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THE GERMANS FROM RUSSIA
Vernetzung zum deutschen Text

WHO ARE THE GERMANS FROM RUSSIA?

The Germans from Russia are an identifiable ethnic group of people whose movements as a group are traceable within historical context. These movements began in the Rhineland territories of present day Germany and France --the provinces referred to as Alsace, Rhineland-Pfalz, Baden and Wuerttemberg. The political and religious turmoil surrounding the Seven Years' War in Europe, the French Revolution and the Napoleanic era resulted also in severely depressed economic conditions for the German villages along the Rhine River during the last half of the 1700's and the early 1800's. This coincided with an era of an expansionist Russia acquiring territories from the Mongols along the Volga River, and from the Turks in the Black Sea region. Beginning with Catherine the Great in 1763 , and continuing with her grandson, Alexander I in 1804, Russia instituted a colonization program to develop and populate these new territories by attracting German farmers to these areas with a program of economic, religious and political incentives. More than a hundred thousand Germans made the 1700 mile trip to various districts in South Russia, founding more than 300 villages along the Volga River, along the Black Sea Coast, and in Crimea. My direct ancestors were among those referred to as "Black Sea Germans". The Weisses lived in Selz, along the Kutschurgan Liman. The Schafers lived in Crimea.

My Weiss and Schafer families lived in South Russia for just over a hundred years, before emigrating to Canada. In 1913 Grandfather Conrad Weiss filed for a homestead near Fox Valley, SK. In 1925 Grandfather Philip Schafer managed to get his family out of post-revolutionary Russia, and began farming in the Golden Prairie, SK district. Philip's mother, and eleven brothers and sisters had taken up homesteads nearby in 1911.

But their relatives who stayed behind in Russia were destined to endure even greater turmoil and even more re-locations. Those who survived the strife of the Russian Revolution, and the resulting Civil War, the famine of the 1930's, and the purges of 1937 and 1938 were forcibly up-rooted en masse from their villages during World War II. The Volga and Crimean Germans were exiled to Siberia by Stalin at the beginning of the war. The Black Sea Germans were ordered by Hitler in 1944 to abandon their homes and make the three and one-half month trek north and west to holding camps in Poland. As the Wehrmacht collapsed in 1945, millions of displaced Europeans fled before the advancing Red Army, trying to make their way into Western Germany. At the war's end, Stalin reclaimed all former Russian citizens according to the terms of the Yalta Agreement. Russia repatriated 350,000 ethnic Germans who had been living between the Dnieper and Dniester Rivers in present day Ukraine, and exiled them to prison labor camps in Siberia. They were shipped like cattle in rail-cars out of Germany beginning in May 1945.

The Germans spent ten years (1946-1956), along with hundreds of thousands of other Russian citizens, in forced labor camps, in isolation from the rest of the world. Krushchev's Amnesty finally allowed for limited mobility within Russia, but prevented them from returning to their original pre-war villages. After enduring the winters of Siberia, many of these Russian-Germans chose the warmer climate of Kazahkstan, encouraged also by the USSR's efforts to establish agriculture on the semi-arid Asian plains.

The years since the break-up of the Soviet Union in 1991 have seen a flood of applications as German people from the former USSR applied to immigrate into the Democratic Republic of Germany. A few have even returned to their original pre-war villages in Ukraine.

This map shows that part of Alsace from which Michael Fetsch departed for South Russia in 1808. Michael's family was from Niederlauterbach, but he married in Neeweiler, shown here in the extreme north-east corner formed by the Rhine River. Today this region is part of France, with Germany to the east across the Rhine.

The migration east and south from the Rhineland to the Black Sea covered 1700 miles, and took 3 to 4 months.

RESEARCH RELATED LINKS:

http://www.grhs.org
http://www.grhs.org/rig/krig/
http://www.grhs.org/rig/crimea/
http://www.glueckstal.org
http://www.lib.ndsu.nodak.edu/grhc/index.html

http://www.deutscheausrussland.de/
http://www.russlanddeutschegeschichte.de/ This latter is an excellent site.

Map credits this section: Dr. Karl Stumpp, maps available through GRHS, Rand McNally World Atlas, 2002 2003 Saskatchewan Highway Map, Canada