Last Update July 13 2021
Medicine Hat and District
Germans from Russia Society
Germans from Russia
Medicine Hat & District Genealogical Society
Branch Library Research Guide
Hopefully, this guide will help our Germans from Russia (GFR) researchers more easily locate people and resources to help them with their research. Along with library resources such as books, maps, CDs, VHS tapes, journals, and magazines, helpful Branch computer book-marked websites will be listed. Since families are traced back from Russia to Germany, German resources and websites are also included. In addition, by listing the available Branch library GFR resources, areas where there is a lack of resources will be discovered. In the future, books or CDs that cover these areas can be purchased when funds become available.
Brief History of the Germans from Russia
On July 22, 1763, EMPRESS KATHERINE II of Russia issued a Manifesto inviting foreign colonists to Russia. It was hoped that the settlers would till new Russian lands and provide protection against Eastern tribes. A few settlers arrived in response to the first Manifesto dated December 4, 1762. The 1763 Manifesto gave settlers freedom of religion, no taxation for a period of years, and freedom from being drafted into the military or civil service. In addition, settlers were given free land and transportation along with loans to purchase needed supplies to build houses and farm the land.
Families from all over Western Europe, especially the German states, were recruited by special commissioners and native agents to leave their homelands and settle in the vast Russian lands. Seeking a better future with freedom from military service and wars, poor economic conditions, and political oppression, and religious freedom, large groups of German families, mainly from Hessen, arrived at assembly points from where they traveled to seaports, such as Lubeck and Danzig, where passage to Russia was provided. After crossing the Baltic Sea and landing at Kronstadt, the settlers journeyed to the lower Volga region, the site chosen by the Russian government. Several villages were also started in the St. Petersburg area. According to The German Colonies on the Lower Volga by Gottlieb Beratz, 8000 families arrived in the Volga region from 1764 to 1767. North and south of Saratov on the Volga, 104 VOLGA GERMAN villages were founded.
MENNONITES formed the six Belowesch villages in Southern Russia in 1766. In 1789, a group of 228 families of Mennonites left West Prussia for religious and economic reasons to found eight villages by the Chortitza River. In 1804, Mennonite villages were founded by the Molotschna River also by families from West Prussia.
In 1770, about 70 German HUTTERITES seeking religious freedom settled in the Chernigov region on the estate of Count Peter Rumiantsev. Later on they started a new village near the Molotscha Mennonites.
ALEXANDER I, the grandson of Katherine II, desired settlers to cultivate the vast land areas captured from the Turks in the Black Sea region. Agents were sent to Germany to recruit settlers. To avoid undesirable emigrants, Alexander issued a decree on February 20, 1804, which instructed immigration agents to recruit only foreigners that would serve as model farmers and tradesmen. Freedoms guaranteed in Katherine's manifesto were repeated. To flee unfavorable taxes, constant wars, and religious restrictions, thousands of Germans left southwestern Germany, Hungary, Poland, and West Prussia for the Black Sea region. They reached this new land taking various land routes and rivers, such as the Danube and the Dniester. Adam Giesinger in ‘From Catherine to Khrushchev’, states that there were over 200 villages in this region by 1848. Nearly 10,000 German families came to found villages in the BLACK SEA region.
Starting in 1816, German settlers started arriving in Volhynia. In 1793, Russia had claimed the Polish province of VOLHYNIA. Landowners needing farmers to till their lands persuaded thousands of Germans to establish villages in this region. By 1871, they had founded 139 villages in Volhynia.