The History of Germans from Russia

All of Bob's ancestors  came from Russia. Since I do not have much information about them, I decided to research the immigration of the Germans from Russia who settled in Lincoln, Nebraska.

In 1763, Catherine the Great, Czarina of Russia, working with Frederick the Great of Germany developed a plan to populate the Ukraine and Volga regions of Russia. Germans were offered freedom of religion, exemption from taxation, no conscription (draft), free passage and free parcels of land ranging from 30 to 80 acres to immigrate and settle those regions. Between 1763 and 1768, a large number of Germans migrated to the Volga River region. They formed their own communities. It is estimated 750,000 Germans lived in Russia when the plan was discontinued.

Catherine's manifesto was received in England, France, Italy, Switzerland and other countries of Europe in addition to Germany. Bob believes his Grandfather Jacob Harris' family immigrated from England to Russia. A few groups from the other countries responded; however, it was the Germans who really came flocking. The major reason was because of the oppression and political unrest they were in, having just gone through a long Seven Years' War with France (1756-1763).

In 1870 Czar Alexander called a halt to many of the original inducements and the Germans began their search for a better place. The Statue of Liberty beckoned. In 1876 the first 30 immigrants arrived from the Province of Frank and settled in the southwest part of Lincoln bounded by First Street to Ninth Street and G Street to Sumner. This was commonly known as the South Bottoms. None of these settlers spoke Russian; German was their primary language.

Another wave of immigration occurred in 1888. Most of these people settled in the northwest part of Lincoln from Second Street to 14th Street and Court Street to the railroad tracks and railroad yards. This was commonly called the North Bottoms.

The Russian-Japanese War of 1904 encouraged more immigration to America since they had reversed Catherine's agreement and were drafting the young men.

My Sources

I found it fascinating as I started researching the Germans from Russia migration. My information came from the following: An article in the Lincoln Journal Star dated February 5, 2006, by Jim McKee titled Germans from Russia create two colonies in early Lincoln; A book titled Germans and German-Russians in Nebraska by Janet Warkentin Rife; and a book titled Looking at Lincoln by Ellen McKinnon, Orlean Koehley, and Shauna Valentine.