At the invitation of Catherine the Great, 30,623 colonists primarily from the southwestern areas of present day Germany founded 106 colonies along the unsettled Russian steppe near the banks of the Volga between 1763 and 1772. Some had originally settled in Schleswig-Holstein (then ruled by Denmark) between 1759 and 1762, but joined the migration to Russia when it began in 1763. These original Volga German colonists were joined in 1812 by 181 mostly German soldiers who had been a part of Napoleon's Army when it invaded Russia. Beginning in 1848, a group of Mennonite colonists from West Prussia also founded several villages called the Am Trakt Settlement among the extant Volga German colonies, and another group of Mennonites established villages called the Alt-Samara Settlement beginning in 1859 to the north east of Samara. An additional 14 colonies were founded in 1863-1864 by colonists from Upper Silesia and East Prussia and also by Germans fleeing the uprisings in Western Poland. These latter colonists became known as the Samara Germans, but they were also living in the Volga German area. A census of Russia taken in 1897 enumerated 1,790,439 ethnic Germans living in Russia. Not all of them were Volga Germans.
These pioneers shared a rich life based in German culture, language, traditions, and religion and influenced by their Russian neighbors and environment. Today, those born on the Volga and their descendants are scattered in many parts of the world including Canada, the United States, Germany, Argentina, Brazil and South Africa, as well as those who remain in European Russia, Kazakhstan, and Siberia.
Volga Germans (Wikipedia)
Last update 6 July 2014.