29 August 2021

Alt Schwedendorf, 29 August 1942

To imagine the lives of our ancestors in Russia, we sometimes can turn to the modern art of the period. Photography was rare even into the early 20th century. Russian artists in the 1800s captured their world in strokes that coincided with the realism and impressionism art movements, leaving us with a soft, gauzy view of landscapes and life...even though we know it was probably anything but. 

“Hollyhocks in the Saratov Province” (Мальвы в Саратовской губернии), 1889.

“Rye” (Рожь), 1881.

“Noon. Herd in the Steppe” (Полдень. Стадо в степи), 1895.

Fast forward to 1940. The maps below are sections from both a 1941 Russian map and a 1942 German map of some of the German colonies near the city of Beryslav. Alt Schwedendorf (founded 1782) is shown in the green crosshair on the right side of the maps. To the north of it was Klosterdorf (1804),  to the south in the curve of the Dnieper River was Mühlhausendorf (1804) followed by Schlangendorf (1804) to the west along the river. 

In August of 1942, Dr. Karl Stumpp was in this area compiling information on what would end up being 99 detailed colony descriptions for the SS Reich Ministry for the Occupied Eastern Territories (Reichsministerium für die besetzten Ostgebiete), or RMO. All in all, there are close to 300 colonies mentioned in the RMO documents and along with hundreds of maps, some detailed, some perfunctory

One such map was that of Alt Schwedendorf, drawn on 29 August 1942. 

This map struck me when first saw it because it didn't seem to be the quick sketch like all the others. There was some thought and even artistry put into it with unexpected details such as trees and the locations of the wells (nicely represented) and public fountains. And in the Dnieper, it shows what looks like someone in a boat...fishing. Truly one of the oddest maps in this collection, which was drawn on this day 79 years ago. 


16 August 2021

A Little August Update

Yes, I'm still kicking!

There has been a lot of map work going on the past several months with a big update coming in a few weeks. I'm taking a breath today since friends and followers of this project get concerned when I go silent for long periods of time and reach to ask if I'm okay. I am. I'm just happily immersed in old maps, data, and thought. :)

Current work includes using georeferenced maps to more accurately describe in what provinces the colonies were originally settled rather than descriptions of where they were during and after WWII, or more recently. A lot of sources focus on where you can find the place now, or 10, 20, 80 years ago and not where it was when colonies were initially founded. I get it. It's easier to state where they were places were the last time they were inhabited by Germans. As of last year, districts have changed or been dissolved in Ukraine in favor of a more simple structure. These changes haven't been reflected on Google Maps yet, but Wikipedia has them. Maybe to most, it doesn't really matter as long as the coordinates are correct. And this is absolutely true. But I have this long-standing curiosity of wanting to know "what was there before" and "what it was called at the beginning." Much of this project is to satisfy my own curiosity beyond coordinates. I share it with the hopes that others might benefit.

Also a lot of work is being done on disassembling the "Black Sea" and reassembling it (and more) into "South Russia." South Russia is a term many of our ancestors used to describe where they came from, and a term that causes consternation with some people now who are irked by the term. "We're getting pretty far north. Is it still South Russia?" or "It doesn't border the Black Sea. Are they still Black Sea Germans?" Like salted butter, I'm bringing back "South Russia."

There is other re-arranging of data that will hopefully help make the maps more useful and easier to quickly find the place you're looking for.

More to come on all of this in the coming weeks.