Catherine II 1763 manifesto and its
practical consequences

Article with special reference to
Balzer Colony

Author: Гринимаер В.А.

Google translation from

The Empress signed her second manifesto on July 22, 1763.

And the river of immigrants from different countries, principalities, counties of Europe flowed by dry land and sea from the European distant shores into the depths of Mother Russia, mostly on the Volga river, where the tsarist servicemen planned free lands that required urgent settlement.

Persecuted, who by religious persecution, who by ruinous raids of the militant in recent years neighbors, who are thirsty for a new one, were signed by people with royal obligors of obligation and went to collection points. The campaigning campaign immediately covered all European countries, but most of the Central European principalities, counties, electorates and other territories constituting the German Union, but not yet integrated into a centralized state.

Those who made the right choice, time will tell. He, that choice, will hail more than once on them and on their distant descendants. The reader will find out about this if my book "The sun shines for all".

* * *

Seven decades later, Russian children's writer Alexander Osipovna Ishimova in her book "The History of Russia in the stories for children" gives such a simple explanation for those long-standing events:

"Soon, Catherine found another means to increase the state's revenues and improve the condition of many areas of it. You know how vast these areas are, how many almost everyone has uninhabited lands, untreated, waiting only diligent residents to become fertile. And now the empress offers some of the hard-working inhabitants of Germany such favorable conditions in case of their resettlement to Russia, that they agree to leave the fatherland. They are given vast spaces in different provinces of ours, especially in the southern provinces, and in a few years uninhabited, wild deserts turn into rich villages where green gardens and stone buildings rise, where art blooms,crafts, industry, trade. The happy state of these villages causes German new hunters from the land to go to Russia, and they already send deputies to the Empress with a request to accept them among her subjects. Such settlers also belong to the Hernguters, or the Society of Evangelical Brothers, which received from Ekaterina in possession of its beautiful steppe in the Saratov Gubernia, on the bank of the Volga, not far from the city of Tsaritsyn. They called their village Sarepta. It exists and now, like under Catherine, it is famous for its fertile fields with its own and clean, good morals of the inhabitants. Several colonies were created near St. Petersburg. "

* * *

A positive example, with all the shortcomings and miscalculations unavoidable in such a large business, the Baltser colony (Russian name - Naked Karamysh) can serve as a safe home for immigrants from Europe in a new place.

The Balzer colony was founded on August 28, 1765, 80 kilometers southwest of the city of Saratov, at the source of the Goly Karamysh River (the basin of the Medveditsa River, which carries its waters not to the near Volga River but to the Don). And it is named after the Swiss Bartuli Balzer, a hulk from Hoffsin, elected first by Schulz (the elder) of this colony. The Russian name, as you might guess, was derived from the name of the river.

The settlement of the colony of Balzer took place for three years, after which it grew and developed mainly through the labors and efforts of the descendants of the first settlers.

The first group of 10 families (34 people) arrived on August 28, 1765, the second group - 2 families (15 people) reached the late autumn - November 26 of the same year. Autumn time in Russia to start living in a new place is not the most successful, there is only a long winter ahead and there is no way to produce something from products, to stock them for the winter. These people fell the most difficult tests, their experience became an example for future settlers. These are the twelve surnames: Bartuli, Dekker, Geft, Haberman, Robertus, Shek, Karl, Dietmer, Foltz, Tele, Merkel, Duke.

The third group - 23 families (83 people) arrived in the early spring, March 28, 1766. This was the most favorable period of settlement, it was possible to prepare the land and have time to sow something. Yes, and with the construction and warming of economic buildings can still succeed until next winter.

In April-July of the same year, there were four more atypically small families, one or two people, with a total complexity of only 6 settlers.

Such a low rate of settlement in the first two years is explained by the fact that the resettlement office, as we often do, has become bogged down in the bureaucracy, negligently carried out the highest command and did not have time to build the houses promised to the settlers. That housing, which was almost completed, was immediately populated, so that the settler himself brought him to mind and himself guarded the unused construction materials.

The most massive settlement of the colony occurred in 1767, June 18 - 45 families, July 1 - 17 families and August 8 - 20 families. The population of the colony due to arrivals this year increased by 239 people. Such a rapid settlement in the last year, despite the lack of the necessary amount of rebuilt housing, occurred for a very simple reason - in Germany, among the powerful, there was growing dissatisfaction with such a mass departure from the country of the people and were preparing to introduce effective prohibitive measures against it. Therefore, all who by this time were already on the way or were expecting to be sent to the ports, were urgently transported to Russia by all possible means. Here the Office had to be subcontracted with the delivery of construction materials. Settlers themselves are actively involved in the construction of their own housing. For the initial arrangement and placement of families, dugouts and plaques were built. For a while, many lived in simple huts.
Studying the geography of the places of exodus of the Balzerians, we see how extensive it is, but in the majority they came from southwestern Germany. The very first families in 1765 came from Switzerland and Courfalat (Rhineland-Palatinate).

In 1766 the replenishment of the colony turned out to be small, but very heterogeneous, one or three families came from various places in Germany and Switzerland. In total, 27 families were settled in Balzer that year, which totaled 89 people.

1767 is characterized by the mass character and great homogeneity of the arrivals. By this time, a clear opinion was developed about the advantage of compact population of people with the same religious, linguistic, domestic and other traditions. Therefore, of the 82 families who arrived in Balzer in the last year of settlement, 76 were from Isenburg, located east of Frankfurt am Main. Among them were Yakel Heinrich, Roerich Philip, and my other ancestors. The first in the religion was the Lutheran, and the second - by the reformat, as well as the absolute majority of new settlers in the colony. Reformed and Lutheran - related Protestantism, they even prayed to go to the same church.
The Isenburg people eventually accounted for about three-fifths of the total population of Balzer (77 families - 64%, or 226 people - 60%). The Principality of Isenburg was then occupied not by a small territory, and the settlers therefrom were natives of different settlements, but only a few people have a copyist specifying the place from which they arrived - Düdelsheim. The same applies to the majority, only the territory, the country, the principality, etc. are indicated in the lists.

Most of the names of the places mentioned in the lists, from where our settlers were born, are not indicated on the modern geographical and political maps of Europe. Everything has now changed in the world, small towns were swallowed up by big cities, principalities, electieties and other territories entered new, larger entities, states, federal states. Thus, Isenburg was included in the land of Hesse, Courfalz in the Rhineland-Palatinate and so on.

Studying the lists of other German colonies of the Volga region, we see that there people also settled compactly, together with their former countrymen with small interspersions of immigrants from other lands and countries. Hence the great difference in the dialects spoken, and here and there the Germans from different colonies still speak, often with difficulty understanding the tribesmen from neighboring villages.

These dialects here, in Russia, in isolation, were largely conserved in the form in which they were brought here in the middle of the 18th century and changed little for almost two centuries, while in Germany the processes of assimilation and transition to a single language were very fast. Already in the 20s - 30s of the 20th century, German philologists came to the USSR to study medieval dialects of various localities, of which our colonists were descendants.

About a third of the families who arrived in Balzer turned out to be newlyweds at the age of 17-23. Most likely, they married already on the road. Some of these couples may have been created in a hurry, aiming to get the lifting ones, as they were advised by experienced hikers and accompanying people, since the bachelors were not provided with lifting.

For three seasons, 121 full and incomplete families arrived in Balzer. The meager information contained in the lists does not give exhaustive answers to all the questions that involuntarily arise in my head, but it is obvious that in the long journey some of the settlers could not stand the test of those who fell on them on a long journey and they did not reach the goal of their journey. Some families were orphaned, widows and widowers appeared.

A total of 377 people arrived in Balzer, including 196 men and 181 women. Of these, there were 153 children under the age of 18. The bulk of the settlers, 178 people, were in blossoming able-bodied childbearing age from 19 to 40 years. People over 50 years old arrived only 21 people. But even among this age group, almost all led an active family life, headed strong farms. Only a few of them were dependent on adult children. The first audit showed that families headed by elderly people got to their feet in a new place, even stronger than the young ones.

It follows from the calculations that the average age of the colonists did not exceed twenty-three years, besides many of the local families had just taken place, and were waiting for their first-born. The youth grew up, which in the coming years increased the number of families, farms and the population. Balzer very soon turned into a respectable village with many thousands of people.

Settlers of the colony who arrived in 1765 and 1766 received from the custody office for foreigners in Saratov money from 30 to 150 rubles per family. In 1767 they gave out 25 rubles each, 1-2 horses and harness to them. A total of 135 horses were obtained. In addition, 44 families received one cow each. All this was issued on account of a loan, which in the future was to be returned.

During the audit in 1768 there were already 246 horses and 159 cows on the farms of the inhabitants of Balzer. Naturally, the farms of those who lived here in the second and third summer were more abundant, but the settlers of 1767 had already acquired cows and some horses. True, 6 families had one left instead of two horses. Perhaps they have fallen from someone, or the owners changed them to cows, statistics about it is silent.
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Someone from the very beginning began to be engaged not in an agriculture, and various crafts and it more than one horse in a facilities had no need to hold.

The absolute majority of the same number of livestock, both cows and horses, increased by at least one head. Each family now had from 1 to 4 cows. In one farm for the third year they already had 16 heads. Cows acted as nurses. Surpluses of milk and dairy products went to the market, sales of surpluses to the nearest Saratov were adjusted.

The audit found that each family plowed and sowed a considerable amount of virgin land for such a short period of time. A total of 223 dessiatines of land were already plowed through the colony, and this work intensively continued. Arrived in the first year of the foundation of the colony managed to plow for five dessiatins, and arrived in the last year from 0.5 to 1 tenth.

In 1768, everyone was already completing with their own, not at all, but still harvested from their fields and vegetable gardens with bread and vegetables. In abundance there were only dairy products. The cattle fed on the pasture until late autumn, and for the winter, a sufficient amount of hay was prepared before the early spring, which had to be mined in ravines, ravines, and inconveniences, where the virgin land and the forage were not yet beginning to be raised, because, due to the drought that upset the settlers, the grass grew stunted and then - not everywhere.

Movers, experiencing great difficulties, stood on their feet. They raised virgin land, developed vegetable gardens, improved their homes, erected in a hurry in the first year. Now, after surviving, who is one, and who are already three severe local winters, the colonists knew how to prepare for wintering. Not only houses were warmed, but also premises for keeping cattle and vegetable stores.
According to the religious composition, the entire population of Balzer was turned out to be Protestants, at least heads of families. Only in relation to them there is information about this. And the absolute majority, more than 100 heads of families were Reformed, the rest - Lutherans. Despite some differences in the performance of religious rites, the Lutherans, while building their church, went to pray in the prayer house for the Reformed. But in the future there was a religious reform, and all the reformers began to write Lutherans.

All the colonists initially gave their children primary education at school, which was, as in every colony, with the church.

Most of the colonists were registered as hucklers during the resettlement, and sometimes they were not themselves, and their summoners did this, even if they were not, because at that time the preference was given to the peasants, they were granted privileges, and the bidders were awarded for "grain-growers". But there were among new settlers and people of other professions who did not change their occupation even for the sake of benefits. So the families were settled in Balzer. They were headed by grain farmers - 86, guild 3, smith - 1, weavers stocking 1 and soldiers - 1. The remaining 28 heads of families do not have a profession, but they were either orphaned children or widowed women. They were not given a loan, and they were nailed to other, more robust farms.

At the end of the XIX century Balzer was already one of the largest colonies of the German Volga region with developed handicraft production. In 1897 there are 7 thousand inhabitants, there is a Lutheran church, a school, a hospital, 32 shops, 12 painters, 20 wheeled workshops, 10 smithies, a water mill, 8 sarpine enterprises, 10 tanneries, 3 small brick plants.

To Balzer all the surrounding villages, both German and Russian, gravitated, here everything that was produced in the town and what was needed in the farm was procured.

Sarpinku, a thin fabric of the local invention, received the name, as well as the village of Sarepta from the Sarpa River, was taken for sale to major metropolitan cities, dressed up there with fashionable women. Far away were the leather and blacksmith's products, the wheels for peasant carts and coach carriages. One of the mills, owned by our ancestor, also provided townspeople and villagers with fine flour and krupchatka.

Local entrepreneurs Bendery built a weaving factory in the city, which at the beginning of the 20th century combined many small businesses. This factory stands and works the second century, providing townspeople with jobs and their products. And the Benders themselves became cramped with time in their native village, and they began to invest their increased capital in Saratov and other towns and villages. And not only in the Volga region.

Since 1918, Balzer - the city, the administrative center of the county, then the canton. New trends changed the form of ownership, my grandfather got rid of the mill and turned into an employee, during the NEP he started a trade, which also soon had to be abandoned in order to meet the demands of the times.

In the 30-ies repair, mechanical and creamery were restored, built and put into operation, where several dozen workers worked; weaving factory for 1200 workers, producing 30 thousand meters of fabric per year and a knitting factory for 960 workers, producing 5,600 pieces of knitwear per year. Many of our relatives worked in these factories. On one of them worked as a master my mother, and the director of the branch was her aunt, sister of our grandmother.

In 1939 there are 15 800 inhabitants. There was a cinema for 350 seats, the House of Culture, a library, an amateur theater financed by the state. In addition to general education schools, there was a feldsher-midwifery school and a factory. The Germans accounted for 94% of the city's population.

Note: All photos, unless mentioned, are from Google Images.