HomeDeutschContactSite Credits

Germans in Bessarabia, around the Black Sea and the Volga Region

In the hope of attracting Germans to live in the Russian empire, the Empress of Russia, Catherine II, issued a decree on immigration in 1763, which offered them privileges such as grants of land, assistance with development, local self-government, free exercise of religion and exemption from military service. By 1775, some 30,000 people from Hesse had accepted the invitation to settle along the banks of the River Volga. From 1780 onwards, immigrants from south-western Germany in particular colonised the Russian shores of the Black Sea and Novorossiya ('New Russia' now, to a large extent, the southern Ukraine). Mennonites emigrated from Danzig to the Chortitza region.

The German immigrants established colonies across the steppes around the Black Sea from Odessa and the Crimean peninsula to the Caucasus. They employed various agricultural technologies to cultivate the land and farmed cattle on a large scale. From there, subsequent generations migrated to the Transcaucasus, Siberia and Central Asia, where they established further German colonies.

After Russia's victory over the Ottoman Empire in 1812, Tsar Alexander I called on Germans to come and settle in Bessarabia. These immigrants came predominantly from Swabia, but also from Prussia. Their reasons for emigrating, amongst other things, were economic hardship, the Napoleonic occupation and the desire to exercise their religion freely. Setting out on crude barges, popularly called Ulmer Schachtel, the majority of emigrants from South Germany reached their destination near the delta of the Danube from 1816/17 onwards. Another wave of settlers arrived between 1814 and 1816, travelling overland from Prussia via Warsaw. Farming and education in the Black Sea region flourished until 1914 in communities with a fundamentally Protestant-Pietist outlook.

Forcible collectivisation in the 1920s and 1930s, resettlement in 1939, and deportation in 1941 and after 1945 brought the history of German settlements in the southern Ukraine to an end.