This day in the history and culture
Of Germans from Russia

214 years after de 1804 Manifesto of Alexander I and German
Settlements in the Black sea Region and in the South Caucasus

As a result of several successful military campaigns in South Russia led by Tsarina Catherine II against the Ottoman Empire, spacious tracts of land on the northern shore of the Black Sea were conquered. Under Alexander I, Catherine’s grandson (who reigned from 1801 to1825), the Russian border was expanded to where the Danube enters the Black Sea.
Tsar Alexander took advantage of favorable conditions for recruitment in Europe resulting from the Napoleonic Wars (1792 – 1815) and opened up the border, thereby triggering a renewed wave of immigration to Russia. His determination to employ the colonists for the benefit of his state is confirmed by the 123 ukases he issued during his reign, which included important innovations he intended to promote the colonial system.
In his very first manifesto, the recruitment edict of February 20, 1804, the emphasis for luring foreigners changed from quantity to quality. Most importantly, the manifesto placed special value on immigrants who were good farmers, tradesmen, vintners and animal breeders.
Immigrants were required to be free of debt, to be part of a family and have 300 gulden to their name. By this time, each farming entity was assigned sixty-five hectares [ca. 175 acres] rather than only thirty-five hectares [ca. 95 acres]. Additionally, they were assured free choice of settlement and free religious practice, exemption from military service, thirty years of exemption from taxation, as well as a guaranteed return to their homeland at any time.
Tsar Alexander placed supervision over the colonies into the hands of Duke Richelieu (Odessa) and Samuel Kontenius (Yekaterinoslav).
The ensuing major wave of immigration to Russia between 1804 and 1817 emanated for the most part from the Württemberg region in the Southwest German area. Between 1804 and 1820 more than 20,000 Germans from Alsace, Baden, the Palatinate, Württemberg and West Prussia (Danzig, at the time) arrived in the Black Sea region and founded more than 225 settlements on the Molochna River (Halbstadt), on the Dnieper (Josefstal, Chortitza), near Nikolayev (Beresan), near Odessa (Groẞliebental), near the Kutschurgan River (Selz), on Crimea, and near Tiraspol (Glückstal). By 1897 the number of settlements would grow to 991.
In the Caucasus, too, dozens of German colonies were established. During the early 19th Century, the South Caucasus became a desired goal of German emigrants from southern areas. Many wanting to emigrate believed that they would reach the Promised Land at Mount Ararat as the Bible had described it. On the other hand, Tsar Alexander was strongly interested in settling the South Caucasus area. The region was part of the territory recently conquered by Russia.
By 1817, some 1500 Schwabian families, numbering ca. 9000 persons, received permission papers to settle in the South Caucasus. On the way, many of them fell victim to illnesses and the stresses of the journey. 


Manifesto of 20 February 1804

In its manifesto of February 20, 1804, the Russian government recruited, first of all,

"immigrants who could serve as an example in agriculture and artisanship ... good farmers, people who have experience in breeding vineyards, mulberry trees and other useful plants or in animal husbandry, especially those with experience in growing the best breeds of sheep, and generally such people who have all the necessary knowledge for the rational management of agriculture ... "

Along with the qualitative requirements, the manifesto also contained a number of important prescriptions:

  • The colonists were released for ten years from taxes, dues, military and official duties. After the expiry of this period, they had to pay land tax of 15-20 kopecks per tenth for the next ten years. At the same time it was necessary to return the state loan, which they received at the entrance. After the second decade, the colonists equalized their rights in matters of taxation and public service with state peasants.
  • Those wishing to leave Russia were to pay cash 400 rubles or 300 guilders.
  • Only family colonists with children were accepted. The bachelors had to confirm their intention to create a family.
  • For travel from the Russian border and to the place of settlement, free travel cards were issued at a rate of 10 kopecks per adult and 6 kopecks per child.
  • For settling in the localities (the construction of the estate, the purchase of agricultural equipment and animals), the colonists were given a loan of 500 rubles.
  • Along with his personal property, the colonists were allowed to transport goods for sale up to 300 rubles across the border.
  • It was allowed to build factories, artisan enterprises and trade throughout the territory of the empire.
  • Those who pay their debts and taxes three years in advance could leave the borders of the empire.
  • Those who did not obey the orders of their superiors or "indulged in debauchery" were threatened with expulsion after full payment of debts.
  • For the Black Sea colonists, 60 dessiatins were allocated, and the Crimean only by 20. From April 18, 1804, the colonists were forbidden to buy land.
  • Foreign Russian representatives were instructed to demand confirmation of local communities about the complete absence of debt to their owners from the departing colonists. This prescription was impossible in practice. Many could leave only secretly.
When compiling the manifesto, the Russian government was guided by the criteria for the experience of the Prussian colonization 


Prussian criteria

In August 1804, the Russian envoy to Stuttgart, Yakovlev, presented to his government a report on the experience of Prussia, who in previous years had received settlers from southern Germany. From the report it followed that the latter often included "bad masters and dissolute people." And since the Prussian king was interested in accepting not as many people as possible, but as "good settlers," a commission was created that worked out a number of criteria that needed to be followed when recruiting candidates:
  • In particular, only those who fully paid taxes and performed all other duties at home were to be accepted.
  • When recruiting colonists it was impossible to lure unfair promises and unrealistic benefits.
  • The settlers were to be issued Prussian passports, which also indicated the route and destination.
  • Permission was granted to familiarize the delegation of the settlers with the place of their future residence.
  • All the colonists were ordered to provide evidence that they had a certain amount of money, half of which had to be presented before the start of the resettlement, and the second - for the next two to four years.
  • Free religion (Lutheran, Reformed, Catholic) was allowed, as was schooling in these religious areas.
  • The last point of the rules to every "diligent and hardworking, and especially knowledgeable garden and garden business" promised the colonist good incomes and the opportunity to become a prosperous person. It was justified by the fact that these skills in the areas where the colonies were located were extremely rare.

Number of immigrants

Contrary to expectations, the flow of those who wished to leave could not be controlled. As early as January 1804, about 1,500 families from Southern Germany enrolled in the colonists; many well-off families showed interest in resettlement. According to the military governor in Lithuania, dated March 1804, about 2,000 people from Saxony - weavers, porcelain masters, miners and "all sorts of manufacturers" were waiting for entry. 
In total in 1804 only 5,329 people entered Russia from the Rhineland, as well as from Western and Southern Germany.