet Socialist Republic. Its capital was Pokrovsk, renamed Engels.

deportation of the Volga Germans


The work and customs of the Volga Germans allowed themcreate one of the most prosperous Russian provincial corners. The blow to their well-being were the revolutions and horrors of the war years. In the 1920s, there was some recovery, which took the greatest scale during the NEP.

However, in 1930 A campaign of dekulakization began throughout the Soviet Union. Collectivization and destruction of private property led to the most unfortunate consequences. The most efficient and productive farms were destroyed. Farmers, owners of small businesses and many other residents of the autonomous republic were repressed. At that time the Germans were under attack on a par with all the other peasants of the Soviet Union, who were driven to collective farms and deprived of their usual life.

customs of the Volga Germans

Hunger of the early 30's

Due to the destruction of the usual economic ties in thethe republic of the Germans in the Volga region, as in many other regions of the USSR, famine began. The population tried to save their situation differently. Some residents went to the demonstrations, where they asked the Soviet authorities to help supply food. Other peasants, finally disillusioned with the Bolsheviks, made attacks on the warehouses where the state-selected grain was kept. Another type of protest was the neglect of work on the collective farms.

Against the backdrop of such sentiments, the special services beganseek out "saboteurs" and "rebels", against which the most severe repressive measures were used. In the summer of 1932, hunger was already engulfing the city. Desperate peasants resorted to the plundering of fields with a still unripened crop. The situation stabilized only in 1934, when thousands of people died of starvation in the republic.


Although the descendants of the colonists in the first Soviet yearsexperienced a lot of trouble, they were of a general nature. In this sense, the Germans of the Volga region at that time hardly differed in their share from the ordinary Russian citizen of the USSR. However, the Great Patriotic War finally separated the inhabitants of the republic from the rest of the citizens of the Soviet Union.

In August 1941, it was decided,according to which the deportation of the Volga Germans began. They were exiled to Central Asia, fearing cooperation with the advancing Wehrmacht. The Germans of the Volga region were not the only people who survived the forced resettlement. The same fate awaited the Chechens, Kalmyks, Crimean Tatars.

legends of the Volga Germans

Elimination of the Republic

Together with the deportation,Autonomous Republic of the Germans of the Volga region. Parts of the NKVD were introduced into the territory of the USSR. Residents received an order within 24 hours to collect a few allowed things and prepare for resettlement. In total, about 440 thousand people were deported.

At the same time, persons liable for military service in Germanynationalities were removed from the front and sent to the rear. Men and women fell into the so-called labor armies. They built industrial enterprises, worked in mines and logging.

Life in Central Asia and Siberia

Mostly deported settled in Kazakhstan. After the war, they were not allowed to return to the Volga region and restore their republic. About 1% of the population of today's Kazakhstan considers themselves to be Germans.

Until 1956 the deportees were inspecial settlements. Every month they had to visit the commandant's office and put a mark in a special magazine. A significant part of the settlers settled in Siberia, finding themselves in the Omsk region, the Altai Territory and the Urals.

traditions of the Volga Germans


After the fall of communist power VolgaThe Germans finally got freedom of movement. By the end of the 80's. Only old-timers remembered life in the Autonomous Republic. Therefore, very few returned to the Volga region (mainly in Engels in the Saratov region). A lot of deported and their descendants remained in Kazakhstan.

Most of the Germans went tohistorical homeland. After the unification in Germany, they adopted a new version of the law on the return of their compatriots, an early version of which appeared after the Second World War. The document stipulated the conditions necessary for the immediate acquisition of citizenship. These requirements were also met by the Volga Germans. The names and language of some of them remained the same, which facilitated integration in the new life.

According to the law, citizenship was given to alldescendants of the Volga colonists. Some of them had long been assimilated with Soviet reality, but they still wanted to go west. After the authorities of Germany complicated the practice of obtaining citizenship in the 1990s, many Russian Germans settled in the Kaliningrad region. This region was formerly East Prussia and was part of Germany. Today in Russia there are about 500 thousand people of German nationality, 178 thousand more descendants of Volga colonists live in Kazakhstan.

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