21 June 2022

City of Kherson Through Time

1910 Map of the City of Kherson.

On 18 June 1778 (uncertain if this was the Julian or Gregorian date), a decree was issued by Catherine the Great founding the city and fortress of Kherson (Ukrainian: Херсо́н, German: Cherson) on the Dnieper River. It was to be the central command of the Russian Navy’s Black Sea Fleet.

German colonists immigrating to Russia in the early 1800s who were not farmers had the option settling in cities:

“For the initial founding of colonies in Cherson, Ekaterinoslav, and Taurida Gubernias to select locations mostly near ports in order that the settlers can be located with a particular means to get their products out....Artisans and craftsmen of all types are to be settled in the cities, wherever each one wishes. But in the first instance the present arrivals [February 1804] from Germany will be based in Odessa because Collegial Councilor Kontenius has been permitted to get this process started....” 

German colonists in Russian cities were a minority population. In 1897, with a population of 59, 076, just .7% of the population of the city of Kherson spoke the German language. 

There was a Catholic parish in Kherson with a stone church. In 1904, there were 1,209 souls, and according to Joseph Schnurr, most were Poles. 

Like with most cities in the former Russian Empire, it is difficult at a glance to say exactly when German colonists may have lived there. Kherson is a city, a former district, and a former province. Like Odessa, Kherson shows up in in family trees and EWZ records without any indication if it was the city proper, the district, or the greater province. 

A search of Kherson/Cherson as a birth place in the Black Sea German Research database indicates that the children of German colonists were born in Kherson/Cherson (city? district? province?) between 1808 and 1943. This happens to correspond with the early years after the Black Sea area was made available to foreigners for settlement (1804) and also the later years of when EWZ records were taken (1939–early 1945) for those ethnic Germans who were resettled back to Germany.

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