And it was no less a German than Martin Luther who reformed the German church, or one might say the church as a whole (Protestant).It’s not my task to trace how a portion of that German church became Reformed, but we are all familiar with the story of the Elector Frederick III, Olevianus and Ursinus and our beloved Heidelberg Catechism. we get about 9,000 Reformed, but RCUS statistics just before the merger in 1934 show about 5,000 in the Classes Nebraska, South Dakota, North Dakota and Eureka. His distinctive teaching so impressed certain Reformed pastors that it united them in the conviction that this is the true doctrine of the Reformed Faith.The Reformed from Alsace organized a number of villages.In all, the German immigrants established 214 colonies and 1,000 daughter colonies in the Black Sea region.
So faithfully had they maintained their heritage that in the 1940s when some returned as refugees to Germany the native Germans said of them.
After she married Peter (Peter the Great’s grandson), he despised her and she in turn conspired to have him deposed. Catherine the Great, as she is known, issued a proclamation in 1763, encouraging the colonization along the Volga River with promises of religious liberty, tax exemption up to thirty years for farmers, exemption from military service and cash grants for buildings and livestock.
Along with these and certain other privileges was the freedom to leave Russia at anytime.
(That was before TV and the leveling, or should I say mongrelization, of all cultures in America and the even more horrible modern “multi-culturalism.”) But the story of the German-Russians is well-known, appearing in the celebration booklets of our churches in Nebraska and the Dakotas. Wenzlaff titled his work, As Dickens began that work with the familiar words, “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times,” so in God’s providence it was the worst of times in Germany that made emigration attractive to these solid German farmers and burghers to leave their homeland and go to the bleak steppe of Russia, and then a century later when they saw their situation in Russia worsening that they looked to another great plain for a homeland. He stays in his own village and only maintains a limited contact even with the nearest German colony; often only a mile (five English miles) wide field on the steppe separates a neighbor, but is a formidable obstacle for any contact.
Also the centennial volumes of the various communities in North and South Dakota, for example, Menno, Tripp, and Eureka, South Dakota, all repeat the German-Russian saga. And it was the best of times for them to establish themselves first in their own dorfs on the vast steppe that isolated and insulated them from the rest of society: . This, then, is how the colonist lives his lonely existence in his colony on the endless steppe to which broad plain no sound from the outer world penetrates. Then, when again in God’s providence it seemed time to move on, it was the best of times because the American west was opening up, and the German-Russians found the “endless prairies of the northern Great Plains, North and South Dakota, Nebraska, Kansas and Eastern Colorado, much like the landscapes they had abandoned in South Russia.” Why did these folks go to Russia to begin with?