[Ger-Poland-Volhynia] history interpretations

jackmilner wjmilner at shaw.ca
Fri Jul 9 12:32:54 PDT 2004

Dear List Readers,

My Aunt had related that her Mother (my Grandmother) told her that the 
Bolsheviks were quite active and causing a great deal of trouble in the 
years before they left Volhynia for Canada in 1907.  I started 
researching history for my Grandfather's story in order to get a better 
understanding of what was happening back then.  Why Did They Leave?  I 
wondered.  Below are some conclusions I reached through my research of 
Eastern European history.   (Note:  I AM NOT an historian)   For my 
thoughts see:


  For my Great Grandfather's story I wrote:

When Gottlieb emigrated in 1905, the Russian government had been 
continually changing land laws aimed at confiscating land owned by 
German-Russians in the province of Volhynia. The anarchistic Bolshevik 
movement was also gaining momentum and creating further unrest 
throughout the country. The seeds of revolution had been planted years 
before during the Decembrist rebellion of 1825 and were now growing 
intensely. (Historians have noted that the Decembrist Uprising greatly 
influenced the development of revolutionary movements in Russia.) Russia 
had also initiated the ill fated Russo-Japanese war of 1904-05 which 
required more conscripts into the army to sustain the military action. 
These conditions probably helped Gottlieb decide that it was time to 
leave. Apparently they just walked away from a nice farm with orchards 
to get away from that troubled part of Russia and his reasons were not 
clearly explained nor openly discussed with anyone after his arrival in 



This led me to write the following excerpt for my Grandfather's story:

The winds of revolutionary activity had begun blowing in Russia with the 
Decembrist uprisings in 1825. In 1907, when Michael, his wife and three 
children left Russia, Volhynia was a troubled area. The Bolsheviks were 
not above lawlessness and terrorism. As well, the authorities had for 
years been creating problems for the German colonists settled there. 
Land laws directed at the German colonists made it difficult for them to 
own, buy or lease land to further develop and expand operations. 
Furthermore, a policy of 'Russification' had begun in 1881 under Tsar 
Alexander III. This policy, with varying degrees of success, attempted 
to 'Russify' all of the colonists in the country by having them become 
Russian citizens and teaching their children in the Russian language. 
However, it was not only the German speaking colonists affected by this, 
but colonists of all nationalities. Michael was an educated man, having 
been a lay preacher in the Lutheran Church in the city of Tutshin as 
well as a teacher in Antonowka.


See below for what Jerry Frank has to say on this subject

Yours truly,

Jack Milner
Jerry Frank wrote:

The oppression of the Germans in particular, but other ethnic groups as 
well, began in the late 1880s when Russian was declared the official 
language to be used in the schools.  This also applied to church records 
which now had to be written in Russian Cyrillic.  Or at least that 
applied to the official ones that were sent to St. Petersburg.  Those 
after about 1890 were apparently written in Russian Cyrillic.  There 
were also changes in the way land ownership was handled resulting in 
land being expropriated from some Germans and the inability for Germans 
to increase their land holdings as would be needed with the increases in 

I also think there was a minor deportation situation in 1905 but I am 
not sure about the details.  Most of my ancestors left Russia before 
1900 so I haven't paid a lot of attention to the more recent history.

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