Siberian Germans - Settlements

Unique German customs were preserved within the home, but the home types and settlement patterns underwent a significant change during the emigration to Russia. The character of the environment was different, there was a shortage of traditional building materials such as stone and wood, and government rules set the village plan. Thus, instead of the typical western German "heap village ( Haufendorf ), the German Siberian village adhered to a linear pattern ( Strassendorf ).

The Germans did not adapt Russian peasant dwellings but made their own, combining traditional patterns with available building materials. In the southern steppes of Siberia the houses are of clay or brick; modern buildings are of brick. In the northern regions, rich in forests, wood houses predominate. There are a number of house types. In one style, the rooms in a house are arranged in a line, with a narrow front facing the street. This is often referred to as a gable-house ( Giebelhaus ) . In another style, houses are positioned on an axis along a street, with windows of a number of rooms facing the street. Quite popular are four-room houses in which the rooms are arranged in the shape of a cross around the main hearth or stove rather than successively. The typical Russian stove is rarely found. The floor, ceiling, and stove are painted with oil colors.

One essential element of a German farmstead is the summer kitchen ( Sommerkueche ). Almost every farmstead has a special smokehouse, a barn, a bathhouse, and a yard for dung and fowl. All dwellings are arranged in a U-shape and connect under one roof.

German houses are distinguished by their durability, and the villages by their cleanliness. In many villages competitions are held for the title of best farmstead. The Germans maintain their traditional ties to their house, considering it a place not only of habitation but of cultural and even spiritual value, as well as a symbol of prestige. The outer trimmings of the house are painted in oils of two or three contrasting colors. The facades of the houses and the gates and fences are painted with drawings of flowers and swans. The interiors of the dwellings are also heavily decorated. Wooden furniture—dressers, beds, baby cribs, tables, and chairs—is carved and painted with drawings of plants. Carpets (woven of cloth or painted canvas) depict landscapes and pastoral scenes. Rugs, napkins, curtains, and bed sheets are embroidered in satin stitch depicting flowers, birds, and scenes from the Bible. The interior is further decorated with many tin and wooden boxes and cases.

The Siberian Germans have become highly urbanized, a process that has been accompanied by the disappearance of elements of their traditional material culture, including the foot-driven spinning wheel, wooden shoes ( Shliory ), and items of clothing such as red knee stockings of sheep wool. In the past German women wore long, wide, dark, one-colored cotton skirts; colorful blouses; aprons; and scarfs. Dresses for special occasions had bright embroidery. The women knitted sweaters, vests, socks, and mittens. The Mennonites dressed in dark tones without adornment.

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