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The descendants of German settlers still preserve the culture and traditions of their ancestors in the Altai and Omsk steppes.
Among the ethnic Germans in Russia, there are descendants of the Mennonites (the Protestant pacifist movement) who came to Russia in the 18th century at the invitation of Catherine II, and immigrants under the "Stolypin reform" of the early 20th century, who were promised land for free use, and "new settlers", descendants of Russian and Soviet Germans from other regions of the former Soviet republics.
There were also violent migrations of peoples in the Soviet years, when ethnic Germans were transported in freight cars to Siberia, erasing in an instant all references to German settlements in the Crimea and the Caucasus.
Today in Russia about 400 thousand people call themselves Germans, the majority live in Siberia and the Urals (in Altai and the Omsk region 50 thousand each, in the Tyumen, Chelyabinsk and Kemerovo regions and the Krasnoyarsk region each 20 thousand, as well as several thousand people in cities of the Volga region).
Street in Azovo. - Marina Tarasova
In these places, they speak different dialects of German and Russian, celebrate holidays according to both German and Russian customs, and make delicious sausages. We asked the residents of these areas how they preserve the traditions of their ancestors.
Friendship of peoples and traditions
Marina in the local history museum. - Marina Tarasova
Marina Tarasova (before marriage Nuss, in German "nut") moved to the Omsk region from Kazakhstan after the collapse of the USSR in 1991. At first she lived in the German village of Novoskatovka, 140 km from Omsk (the first house was bought from a “leaving” family), and three years ago she moved to the Azov German national region (45 km from Omsk). She runs the local history museum of the region, studies the history and culture of the Germans in the region, collecting ancient household items, documents and photographs of the first settlers.
Azovo is the largest "German" village in Siberia and, perhaps, in Russia: there are more than 9 thousand inhabitants. It was founded in 1909 for immigrants from Little Russia, who were promised free land. “In 1893 the first German village in the Omsk region was formed - Aleksandrovka, behind which the villages of Privalnoe, Sosnovka, Novinka began to appear. Since 1904, the main flow of immigrants began, whose ancestors still live in the settlements of the national region, where old German houses have survived, "says Marina.
This is what a typical house in the German national region looks like. - Marina Tarasova
In total, the Azov region, formed in 1992, is home to 25 thousand people of dozens of different nationalities: Russians, Ukrainians, Estonians, Kazakhs, Mordvinians, Uzbeks, and other peoples, and about half of the inhabitants have German roots.
“After the formation of the district, there were many 'Russian Germans' who wanted to move here, - says Marina. - At that time Germany actively helped, including supplying trailers for temporary residence for the displaced persons. Now the people of Azov are building solid houses of their own, often in the European style, the village is growing before our eyes."
Waffle baking master class. - Marina Tarasova
Local residents here learn German from kindergarten, although today there are not enough teachers for such a large number of residents. Adults also learn the language in German cultural centers - there are as many as 18 of them in the region, in almost every village. In addition, free hobby clubs operate there. Just like in Soviet times, only with a German flavor: instead of cutting snowflakes out of paper, children learn to make Advent calendars for Christmas.
Shpruh. - Marina Tarasova
Holidays in Azovo are celebrated both according to Russian and German traditions: for many families Christmas comes on December 25, but sweets are also put on the table on January 7. Easter is celebrated according to the Catholic calendar, but Easter cakes and eggs remain until the Orthodox one.In addition, some families have preserved the ancient tradition of hanging sayings from the Bible, embroidered by hand on fabric, in their houses - “spruces”.
Village for troubled teenagers
Local brewery. - Marina Tarasova
As in German villages, Azovo has its own brewery, and Aleksandrovka has a bakery and a meat processing plant. The local museum staff organizes food tours in the German area.
“Tourists come to us not only from Germany, but also from China, Canada, Belgium, Israel,” says Marina.
In addition, in the villages you can see temples of various confessions: most of the local residents are Lutherans, but there are Catholics, Protestants, and Orthodox. “We still have the villages of Solntsevka and Appolonovka, where Mennonites live, in the Isilkul District of Omsk Oblast, and they are very different in their traditions,” says Marina. “For example, community members build a house together for a school graduate.”
Church in Appolonovka - Alexander Kryazhev / Sputnik
Marina, like the rest of the Russian Germans, has the right to reunite with relatives in Germany, but the move is not included in her plans. “I go there with pleasure, but I want to work here. I am a sociable person, I always need active social activity, and I will miss that there”.
Germans from Germany are also frequent guests in Siberia: in addition to family visits, cultural exchange events are held here, and there is also a program for the re-education of difficult teenagers. For many of them, this is the only chance to escape prison, and therefore they agree to leave for Siberia, where a year awaits them without the usual benefits of civilization such as central heating and a warm bathroom. According to the media, after the end of this program, up to 80% of adolescents stop antisocial behavior.
Half-city in the steppes
Departure from Galbstatt.
The German national district in Altai, adjacent to the Omsk region, was formed in 1927, liquidated in 1938 and re-formed in 1991. A little more than 16 thousand people live here in 16 villages, about a thousand inhabitants in each. The nearest town Slavgorod is located 30 km away, and the regional capital Barnaul is 430 km away.
A stele with a bilingual inscription informs that the traveler enters the German National Region. Each village has clinics, schools, sports grounds and cultural centers. In Russian and German, the inscriptions are duplicated on all administrative buildings.
Grishkovka. - Vladimir Mikhailovsky
The German villages of Altai are distinguished by wide asphalt streets, low hedges instead of blank fences, solid brick houses on lined plots. “All houses are of the same type, have two exits, they have neat courtyards,” says Vladimir Mikhailovsky from Grishkovka, who moved here a few years ago from Kazakhstan.
Vladimir in Grishkovka. - Vladimir Mikhailovsky
Vladimir teaches chemistry and biology at a school in the village of Grishkovka and says that he adheres to the traditions that his parents passed on to him and celebrates the holidays according to Catholic customs.
Entrance to Grishkovka. - Vladimir Mikhailovsky
“In our village, any event includes some elements of German culture - songs, dances,” he says. "There is also a museum of Russian Germans and the annual summer festival Sommerfest with tasting of national dishes."
Most of the inhabitants are engaged in agriculture - these lands in the middle of the innumerable lakes of the Kulunda steppe romantics call the Siberian Black Earth.
German region in Altai. - Vladimir Mikhailovsky
The center of the region is the village of Halbstadt, founded in 1908 (population 1,700), which in German means “half-city”. About a third of the inhabitants call themselves Germans.
Grishkovka village in winter. - Vladimir Mikhailovsky
The main enterprise of the village is the Brücke (Most) joint plant, founded in 1995 with German assistance.Here sausages and sausages are produced according to German technologies and from natural local products, so residents of other regions often come here for gastronomic pleasures. Plant director Petr Boos is proud of the fact that his plant has “both German order and Russian scope” - he employs more than 250 people.
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