The settlement policy under Catherine II (1762-1796)

(part 2 of 3)


Arrival in the new homeland

After arrival of settlers it turned out that a whole series of promises of the czarina's proclamation were not kept. The authorities had neglected to create the conditions for a successful settlement. The land for the colonies was not yet measured, there were no promised houses and annexes, there wasn't even any building material.

dirt hut
dirt hut

Most of the new arrivals had to spend the first winter in Saratov or in nearby villages and, in the first few years, some of them had to live in primitive caves under ground. Many of them became sick and died.


The settlers were not allowed to freely settle in all of the provinces of the Russian Empire, they were instead allocated to especially selected territories.

The future homeland in the czarina's proclamation was described to settlers as the new Eden, but instead, once they got there they met steppes without any usable trees nor lakes.


New Russia
New Russia

At the beginning the economic development of the German colonies in New Russia was strongly hindered by diseases of the population and unfavourable weather conditions. In the colony Alexanderhilf in the Großliebental district more than 360 people died in 1804, the next two years only a few survived. At the same time, in the nearby colony of Neuburg, 29 of the 65 settled families died.


The colonization of Bessarabia (since 1814) ran under similar difficulties. The supply of food was not regular, and rations consisted largely of inferior flour, which was not even suitable to feed pets and cattle. Organizational inefficiencies and corruption among employees complicated the situation of the colonists so much that they started to rise against the authorities.


Many of the German settlers were experienced craftsmen. It was a great disappointment when, in the new homeland, they were forced to practice farming without any experience and knowledge. Their skills and knowledge remained unused for a lengthy time.


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