07 July 2017

On This Day, 7 July 1766

Messer was Reformed Lutheran colony founded on this day, 7 July 1766, on the Bergseite (hilly side) of the Volga. 

The population of the colony doubled within the first 30 years of its existence, although the number of households decreased. The colony was land poor, and what land they had to farm was overrun with gophers, as was described by chief judge, court councilor Hofrat Popov: 

3 November 1798

Location of Messer on
Karte der deutschen Siedlungen im Wolgagebiet
(Map of the German settlements in the Volga region, AHSGR map #6)
"The colony suffers major deficiencies in all areas of economic importance. As a result, the most productive farming efforts are concentrated on the aforementioned mediocre land. Because of lack of hay, they purchase fee for the stock. In place of firewood, they use dung. There is no escape from these deficiencies because the land allotment of the colony is limited; they cannot be offered state lands. If they can appropriate lands belonging to the neighboring colony of Kutter, the inhabitants of messer would have no other significant deficiency needs. They have no other needs. All are involved in farming

"Fields are close by the settlement, the farthest being 4 versta away [2.7 miles or 4.25 km]. They farm with ploughs and horses. They do not fertilize the land. On the arable land, harvests are good but mediocre on the other. Every summer gophers consume a considerable amount of the crop. In the course of this year, they consumed some 250 desyatina [675.5 acres or 2.73 sq km] of rye, wheat, and oats. The colonists know of no way of exterminating the gophers, except for flooding the burrows."

Location of the Volga colony Messer, today known as Ust'-Zolikha, Saratov, Russia.

Learn More: 
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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