26 July 2017

On This Day, 26 July 1767

Kukkus was founded on this day as a Lutheran (Evangelical Reformed) Mother colony by LeRoy and Pictet, a co-operative company commissioned by Catherine the Great to recruit and settle Germans in Russia.

Below are excerpts of an undated personal recollection of Kukkus written by Phillip Debus, who was born there on 9 February 1912 to Philip Debus of Kukkus and Maria Katherina Neff of Dinkel. The full document can be found in the American Historical Society of Germans from Russia’s village files.

"Our house was in town – it consisted of the main house, a granary, a couple barns for the horses, cows and sheep, and a big manure pile. Dad had one camel – he was mean – didn’t like me, so Dad got rid of him. We also had a big old goose that didn’t like me either – he’d chase me every time he’s see me and peck at my legs till they’d bleed, so Mom got rid of him...

"Our gardens and orchards were all about 2 miles outside of town as was everyone else’s due to limited space in town. Apples was one of the main items raised…along with raspberries and gooseberries. In the garden we raised potatoes, carrots, onions – the standard vegetables everyone needs.

"In the village, the people hired a herder – who would take the cows to pasture in the early morning and bring them home in the evening. When you’d see him coming in the morning, you’d turn your cows (usually 2 to 4) out in the street – he’d take everyone’s cows out to the pasture and let them graze then return them to you at night so they could be milked…

The location of Kukkus on
Karte der deutschen Siedlungen im Wolgagebiet
(Map of the German settlements in the Volga Region, AHSGR map #6)
"My dad served three years in the Russian army with the Cossack division on the Manchuria border. He was on furlough from the army when he married my mother.

"Then came the revolution – my dad and I were on our way down to get water with the wagon on which was a huge wooden barrel – could perhaps hold about 500 gallons, when we were about a block from home, the Bolsheviks who had stationed themselves at the end of the street waved my dad to go back. Dad turned the horses around, rushed back to our yard, shut the gate and then they fired volleys down the street to make sure the streets were cleared before they entered… My mother put pillows in front of all the windows and hid us kids behind the stove…they took all the food supplies, but Mom, anticipating this, took bags of food and buried them in the back, covering the new diggings with manure. They also took all the cows and horses except for 2 of each. When we ran out of food, Mom pulled up the baseboards away in the granary and gathered up the grain the mice had carried away and ground it up and used it for food…

Location of Kukkus, today known as Privolzhskoye, Sartov, Russia.
"During the revolution once night, my folks heard gunshots, which were quite common in those days as the German soldiers were always running away. This was late in March. In the morning, Mom went out to milk the cows and hear a voice say, “Is that you Phillip?” Mom said, “No this is Katherina.” I believe the young man’s name was Rosenthal. He was hiding under the barn. He was the man they were looking for. My mother went back to the house and told my dad about the man under the barn. Dad went out to the barn and pried up some boards and brought him up. Mom got some food ready and took it to the barn…The folks discussed what to do as this was a dangerous situation. Dad knew if he was caught hiding this man he would be facing the firing squad, so the plan was that being it was late in March and people were preparing their orchards for the growing season, Dad would hitch the wagon and take it around back to the trap door on the barn with lots of gunny sacks in the wagon. Dad stood in the front yard as a lookout as the officer’s headquarters was on the corner opposite our house. When dad signaled all clear, the man crawled in the wagon thru the trap door – Mom covered him up with lots of gunny sacks – Dad opened the gate and Mom drove the wagon real slow out of town to where the orchards were and left him out. We later learned he made it into Germany and on to the U.S.”

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

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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