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About Volhynia

The Germans from Russia were descendents of ethnic Germans who settled in Russia in the years about 1763 through 1862. By the end of the 19th century, Volhynia had over 200,000 German settlers. The Germans in Volhynia were scattered about in over 1400 villages. Though the population peaked in 1900, many Germans had already begun leaving Volhynia in the late 1880's for North America, especially to the midwestern plains of the United States and Canada.

Volhynia itself was a gubernia, or province, of the Russian Empire until 1919, when the western part of Volhynia once again became part of Poland. In 1945, the entire area of the Volhynia Gubernia was absorbed into the Soviet Union, but the gubernia system was no longer used and the Volhynia name was used to identify a smaller region, called an oblast, in the western part of the old gubernia. Most of what was the Volhynia Gubernia is now in Ukraine, with a small part of northern Volhynia in Belarus. Its capital was Zhitomir.

Today, Volhynia isn't a Volga German area but is part of the Ukraine, Poland, and Belarus now. The Germans who settled made up a minority. Ethnic Germans in these areas were then expelled from these areas by 1945. Volhynia was annexed to Soviet Ukraine after the end of World War II. Most of the remaining ethnic Polish population were expelled to Poland in 1945.

For further clarification on the history of Volhynia, this is a great article History of Germans in Volhynia and Kiev

The alternate name for the region is Lodomeria.

Maps and History

German-Russian Settlement Map

About 80,000 Germans settled in the Black Sea area between 1804 and 1850. Another 30,000 Germans immigrated to the Ukraine Black Sea region between 1830 to 1865. Over 150,000 emigrated to Volhynia between 1865 to 1875. By 1897, 1.8 million ethnic Germans were living in the Russian Empire.

Volhynia Map

The migration of Germans into Volhynia occurred under significantly different conditions than those going to other parts of Russia. Their migration began at the encouragement of local noblemen, often Polish landlords, who wanted to develop their significant land holdings in the area. Probably 75% or more of them originated from Russian Poland with the balance coming directly from other regions such as East and West Prussia, Pomerania, Posen, W├╝rttemberg, and Galicia among others. Although the noblemen themselves offered certain perks for the move, the Germans of Volhynia received none of the special tax and military service freedoms attributed to the Germans in other areas.

The settlement started as a trickle shortly after 1800. A surge occurred after the first Polish rebellion of 1831 but by 1850, they were still only about 5000 in number. The largest migration came after the second Polish rebellion of 1863 when they began to flood into the area by the thousands until they reached their peak at about 200,000 in the year 1900. The vast majority of these Germans were of the Lutheran (Evangelical) faith. Limited numbers of Mennonites from the lower Vistula River region settled in the south part of Volhynia while Baptists and Moravian Brethern also arrived, mostly settling northwest of Zhitomir.

Another major difference between the Germans here and in other parts of Russia is that the other Germans tended to settle in larger communities. The Germans in Volhynia were scattered about in over 1400 villages.

Though the population peaked in 1900, many Germans had already begun leaving Volhynia in the late 1880s for North America. Between 1911 and 1915, a small group of Volhynian German farmers (36 families - more than 200 people) chose instead to move to Eastern Siberia, making use of the resettlement subsidies of the Stolypin reform. They settled in three villages (Pikhtinsk, Sredne-Pikhtinsk, and Dagnik) in what is today Zalari District of Irkutsk Oblast. Their descendants, still bearing German names, continue to live in the district.


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