Volga Boatman Sandwich at 12:00 noon
(Bratwurst on a bun, sauerkraut, dessert square & a drink)
GRHS Sausage Supper and AGM
Starting at 5:00 pm
(Home-made sausage and a bun, potato salad, coleslaw, coffee or juice and strudel)
Call Don Krassman ph 288-8314 by April 27 to reserve your seats at a table
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AHSGR Convention in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma Aug. 16-22, 2005 Information is available at www.ahsgr.org
FEEFHS Conference St. Paul, MN. Aug/ 19-21. Information is available at www.feefhs.org
FESTIVAL of GERMANS from RUSSIA in Medicine Hat September 23-25
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Rosemary has completed the transfer of the English translations of the diocesan records acquired from the Archive in Saratov to CD format. This CD is available in only Microsoft Word. In addition to these, Rosemary has transferred all church and civil records previously acquired for Krasna and Emental onto CDs as well. These are in both Microsoft Word and Word Perfect programs.
The Saratov records on CD A (Microsoft Word only) include the Krasna birth, marriage and death records from 1851 to 1916 These are extractions from church books held in the diocesan office in Tiraspol Russia. Note that since they are not from the original Krasna church book, they may only be as complete at the diocesan record was kept.
All church and civil records acquired by the persistent efforts of Ted Becker for Krasna and Emmental have been placed on CD B. This CD is available in Microsoft or Word Perfect. It contains all of the extracted records in CD A above as well as available records from 1814 to 1893.
The cost of CD A is $90 US and the cost of CD B is $335 US. The CDs are available from
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Born Sofia Frederika Augusta in 1729 to the decaying German Princedom of Anhalt-Serbst, she was fortunate enough to be chosen as a bride for Empress Elizabeth's nephew Peter, the heir to the Russian throne. Catherine arrived at the glittering court in St. Petersburg in 1743 with two spare dresses, accompanied by her mother. After converting to Orthodoxy, she became Yekaterina Alexeyevna, and the next year was married.
Married life brought little joy for Catherine. Her halfwit husband's main passions were military parades and toy soldiers, and, when not involved in these, he drank, played cards or chattered to his lackeys. And if this behavior was forgivable, his short temper and unpredictability were not.
Unlike her husband, the gifted 15-year-old Catherine, after rejection by her husband, spent her time alone reading, and became one of the most educated women in Europe. And while her husband demonstratively ignored Russian customs and religious rites, smirking in church and teasing the priests during services, Catherine observed both devoutly, thus earning the respect of Elizabeth and of the court.
In 1761, Catherine's husband came to the throne as Peter III, but this bode her no good. Peter insulted her in public, and threatened her with imprisonment in a monastery, after which, he said, he intended to marry his unattractive, pockmarked favorite Yelizaveta Vorontsova.
If anything, these slights fueled Catherine's ambitions, which appeared long before Empress Elizabeth's death and Peter's ascension to the throne. "Either I die, or I begin to rule," was her categorical assessment.
In fact, no one helped Catherine achieve her aim more than Peter, who immediately on accession formed a union with former enemy Prussia and sent inexperienced guards regiments against former ally, Denmark, to take back his own Duchy, Holstein. This action was alien to Russian interests, and aroused general dissatisfaction among the guards. Catherine and her fellow conspirators, headed by the Orlov brothers, exploited this deftly.
Catherine easily gained the throne. Her husband gave up without the slightest resistance, was taken off to a country estate at Ropsha and put under close guard by officers under Alexei Orlov. Now, though, she had to hold on to power. Not an easy task, considering she had no right to it whatsoever.
Three men had claims on the throne: Peter, Ivan VI (great-grandson of Peter the Great's half-brother Ivan V, who had been languishing in a monastery since Elizabeth's coup overthrew him as an infant in 1741), and her own son Paul. Many of the aristocracy expected to see Paul on the throne with Catherine as regent, but the ambitious Empress rejected this proposal. It remained for her to 'arrange' a tragic fate for the two overthrown tsars.
Peter III's turn was first. A week after the coup, the Empress informed her subjects that he had died of 'hemorrhoidal colic.' In fact, he was killed by the drunken officers guarding him.
Two years later, Ivan VI died. The instructions given to his guards had been to prevent anyone from taking him alive. In case of danger, they were to kill him. So, when a Captain Mirovich, attempting to free him, broke into the casemate where he was being held, the tsar's corpse was found lying on the floor in a pool of blood.
In the first years of her rule, Catherine had another problem - convincing her subjects that Peter III's rule was destructive, and that the only means of correcting things had been to overthrow him. The trouble was that the decrees signed by Peter during his half year reign were fully in the interests of the ruling class, and Catherine was forced quietly to agree to them.
One was the Manifesto of Freedom for the Nobility, which abolished compulsory service in the barracks and civil service and allowed free travel abroad. Another was a decree on liquidation of the Secret Investigations in the civil service, which pursued all opponents of the regime. Catherine also confirmed a decree depriving industrialists of the right to buy serfs for their enterprises. Only one was annulled - a decree on handing over monastery and church lands to the state - in a tactical move to win the support of the clergy. However, in just two years, when the clergy no longer posed a threat, she did begin the secularization of church property.
Other groups needed less convincing. Guards, court officials and the General Staff were already alienated by Peter's absurd foreign policy and were particularly concerned about the uncertainty of their futures under such an unstable and despotic ruler.
The Enlightened Monarch
Having dealt with her husband's legacy, Catherine set about on her own, independent policy of enlightened despotism, as advocated by Voltaire and other French philosophers who believed in perfecting society from above. But, while Western European monarchs were already testing these policies, the philosophers were particularly interested in Russia. For Russians were much less educated than Western citizens, and Catherine was the most studious of their disciples -- the most ready to follow their advice.
Thanks to her strong and lasting link with the philosophers, Catherine became extremely popular in the West and acquired a firm reputation as an enlightened monarch. The historian Nikolai Karamzin said of her letters: "Europe reads her correspondence in astonishment, and not at [her Western correspondents] but at herself. What wealth of ideas and knowledge, what perception, what subtlety of intellect, feelings and expressions."
Her main enlightened act was the convocation of the Legislative Commission, which was given two tasks: the replacement of the obsolete 1649 Code [put in place by Peter the Great's father, Alexei] with a new code of criminal and civil rights, and identification of 'the needs and sensitive disadvantages of the people.'
Convocation was preceded by the publication of Instructions to deputies specifying a plan of action for the Commission and her own views on its task. The Instructions proclaimed the equality of all before the law, considered the main task of monarchs to look after their subjects and argued that only monarchist rule could exist in Russia. On the gold medals given to each deputy were written words which became their motto: 'The happiness of each and every one.'
Another innovation was the way the deputies were chosen, allowing noblemen, townspeople and non-nomadic national minorities to elect one deputy from each uyezd (district), town, and national area respectively. However, the largest category of Russians, landed peasants, had no deputies.
But the Code never appeared - the Commission was dissolved in 1768 on the pretext of war with Turkey. It made a mark on the country's history all the same: the Empress' Instructions, albeit against her will, served to spread the ideas of the enlighteners and reformers inside government and without.
The Zenith of Serfdom
Catherine personally disapproved of serfdom, but did not think it possible to give serfs freedom until enlightenment had borne fruit. Paradoxically, it was under enlightened monarchy that serfs in Russia had the least rights: landlords were allowed to exile insubordinate peasants to hard labor in Siberia. The newspapers were full of ads offering peasants for sale, or in exchange for horses and pedigree dogs. Under Catherine, serfdom was introduced to Ukraine.
The paradox is not difficult to explain- even the power of an absolute monarch was not unlimited, and the fear of palace coups forced the Empress to compromise her own views and act in the interests of the pro-serfdom lobby.
But serf despair welled up into a huge revolt in 1773-5, spreading from Voronezh to the Urals. Led by Don Cossack Yemelyan Pugachov, who claimed to be Peter III, they burned estates, robbed nobles and civil servants and hanged them without trial.
The revolt exposed local government weaknesses, and, after crushing the riots, Catherine set about reforming local governing bodies. The number of provinces was increased from 23 to 50, and the Empress put her powerful placemen in charge of two or three each. In provincial administrations, such offices as the Department of Public Charity, overseeing schools, hospitals, shelters and almshouses, appeared.
These reforms satisfied the nobles, giving full power in the districts to local landed gentry, who gathered once every three years to elect officials, and broadened the participation of nobles in provincial administrations. Their privileged position was confirmed in a Charter in 1785.
No ruler in Russia's history has been more pro-nobility than Catherine the Great. Wealthy nobles with hundreds or even thousands of serfs wallowed in luxury. They squandered their fortunes on travel abroad, built luxurious palaces and kept hundreds of servants, ready at the click of a finger to carry out their master's wishes.
Strength and Prosperity
Meanwhile, Catherine's 34-year rule also made its mark in trade and industry, communications, education, literature and art.
Between the middle and the end of the century, the number of factories in Russia doubled. There was particular progress in metallurgy, where the smelting of cast iron increased from 2 million pudy (36,000 tons) in 1750 to 10 million in 1800. High quality Urals iron was in great demand in Europe.
Plays by Russian authors were performed in theaters (previously most had been foreign), the number of newspapers and magazines increased and St. Petersburg, Moscow and the provinces all became more culturally vibrant.
There were significant successes in foreign policy as well, including in two wars with Turkey and one with Sweden. In all three, Russia was on the defensive. And all ended in victory. At the treaty of Kuchuk-Kainardji, which concluded the first war with Turkey in 1774, Russia acquired a route to the Black Sea and huge fertile lands, previously uninhabited because of raids by Crimean Tatars.
The second Russo-Turkish war led in 1791 to an extension of Russia's southern frontiers to the Dniester river and Turkish acceptance of the 1783 Russian annexation of the Crimea.
Then, in the thick of the war in 1788, Sweden attacked Russia. King Gustav III, before setting off, told his court ladies that he "hoped to give them breakfast at Peterhof." But this boast was not backed by military success, and the Swedes failed to win back the Baltic provinces they lost to Peter the Great.
Catherine participated in two other important acts of foreign policy: in 1780 she initiated the Declaration of Armed Neutrality, helping the American colonies in their struggle for independence, and checking Britain who, sure of going unpunished, had tried to take control of America's sea routes and thus isolate her from the rest of the world.
The second -the partitions of Poland in 1772, 1793 and 1795 - brought Russia territorial gains and led to the former's liquidation as a sovereign state.
These partitions were mainly a result of the weakness of the Polish monarchy, a backward economy and a lack of forces capable of defending sovereignty. In these conditions, stronger neighbors marauded, taking significant portions of territory from Poland. But while Austria and Prussia took Poland's native lands, Russia got territories populated by peoples close in language, customs and religion to her own (once part of Kievan Rus, they only fell under the rule of Lithuania and Poland in the 14th century). Therefore Russia expanded to the upper Dniester, Bug and Niemen rivers, taking over most of today's Ukraine and Belarus.
One other external event changed policy significantly at home. It was the French Revolution. This seminal event opened the Empress' eyes to the dangers of the enlighteners, whose criticisms of feudalism had prepared the ground for social upheaval. The idols she had worshipped were cast down from their pedestals. The execution of Louis XVI put an end to enlightened despotism and the Empress headed the reactionary forces in Europe opposed to revolutionary France. Only her death in 1796 ended preparations for invasion.
The Tireless Ruler
Catherine was one of those monarchs who ruled as well as reigned. She personally made laws, directed the activity of higher organs of power, effectively headed the diplomatic service and even gave advice to her generals on the field of battle. Her daily timetable is a testament to how hard she worked:
"... I get up at six and read and write completely alone in my office till eight thirty," she wrote to a foreign correspondent. "At about nine, my secretaries come in, and I stay with them till eleven... Then I go through to the drawing-room and have lunch from one to two. After lunch I sew and force myself to read till four, when those who didn't manage to speak to me in the morning come, and I stay with them till six, after which I go out either to walk, or to play, or to gossip, or to see a play. I sup between nine and ten, then go to bed."
She kept to this timetable even in old age. She followed the rule: "Idleness leads to boredom, which often begets bad moods and waywardness." Admittedly, her schedule was more relaxed in later years, but idleness depressed her: she had to be doing something all the time - writing, reading, negotiating, talking or engaging in amorous pursuits.
Perhaps it was this strict observance of routine, moderation in food and drink, lengthy walks and massaging her face with ice that made the Empress feel quite lively even in old age.
When she turned 40, she wrote: "I was agile as a bird, walking and horseriding... I can walk 10 versty (7 miles) at a time. There's no one as mobile as I in this locality."
Her contemporaries left many descriptions of the Empress' looks. The earliest came from one of her first favorites, the future Polish king, Stanislaw Poniatowski: "She was 25 years old. As she recovered from the birth of her first child, she blossomed in a way that only a woman of natural beauty could dream of. She had black hair, marvelous white skin, great bulging blue eyes, eloquent long black eyelashes, pointed nose, pouting mouth, arms and shoulders perfect in form, medium height, tending to the tall, an unusually light gait which at the same time was executed with the greatest noblesse, a pleasant pitch of voice, a laugh, so mirthful, and a disposition, allowing her to pass effortlessly from the most frivolous childish games to the cipher table."
The French diplomat Segure, who arrived in St. Petersburg in 1785, described the Empress as she approached sixty. According to him, she was still attractive: "Her high brow, slightly thrown back head, proud expression and noblesse of her whole ... seemed to raise her small figure. She had an aquiline nose, charming mouth, blue eyes and black eyebrows, an extraordinarily welcoming expression and attractive smile." She hid her plumpness with finery - a wide dress with flowing sleeves.
Her contemporaries noted such positive traits of character as the ability to listen to and win over her interlocutors. Her 'female intuition' enabled her quickly to find a person's weak points and she used this successfully.
"The sight of Louis XIV made people tremble; the sight of Catherine cheered everyone up," wrote one of Catherine's secretaries. Another secretary, the poet Gavrila Derzhavin, noted the Empress' perception and ability to smooth over conflicts. Towards the end, she became irritable and saw fit to shout at him. In response, Derzhavin decided to adopt a purely official manner, but the Empress was able to win him over all the same.
"On one occasion," Derzhavin remembered, "I couldn't stop myself from jumping off my stool and saying in a frenzy: 'My Goodness! Who can stand up to this woman? Your Majesty, you are not a person. Today I swore to myself that after yesterday I would say nothing to you, but you do with me whatever you want against my will.' She laughed and said: "Can it really be true?"
An Insatiable Appetite
In her private life, however, Catherine gave the impression of a completely different person with ordinary human weaknesses. Instead of high intellect, European education and statesmanlike wisdom, she displayed a banal depravity.
Favorites are virtually indispensable to monarchy. They existed before and after Catherine, but the debauchery at the court of Russia's enlightened monarch has never been surpassed.
Among Catherine's ladies-in-waiting was a so-called probolshchitsa, whose task was to test the virility of the Empress' potential lovers. And this probolshchitsa was certainly kept busy - in the 34 years of her reign, Catherine was known to have at least 19 favorites, of which 12 made a distinct impression.
The two most enduring were Grigory Orlov (11 years) and Platon Zubov (7 years).
Orlov's success can be explained by Catherine's fear of Grigory and his brothers, who were bold and decisive and served her well during the 1762 coup. Having put her on the throne so easily, she recognized, they could just as easily make it vacant for another pretender. As for Zubov, he struck lucky at the age of 22 and obviously pleased the Empress, who by then was in her sixties.
A look at Catherine's correspondence with her favorites gives the impression she only had tender feelings for one, Alexander Lanskoi, whose premature death she mourned for several months. She called him a knight, but he used stimulants to increase his sexual prowess and burnt himself out at the age of 27.
However, there was nothing unusual about Catherine's frivolous behavior. In her time, faithfulness in marriage was not considered a virtue, and was even subject to mockery. Society women generally had one or two beaux, and their husbands a maitresse.
Catherine had a mysterious possessive power which attracted men. She wrote about this herself in her Memories: "People said I was as wonderful as the day and strikingly good-looking; to tell the truth, I never considered myself to be extraordinarily beautiful, but men found me attractive, and I reckon this was my strength." This admission was confirmed by the diplomat Lord Cathcart, who reported to London in 1768: "The Empress has an unusual ability to attract men, which she uses with obvious pleasure."
The Empress' behavior was of course her own business, and it would not be necessary to mention it, were it not for one circumstance: she had a habit of being over-generous with her favorites, giving them money, jewelry and serfs. According to estimates which are far from complete, favorites cost the state 92.5 mn rubles. Considering that Russia's yearly budget expenditure averaged around 41 mn rubles, this is a huge amount. This kind of extravagance has never been surpassed in Russian history.
Yet, in light of the growth in Russia's prestige on the world stage in Catherine's reign, this expenditure would seem to be a forgivable mistake. The great seductress always played a subordinate role to the great stateswoman.
Professor Nikolai Ivanovich Pavlenko is Doctor of History, Distinguished Scientist of the RSFSR and member of the Russian Union of Writers. He is the author of several books in Russian on 18th century history, including Peter the First (1975) from the series The Lives of Wonderful People, and Peter the Great (1984).
(c) 1996, Russian Life
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After arrival, such foreigners can report for this purpose not only to the Guardianship Chancellery established for foreigners in Our residence, but also, if more convenient, to the governor or commanding officer in one of the border-towns of the Empire.
Since those foreigners who would like to settle in Russia will also include some who do not have sufficient means to pay the required travel costs, they can report to our ministers in foreign courts, who will not only transport them to Russia at Our expense, but also provide them with travel money.
As soon as these foreigners arrive in Our residence and report at the Guardianship Chancellery or in a border-town, they shall be required to state their true decision whether their real desire is to be enrolled in the guild of merchants or artisans, and become citizens, and in what city; or if they wish to settle on free, productive land in colonies and rural areas, to take up agriculture or some other useful occupation. Without delay, these people will be assigned to their destination, according to their own wishes and desires. From the following register* it can be seen in which regions of Our Empire free and suitable lands are still available. However, besides those listed, there are many more regions and all kinds of land where We will likewise permit people to settle, just as each one chooses for his best advantage.
*The register lists the areas where the immigrants can be settled.
Upon arrival in Our Empire, each foreigner who intends to become a settler and has reported to the Guardianship Chancellery or in other border-towns of Our Empire and, as already prescribed in # 4, has declared his decision, must take the oath of allegiance in accordance with his religious rite.
In order that the foreigners who desire to settle in Our Empire may realise the extent of Our benevolence to their benefit and advantage, this is Our will -- :
a. We grant to all foreigners coming into Our Empire the free and unrestricted practice of their religion according to the precepts and usage of their Church. To those, however, who intend to settle not in cities but in colonies and villages on uninhabited lands we grant the freedom to build churches and bell towers, and to maintain the necessary number of priests and church servants, but not the construction of monasteries. On the other hand, everyone is hereby warned not to persuade or induce any of the Christian co-religionists living in Russia to accept or even assent to his faith or join his religious community, under pain of incurring the severest punishment of Our law. This prohibition does not apply to the various nationalities on the borders of Our Empire who are attached to the Mohammedan faith. We permit and allow everyone to win them over and make them subject to the Christian religion in a decent way.
b. None of the foreigners who have come to settle in Russia shall be required to pay the slightest taxes to Our treasury, nor be forced to render regular or extraordinary services, nor to billet troops. Indeed, everybody shall be exempt from all taxes and tribute in the following manner: those who have been settled as colonists with their families in hitherto uninhabited regions will enjoy 30 years of exemption; those who have established themselves, at their own expense, in cities as merchants and tradesmen in Our Residence St. Petersburg or in the neighbouring cities of Livland, Esthonia, Ingermanland, Carelia and Finland, as well as in the Residential city of Moscow, shall enjoy 5 years of tax-exemption. Moreover, each one who comes to Russia, not just for a short while but to establish permanent domicile, shall be granted free living quarters for half a year.
c. All foreigners who settle in Russia either to engage in agriculture and some trade, or to undertake to build factories and plants will be offered a helping hand and the necessary loans required for the construction of factories useful for the future, especially of such as have not yet been built in Russia.
d. For the building of dwellings, the purchase of livestock needed for the farmstead, the necessary equipment, materials, and tools for agriculture and industry, each settler will receive the necessary money from Our treasury in the form of an advance loan without any interest. The capital sum has to be repaid only after ten years, in equal annual instalments in the following three years.
e. We leave to the discretion of the established colonies and village the internal constitution and jurisdiction, in such a way that the persons placed in authority by Us will not interfere with the internal affairs and institutions. In other respects the colonists will be liable to Our civil laws. However, in the event that the people would wish to have a special guardian or even an officer with a detachment of disciplined soldiers for the sake of security and defence, this wish would also be granted.
f. To every foreigner who wants to settle in Russia We grant complete duty-free import of his property, no matter what it is, provided, however, that such property is for personal use and need, and not intended for sale. However, any family that also brings in unneeded goods for sale will be granted free import on goods valued up to 300 rubles, provided that the family remains in Russia for at least 10 years. Failing which, it be required, upon its departure, to pay the duty both on the incoming and outgoing goods.
g. The foreigners who have settled in Russia shall not be drafted against their will into the military or the civil service during their entire stay here. Only after the lapse of the years of tax-exemption can they be required to provide labour service for the country. Whoever wishes to enter military service will receive, besides his regular pay, a gratuity of 30 rubles at the time he enrols in the regiment.
h. As soon as the foreigners have reported to the Guardianship Chancellery or to our border towns and declared their decision to travel to the interior of the Empire and establish domicile there, they will forthwith receive food rations and free transportation to their destination.
i. Those among the foreigners in Russia who establish factories, plants, or firms, and produce goods never before manufactured in Russia, will be permitted to sell and export freely for ten years, without paying export duty or excise tax.
j. Foreign capitalists who build factories, plants, and concerns in Russia at their own expense are permitted to purchase serfs and peasants needed for the operation of the factories.
k. We also permit all foreigners who have settled in colonies or villages to establish market days and annual market fairs as they see fit, without having to pay any dues or taxes to Our treasury.
All the aforementioned privileges shall be enjoyed not only by those who have come into our country to settle there, but also their children and descendants, even though these are born in Russia, with the provision that their years of exemption will be reckoned from the day their forebears arrived in Russia.
After the lapse of the stipulated years of exemption, all the foreigners who have settled in Russia are required to pay the ordinary moderate contributions and, like our other subjects, provide labour- service for their country. Finally, in the event that any foreigner who has settled in Our Empire and has become subject to Our authority should desire to leave the country, We shall grant him the liberty to do so, provided, however, that he is obligated to remit to Our treasury a portion of the assets he has gained in this country; that is, those who have been here from one to five years will pay one-fifth, whole those who have been here for five or more years will pay one-tenth. Thereafter each one will be permitted to depart unhindered anywhere he pleases to go.
If any foreigner desiring to settle in Russia wishes for certain reasons to secure other privileges or conditions besides those already stated, he can apply in writing or in person to our Guardianship Chancellery, which will report the petition to Us. After examining the circumstances, We shall not hesitate to resolve the matter in such a way that the petitioner's confidence in Our love of justice will not be disappointed.
Given at the Court of Peter, July 22, 1763
in the Second Year of Our Reign.
The original was signed by Her Imperial Supreme Majesty's own hand.
Printed by the Senate, July 25, 1763
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Membership in GRHS
With the Canadian dollar approaching 80 cents US, a membership in the GRHS is more affordable than it has been in nearly a decade. Membership in the GRHS gives access to village coordinators and to other members searching your same family names. Members receive newsletters and a wealth of information in the Heritage Review. Membership helps the Society provide a storehouse of books, films and artifacts accessible to current and future generations of family researchers.
Join the Germans from Russia Heritage Society
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