Siberian Germans - History and Cultural Relations

The start of the mass settlement of Germans on Russian soil is dated to 1764-1765, when by the decree of Empress Catherine II thousands of people leaving the German principalities, Austria, and the Netherlands were resettled on the barren outskirts of Russia and guaranteed various privileges. The majority of the German colonists came from western Germany: the Rhineland, Hessen, Pfalz, Alsatia, and Baden-Württemberg.

Some of the main reasons for their migration were agrarian overpopulation, high taxes, and army duty in western Germany. For the Mennonites, however, resettlement was part of an effort to pursue their religious life-style. From 1789 until 1811, masses of Mennonites left Prussia for Russia, having escaped from the Netherlands earlier. This general relocation of Germans to Russia continued intermittently for almost 100 years. Waves of German settlers varying in composition and origin moved to the southern provinces of Russia, the Causacus, and the Volga region.

Following the law of inheritance, allotted land went only to the oldest son, which left many landless settlers who moved east, to Siberia, where land was cheaper. These settlers became accustomed to the wide Siberian steppes and endless pastures and they took up sheep breeding. By the end of the nineteenth century, masses of Germans had moved to Siberia. During the Russian agricultural reform period of 1906-1910, hundreds of new settlers came to the southern portion of western Siberia. It was then that a large population of Germans gathered, especially in the regions of Slavgorod and Omsk.

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