upload image

The Welfare Committee

Privacy Level: Open (White)

Surnames/tags: Black_Sea_Germans German Germany
This page has been accessed 100 times.

The Governance of the German Colonies in Russia:
With the Eventual Establishment of the Welfare Committee

The Russian government took various approaches for managing the German colonies within its borders. Initially, the German colonies in the Volga region were administered by St. Petersburg. After 1782, the colonies were shifted to local administration by the office which oversaw the Russian crown peasantry. Soon, this governance arrangement was also considered inadequate and even harmful to the development of the German colonies.

In 1797, the Russian Government created a special section in the Office of State Economy, with the responsibility of overseeing the colonies in South Russia. Oversight of the Volga colonies was also transferred to this office. In 1800, a field office was established in Ekaterinoslav on the Dnieper (in the current city of Dnipropetrovs’k). This office controlled the expenditure of state funds used in the establishment of new colonies in South Russia, collected taxes from the colonies and issued reports regarding their progress but it had no judicial authority and was understaffed. In 1802, with the accession of Alexander I to the throne, the office was moved to the Ministry of the Interior. This was office in charged with sorting out the details of the “Tarutino Affair” which occurred in 1815.

In the summer of that year, a conflict arose between the German colonists and a Russian official by the name of Mendelsohn in the village of Tarutino, Bessarabia, Russia. In the “History of Tarutino,” by Mutschall, two versions of this event are provided.

In version one, Mendelsohn caused dissent by renting pastureland to someone outside of the village. In the second version, Mendelsohn was not willing to open a grain storehouse, during a time of need in the village, just before the next harvest came in. In both versions, Mendelsohn felt threatened, went to Kishinev (the provincial capital of Bessarabia) and reported a revolt in Tarutino. As a result, the provincial governor, Major General Harting brought troops to Tarutino to make sure no revolt had or was about to occur. He fired shots as warnings, beat several colonists, and in the process perhaps even killed one of them. The general arrested the village spokesman, Pastor Schnabel and brought him back to Kishinev.

A paper by Brandes [Von den Zaren Adoptiert, 185], lends credence to the second version of the account. Brandes identifies, Mendelsohn as a “smotritel” or a person hired by the Russian government to watch over the food and distributed as promised to the colonists. Brandes shares that a break-in of the grain storehouse occurred, during which Pastor Schnabel disobeyed orders to not touch the supplies.

Both Mutschall and Brandes agree that bad feelings developed between the German colonists and their supervisors. The Germans felt that they were being treated as Russian peasants, with the supervisors resorting to blows when they did not like something. Eventually, it was determined that no revolt had occurred in Tarutino. However, it took a year and a half before Pastor Schnabel was returned to his freedom and life in Tarutino.

This incident spurred the Russian government to conduct a review of their management of the German Colonies. General Harting as removed from overseeing the German colonists in Bessarabia and replaced by Count Pavel D. Kiselev. Kiselev reestablished the peace and continued to facilitate the establishment of new German colonies. He was also assigned the task of studying how the new German and Bulgarian colonies in Bessarabia and the older German colonies in Xerson and Ekaterinoslav provinces were being managed. Kiselev found, “everything there [in Bessarabia] is for sale” and senior officials were obligated to steal even more, given they paid 20 or 30 thousand rubles apiece for their nominations to office. Kiselev’s report to the Tsar recommended the colonies be supervised by a single organization that could cross provincial boundaries, being independent of the provincial governments. Kishinev’s recommendations were accepted and on 22 March 1818, by formal decree, the Welfare Committee was established. Formally known as the Welfare Committee for Foreign Settlements on the Southern Borderlands of Russia, it became the sole agent of the Russia government responsible for the affairs of the German colonies in Bessarabia and South Russia.

The decree of 1818 established that Welfare committee to be “led by a senior official with the rank of privy counselor, the third highest rank in the table of ranks and equivalent to a lieutenant general in the army.” He was assigned to be the president of the Welfare Committee, to be assisted by two advisors and given a staff of 18 support people. Their purview included not only the German colonists, but also the Bulgarian Orthodox refugees escaping from Turkish rule. The first president was General Ivan N. Inzov (1768-1845). He was given this position in 1818, a position he held until his death in 1845.

Once the trouble in Tarutino were solved, relationships between St. Petersburg and Kishinev became calm and distant. For the German colonists, the Welfare Committee was the new face of the Russian Government. It took an active role in the establishment of colonies, it became the legal, administrative and tax authority over the colonies.

Note: The Welfare Committee referred to German colonies placed in the Xerson Province as the Odessa colonies and these are made up of the Liebental District (721 families), the Kucurgan District (492 families) Glückstal District (430 families), the Berezan District (1, 089 families), and the Tiraspol District (73 families). {Footnote 75, page 227)

Reference: Burkett, Huey The German Settlements in Bessarabia: A Study of the German Immigration to, Successful Settlement in, and Ultimate Abandonment of Bessarabia', (2016, TIPS Technical Publishing, Inc.) pages 153-157

Return to Black Sea German page.

  • Login to edit this profile and add images.
  • Private Messages: Send a private message to the Profile Manager. (Best when privacy is an issue.)
  • Public Comments: Login to post. (Best for messages specifically directed to those editing this profile. Limit 20 per day.)

Leave a message for others who see this profile.
There are no comments yet.
Login to post a comment.