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16 November 2017

Tulcea, Dobrudscha

Between 1842-1846, the first group of German migrants from Bessarabia settled in Tulcea, Dobrudscha.  At the time, it was a part of Turkey, a subject of the Ottoman Empire.  During this time, Germans from Russia would've had to renounce their allegiance to the Tsar of Russia and pledge their allegiance to the His Majesty the Sultan in order to live in Tulcea. Other requirements to become a colonist in Turkey included providing proof that they had not been accused of any crime or bad behavior in their previous country and were "respectable men and can pursue agriculture and crafts of all kinds."  Of course, the government reserved the right to remove any colonist who was guilty of a crime or bad behavior.  The English translation of the full list of articles of Colonization Regulations of Turkey is available here.
Drawing of the school and Catholic church in Tulcea.
Source: Die Deutschen in der Dobrudscha, courtesy of Black Sea German Research.

The first to arrive in Tulcea were a closed group of Catholic Swabians.  Tulcea's population at that point was about 6,000.  There was a larger group of Germans on their way to settle the first Catholic colony in nearby  Malkotsch, but the smaller group decided to remain in Tulcea.  Catholics made up the majority of Germans in Tulcea.  By 1856, there were 100 German families living in Tulcea, and in 1872, the church and school were built.  By then, the population of Tulcea had swelled to 39,000 people.  The economic growth of the city had attracted migrants from all over, including Turks, Taters, Romanians, Russians, Bulgarians, Greeks, Jews, Armenians and Germans.

All of the Germans lived together on one long, broad street called German Street.  The street still exists today.  It's called Strada Mircea Vodă.


Drawing of German Street in Tulcea.
Source: Die Deutschen in der Dobrudscha, courtesy Black Sea German Research.



A view of German Street, now called Strada Mircea Vodă, from street view on Google Earth.


Tulcea circa late 1890s. Source: Wikipedia (note original source listed on Wikipedia is no longer available)


Tulcea, Romania today. 


Learn More
Die Deutschen in der Dobrudscha, Paul Traeger.  See English translation courtesy of BSGR.
Black Sea Encyclopaedia of the Hellenic World –  Tulcea
Germans from Russia Settlement Locations – Dobrudscha Colonies Map
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09 November 2017

Sulina, Dobrudscha

The lighthouse in Sulina. 
Photo by Anatole Magrin circa 1905,
from his Album de la Dobrudgea.
Some accounts have Germans beginning settlement in the village of Sulina in Dobrudscha in 1849.  But according to Paul Traeger's Die Deutschen in der Dobrudscha, it wasn't until the 1870s that a small German community of six families moved into Sulina.  It increased in numbers as the city prospered as a trading post.  

Situated on the Sulina branch of the Danube River whose waters emptied into the Black Sea, the port was a desirable location.  A lighthouse was built in the the 18th century by the Ottomans to communicate with Istanbul, and it still stands today.  But the history of the inlet goes back to the 14th century when it was a place inhabited by sailors, pirates and fishermen. 

The Crimean War ended with the signing of the Treaty of Paris (1856). Part of the treaty declared that there would be Black Sea neutrality and freedom of navigation on the Danube.  It established the Danube European Committee (C.E.D.), which was tasked to make infrastructure improvements to the mouth of the Danube river to make it navigable by larger ships to benefit all.  Below is a map in French dated October 1857 with the work already completed and that which was being proposed.


Map of mouth of the Sulina (Soulina) River, October 1857.  Source: Ziarul Lumina

The Ottoman Empire declared Sulina a free port in in 1870.  The Russo-Ottoman war of 1877-1878 followed, and the city was put under Russian control but then was annexed back to Romania along with the rest of Dobrudscha.

Sulina became an ethnically and religiously diverse international port city, and this is reflected eternally in the most obvious of places: its cemetery.

This is a partial translation of the article entitled "The Maritime Cemetery in Sulina," which was published in the Ziarul Lumina on 31 August 2014:

One of the monuments in the cemetery in Sulina. 
Source:  Ziarul Lumina 
One of the most impressive cemeteries in Romania is in Sulina. Some call it "international," others "maritime," "multi-ethnic," "multi-cultural" or "Cemetery of the European Commission of the Danube."  
It is unique in that within its boundaries are buried citizens of 21 nationalities belonging to Christian, Muslim and Jewish religions.  Some funerary monuments are true works of art, and the stories of some of the buried are disturbing.  Above all, the Sulina cemetery speaks of the fact that we are all equal in the face of death.  
Professor Valentin Lavric from the Liceul Teoretic Jean Bart [Jean Bart Theoretical High School] in Sulina was the cemetery tour guide.  "The first people who were buried here were [European] commission members," he said.  "Initially, there was a separate Russian cemetery on the left bank of the Danube and another one on the right bank, abandoned due to the embankment work on the river. The new cemetery was established around the Eurpean Commission of the Danube." 
The article goes on to say that the cemetery is really multiple cemeteries in sections: a cemetery for Protestants with both English and German sections; a Catholic cemetery with Italian, Maltese, Serbo-Croatian, Montenegrin burials; a Russian Orthodox section in which Romanians, Russians and Greeks are buried; a Muslim cemetery; and a Jewish cemetery. 

"There are no boundaries between them," Lavric said.  "The Commission treated each community's burials equally, thus a universal concord was born between the ethnic and religious groups here."

The Maritime Cemetery (Cimitirul maritim) in Sulina, 2014.  Source:  Ziarul Lumina 

Location of Sulina, Romania today. The view from Google Earth, image dated 9 August 2014. 

Learn More:
Black Sea German Research
Die Deutschen in der Dobrudscha, Paul Traeger.  See Black Sea German Research for translation.
Die Dobrudscha
Germans from Russia Settlement LocationsDobrudscha Colonies Map
"The Maritime Cemetery in Sulina,"  Ziarul Lumina31 August 2014.
Wikipedia – Sulina (English), Dobrudscha (German)


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08 November 2017

Chutor Ishitskoye, Hoffnungstal, Odessa

Little is ever written about the chutors, or farmsteads, the smallest of German dorfs in Russia.  Maybe because there is so little documented about them.  There were chutors recorded and likely even more that were never officially part of the Russian government record. They were generally isolated summer farms with few buildings and often only populated, if you can call it that, during the growing season.  But some actually grew into colonies.

Chutor Ishitskoyetoday known as Kirovo, Odes'ka' Oblast, Ukraine.
Chutor Izshitskoye (also Itschietzki or Ishitskoye) was one of those.  Situated in the center of the Hoffnungstal colonies, Chutor Izshitskoye was a Lutheran colony and part of the Hoffnungstal parish. Not much else is documented about it other than it had a population of 80 souls in 1904.

The colony did not appear on a Stumpp map. Perhaps it never made it into the official register of colonies, but it was in the list of Hoffnungstal chutors listed on the Germans from Russia Historical Society website and was located by its historical name.

Today Chutor Izshitskoye still stands and is called Kirovo in Odessa Oblast, although the name Izhitskoye is still unofficially attached to the location according to the Geographic Names Database (GeoNames) from the U.S. National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency.




Recently, I ran across a document in the Roesch Family Germans from Russia Collection at the Northern State University Library & Special Collections in Aberdeen, South Dakota  that related to Chutor Izshitskoye.  The colony was still populated by Germans in 1922, and it was impacted by the Russian famine of 1921-22.  The famine was a result of many things coming together at once: drought, the collapse of the Tsarist rule, civil war post-Russian-Revolution and mass requisition of grain so there was not enough for food or for seed, Overall, there less agriculture production and failed harvests.

Map of the Famine Area of Soviet Russia in 1921 from Russian Information and Review magazine,
October 1921, v. 1, no. 1, pg. 3.  Source: WikiCommons. 

The document I found is a Russian Food Remittance form filed with the American Relief Administration (ARA) requesting food be sent to a family living in Chutor Izshitskoye in 1922.  Formerly called the United States Food Administration, the ARA was an American relief organization that provided supplies to war-torn European countries and later extending its operations to Russia in 1922 to help deal with the famine.  It ceased operations in Russia in 1923 once it found out that Russia was again exporting grain.  The American Experience documentary "The Great Famine" is a good overview of the impact of the famine and America's relief efforts in Soviet Russia.

The cost to the immigrant-American family sending the relief package was ten dollars. This was about $139 in today's U.S. dollars, no small sum back then.  Dated 7 September 1922, Fred Roesch of Hosmer, South Dakota paid ten dollars to have a food supplies delivered from the ARA to Mr. and Mrs. Christian F. Weiss of St. Zebrikowa, Chutor Ischietski, Tiraspol, Odessa. The Roesch family, according to a short history written by Roesch himself (also a part of the digital collection), indicated that they immigrated from Glückstal in September 1898 and lived near Roscoe, South Dakota. 

Russian Food Remittance form.
Copyright ©Beulah Williams Library Archives & Special Collections

The receipt for the order indicates that one package of food was received.  The stamp on the receipt indicates what was in the package: 98 pounds of flour, 25 pounds of grits (corn), 9 pounds of sugar and an indecipherable quantity of milk.

Receipt of food package from the American Relief Administration in Russia. 
Copyright ©Beulah Williams Library Archives & Special Collections

There wasn't anything else in the collection to indicate what happened to the Christian Weiss family, or how they were connected to the Roesch family.  But they lived in Chutor Izshitskoye in 1922, and were helped by family or friends in America at a time when they needed it most.  These scraps of paper saved for all these years serve as proof.


Learn More:

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07 November 2017

The Bolshevik Revolution – The Beginning of the End

Source: Washington Post, November 3, 2017,  "Century-old photos capture drama of 1917 Russian Revolution."


On this day, 7 November 1917 (Julian calendar date 25 October), the Bolshevik Revolution (also known as the October Revolution, or Red October) occurred in Petrograd (Saint Petersburg), Russia. At the time, there were more than 60 German colonies in the area of Petrograd.  It was the second of a pair of revolts comprising the Russian Revolution that resulted in the end of the Imperial Russian Empire, the creation of Soviet Russia and the rise of Communism in Russia.

The Russian Revolution didn't mark the sudden end of new colony settlement by Germans, but it did slow things down as the revolution was "the beginning of the end" for Germans from Russia, as Ken Volgele states in his forthcoming GRHS Heritage Review article.  Daughter colonies and chutors continued to be established between 1919 up until at least 1934 in areas including Bessarabia (a part of Romania between 1918-1940), Kutschurgan, Glückstal, Beresan, Liebental and North Caucasus among others scattered across the areas of Kherson, Taurida, Yekaterinoslav and the Don.  During the "intrawar" period, the names of the republics or "countries" to which the colonies (new and old) belonged changed often as each area declared autonomy and then were eventually collected into the Soviet Union.

For those of us who had ancestors who left Russia prior to 1917 and immigrated to the United States, the news of what happened in Russia came to them over the newswires and were published in local newspapers in the days and weeks after the October Revolution.   The 24-hour news cycle and the dissemination of information through social media we have today was non-existent. Radio wasn't even widely available then.  But just like today, the rush to get the story out often included errors and disinformation, purposefully or not.  Today we make quick judgments on the validity of information given the source, while our ancestors had a lot of time between editions of newspapers to process what little information they were getting.

A sampling of the headlines and articles our ancestors in the U.S. may have seen are below in chronological order from states with Germans from Russia populations.  One of these, the Jamestown Weekly Alert, would've been read by my own grandparents.  At the very end, I've included the article that ran today, 7 November 2017, in this morning's Washington Post, 100 years later.

Maybe in another 50 or 100 years, one our Germans from Russia descendants will use this blog post to illustrate yet another anniversary of our complicated history.


The Bakersfield Californian, Bakersfield, California. November 8, 2017. Source: Google Newspaper Archive


Montrose Daily News, Montrose, Colorado. November 9, 1917.  Source: Colorado Historical Newspapers Collection


The Seattle Star, Seattle, Seattle, Washington. November 9, 1917. Source: Chronicling America



Tulsa Daily World (Morning Edition), Tulsa, Oklahoma. November 9, 1917. Source: Chronicling America



Evening Times-Republican, Marshalltown, Iowa. November 13, 1917. Source: Chronicling America


The Saturday News, Watertown, South Dakota. November 15, 1917.  Source: Chronicling America


Jamestown Weekly Alert, Jamestown, North Dakota.  November 15, 1917. Source: Chronicling America


St. Paul Tidende, St. Paul, Minnesota.  November 16, 1917. Source: Chronicling America

El Paso Herald, El Paso, Texas.  November 17, 1917.  Source: Chronicling America


The Washington Post, Washington, D.C.  November 7, 2017. Source: The Washington Post


Learn More:
"100th Anniversary of the Bolshevik Revolution: Beginning of the End for the German Russians," Ken Vogele. Heritage ReviewGermans from Russia Heritage Society,  December 2017, Vol. 47, No. 4)
Wikipedia: Communism in Russia
Wikipedia: February Revolution
Wikipedia: October Revolution

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06 November 2017

Death of Catherine the Great

Painting of Catherine the Great by Fedor Rokotov (1763, Tretyakov gallery). Source WikiCommons.

Sophie Friederike Auguste von Anhalt-Zerbst
Born: Slettin, Pomerania, 21 April (2 May) 1729
Died: Saint Petersburg, Russia, 6 (17) November 1796
Reigned: 1762-1796

Empress Catherine II died on this day, 6 November 1796 (17 November according to the Gregorian calendar), of a stroke in Saint Petersburg, Russia.  She was 67 years old.  Without her rising to the position she held for 34 years and her famous manifesto issued in 1763, there would be no Germans from Russia.  She brought Russia "from the mindset of the Middle ages into the modern world of the 18th century" and was the last ruling Tsarina of the Imperial Russian Empire. 


The grand opening of the monument honoring Catherine the Great in Odessa, Russia in 1900.  Source: WikiCommons.

The moument honoring Catherine the Great in Odessa, Ukraine as it stands today.
Photo by Dennis Bender, May 2017.

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