29 March 2019

The Donauschwaben: From Germany to Hungary to Russia

Seidlungsgebiete der Donauschwäbische (Settlement areas of the Danube Swabian) from a drawing by Peter Hetzel.
Source: WikiTree

Beginning in the early 1700s, under the sponsorship the rulers of the Holy Roman Empire, more than 1,000 German colonies were established in Southern Hungary. Over 200,000 Germans settled in colonies and private estates. Protestant Germans who settled in colonies in the Batschka would end up emigrating yet again. This time to new German colonies in South Russia.

Ersten, Tod
Des Zweiten, Not
Und Dritten, Brot. 

                          – German proverb

By the end of the Thirty Years' War (1618-1648), the Germanic states in what was then the Holy Roman Empire had been devastated. Although it began as a religious civil war between Protestants and Roman Catholics, it evolved into into power struggle between the Catholic Habsburg Monarchy (1526-1804), the rulers of the Holy Roman Empire, and German princes over who would rule the land. The war resulted in eight million fatalities including those from violence, famine and plague related to the military campaigns. The Pfalz in southwestern Germany were among the areas that suffered great destruction. By 1709, large numbers of German emigrants (referred to as Palatines) left the Pfalz and moved to England and America seeking opportunities for a better life.

To Hungary

For the German people wishing to emigrate from their homeland, Hungary was another option. Germans had been living there for some time, and although they came from different states and spoke different dialects of German, the Hungarians referred to them collectively as Swabians.  The Donauschwaben, or Danube Swabians, is a name used to describe the Germans who immigrated to provinces in Southern Hungary beginning in the early 1700s along the Danube River valley after the Turks were expelled. A series of treaties between 1699 and 1739 granted the Habsburg Empire all of Hungary, Transylvania, the Batschka, the Banat, Slowenia, Northern Serbia and other territories. As with the result of any war, the lands that had been occupied were left left devastated and depopulated. 

Beginning in 1718, the Habsburg Monarchy began an organized, Crown-sponsored colonization of the southern provinces of Hungary. They offered the following incentives:

  • travel stipends
  • free agricultural land
  • loans for seeds, implements and tools
  • houses in planned villages
  • construction materials
  • livestock
  • exemption from taxes for several years
The goal of the colonization of Hungary was threefold: 1) to fortify the land against invasion, 2) develop farm land and 3) further the Roman Catholic religion in Eastern Europe.

Those who were recruited were mostly poor peasants who were already subject to feudal lords, high taxes and military conscription. They came from Hesse, Baden, Württemberg, Alsace, Lorraine, the Rhinelands, Westphalia, Bavaria, Swabia and other areas. 

Those who were craftsmen often settled in existing cities, while those who intended to farm were settled into planned villages that were built in a square grid with the church and school in the center. Wide streets were the norm to accommodate activities such as markets, celebrations, etc., and it also allowed room to move livestock in and out of the village daily to common pastures outside of town. All farming was done outside of the village, and even today, the borders of a town extend way beyond what one would normally consider in order to encompass all the agricultural fields that were a part of the village then and are still today.

Schowe on the Habsburg Empire Third Military Survey map (1869-1887).

Plat map of Schowe as recalled from 1944/45. Map courtesy of Donauschwaben Villages Helping Hands.

Schowe is currently known as Ravno Selo, Vojvodina, Serbia. Note the red outline of the official town boundaries and how they extend to include agricultural fields around the entire town.

The Donauschwaben settlements occurred in three waves and were named after their Habsburg sponsors. Collectively they became known as der Gross Schwabenzug, or the Great Swabian Trek.

The Karolinische Ansiedlung, 1718-1737 (Caroline Settlement)
  • Settlement was to lands liberated from the Turks (to become known as Swabian Turkey).
  • Goal was to create a buffer against invasion.
  • Officially restricted to Roman Catholics only, although, unofficially, Holy Roman Emperor Karl IV welcomed Protestants and promised freedom of religion.
  • Travel costs to Crown land was available.
  • Settlement on private estates was not subsidized by the Crown but were more open to Protestants, provided Protestants could find landlords that would tolerate their religion.
  • Many of the approximately 15,000 German settlers from this colonization were killed in Turkish raids or died from bubonic plague.
Maria Theresianische Ansiedlung, 1744-1772 (Maria Theresa Settlement)
  • Settlement was to lands in the Banat and eastern Batschka. 
  • Officially restricted to Roman Catholics.
  • 75,000 Germans rebuilt what was destroyed by Turks in the Banat.
Josephinische Ansiedlung, 1782-1787 (Josephine/Joseph Settlement)
  • Settlement was to lands primary in the Batschka with some new in the Banat.
  • Officially open to both Catholics and Protestants after Holy Roman Emperor Joseph II "the great Reformer" issued the Patent of Toleration in 1781.
  • Colonists came from Germany and other areas in Hungary.
It should be noted here that settlement by the Crown was responsible for about 64% of of the 204,000 settlers (approximately 130,000) in Hungary during these years. Settlement on private estates accounts for the remaining 75,000. 

After 1789, Crown-sponsored settlement ended. Some Germans continued to arrive until 1829, after which 500 guilders cash was needed to migrate to Hungary. More than 1,000 German villages were established in Southern Hungary despite the hardships, with the first 800 being settled in the first 40 years between 1711-1750. By 1900, there were more than two million Germans living in Hungary. 

Even with these population numbers, the ethnicities of those living in the villages may have been initially primarily German, they were eventually ethnically and religiously mixed.  József Kepecs' A Délvidék településeinek vallási adatai 1880–1941 (Religious data of the settlements of Southern [Hungarian] Region 1880–1941), details in his religious census information for each village including the total number of people practicing the following religions: Roman Catholic, Greek Catholic, Eastern Orthodox, Lutheran, Reformed, Unitarian, Baptist and other Christian.

To Russia

In 1804, Tsar Alexander I opened the lands around the Black Sea in the Russian Empire for settlement to foreigners. This attracted a second wave of settlers from Germany to Russia, but it also piqued the interest of some Germans living in Hungary who were not happy with their situations.

After the Patent of Toleration was was issued by Emperor Joseph II on 13 October 1781, more German Protestant immigrants arrived in Hungary.  The Patent of Toleration officially extended religious freedom to non-Catholic Christians living in the Crown lands. It allowed them to freely practice their religion, to an extent. Even with this new edict in place, religion was still heavily regulated for those who were not Roman Catholic. For example, all marriages had to occur in the Catholic church, and Protestant church records were kept in Catholic parishes until a number of Protestant parishes were established in the 1780s.

Still, Germans continued to immigrate to Hungary during this time. In the Batschka, they established the colonies of Bulkes (1786), Jarek, Kischker (1786), Miletitsch (1786), Neu-Schowe (1786), Neu-Werbass (1785), Sekitsch, Torschau (1784) and Tscherwenka (1785). Germans from these colonies along with others from Alt-Siwatz, Neu-Siwatz and Kutzura would eventually leave Hungary and continue on to South Russia to resettle in new Protestant colonies in Bessarabia and in the Glückstal, Hoffungstal and Grossliebental districts of Odessa Province, where colonies were founded by religious confession in enclaves consisting of only of Germans.

Karte die südliche Batschka (Map of Southern Batschka).
Source: The Emigration from Germany to Russia in the Years 1763 to 1862, Karl Stumpp (1993), p. 102.

According to Karl Stumpp in his The Emigration from Germans to Russia in the Years 1763 to 1862, the main reason for leaving Hungary was "the hard feudal service."

The living conditions could not have been favorable, otherwise it remains inexplicable why so many people from the above-mentioned villages joined the emigrants [from Germany] who were moving down the Danube or taking the overland route in the years 1804-07. They often travelled at night in their horsedrawn wagons, frequently with false documents, through Siebenbürgen [Transylvania] to the Bukowina, where they crossed the frontier at Luczawa [Suczawa], in order to pass through Moldavia and Bessarabia into the already established colonies near [the City of] Odessa. There the Russian government granted them a loan of 170 rubles for the construction of a dwelling and 50 rubles for the purchase of farm implements.

There were initially 16 families that immigrated to Russia to determine if it was a viable alternative to the Batschka. It seemed it was. Another 92 families followed and later another 132 families joined the others in Russia.

Below is a table of German colonies in Russia to which Germans from Hungary immigrated. Note the founding date of the colonies. Some were not founded until the 1840s, so that means Germans from Hungary, including other localities than the Batschka, continued to immigrate to Russia long after those initial families scouted the area.

Colony GroupGerman Colony in RussiaFounded ReligionNumber of Germans Families from Hungary
* Franzfeld was a Catholic colony, so the Germans from Hungary didn't stay long and resettled elsewhere.

New Map: Donauschwaben Batschka Colonies

We're pleased to introduce a new group of German settlement locations in Hungary: the Donauschwaben Batchka colonies. This is the first release of the Donauschwaben colonies. As data collection continues throughout the year in the other areas of Southern Hungary, we will be adding the other groups to the maps.

Batschka (Bačka) is a geographic and historical region in the Pannonian basin of central Europe situated between the Danube River to the west and south and the Tisza River to the east. Historically in the counties of Bács-Bodrog and Pest-Pilis-Solt-Kiskun of Hungary, today it is split between the Autonomous Province of Vojvodina in Serbia and Bács-Kiskun county in Hungary. It was settled primarily in the Josephinische Ansiedlung (1782-1787) wave of settlement, although some had come during the the Maria Theresianische Ansiedlung (1744-1772) period.

Special thanks to Raymond Reu for bringing his own ancestral connections to the Donauschwaben to this project's attention and partnering with us. Also special thanks goes to John Kaminski whose keen eye for detail is always appreciated and just makes everything better.

The maps update for this release are as follows:

As always, if we missed anything, got something wrong, or if you just have comments, suggestions or questions, please feel free to contact me.

For anyone new to using Google My Maps, there is a short (and very old – see how far we've come!) tutorial on how to search the maps that you can find here.

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