22 July 2017

On This Day, 22 July 1763, Catherine the Great's Manifesto Issued

Today is a big day in Germans from Russia history. It's the day it all began. The day that would change the course our ancestors' lives and of history.

It's the anniversary of Catherine the Great's issuance of her second Manifesto inviting foreigners to settle in her Russian Empire. The Germanic states, then still a part of the Holy Roman Empire and not Germany as we know it now, were devastated by five generations of wars beginning with the Thirty Years' War in 1618. Catherine's offer must've seemed like paradise, and many Germans took her up on it and these early pioneers settled colonies in Russia along the Volga River near Saratov. 

It began with 106 Mother colonies, and it grew and expanded beyond the Volga region with ethnic German settlements numbering well over 3,000 across present day Russia, Ukraine, Moldova, Poland, Romania, Bulgaria, Georgia, Azerbaijan, Kazakstan and Turkmenistan.  German emigrants who left Russia settled again in the United States, Canada, Mexico, Argentina and Brazil. 


By the Grace of God!

We, Catherine the second, Empress and Autocrat of all the Russians at Moscow, Kiev, Vladimir, Novgorod, Czarina of Kasan, Czarina of Astrachan, Czarina of Siberia, Lady of Pleskow and Grand Duchess of Smolensko, Duchess of Esthonia and Livland, Carelia, Twer, Yugoria, Permia, Viatka and Bulgaria and others; Lady and Grand Duchess of Novgorod in the Netherland of Chernigov, Resan, Rostov, Yaroslav, Beloosena, Udoria, Obdoria, Condinia, and Ruler of the entire North region and Lady of the Yurish, of the Carhlinian and Grusinian czars and the Cabardinian land, of the Cherkessian and Gorisian princes and the lady of the manor and sovereign of many others. As We are sufficiently aware of the vast extent of the lands within Our Empire, We perceive, among other things, that a considerable number of regions are still uncultivated which could easily and advantageously be made available for productive use of population and settlement. Most of the lands hold hidden in their depth an inexhaustible wealth of all kinds of precious ores and metals, and because they are well-provided with forests, rivers and lakes, and located close to the sea for purpose of trade, they are also most convenient for the development and growth of many kinds of manufacturing, plants, and various installations. This induced Us to issue the manifesto which was published last Dec. 4, 1762, for the benefit of all Our loyal subjects. However, inasmuch as We made only a summary announcement of Our pleasure to the foreigners who would like to settle in Our Empire, we now issue for a better understanding of Our intention the following decree which We hereby solemnly establish and order to be carried out to the Full.

  1. We permit all foreigners to come into Our Empire, in order to settle in all the gouvernements, just as each one may desire.
  2. After arrival, such foreigners can report for this purpose not only to the Guardianship Chancellery established for foreigners in Our residence, but also, if more convenient, to the governor or commanding officer in one of the border-towns of the Empire.
  3. Since those foreigners who would like to settle in Russia will also include some who do not have sufficient means to pay the required travel costs, they can report to our ministers in foreign courts, who will not only transport them to Russia at Our expense, but also provide them with travel money.
  4. As soon as these foreigners arrive in Our residence and report at the Guardianship Chancellery or in a border-town, they shall be required to state their true decision, whether their real desire is to be enrolled in the guild of merchants or artisans, and become citizens, and in what city; or if they wish to settle on free, productive land in colonies and rural areas, to take up agriculture or some other useful occupation. Without delay, these people will be assigned to their destination, according to their own wishes and desires. From the following register* it can be seen in which regions of Our Empire free and suitable lands are still available. However, besides those listed, there are many more regions and all kinds of land where We will likewise permit people to settle, just as each one chooses for his best advantage.  * The register lists the areas where the immigrants can be settled.
  5. Upon arrival in Our Empire, each foreigner who intends to become a settler and has reported to the Guardianship Chancellery or in other border-towns of Our Empire and, as already prescribed in 4, has declared his decision, must take the oath of allegiance in accordance with his religious rite.
  6. In order that the foreigners who desire to settle in Our Empire may realize the extent of Our benevolence to their benefit and advantage, this is Our will – :
    1. We grant to all foreigners coming into Our Empire the free and unrestricted practice of their religion according to the precepts and usage of their Church. To those, however, who intend to settle not in cities but in colonies and villages on uninhabited lands we grant the freedom to build churches and belltowers, and to maintain the necessary number of priests and church servants, but not the construction of monasteries. On the other hand, everyone is hereby warned not to persuade or induce any of the Christian co-religionists living in Russia to accept or even assent to his faith or join his religious community, under pain of incurring the severest punishment of Our laws. This prohibition does not apply to the various nationalities on the borders of Our Empire who are attached to the Mahometan faith. We permit and allow everyone to win them over and make them subject to the Christian religion in a decent way.
    2. None of the foreigners who have come to settle in Russia shall be required to pay the slightest taxes to Our treasury, nor be forced to render regular or extraordinary services, nor to billet troops. Indeed, everybody shall be exempt from all taxes and tribute in the following manner: those who have been settled as colonists with their families in hitherto uninhabited regions will enjoy 30 years of exemption; those who have established themselves, at their own expense, in cities as merchants and tradesmen in Our Residence St. Petersburg or in the neighboring cities of Livland, Esthonia, Ingermanland, Carelia and Finland, as well as in the Residential city of Moscow, shall enjoy 5 years of tax-exemption. Moreover, each one who comes to Russia, not just for a short while but to establish permanent domicile, shall be granted free living quarters for half a year.
    3. All foreigners who settle in Russia either to engage in agriculture and some trade, or to undertake to build factories and plants will be offered a helping hand and the necessary loans required for the construction of factories useful for the future, especially of such as have not yet been built in Russia.
    4. For the building of dwellings, the purchase of livestock needed for the farmstead, the necessary equipment, materials, and tools for agriculture and industry, each settler will receive the necessary money from Our treasury in the form of an advance loan without any interest. The capital sum has to be repaid only after ten years, in equal annual installments in the following three years.
    5. We leave to the discretion of the established colonies and village the internal constitution and jurisdiction, in such a way that the persons placed in authority by Us will not interfere with the internal affairs and institutions. In other respects the colonists will be liable to Our civil laws. However, in the event that the people would wish to have a special guardian or even an officer with a detachment of disciplined soldiers for the sake of security and defense, this wish would also be granted.
    6. To every foreigner who wants to settle in Russia We grant complete duty-free import of his property, no matter what it is, provided, however, that such property is for personal use and need, and not intended for sale. However, any family that also brings in unneeded goods for sale will be granted free import on goods valued up to 300 rubles, provided that the family remains in Russia for at least 10 years. Failing which, it will be required, upon its departure, to pay the duty both on the incoming and outgoing goods.
    7. The foreigners who have settled in Russia shall not be drafted against their will into the military or the civil service during their entire stay here. Only after the lapse of the years of tax-exemption can they be required to provide labor service for the country. Whoever wishes to enter military service will receive, besides his regular pay, a gratuity of 30 rubles at the time he enrolls in the regiment.
    8. As soon as the foreigners have reported to the Guardianship Chancellery or to our border towns and declared their decision to travel to the interior of the Empire and establish domicile there, they will forthwith receive food rations and free transportation to their destination.
    9. Those among the foreigners in Russia who establish factories, plants, or firms, and produce goods never before manufactured in Russia, will be permitted to sell and export freely for ten years, without paying export duty or excise tax.
    10. Foreign capitalists who build factories, plants, and concerns in Russia at their own expense are permitted to purchase serfs and peasants needed for the operation of the factories.
    11. We also permit all foreigners who have settled in colonies or villages to establish market days and annual market fairs as they see fit, without having to pay any dues or taxes to Our treasury.
  7. All the afore-mentioned privileges shall be enjoyed not only by those who  have come into our country to settle there, but also their children and descendants, even though these are born in Russia, with the provision that their years of exemption will be reckoned from the day their forebears arrived in Russia.
  8. After the lapse of the stipulated years of exemption, all the foreigners who have settled in Russia are required to pay the ordinary moderate contributions and, like our other subjects, provide labor-service for their country. Finally, in the event that any foreigner who has settled in Our Empire and has become subject to Our authority should desire to leave the country, We shall grant him the liberty to do so, provided, however, that he is obligated to remit to Our treasury a portion of the assets he has gained in this country; that is, those who have been here from one to five years will pay one-fifth, while those who have been here for five or more years will pay one-tenth. Thereafter each one will be permitted to depart unhindered anywhere he pleases to go.
  9. If any foreigner desiring to settle in Russia wishes for certain reasons to secure other privileges or conditions besides those already stated, he can apply in writing or in person to our Guardianship Chancellery, which will report the petition to Us. After examining the circumstances, We shall not hesitate to resolve the matter in such a way that the petitioner's confidence in Our love of justice will not be disappointed.

Given at the Court of Peter, July 22, 1763 in the Second Year of Our Reign.

The original was signed by Her Imperial Supreme Majesty's own hand in
the following manner:

Printed by the Senate, July 25,1763


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21 July 2017

On This Day, 21 July 1766

The Volga Mother colony of Dönhof was founded on this day in 1766 as Lutheran colony by colonists from Württemberg and Schleswig-Holstein (Denmark). Other names and spellings for the colony include Doenhoff, Denhoff, Dönnhof, Gololobovka and Alt-Gololobovka.

The daughter colony Neu-Dönhof was founded by colonists from Dönhoff in 1863.

Denhoff as told by Peter Stoll
(This is an undated personal account. Courtesy of the American Historical Society of Germans from Russia village files.)

“The houses had numbers but no street names. There were about 705 lots, 126 feet across, and 210 feet deep. In the center of the town was the water works. There were two double streets, no alleys – people had to go thru the front yard.

“In later years, some corner lots had several homes. If there were three or more brothers in a family, they might divide the household and build another house. There was a “Broad Street,” named because it was wider. This is where they practiced or showed off their horses. The horses were tough and heavy like broncos. The market place was in another town across the Volga river. Denhoff was on the hilly side of the Volga river. 

“There were five stores in different areas. People didn’t buy too much, but they did get kerosene, sugar, material for shirts, and men’s suit cloth. This cloth they took to the tailor, and the tailor took measurements and made a suit. The stores were in a separate building on the same lot as the house. The stores were called 'Lufka.'
The location of Dönhof on
Karte der deutschen Siedlungen im Wolgagebiet 
(Map of the German settlements in the Volga Region, AHSGR map #6).

“The church and school were in the center of town and took up the whole block. The bell tower was three stories high and had three bells. There was a space between the church and bell tower for fire protection. The school house was on the corner. The schoolmaster and family lived behind the school. There was also a shed for horses. There was also a space underneath the cellar for ice because the whole village depended on ice. In the summer, the deceased were kept on ice for three days and then buried. The three days was of religious concept. In the winter the bodies were put in cold storage. They made homemade caskets and carried them on their shoulders on a frame to the cemetery. It took six men for an adult and four for a child. The first cemetery was started in 1763 and was close to the wells. The second was 1 ½ to 2 miles from the village, and the third was even further west about 2 ½ miles. All cemeteries were on the same route. The fire station had teams of horses and barrels of water and hooks and ladders, and a pressure pump. It took eight men to pump this pressure pump. All firemen were volunteers. The fire station was across the street from the school.


“On the same block was a big open space for the market place. In the winter, they had whole carcasses of frozen meat. Hogs weight up to 600 pounds. People needed lard for and other baking and cooking. Larger families also had better farm cows. The pool people with goats couldn’t keep cows because they couldn’t afford feed. Sunflower oil was popular.

“The forehouse and summer kitchen in the house were not heated. To go to the other parts of the house, you went through double doors. The insulation was walls 2 ½ feet thick. The ceiling was clay, five or six inches thick. It would be 25 to 30 degrees for months in the winter. They road sleds from fall to spring.

Location of the Volga colony Dönhof, 
now known as Vysokoye, Saratov, Russia.
“The beds were build high. This way a lower bed was pushed underneath. This was for children. The bed had heavy quilts from wool. The older folks had feather quilts. There were no mattresses. They used soft straw. It was soft from being thrashed with stones. The straw was put in heavy canvas. The people couldn’t sleep in because they had to work. In harvest, they worked around the clock. Grain was stored in bags in the storage granaries. 160 pounds to a bag; 4 boots in 1 bag, about 40 pounds. The granaries were in the back yard, away from other buildings on account to fire. They were set in heavy rocks so the air could circulate. They also had storage sheds for hay and feed for the animals. There were six bins in the granary for wheat and rye. Oats weren’t raised much. Wheat went for more money. Then they could buy oats for less money for horse feed. Rye was also cheaper than wheat. Wheat was hauled to the Volga river. Also some men came to the village to buy wheat. They transported freight. One stream, the Karamisch [Karamysh], was about two miles away west of town. The Volga was too far wast. Sosnowka [Schilling] was a German colony on the Volga river where they hauled wheat to. A square house was built over the springs. A man was hired to be responsible to the keep the water sanitary. The water was run thru a fine copper mesh.

“Three heavy logs were grooved for a trough where women did their wash with waste water thru hollow timbers. Domestic water ran in three feet higher. A platform was built to get to it. The yard had special stables for cows, sheep, young cows, hogs and chickens. These were very organized and clean.”

Learn More: 
American Historical Society of Germans from Russia - Village Files
Center for Volga German Studies - Dönhof
Volga German Institute - Dönhof
Wolgadeutsche (History of the Volga Germans) - Dönhof




2017 marks the 250th anniversary of the founding of the Mother colonies along the Volga River. There are many events throughout the year to commemorate the anniversary, and the Germans from 
Russia Settlement Locations project joins in the celebration of this rich Volga German heritage.  

The German immigrants that came to the Volga region were among first colonists to take up Catherine the Great on her manifesto. They came from Hesse, the Rhineland, the Palatinate and Württemberg.  They are also among the most well researched and documented groups of German colonists in Russia. Thus far, the Volga Mother colonies settled between 1764 and 1767 are the only colonies that have precise dates they were settled.  


For more historical and current events related to Germans from Russia, see our calendar page or link to our public Google calendar.





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20 July 2017

On This Day, 20 July 1766, 1767

On this day, 20 July, two Lutheran Volga Mother colonies were founded, Bauer in 1766 and Krasnoyar (Krasssnojar) in 1767. 

Bauer, 1766

A description of Bauer as remembered by Friedrich Schimdt, January 1994, Riga, Latvia. He was 94 at the time this was written. Schimdt's full story can be found in AHSGR's village files.

Excerpts courtesy of the American Historical Society of Germans from Russia village files.


Left: The location of Bauer on
Karte der deutschen Siedlungen im Wolgagebiet (Map of the German settlements in the Volga Region, AHSGR map #6).
Right: The location of Bauer, known today as 
Karamyshevka, Saratov, Russia.


Krasnoyer, 1767

This is a description of Krasnoyer as remembered by Alexander Groh, April 1996, Pirmasens, Germany.  He was born there in 1927, and he and his family was deported in 1941. Groh's full story can be found in AHSGR's village files.

Excerpt courtesy of the American Historical Society of Germans from Russia village files.

Plat map of Krasnojar as remembered in September 1941 by Alexander Groh before
he and his family were deported.  Courtesy of AHSGR.

There is also very nicely done interactive map of Krasnojar on Wolgadeutche..  Go to the link, click on the map to go into interactive mode, and then click on sections to see photos of the area.  Very cool!


Left: The location of Krassnojar on
Karte der deutschen Siedlungen im Wolgagebiet (Map of the German settlements in the Volga Region, AHSGR map #6).
Right: The location of Krassnojar, known today as 
Krasnyy Yar, Saratov, Russia.



Learn More: 
2017 marks the 250th anniversary of the founding of the Mother colonies along the Volga River. There are many events throughout the year to commemorate the anniversary, and the Germans from 
Russia Settlement Locations project joins in the celebration of this rich Volga German heritage.  

The German immigrants that came to the Volga region were among first colonists to take up Catherine the Great on her manifesto. They came from Hesse, the Rhineland, the Palatinate and Württemberg.  They are also among the most well researched and documented groups of German colonists in Russia. Thus far, the Volga Mother colonies settled between 1764 and 1767 are the only colonies that have precise dates they were settled.  
For more historical and current events related to Germans from Russia, see our calendar page or link to our public Google calendar.




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18 July 2017

On This Day, 18 July 1766

Locations of Degott, Schuck and Vollmer on
Karte der deutschen Siedlungen im Wolgagebiet 
(Map of the German settlements in the Volga Region,
AHSGR map #6)
On this day, 18 July 1766, three Volga Mother colonies were founded: Degott, Schuck and Vollmer. All were founded as Roman Catholic colonies by French settlement agent Jean de Boffe, who, along with Antoine Meusnier de Precour and Quentin Benjamin Coulhette d'Hautervive, formed one of the three groups of vyzyvateli that settled foreigners in Russia beginning in 1764.  















Population of Degott, courtesy of
The Center for Volga German Studies.

Degott was founded as a Catholic colony. In the year of founding, it had 12 households with a total of 34 colonists, 15 male and 19 female. The colony stayed relatively small according to population records. As of 1926, it had a school with grades one through four and a cooperative store.

The colony no longer exists.

Location of the defunct Volga colony Degott.





















Plat map of Schuck, courtesy of History of the Village of Schuck.
Schuck was settled by 29 families from the Palatinate and Mainz, according to some sources as early as 1764, although most agree that 1766 was the founding year. The colony was named after its first leader, Jakob Schuck, and by decree, it was given the Russian name of Gryaznovatka on 26 February 1768.

The colony had four streets about one kilometer in length laid out northwest to southeast direction. The colonists built dams and created retention ponds to collect snowmelt and rainwater for their livestock. Drinking water was taken from a nearby spring, and although two wells were available closer to some homes, colonists often still went to the spring for their water. 

Location of the defunct colony of Schuck.
The residents of Schuck were deported on 16 September 1941 to villages in Siberia.  Schuck was used as a prison camp between 1942 to 1944. The Soviets closed the church and used it as a granary before dismantling it and using the lumber to build a new sarpinka factory. 

The colony no longer exists.













Plat map of Vollmer, courtesy of AHSGR village files.

Vollmer (Volmer and also Kopenka) was founded with 47 families from Mainz, the Palatinate and Trier on the Bergseite side of the Volga River about 100 versts southwest of Saratov (about 102 kilometers or 84 miles).  Some sources state that settlement began earlier, in 1764.  It was named after the first mayor of the colony, Nikolaus Vollmer. 

According to one undated village history from the American Historical Society of Germans from Russia: 

"The colony has 2,219 desyatina of arable land, (about 6000 acres of land suitable for crops), including 600 acres hay-making lands. Each settling family received about 80-90 acres, but as their ons matured and married the land was sub-divided to give each male land. Eventually the lots became too small to be sustainable....The villagers are employed as: tailors, millers, shoemakers, weavers, producers of printed calico (sarpinka), coopers (barrel makers), carpenters, blacksmiths, wheelwrights and beggars, in addition to their farming....Most sow wheat, followed by rye, oats, barley, millet and sunflowers."


Location of Vollmer, known today as Lugovoye, Saratov, Russia.



Learn More: 
2017 marks the 250th anniversary of the founding of the Mother colonies along the Volga River. There are many events throughout the year to commemorate the anniversary, and the Germans from 
Russia Settlement Locations project joins in the celebration of this rich Volga German heritage.  

The German immigrants that came to the Volga region were among first colonists to take up Catherine the Great on her manifesto. They came from Hesse, the Rhineland, the Palatinate and Württemberg.  They are also among the most well researched and documented groups of German colonists in Russia. Thus far, the Volga Mother colonies settled between 1764 and 1767 are the only colonies that have precise dates they were settled.  
For more historical and current events related to Germans from Russia, see our calendar page or link to our public Google calendar.




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16 July 2017

Map Refresh: Bukovina, Caucasus, Chortitza, Don Cossacks, Glückstal, Mariupol (new!)

There are nine map refreshes this week, including a new colony group for the Mariupol enclave(see below for more). There was some shifting of colonies between areas due to map overlap which is the reason for so many updates at once. 

All of the maps associated with this site along with their descriptions can be found on the Maps page and a list of sources used on the Sources page.

BukovinaMinor adjustment to the colony of Woloca.
CaucasusNew colonies added that were found on overlapping maps for a total of 174.
Chortitza: Several colonies moved to Mariupol and several new were found.  Total now is 95. 
Don Cossacks: Again, several colonies were moved to Mariupol and many more more found as work continued through the two maps of the area.  Total now is 180 colonies.
Glücsktal:  Corrections to Kassel and Alt-Kassel along with sources and links added.
Mariupol: New map! Some colonies were on previous maps of Chortitza and Don Cossacks. Total number now is 107 colonies.
German Colonies in the Austrian Empire – Includes updates to Bukovina. 
Black Sea Colonies: Includes updates to Caucasus, Chortitza, Glückstal and Mariupol.
Germans from Russia Settlement Locations Map (GRSL):  Includes all changes listed above.

The Mariupol colonies are located on the north shore of the Sea of Azov next to the Chortitza, Molotschna and Don areas and across the sea from the Caucasus.  Twenty-two Mother colonies were founded between 1823 and 1842, followed by daughter colonies and many chutors up until 1926, the last known founding date. Most colonists were from West Prussia and Danzig and spent several years in Molotschna before the tract of land near Mariupol became available to them.  





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