General Meeting – January 28, 2017
Researching Germans from Russia
Our first speaker for the New Year was Mike Meisinger who spoke on the topic of “Germans From Russia”. Meisinger, who is half German-Russian, has been researching his German-Russian ancestors for over 40 years and is an expert on the subject. He is a Board Member of the American Historical Society of Germans From Russia. ASHGR “is an international, nonprofit educational organization engaged in researching the history of all German Russians. Volunteers and staff on both local chapter and international levels search for information, translate, and develop a storehouse of knowledge useful to current and future generations.”
The story of the Germans from Russia is a very interesting one that began when Catherine the Great, Empress of Russia, was trying to colonize the area along the lower Volga River in an effort to stabilize the region. She issued a Manifesto in 1763 designed to attract other populations in Europe to the area. Catherine’s grandson, Alexander I, made some changes and reissued the manifesto in 1804. By 1897 more than 1,800,000 ethnic Germans were living in the Russian Empire.
In his presentation Mr. Meisinger shared the reasons why some Germans decided to leave their homelands in Western Europe. He explained what was promised in the Manifesto to the colonizers that convinced them to relocate to Russia and the impact that had on the areas where they settled. He also shared stories of the later events in Russia that set off a mass exodus of German-Russians to North and South America. Most of the 115,000 immigrants who came to the United States settled in farming areas, many coming to Kansas. Some believe that Turkey Red wheat was brought to Kansas in 1874 by German Mennonites who had first moved to Russia seeking religious freedom.
These are some resources that can help with researching Germans from Russia.
German / Russian Organizations:
American Historical Society of Germans from Russia
German Russian Historical Society
Germans from Russia Heritage Collection
Center for Volga German Studies