01 August 2017

On This Day, 1 August

On this day, two Lutheran Mother colonies were founded in the Volga: Schäfer in 1766 and Zürich in 1767.

The location of Schäfer on
Karte der deutschen Siedlungen im Wolgagebiet
(Map of the German settlements in the Volga Region, 
AHSGR map #6)
Schäfer (Шефер) was founded as a Lutheran colony on 1 August 1766 by LeRoy and Pictet, a co-operative company commissioned by Catherine the Great to recruit and settle Germans in Russia.

The German settlements were often located on the edge of the Russian Empire in newly conquered territory as a buffer and weren't well defended, if at all, by the Russian military against attacks and raids by native tribes.

Shäfer was one such colony. It was attacked by the Kazakh-Kirghiz in 1774, after which at least some colonists left to resettle in the Caucasus in 1780. By 1800, Schäfer's population had rebounded.

Below is a photo of the cemetery in Schäfer taken in April 1998 by Elizabeth D. Powalisz while visiting her father and grandparents' homeland. In her description of the photo, she notes, "The cemetery scene is the way it is today. The Russian burials today are like this. The German graves are to the extreme right and the headstones were removed for other purposes."

And she added a postscript about the flowering shrubs behind the graves: "Lilacs were in full bloom in April."

Cemetery in Schäfer, April 1989.
The photo, taken by Elizabeth D. Powalisz, is a part of the
American Historical Society of Germans from Russia's village files. 

Location of Schäfer, today known as Lipovka, Saratov, Russia

The location of Zürich on
Karte der deutschen Siedlungen im Wolgagebiet
(Map of the German settlements in the Volga Region, 
AHSGR map #6)
Zürich (Цюрих) was founded on 1 August 1767 by Baron Ferdinand de Caneau de Beauregard, who had agreement with Catherine the Great to act as her director of settlement. There were a number of colonies with Swiss names, seemingly to encourage colonists from those areas to move to Russia. The colony also went by the name Eckardt.

Initially located by the Malyy Karaman river, it was moved to its present location closer to the Volga River in 1770. In 1915, the colony became known as Zorkino, or Sorkino as it is spelled today.

Plat map of Zürich, courtesy of Wolgadeutch

Location of Zürich, known today as Sorkino, Saratov, Russia.

Learn More: 
American Historical Society of Germans from RussiaVillage Files
Geschichte der Russlanddeutschen (History of Russian Germans) - Baron Canneau de Beauregard
Center for Volga German StudiesSchäfer, Zürich
LeRoy and Pictet
Volga German InstituteSchäfer, Zürich
Wolgadeutsch - SchäferZūrich

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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