29 December 2023

One Last Update for 2023

So ends 2023. I am happy with the map work completed this year. It all turned out just as I had hoped. 

There have been a few miscellaneous additions and updates to the maps since the last update in October. I wanted to get them posted and documented so they don’t get lost in the sauce.  Here is a rundown: 

  1. The new URL for the Volga German Institute has been updated on the map for places that refer to it. It is also updated on the Sources page. It will take longer to get all the blog posts updated. I am pleased it finally found a permanent domain name that will not change.
  2. All maps have been updated with the new project introduction/tutorial video. In the process, I made a list of descriptions I need to write for the maps that do not have one yet.   
  3. Ten new places were added and one location updated. Additions — Razboyka (Orenberg); Dachniy, Dzhargazar, Friedenfeld, Ivanovka, Kolkhoz International, Kroyt-Dzhaparovskoye, Luxemburg, Novopokrovskoye, and Tokmok (Semirechensk). Updated — Pfeifer (Orenburg). Thanks to Reik Kneisel in Germany for these. His family lived in Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan, and he provided details for all these places. 
  4. Basilewski (Taurida) was added. The name of this place was discovered in Eugenfeld parish records by Jörg Fischer in Germany. Thanks to Jörg for sending to me. We worked together on finding another colony in the Bergdorf parish in the Glückstal enclave a couple of years ago. 
  5. Klemesch-Chutor (Mariupol enclave) was added thanks to historical maps and other information provided by Derek Lambert. Thanks to Derek for providing such great details. 
  6. Belokuz’minovka (Ekaterinoslav) was added. Thanks to Jim Cole for this one. He had two records (immigration and death) with different spellings, but we were able to find it. 
  7. Albota (Bessarabia) was added. Not sure how I missed this one given that it was a parish, but thanks to Allyn Brosz for pointing it out. 
  8. And speaking of Bessarabia and parishes, I went through and added sources to those colonies that had parishes in the beginning (1814) and at the end (1939). I tried to sort out and document parish splits, although I am not sure I got them all. Some sources list them all, while others list just where they were just prior to WWII. For those places with parishes, there is now a link to a collection of church records translated by Black Sea German Research. They are organized by parish, but fortunately, the translated records are recorded by village name so the parish does not matter much for the Lutheran church records. Just search the page for your village name, or, even easier, use the search box to search for a surname.
  9. All in all, 19 maps (regional, provinces, enclaves) were updated. Yeah, this sounds crazy since you may only use one or two of them, but someday it will all make sense. I promise.

I am still working on the to do list for 2024. Right now, the plans for research next year include the central part of Great Russia, the Far North, and western provinces as I more or less outlined in this post. Not as many Germans as elsewhere, but I would like to fill in what I know so that the map can be used as a teaching tool without any huge gaps in it. I need to get the full survey of provinces with Germans in them in order to move forward with some other work. There is also another round of deportation locations that will go up onto the map, mostly focused on where Black Sea Germans were exiled. 

May 2024 bring you good cheer, good friends, good health, and peace on Earth. I am going to keep wishing for that last one until it finally happens.  


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23 December 2023

Frohe Weihnachten!

Merry Christmas to All and Peace in the New Year.

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16 December 2023

Video: The Forgotten Stories of Russian-German Immigrants

Sharing a recent, short documentary by the news service DW’s (Deutsche Well) History and Culture YouTube channel entitled “The Forgotten Stories of Russian-German Immigrants.”

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10 November 2023

Harvesting and Seeding

2024 to-do list
From the top going clockwise: light blue = Far North or Novgorodian Russia.; red = Central or Muscovite Russia; purple = Little Russia or the Zaporizhian Host; dark blue = Southwestern Krai or Right-Bank Ukraine; yellow = Northwestern Krai; fuschia = Baltic or Ostsee governorates.

The last couple of weeks have been spent relaxing, harvesting data from a few sources, and planting seed locations for spring. 

The central part of Great Russia, the Far North and western provinces were not home to very many Germans, except St. Petersburg and the Baltic provinces. Elsewhere, they were there in smaller numbers. But they were there. Traditional Germans from Russia research rarely include these areas because of the smaller numbers and also they were not there because of Catherine the Great or Tsar Alexander I. They had different immigration stories...but, at the end, similar deportation stories. Also in the queue for next year is another round of deportation locations. 

Stay tuned see how all shakes out. The map grows and becomes more useful every year. 

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27 October 2023

Map Update: Podolia Province

In September, volunteers at Black Sea German Research released translations of births and marriages recorded in the Niemirow Lutheran parish in Podolia covering the years 1833–1866 from FamilySearch. Earlier this year, I had already combed the BSGR database for references to this region, including EWZ records. Having accumulated a bunch of new places from these records and the 1897 Imperial census, it was time to update Podolia. 

Podolia or Podolsk or Podilla (I have to choose one spelling for the sake of simplicity) province was organized after becoming a part of the Russian Empire in 1793 after the Second Partition of Poland. 

Podolia is in the lower right side of the mid-shade of...what is that color?...dusty mauve? 
The Partitions of Poland. Source: Halibutt, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

The area had many historical affiliations including the Kievan Rus', the Kingdom of Poland, the Grand Duchy of Lithuania, the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth, and the Ottoman Empire. The territory today includes mostly the Vinnitsa and Khmelnytsky oblasts and part of the Odessa oblast in Ukraine. It also includes a bit of the Transnistria part of Moldova. 

Given its proximity to the provinces of Volhynia and Bessarabia and the Austro-Hungarian Empire (part of that empire is mapped here), it is not too surprising that some of the marriages and births recorded occurred outside of the province in neighboring areas. Maybe the places in Austria-Hungary were a little surprising. The Niemirow parish was established in 1782 with parishioners in 10 villages. A filial parish in Dunayivtsi was founded in 1806. The map below shows where Lutherans lived in 1864. I marked it up for research. In a sea of Orthodox neighbors (green) with Catholics well-distributed (pink), there are just six islands of Lutherans (blue). Of course, they were more widely and thinly dispersed than this historical map shows.

1864 Podolsk Province, population according to confession. Source: EtoMesto

Overall, there were not very many Germans in this province. According to the First General Census of the Russian Empire in 1897, there were 4,069 native German speakers in Podolia, which amounted to just .13% of the total population of the province. 

The main occupation of the residents was agriculture. Products grown included walnuts, apples, pears, plums, cherries, peaches, apricots, strawberries, raspberries, currants, gooseberries. Grapes were grown near the Dniester river, and winemaking existed in Olgopolsky, Baltsky, Yampolsky and Ushitsky districts. Sewing sheepskins into coats and boots, pottery, woodworking, and stone cutting were also noted occupations. 

I was not able to find every place in the church records, but I did find most of them. For some there were too many possibilities, and without a district to narrow it down, I would be guessing as to which one was correct. Some of the spellings yielded absolutely nothing. I did use the spelling in the church record as the primary ancestral name, so they should be easy to find.  

The following maps have been updated: 

German settlements in the Podolia Province. 

I am winding down early now to enjoy the end of the year, so this is the last map update for a few months. Research will continue and more posted in the new year


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15 October 2023

Farewell Forever Kleinliebental

Author’s note (tl;dr)—This map was inspired the article “Goodbye Forever to Kleinliebental Near Odessa” (“Abschied für immer aus Kleinliebental bei Odessa”), an anonymously written account of the resettlement of the Germans living this village in the Ukrainian SSR to the Kazakh SSR in early October 1941.

In the course of my research to illustrate the article on a map, it became clear that the Kleinliebental in the title of the article did not match with the location described in the article, and in the end was clearly not the Kleinliebental near Odessa. I hesitated releasing the map. I didn’t want to add to the false impression of which Kleinliebental the article was about. It was not the neat and tidy package of a story I thought it would be about one village’s experience with deportation. But not all stories follow straight lines or clear paths, and there is nothing neat and tidy about “population movements,” as we’ve seen history repeat itself in this area in what seems like only yesterday. I decided that the story map was still worth sharing, even if it just provokes thought or conversation about the subject.

The comments and observations are my own and do not represent any of those who were involved in the writing, editing, translation, or publishing of the original article.

• • •

Farewell Forever Kleinliebental

“Equally shaken and surprised on the morning of June 22, 1941, our colony woke to the news of the onset of war. Those who still had bad memories of the First World War were in deep shock. All dreaded only the worst…”
                                                From “Goodbye Forever to Kleinliebental Near Odessa
When the Soviet Union entered the Great Patriotic War in June 1941, it ordered all Germans living in Russia to be deported east. This order could not be carried out immediately because of the immediate and strong advance of the German Wehrmacht. Instead, German-Russian men between the ages 16 and 60 years of age were deported first out of fear they might be used as additional soldiers by the Wehrmacht (this was a valid concern as this did happen) and also because they could be used by the Soviets as cheap labor to support the wartime effort. Even Germans already serving in the Red Army were discharged and sent to the Trudar or labor army by the end of the year.
“All Volga Germans ages 15 to 60 were mobilized in June 1941 and enrolled in labor battalions, while their families were deported to the Kazakh SSR and the Far East. About 1,500 to 2,000 Volga Germans forming two labor battalions were at No. 12 Vetlag camp [these were camps near Vetluzhsky, Nizhny Novgorod Oblast, Russia —SSP] during 1942-1943.” 
                                                    From CIA Information Report. September 1951

1941 Deportation Timeline

Leading up to the winter of 1941, the following deportations of the German population in the Soviet Union took place. Initially they were carried out under the guise as resettlements or evacuations in order to protect the German-Russians from the approaching war, but soon they became forced population movements—deportations. The Germans who had lived in Russia for generations were not trusted by the Soviets, considered “unreliable,” sympathetic to the enemy, and even spies. But they were still human assets that could be exploited by the Soviets by sending them to remote parts of the country, both to the east and to the far north. This was nothing new to Russia. It had been going on since the time of the tsars and continues today.

According to Ulrich Mertens in his German-Russian Handbook, “by 25 December 1941, 894,600 Germans were said to have been deported. This number increased to 1,209,430 Germans by June 1942.” Below are the deportations he lists for 1941 by month and region. There was an incredible amount of population movement during this time.

—Crimea: Between 4 July and 10 July 1941: The first mass deportation of German Russians was carried out here during WWII (approximately 35,000 German Russians until 20 August 1941; presumably altogether 65,000 German Russians). On 16/17 August 1941 (or after 20 August 1941): total forced migration, deportations to Ordzhonikidze [North Caucasus, former Tersk oblast] and the Rostov area; after the harvest (September - October 1941), approximately 50,000 people (together with German Russians from Ordzhonikidze) were deported to Kazakh SSR (in part Dzambul area).

— Dniepropetrovsk oblast: August to September 1941 (approximately 3,200 persons) were deported to the Altay region.
— Karelo-Finnish SSR: August 1941 deportation of Germans in to the Komi ASSR. [These Germans originated from the border areas of the Ukrainian SSR and had been deported in the early 1930s to the Karelo-Finnish SSR.]
— Odessa oblast: August to September 1941 (approximately 6,000 persons (?) but perhaps also fewer): deportations to the Altay region.
— St. Petersburg: Suburbs: August to September 1941: and only in part, deportations to Kazakhstan (Kyzyl-Orda, Qaraghandy, South Caucasus, Dzambul).

— Gorky oblast [former Nizhni Novgorod province]: deportations to the Omsk and Pavlodar oblasts; 3,162 Germans on 14 September 1941.
— Karbadino-Balkar [North Caucasus, former Tersk oblast]: September to October 1941: deportations to Kazakhstan.
— Krasnodar Krai [North Caucasus, former Krasnodar oblast]: September to October 1941: deportations to Dzambul oblast, in part to the Novosibirsk oblast; On 15 September 1941: 38,136 Germans. 
— Kuybychev [Samara] oblast: September to November 1941: deportations to Altay.
— Moscow, city and oblast: 15 September 1941: 9,640 Germans were deported to the Karaganda and Kyzyl-Orda oblasts.
— North Ossetia [North Caucasus, former Tersk oblast]: September to October 1941: deportations to Kazakhstan.
— Novgorod oblast: September 1941: deportations to the Ivanovo oblast.
— Ordzhonikidze Krai [North Caucasus, former Stavropol Province]: September to October 1941: deportations to Kazakhstan (together with approximately 50,000 Crimean Germans); 77,570 Germans on 20 September 1941.
— Rostov oblast (together with approximately 2,000 Crimean Germans): September 1941: deportations to Altay Krai, Novosibirsk oblast, Dzambul oblast, Kyzyl- Orda oblast and South Kazakhstan oblast; 38,288 Germans from 10 to 20 September 1941.
— Russia, European: Beginning to middle of September 1941.
— Stalino oblast: September to October 1941: (only in part) deportations to Kazakhstan.
— Tula oblast: September to October 1941: deportations to Kazakhstan; 2,700 Germans on 21 September 1941.
— Volga German ASSR: From 3 to 21 September 1941: The deportation of approximately 366,000 (or 373,200) Germans via 151 (230?) transports by train from 19 different train stations (duration of the trip was four to six weeks) occurred after the edict on deportation of 28 August 1941 (see chronological table). Deportations to the oblasts of Akmolinsk, Aktyubinsk, Alma-Ata, Altay Krai, Dzambul, Qaraghandy, Krasnoyarsk Krai, Kustanai, Kyzyl-Orda, North Kazakhstan, East Kazakhstan, Pavlodar, Semipalatinsk, South Kazakhstan.
— Voroshilovgrad oblast: September to October 1941: (only in part) deportations to Kazakhstan. German Russians from recaptured areas of the Soviet Union.
— Zaporizhzhya oblast: September to October 1941: (only in part) deportations to Kazakhstan; 31,320 from 25 September to 10 October 1941.
— Zaporizhzhya-Mariupol-Melitopol, tri-city area : 28/29 September 1941: complete forced migration.

— Armenia [South Caucasus]: October 1941: deportations to Kazakhstan.
— Azerbaijan [South Caucasus]: mid-October 1941, together with Georgia, 25,000 Germans.
— Caucasus: deportations especially in October and November 1941; see also Crimea.
— Chechnya [North Caucasus, former Tersk oblast]: October 1941: deportations to Kazakhstan.
— Dagestan [North Caucasus, former Dagestan and Tersk oblasts]: October 1941: deportations to Kazakhstan.
— Georgia [South Caucasus]: mid-October 1941: deportations to Kazakhstan (together with Azerbaijan, 25,000 Germans) by way of Baku and the Caspian Sea.
— Industrial areas: October to November 1941: deportations to agricultural regions within corresponding settlement areas from where no deportations were otherwise carried out.
— Ingushetia [North Caucasus, former Terse oblast]: October 1941: deportations to Kazakhstan.
— Molotschna (area of Halbstadt) [former Taurida Province]: 3 October 1941: 15,000 Germans were deported to Siberia.
— Voronezh oblast: October 1941: deportations to the Novosibirsk oblast.

— Chita oblast [former Transbaikal oblast], strips near the borders: November 1941: deportations to the interior of the district.


About the Map

Often when I read material about Germans from Russia, I refer to the Germans from Russia Settlement Locations map if places are mentioned in order to give me a sense of where the story was happening.

Such was the case three years ago while looking for articles to include in the Germans from Russia Heritage Society’s publication Heritage Review, I ran across one titled “Goodbye Forever Kleinliebental near Odessa” in the Germans from Russia Heritage Collection. It was originally in German (“Abschied für immer aus Kleinliebental bei Odessa”) and published by the Landsmannschaft Der Deutschen aus Russland in their 2001/2002 Heimatbuch. Alex Herzog had translated it, and it was a part of the extensive article collection at GRHC. The pending October 2020 issue of the Heritage Review had other articles about Kleinliebental in it, and I thought it would be a good fit.

As I was proofing it to comply with the Chicago Manual of Style, I took note of all the places mentioned. It included the names of train stations, villages that they passed through, places where they had heard bad things were happening, where they finally crossed the Volga River, which railway line they were on at one point, etc. I thought it would make an interesting story map. I set the story aside for a later project.

Initially, I had planned to just include the places mentioned in the article, but in the years between when I originally read the article and just a couple of months ago, I decided that expanding it to show the bigger picture would be worth the effort. I ended up with four sections or layers on the map:
  1. Farewell Forever Kleinliebental
  2. Soviet Railways
  3. Occupied Eastern Front
  4. 100 Places of Exile
I recommend starting by reading the article. It’s short, only five pages long. Then take a look at the map to see the story laid out by location. See the places mentioned in the article, where they started out, where they traveled by train, where the war was closing in around them, and where Germans from Kleinliebental near Odessa were eventually exiled.

1. Farewell Forever Kleinliebental

The first layer contains all of the locations mentioned in the article "Abschied für immer aus Kleinliebental bei Odessa" (Farewell Forever from Kleinliebental near Odessa) in the order of their appearance.

The over 40 locations mentioned and mapped on this layer include other German colonies, Jewish colonies, railway stops, rivers, towns and cities passed by while on the railroad, atrocities happening in nearby places, and areas with labor camps that were a part of the Gulag system.

Part of the article appears to be a first person account by a younger person who refers to their father early in the story. Other parts seem to indicate a deeper knowledge of German-Russians in the Soviet Union, and at one point mentioning an obscure study of Jewish colonies, which I’ll explain more in a bit.

There were some geographical problems with this story. Let me just start by addressing the elephant on the map. The story states that “the front had already reached the Dnieper River just north of us, and the sounds of war had been clearly audible for some time.” When the time came for them to be evacuated, they packed horse-drawn wagons and headed in the direction of “the railway station Haitchur, about 70 kilometers [about 44 miles] away.” What was expected to take 12 hours took two days.

Haitchur was a railway station not near the city of Odessa but near the city of Zaporizhzhya across from the Dnieper River. Kleinliebental near Odessa was not south of or even near the Dnieper River.

How then, I wondered, were the Germans villagers led by Soviet authorities from Kleinliebental just outside of the city of Odessa on the Black Sea to a specific railway stop in the Zaporizhia oblast…548 kilometers (340 miles) away… by wagon… in two days…through at least some occupied territory? Logically, they were not. The village mentioned in the story could not have been Kleinliebental bei Odessa, but Kleinliebental bei somewhere else. Where it was, I am not sure. There are at least two possibilities in the Nikolaev and Stalino oblasts, but neither comes close to the distance from them to the railway station mentioned in the article.

Set aside the article title (most often in publishing the author of a story doesn’t write the headline) and the addition of the colony of Grossliebental to the list of villages they rode through (clearly added by someone other than the original author). The article should not be entirely discounted. It notes many historically accurate places to which Germans were deported in the 1940s. It also portrays the fear, uncertainty, and chaos experienced by the Germans as they were hauled, packed in freight cars, 5,466 kilometers (3,396 miles) to Western Siberia.

As for the Jewish colonies, when they arrived in Haitchur, “There were families from the Kankrin Colonies numbers 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 and 6…”

The Kankrin colonies were a subset of Jewish agricultural colonies established in the former Province of Ekaterinoslav that were the subject of a 1893 study by German-Russian Ivan V. Kankrin (1860-1917), “Еврейские земледельческие колонии Александровского уезда” (“Jewish Agricultural Colonies in the Aleksandrovsky District”). Kankrin was reportedly a critic of the Jewish agricultural colonies. He insisted that they never did much agriculture work but remained artisans instead. He studied the 10 colonies in depth, and (inadvertently, I am sure) contributed a great deal of information about the colonies that descendants are now discovering as his work is translated. The colonies were located between the German settlements of the Molotschna Mennonite Colony and the German settlements of the Mariupol enclave.

They are not referred to anywhere else as “Kankrin colonies,” and I had to dig into the untranslated Russian-language study to even get the real names of each of them in order to locate them. The name Kankrin is not attached to any of them in Jewish genealogy.

It is curious that the term “Kankrin colonies” is used in the article. It indicates either the original author, or other writer who augmented the article, knew of the study some 40 years prior to the deportation story. While there is no doubt that Germans knew of neighboring Jewish colonies, would they have known about this study? The Kankrin study is not, as far as I can tell, a well-known part of the Germans from Russia history, and it nor the colonies are not mentioned in the standard literature or gazetteers. Feels like a plant next to the elephant on the map.

If you have read this far (come for the maps, stay for the words), you can see why I hesitated going forward with releasing the map. I still believe there is value in it, and it may tell more of the story of the deportation of the other German colonies in this area at the same time, those in the Molotschna, Chortitza, Prischib and Mariupol areas. There may be a little something for everyone in it.

Is this layer accurate? I don’t know if I can judge it for accuracy beyond saying the story, as it was told, is mapped accurately.

2. Soviet Railways

This section of the map illustrates the railroad route the German deportees may have taken from the Gaichur (Haiture) railway station mentioned in the article. This station was east of the city of Zaporizhzhya, which had just been taken by the German Wehrmacht on October 3, 1941, the day after the Germans of Kleinliebental were rounded up to be “evacuated.” By October 8, 1941, both Melitopol to the southwest and Mariupol to the southeast were also taken by the Wehrmacht.

There were several clues in the article that made it possible to determine which railway lines they took in order to trace their journey:

— I knew where the frontline was at the time in early October in relation to the station where they were loaded onto freight cars., so I knew the directions they could not travel.
— I knew they crossed the Volga River near Kuibyshev/Samara, so they must have traveled north, and there were just a few places where they could have crossed the river.
— I knew the names of a few places they went through, which helped figure out which railway lines they traversed.
— I knew the name of one of the railway lines because it was included in the article.
— I knew where they left some freight cars behind, again helping to figure out on which lines they traveled.
— I knew where they ended up, the name of the train station and the village they were taken to after getting off the train.

Looking at a set of 1943 Soviet railway maps, I decided to work backwards from the destination station to the originating station simply because it was easier to get started and make progress going that direction. I marked up the maps, noted the connecting lines to the next map, and drew them on Google MyMaps line by line.

Markup of the Tashkent railway map sheet showing connections to the Orenburg railway continuing to the northwest and the Turksib railway headed east. 

There is no evidence that they changed trains at any point when the railway lines changed. The line names were included to make it easier on me when drawing the lines on the map and also having them short enough so they did not get unwieldy. The railway lines show the real journey along current railroad tracks and not just a rough line from beginning to end. This is always a consideration when adding lines to Google MyMaps—the general route or the exact route. But in this case, there was no question that I wanted to show the actual journey as best I could. The bonus of doing this is that I was able to add up the distance. The length of the journey was approximately 5,466 kilometers (3,396 miles) and took 40 days, from October 5 through November 14.

Is this layer entirely accurate? Parts of it, yes, absolutely. Other parts were my best guess given the information I had.

3. Occupied Eastern Front

This section of the map shows cities in the Ukrainian SSR that were occupied in the region by October 1941. Each place has the name and the date it was taken by German or Romanian forces. I put these on the map when I was working on the first two sections to help me understand what was possible in terms of evacuation routes. At the end, I decided to leave them as a reminder of how close war was to the German colonies being evacuated and where it was already in full play.

4. 100 Places of Exile

This section of the map is a compilation of 100 known locations to which residents of the colony of Kleinliebental near Odessa (again, not the Kleinlienbental in the article in the first section) were exiled/resettled/deported in the 1940s. It is unknown to me which railway stations or separation/filtration camps to which they were initially sent, but it shows how far and wide people were dispersed across not only the Far East, Siberia, and Central Asia, but also in central and northern European Russia. Approximately 500 people born between 1866 and 1937 were deported to over 100 places. I stopped at 100 for the sake of time spent on this project. 

The information in this section was compiled from translated MVD (Ministry of Internal Affairs of the USSR) records obtained by both the Glückstal Colonies Research Association (see GCRA’s “2021 Data Drive” and by researcher Peter Goldade (see “The Complete Works of Peter Goldade” website. These two sources were used because they were in electronic format, which made it easy for me to extract just the information about Kleinliebental and compile and analyze the data fairly quickly.

The GCRA data was more recently translated than the Goldade data, but it is notable that while there is some overlap between the two, the two sources are not identical. No dates were included in the translations, so it’s not known exactly when anyone was in these places other than sometime in the 1940s, during or after the war is unclear.

Both sources focus on the German enclaves in the Soviet Odessa oblast (Glückstal, Beresan, Liebental, Kutschurgan with a few from Bessarabia and other areas) and include full names, patronymics, birth year, birth place, family groups, and location of exile. The family groups show something that I want to call out: families were not always deported to the same place together. They were separated. And this was on purpose.

CIA Information Report. Subject: Soviet Justice. May 1951.

“The penalty of deportation is a carry-over from the times of the czar. By keeping this penalty the Soviet government had in mind not only the separation of criminal elements, those not giving a pledge of loyalty, and the scum opposing the political trend of the country, but also the colonizing of Siberia. Deportation is one way for untangling a difficult national problem. Siberia today presents a highly colorful mosaic of nationalities consisting of deported groups of ‘nationalists’ from the Ukraine, Poland, Orman, etc. There is also no shortage of Chinese, Koreans, and Japanese, creating a veritable tower of Babel which isn’t threatening to the USSR since the NZVD forements unofficial race hatred and prejudices which conforms to the so unproletarian device: divide et impera [divide and rule].”

The document continues on: 

”Materially speaking, the government benefits in two ways: it protects itself from unwanted classes and it profits through exploitation of these classes for necessary labor. Siberia as the Soviet Arctic, and the boundless expanses of Soviet Central Asia, hide within themselves a vast natural wealth and the only way for the government to  avail itself of this wealth is to populate these areas. It is a well known fact that deportation does solve this problem completely...” 

Is this layer entirely accurate? Probably. The locations themselves are accurate. I fixed the coordinates on several of them from what was included in the source. As for who went where, I rely on the translations available. Neither source offered original-language images of the documents. Also, people from other villages in the same area of Odessa may have also been sent to some of these places. All of that will be reflected when these 100 places are fully documented and added to the deportation locations map and layer on the main German from Russia Settlement Locations map.

I need to be done with this map, and so I’m leaving it here. I hope you find it as interesting as I did.

Since you made it to the end of this very long post, this map can be turned into a presentation if there is any interest. Also, if you are interested in learning how to create a story map like this using Google MyMaps, I have developed a workshop that will be available next year. 

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16 September 2023

Last Presentation of 2023: Deportation Locations

My scratch map of places of deportation from the presentation. 
The last scheduled presentation of 2023 is now done. I did a deep dive into the research and sources used for the deportation locations layer of the map. It’s a difficult subject and no fun, but it’s a part of our history and needs to be included. Thanks to the Southern California Chapter of Germans from Russia for having me. 

Shown above is my private practice/research map. This is map on which I make notes about what I have found and what various sources indicate as places of deportation. The yellow shade is roughly the area of Asiatic Russia under the U.S.S.R. Interestingly, there are a lot of pins (i.e. places of deportation  in European Russia. Not all places of deportation were to “Siberia.” More to come on who went where, when, and for how long as research progresses. 

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31 August 2023

Machines Reading Maps Tool

A fun new tool from the David Rumsey Map Collection was released yesterday: Machines Reading Maps. It presents an interesting new way to search for our ancestral colonies on historical maps within the David Rumsey collection. 

If you have seen my presentation “Time Travel Using Historical Maps,”* you may recall that I showed how to search the David Rumsey Map Collection using a tool called MapRankSearch. In it, we search the entire collection for a current place name (or something near a colony that no longer exists) and were presented with maps showing that location. And then we searched by coordinates to find it on the map results. Now you can search David Rumsey using a new tool, Machines Reading Maps which searches for the text that actually appears on the maps

It was only a matter of time before this happened. If you are familiar with live-text on Mac OS—where any text in a screenshot is clickable, copyable, and links are live—it’s the same idea. The DR team sent their computers off to scrape up all the words it can find on maps in their collection and made them searchable. It’s a cool new way to search for places. You can contribute as well. The link to the tool guide is here

Caveat (of course): As a researcher, you still need to evaluate every map from the search results to make sure it is the location you’re looking for and not another location with the same name. Remember that it is only searching for a name without any other context. Some unique German colony names yield pretty good results. But we all know Germans like to reuse place names wherever they go. For colony names that are common, like my ever-favorite example of Neudorf, you are better off using MapRankSearch, unless you just want a cool graphic with a lot of Neudorfs on it (see below). While it picks up and deals with some special characters, like umlauts, it does not pick up spelling variations. So, you will need to do searches for each spelling variation or name of a place if it had multiple names over time. For example, searching for Strassburg will yield different results than Strasburg and different still from Strasbourg. If you are a Kutschurgan Strassburger, you know very well that these are the spellings of three different places in different countries of your (and my) ancestors. But...they may be spelled “incorrectly” on a map. A French map of the Russian Empire, for example, may use the French spelling instead of the German spelling. Also, historically, there are many creative spellings used on maps. 

There are more accurate ways of searching for your ancestral colonies on historical maps (God forbid what’s going to start showing up on Facebook now) and more relevant map collections to the German colonies in Russia, but this one admittedly is tons of fun and I invite you to while away your Labor Day weekend playing with this. 

Here are some examples. Click on the collection image below to run the search on David Rumsey, or go directly to the website and start searching. You never know what you might find. 

*I will be recording my presentation “Time Travel Using Historical Maps” and putting it on this project’s YouTube channel soon.

Happy searching!

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13 August 2023

The Wall Breaker: Dark Histories & Sad Truths

Note: Unfortunately, this conference has been cancelled. There were not enough registrants to make it viable this year.

The annual Wall Breaker Conference organized and hosted by Robyn Morales is always a must-attend. Going on its fifth year, it has really come into its own, taking its place among the well-known conferences hosted by the American Historical Society of Germans from Russia and the Germans from Russia Heritage Society. Without the formality and pomp and circumstance, the Wall Breaker is like a days-long conversation with friends. It’s 100% virtual, relaxed, and always has topics that you don’t find in other German-Russian conferences. Robyn has a way of convincing the most interesting people to share what they know and start the conversations. And, the best part, the days are packed with topics. I'm talking 21 presentations over three days. There is no better deal out there for $75 CAD. You can register here

The final line up has been posted, and it is a good one!

Friday, September 8, 2023

  • Murder at the South Dakota State Archives   —Matthew T. Reitzel
  • In the Trenches - Searching Digitized First World War Records at Library and Archives Canada   —Marie-Eve Robert
  • Orphan Train Records   —Kaily Carson
  • Breaking Down Brick Walls – The GPS Approach   —Janice Nickerson .
  • Tales That Auntie Told Us: Family Lore & How to Deal with It   —John Althouse
  • Quarantined! – Genealogy, the Law and Public Health   —Judy G. Russell, JD, CG, CGL
  • Resource Reviews   —Robyn Morales
Saturday, Sept 9, 2023
  • Death Demystified (North America)   —Robyn Morales
  • Where the Murderers Roam   —Daniel Hubbard
  • Stalin's Arrest Files   —Dave Obee
  • Where There Is – or Isn’t – a Will   —Judy G. Russell, JD, CG, CGL
  • How Old Did He Have To Be…?   —Judy G. Russell, JD, CG, CGL
  • “Death by Undue Means” – Coroner’s Records   —Judy G. Russell, JD, CG, CGL
  • Criminal Cases Locally   —Stacy F. Kaufeld, M.A.
Sunday, September 10, 2023
  • “May The Universe Be Your Home!” a graphic novel about the GR community in Kazakhstan   —Lena Wolf
  • Breaking the Walls of Time and Distance by Visiting Ancestral Villages in Germany and Russia   —Dr. Mila Koretnikov
  • Crimean War   —Merv Weiss
  • ABC … 123 … EWZ! Using Einwanderungszentralstelle Records   —Carolyn Schott
  • Church Records – Broken Faiths   —Reuben Bauer
  • Genocide through Forced Labor: The Case of the Russian Germans in the Labor Army   —Otto Pohl
Hope to you there!

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31 July 2023

Video: Intro & Map Tutorial

After seven years, I’ve finally recorded a new video with an overview of project and a new map tutorial. Been so busy mapping, I didn’t realize how old it was. Anyway, all new video for the current map. 


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28 June 2023

Asiatic Russia Map Updates Posted

Germans from Russia Settlement Locations map as of 28 June 2023.

The Germans from Russia Settlement Locations map has been updated. This was a particularly long research cycle from end of January through June with a lot of moving parts. That, along with giving 5 presentations, going to 7 (!) dentist appointments, and 2 trips to the vet — oh, how life tries to thwart research sometimes — I still made it by my own self-imposed deadline. I am pleased to announce that all of the settlements on the map are now in their former imperial provinces. The grouping of settlements into “colony groups” has been sunsetted completely. It simply became untenable as more settlements were found that just did not fit into that way of thinking. It also gathers up and gives a home to all of those “scattered settlements” that had been ignored in the past or grouped in whatever colony group that was closest.  

What’s New?

— Asiatic Russia has been split into three regions: 1) Russian Far East, Siberia, and Steppes Krai; 2) Russian Turkestan; and 3) Caucasus Viceroyalty. Like all the other regions on the map, each of the new regions was split into the provinces/gubernias or regions/oblasts as they were in roughly 1914, toward the end of the Imperial Russian Empire. Within each province/region, each settlement indicates what district/county/uzeyd it was a part of at the time. Period georeferenced maps were used to accomplish this. Yes, I know. I'm still mixing English and Russian names for these administrative jurisdictions. I will straighten them all out eventually. 

— In total, 33 new provinces/oblasts were added. A reminder: these are historical and do not equate to the area of similarly named oblasts today. If no Germans were found in a province, it is not include on the map. A few small provinces or ones created very late are grouped on the map with their previous province but are still listed as their own province. 

— Although the goal of this research cycle was not about adding locations, 372 new settlements were added anyway. As long as I was visiting the neighborhoods, I figured I might as well pick up some windfall. 

— Twenty-eight new sources were added. Most of these were historical maps to which you can find links on the Sources page. 

— The layers on the map have been renamed to include whether they were in European Russia or Asiatic Russia. They have also been reordered to those with denser German populations toward the top, which improves how searches of the map perform. Searches start at the top layer and go down. It is still a bit unruly to search the big map, but this does help. 

— On the same lines of improving search performance and rendering of the map on slower connections, I have removed the place names next to the pins on the big map. All of the other smaller maps regional, province, and enclave maps will continue to have the place names appear next to the pin. I have wrestled back and forth on this one but decided this was the best way to go given the number of pins on the big map and knowing how many more are coming. 

— The former German settlements in modern-day Ukraine that are in occupied territory as a part of the Russo-Ukrainian war have been updated. Thanks to David Batashvili of the Georgian Foundation for Strategic and International Studies (Rondeli Foundation) for his meticulous tracking of the front lines in a format compatible with my own map. 

— I will be reworking the Maps page into an atlas. As it is, the page is very outdated. Moving all the maps into an atlas will be a good final destination for all of this work. Some have seen the prototype in my presentations over the past year. 

— Lastly, I have removed the layer with the Austro-Hungarian villages in the Galizien, Bukovina, and Batschka regions. I knew the day would come, and today is the day. The focus of the map needs to be 100% on the German settlements in the former Russian Empire. But, good news! There has always been a seperate map with those villages on them. You can still (and always) get to them here

That’s it for now. I’ll be taking a research break for a few months. More to come later this year. 

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10 June 2023

Caucasus Viceroyalty

The splitting of Asiatic Russia into its former imperial provinces is complete! 

The last of the work in the Caucasus region was completed on Thursday morning. This area includes the modern-day countries of Russia, Georgia, Azerbaijan, Armenia, and Türkiye. This time, 133 places were added and all were split into 13 provinces. 

The First Imperial Census of 1897 described a total of 56,729 native German speakers at the time living in the Caucasus region, amounting to .61% of the total population. Broken down into provinces, the distribution of native German speakers in the Caucasus region looked like this in 1897: Baku (3,430), Batum (369), Dagestan (261), Elizavetpol (3,191), Erivan (210), Kars (430), Kuban (20,778), Kutaisi (1,065), Stavropol (8,601), Sukhum (406), Terek (9,672) and Tiflis (8,340). The Black Sea Province (not to be mistaken for the much larger Black Sea Region) also had 748 Germans. Prior to 1896, it was a district in the Kuban province. It is grouped with Kuban on the map, but it is still listed as its own province. Same goes for Zakatala okrug, which was a part of Tiflis province until 1903. There were no German settlements in that very small area, but there were 11 Germans reportedly living in the city of Zakatala at the time of the census

There is a wealth of good maps available for this area, both military and road maps. It makes sense given the proximity to both the Black Sea, the Sea of Azov, and the Caspian Sea, the ports of which make it desirable for commerce and often conflict. It was nice to work with georeferenced maps with clearly marked boundaries for a change. Here are two examples. 

“Map of the Caucasus Region from the the Imperial Geographical Society.” 1868. Repository: EtoMesto

“American Map of the Caucasus 1910” Repository: EtoMesto This map, while simple and not highly detailed, is accurate and in English. It’s always a relief to find something that doesn’t need translating.

While researching this region, I found several Kavkazskiy Kalendars (Caucasian Calendars) from the mid-1800s to the early 1900s. These are akin to the other calendar publications seen in South Russia published in Odessa and Bessarabia that were sort of a farmer’s almanac. I have previously posted some maps found in those calendars, railroad maps in particular. The Kavkazskiy Kalendars were published in Tiflis, are not agrarian focused, but they do have maps. Below are three that show the regions of artisanal trades, the metal production, and the wool industry. They are in both Russian and French. Maps like this are interesting in that they show what industries was going on where our German ancestors lived, what types of occupations they may have had (locksmiths, blacksmiths, gold or silversmiths, tanners, weavers), or even what work drew them to a particular area. 

The repository for the maps below are the National Parliamentary Library of Georgia, 1900 edition for 1901

“Map of the Caucasus: Cottage Industries and Artisanal Crafts”

“Map of the Caucasus: Wool Industry”

“Map of the Caucasus: Wrought Metal Production”

• • • • •

I have to update the sources and do some tidying up of the data before I can post it to the Germans from Russia Settlement Locations map. Everything should be up over the next couple of weeks. I am looking forward to sharing the last five months’ worth of research very soon. 

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31 May 2023

End of May Update

Almost there! 

The splitting of Asiatic Russia into its former imperial provinces is near the end. All that is left in the Caucasus are the provinces of Stavropol and Terek. The pins in yellow and orange are left to do. Those in shades of red are complete. So far, 89 more locations have been added, covering the western part of the  North Caucasus (Russia) and the South Caucasus (Armenia, Türkiye, Georgia and Azerbaijan). 

Still on target for a mid-late June map update. This is what it looks like as of yesterday. 

Upcoming Conferences and Presentations

I will be presenting virtually and on-demand for GRHS and FEEFHS respectively. And in August, I will be attending AHSGR in Greeley, CO.  


Germans from Russia Heritage Society Convention (Virtual), Saturday, July 22

Time Travel Using Historical Maps: Wander through time and explore your ancestral villages on geolocated maps. In the past decade, efforts have been made to scan and georeference historical maps that have been sitting in archives for hundreds of years. You will learn how to use information from the Germans from Russia Settlement Locations map to travel back in time and find your ancestral colonies on period maps using their GPS coordinates. You will learn where to find repositories of detailed maps online, how to overcome language issues with technology, and how to capture images and cite your findings. 

The geographical focus of the presentation will be on historical provinces of South Russia (the Black Sea region) of the Russian Empire.

As some of you know, when I do this presentation for chapters, I customize it by using colonies suggested by members. If you're going to be at this presentation either in person in Mandan, ND, or virtually, let me know what colonies you would like to see. 

Learn more and register here.  


Foundation of East European Family Studies Conference (On-Demand), August 1–4

Germans from Russia Settlement Locations Project: It started with the same questions we’ve all had. Where was my ancestor’s village? Does it still exist? What is it called today? Was it far from other villages? Is it still in Russia? How do I find it on these old maps? Where is it on today’s map? This presentation introduces the Germans from Russia Settlement Locations project, a geographic genealogy tool built using Google MyMaps that plots the locations of German colonies across the Imperial Russian Empire. We’ll review the history of the project and the research methods, tour the map, and discuss what’s coming next.

Time Travel Using Historical Maps: Wander through time and explore your ancestral villages on geolocated maps. In the past decade, efforts have been made to scan and georeference historical maps that have been sitting in archives for hundreds of years. You will learn how to use information from the Germans from Russia Settlement Locations map to travel back in time and find your ancestral colonies on period maps using their GPS coordinates. You will learn where to find repositories of detailed maps online, how to overcome language issues with technology, and how to capture images and cite your findings. 

The geographical focus of the presentation will be on historical provinces of the European part of the Russian Empire.

Learn more and register here. 

And so, a busy May ends as a busy June begins. 

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