Deutsche VersionPlautdietsche Version By Dietrich Tissen and Nikolaj Tissen
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last modified
April 7th, 2007



written and translated by  Dietrich Tissen

The Neu Samara settlement lies in a steppe area which had been originally settled only by nomadic tribes. The rivers Ural and Samara formed roughly the border between bashkir and kazakh settlement area. Till the end of 18 century the river of Ural was also the border of the Russian empire. This border was endangered by the nomads constantly, so that only Cossacks (descendants of fled Russian farmers)  settled on the river of Ural. Then a big part of the kazakh area came under the Russian control .

The land was settled outgoing by the river of Samara to the north of this river by Russian colonists. The Bashkirs have used it before only as a pasture for their herds. Russian businessmen and large landowners  bought it from them very cheap . The Bashkirs were pushed thus in the direction of north-east in the today's Bashkir autonomous republic. The territory where the Neu Samara settlement is located was probably bought so late from the Bashkirs, because it lies so far to the north. Single settlements on the northern bank of the Tock have remained. In any case, when the German colonists came here, the land was possessed by Russians.

The Mennonite population in Russia has strongly increased in the course of the 19th century. The Mennonites have the custom that the property was inherited undivided to one son. Thus there were already after few generations many families without land; these had to go away and found new settlements. When Molotschna was founded, a part of the ground was not distributed to the colonists. Then it was leased and the money was used particularly for the purchase of new land.

One of these new settlements is Neu Samara colony. In 1890 the Gnadenfeld and Halbstadt municipalities in Molotschna have bought 20,388 Desjatins for approx. 34 roubles per Desj. from the businessmen Ivan Pleshanov from Samara and Fedor Krassikov from Buzuluk. (one can look at details in this document). Shortly before the Mennonite settlement here, a water mill was built on the Tock, near the later mill. She belonged to Pleschanow, the manager was Johann Wall, a Mennonite. It is to be supposed that by his mediation the contact between Pleschanow and the municipalities took place. The negotiations were led by Abraham Löwen, Wilhelm Derksen and Nachtigall. The land had never been worked before, it was bought quite propably as a pure speculation object to sell it later.

A part of the purchase sum was lent by the Don Agrarian Bank, and should be paid back till 1933. Because also after the admission of the credit enough money did not exist, so-called Freikäufer were also settled. These had to pay a part of the purchase price, 1,120 roubles, immediately. Other Colonists should come from families without land. They did not need to pay 560 roubles of the purchase price. Both groups had to pay the remaining amount in installments to the Gnadenfeld and Halbstadt municipalities, to the same conditions like this at the bank: Freikäufer 120 roubles per year from the  January 1st 1891, the landless 78 roubles and 38 kopeyks, but only after 10 free years. The interest rate amounted to 7.5%. There were 60 Freikäufer and about 350 landless families. Freikäufer got 80 Desjatins, the landless Persons 40 Desjatins. 1400 Desjatins should not be distributed - they were leased and were used to the construction of a mill in Pleschanowo. Because in the first time no tenants have been found, this land was used in 1892 for the foundation of the village Kuterlja.

As first ones the Freikäufer should be settled, probably with for facilitating the settlement of other poorer colonists: 18 families in Kamenez, 22 in Pleschanowo and 20 in Krassikowo. During the years 1891-1892 the remaining villages were founded: Kaltan, Lugowsk, Podolsk, Donskoj, Dolinsk, Jugowka, Klinok, Kuterlja. On land bought from businessman Bogomasow village Bogomasowo was established. In addition, land was acquired from the Russian village Nowo-Nickoljsk where Ischalka was established.

Besides the Colonists rich large landowners came to Neu Samara: Klassen and Reimer, for example. Heinrich Reimer owned, e.g., 5,931 Desjatins, the property of his sister Anna, administered by him, had a size of 724 Desjatins. Because he could not work on everything himself, he has leased in 1908 the property of Anna to the colonists in Annenskoje. The estate owners have bought their land mainly from Slobotchikov.

At that time the new settlement belonged to Samara Gouverment, Buzuluk Ujesd. Therefore, it is also called Neu Samara, in contrast to Alt Samara, the colony which was established already in 1859. In 1934 Buzuluk Ujesd came to the Orenburg Oblast established at that time.

In 1877 a railroad had been built between Samara and Orenburg. The colonists traveled by rail in small groups till Sorotschinsk, from there they went on the brought horse's carriage to the new place of residence. Agricultural devices, livestock and food were also brought. Who came to which village, was already decided in Molotschna by drawing lots. Close relatives have been thereby distributed to different villages.

Many of the settler were poor and had brought little capital. The first years were hard, because the colonists had to acquire the devices necessary for the farming and the livestock only bit by bit. Therefore, many agricultural products which one could also consume himself as for example butter, were sold at the market. The colonists lived first in fast established earth's huts. Later more stable houses were built. The build-up of the settlement was also hindered by periodical drought times: in 1906 for example the harvest was lesser then the seed. The people also got help of the mother colony, e.g., after the mentioned harvest failure. Many also got money of their relatives in Molotschna. The colonists helped themself by common using of agricultural devices and draft horses. The Freikäufer had more money and, therefore, could  base their farms faster. The other had to borrow seeds and also flour.

However, bit by bit the colonists gained prosperity till 1914: the earth's huts were removed for right houses, mills were built, in every village there was a school and in 1911 a hospital was built in Pleschanowo. In 1917 3,670 inhabitants lived in Neu Samara on 35,695 Desjatins and there were 9 estates.

When in 1914  the First World War began many young men from Neu Samara had to serve in the Russian army forming hospital units. During the war Austrian prisoners of war were accommodated in Neu Samara. Some of these have been buried on the cemeteries of the villages. After the revolution in 1917 the troops mutinied and fled in the land inside, the Mennonites could also come home. After the October revolution it came to a civil war between the Bolsheviks, the "Reds", and their opponents the "White". So the Mennonites in Neu Samara have got between the fronts. Both parties exchanged their bad horses for the good horses of the colonists. Many were drafted by one of the parties and were forced to the service in the weapon, what contradicts the Mennonite belief. In autumn, 1919 the Soviets could strengthen their power position in the area of Neu Samara and expel the white. The colonists in Neu Samara had to prepare willy nilly for the Soviet rule. Because there were fears that the traditional life-style of the Mennonites would be suppressed, on suggestion of Cornelius F. Klassen one has decided to join to the at that time newly established Bashkir republic. Probably the people thought on Bashkir living on the northern bank of  Tock, which at that time were austerely religious Muslims and korservative people. In addition, out of consideration for the still ongoing war the Sovietgouvernment has let a little bit more freedom to the Bashkirs.

However, they had miscalculated with the connection with the Bashkirs: the administrative unit to which Neu Samara now belonged - Tock-Suranskij canton - moved her whole administration to Pleschanowo and surrounding villages. The Neu Samarians had strongly to suffer from that: they must accommmodate the employees of the administration in their houses, they had to perform haulage services etc. After the difficult time in winter 1919-20 the people had sent envoys to Moscow and had reached the transfer of the administration. Because in 1920 within the scope of the so-called war communism the grain was taken away from farmers, so that not even seed was left, there was in 1921-22 in the whole country big hunger. In Neu Samara there was a big food lack too. To get food, young men went to Siberia to exchange dresses for bread, then many have fallen ill on typhoid and have no more returned. By hunger weakened many villagers fall ill on typhoid and malaria. Only after long negotiations international relief organizations might come into Russia. Then the Mennonites in Neu Samara have got help of the AMR agency (American Mennonite relief).

Because the government realised that it could go on so no more, more freedom was let to the farmers within the scope of the new economic policy. In 1922 the farmers have got some sowing grain and the situation returned to normal bit by bit. Many Mennonites had no trust in the Sovietgovernment and have used this opportunity to emigrate. Between 1923 and 1928 about 700 persons only from Neu Samara moved to Canada. Then in 1926 only 3,071 mennonite inhabitants lived in Neu Samara.

From 1922 to 1929 the farmers could live again as before the revolution. However, the estate owners, storekeepers and mill owners had been mostly already expropriated before and had to flee. There was during this time also already religious pursuit by the atheistic government. Thus the religion lessons were forbidden in the schools and the ministers were pressed.

Then in 1929-1930 , like everywhere in Russia, also in Neu Samara the agriculture was collectivated. All had to bring their land, their livestock and their tools into the collective economy. The a little richer farmers were stamped as Kulaks and were sent for the hard labor to Siberia. First all villages of Neu Samara were in one kolkhoz (abbreviation for Kollektivnoye Khosyaistvo - collective economy) which had his center in Donskoj. Later 3 to 4 villages formed a group and in 1934 kolkhozes were established in every village. At the beginning there was passive opposition by the farmers against the collectivization, so that, e.g., next year there wasn't enough feed  to bring the horses through the winter. Then in 1931-1932 the cows had to be used for working in the fields. However, positively is to be marked that in this time also the first tractors came to Neu Samara. Then in addition the MTS (machines tractors station) was estableshed in Jakob Wittenberg's former house in Donskoj. In 1933/34 the road to Sorotschinsk was piled up: it was flattened and covered with gravelly sand from the Tock.

In 1931 was a break in the religious life of Neu Samarians: on the 6th of January, 1931 the worship houses in Donskoj and Pleschanow were closed. In the end of 1932 the worship house in Lugowsk was also closed. When in 1937-1938 in the whole country came a wave of terror, in particular persons were concerned by it in Neu Samara, which had been involved in the religious area.

The Russia-Germans have especially strongly suffered from the war broken out on the 22nd of June, 1941 between Germany and the Soviet Union. After the outbreak of war all German settlements to the west and on the Volga were dissolved, as far as it the Soviets could work, and were "evacuated", i.e. the inhabitants were sent to Siberia and Kazakhstan. Also both Mennonite settlements on the Volga, Alexandertal (Alt Samara) and Am Trakt, were dissolved. However, Neu Samara settlement could further exist as, as far as I see it, the most western Mennonite settlement in Sovietunion at all.

The situations for inhabitants of Neu Samara wasn't much lighter: bit by bit almost the whole adult population had to do hard labor in the Trudarmy (labor army). On the 20th March, 1942 all men at the age of 17 to 55 years were mobilized. Some have been sent to Molotow (today Perm) Oblast in the North Ural to fell wood. Because they got barely food, most of these men have died of hunger and exhaustion. Then on the 6th November, 1942 all boys were called up from 15 years and the been left men, on the 12th of November, 1942 women at the age of 16 to 50 years. The men have come mainly to Chelyabinsk to work in the coal pits. Most women came to Orsk (about 500 kms to the east, still in the Orenburg Oblast) and had to work in factories moved there. Some women have been also sent to Dombarowka. In the villages remained only the children, old people and management employees, such as kolkhozes chairpersons, brigadiers, mechanic etc. to work on the farms. 13-14 year-old  had to do heavy work .

Also after the war the people might not return immediately home, because till the middle of the 50-s all Russia Germans were under the Kommandatur and therefore there were restrictions of the trip freedom. But also afterwards many have no more returned, because many young people have married there and have found a new home. Therefore this generation was absent in the villages after the war, there have only those  remained which at that time were too young for the Trudarmee.

After the war there was still hunger  in the villages, because many food from the villages had to be sent for the urban population. In addition, the relatives in the Trudarmy still had to be cosupplied.The farmers had to deliver also certain deliveries in agricultural products like eggs, which they had generated on their small private land, in addition, mandatory loans had to be paid to the state. In 1950 there was a good harvest in Neu Samara, a part of it could be sold, so that people again got some money and could afford clothes. In the course of the 50-s the material situation was further improved, until no more compulsory deliveries had to be performed. In these years there was further mechanization in the agriculture, many young people, women too, have been trained to tractor driver.

But the people were still poor and lived very simply. There was electricity already in the 50-s, but very weakly. The tractor motors were used as an impulse for generators. At night the electricity was switched off to save fuel. If in the kolkhozes electricity was needed, e.g., for milking installations, the private households were disadvanteged. In 1960 a dam was built on the Tock near Krassikowo for a power station. This station supplied Krassikowo, Lugowsk and Podolsk with electricity. But also in other villages better generators were built. Then in the end all villages in Neu Samara were connected to the general electricity net.

Because there was only quite weak electricity at the beginning, the private household had almost no electrical appliances except light bulbs. The first refrigerators came to Neu Samara in the end of the 60-s beginning of the 70-s. Generally for the people in Neu Samara the 70-s and 80-s were materially probably the best of all since the beginning of the settlement. Many could afford a car and in every household there were several bicycles. This also is connected with the fact that the Germans are very diligent and could gain on 0.25 hectares of land, remained to them, surpluses, which they sold at the market. Money was earned above all with the breeding by piglets and Arctic foxes and beekeeping.

On the 1st January, 1967 the Krasnogvardeyskiy Rayon was formed, to which Neu Samara belong since then (before Neu Samara belonged  for a while to the Sorochinsk Rayon). Rayon center became Pleschanowo. Pleschanowo and the nearby Donskoj have strongly grown since then, because many non-German have moved there too. But also other villages have grown, e.g., Podolsk and Lugowsk have grown together almost to one village. Most villages have got additional streets.

As in other Mennonite settlements in Russia too, in Neu Samara Plautdietsch was spoken as a colloquial language, a Low German dialect of West Prussian origin. Tough the school lessons were led completely in Russian since the end of the 1930-s, however, most families use further Plautdietsch up to their migration to Germany (later also in Germany). Many children couldn't  speak Russian till going to school.  Many old customs and traditions were still continued. Especially after the transfer of the rayon center it came to a strong move of Russian-speaking persons to Neu Samara. Then a certain russification of Pleschanowo and Donskoj was connected with this.

When in the end of the 80-s the emmigration to Germany became easier, the Germans from Neu Samara have also emigrated. The first ones have come already in 1988 to Germany, then in 1989 there was a bigger number of the emigrants. Although at the beginning many have struggled against emigration, nevertheless, about 95 percent of the German inhabitants of Neu Samara have gone to Germany to this day. Then Tartars, Russians, Mordvinians and Bashkirs moved to their place and into their houses. Neu Samara has stopped to exist therefore as a German settlement, after 100 years of existence.