18 August 2017

On This Day, 18 August 1767

The location of Kraft on
Karte der deutschen Siedlungen im Wolgagebiet
(Map of the German settlements in the Volga Region, 
AHSGR map #6)
Kraft was a Volga Mother colony founded on 18 August 1767 by the Russian government. This Crown Colony was a Lutheran colony and a part of the Stephan parish established in 1771. By 1862, there would be a Roman Catholic church in the colony.

The chairman of the community, and the man for whom the village was named, was Johann Kraft.

According to the Lower Volga Project, Kraft was settled about 11 miles west of the Volga river in the Bergseite (hilly side), along the Gryaznukha River.  The settlers of Kraft were for the most part farmers.  In addition, a number had specialized skills such as metal working, weaving, milling and pottery.

German houses in Kraft.  Note the two-story building.
Photo courtesy of Volga German Institute. No date or source were given for the photo. 

From the "History and Geography Dictionary of Saratov Province," by A.H. Minkh (translated by Dr. Mila Koretnikov):

The colony of Kraft, July 2012.
Photo by Sergey1224 via Panoramino, courtesy of Google Maps.

"According to the list of settlements of the Central Statistics Committee, published in 1862, the German colony of Verkhnyaya Gryaznukha [Kraft] was shown on the Gryaznukha River, 50 verstas from the uyezd city Kamyshin. In 1862, there were in it: 173 households, 1,275 males and 1,256 females, total: 2,531 persons of both sexes; 1 Roman-Catholic church, 1 school 6 factories, 2 mills. Emigration to America started in 1876, 2 families (3 males and 1 female) left the community in 1876. Also in 1876 2 families (4 males and 2 females) left for Kansas. In 1879-1880 about 100 families left for Kuban region because of bad harvest years and settled in Orlov and Mikhailov volosts. They tilled the soil there on leased land. After 1881 about 20 families came back as there were several bad harvest years there and here harvests got better."

The location of Kraft, known today as Verkhnyaya Gryaznukha, Volograd, Russia.

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.