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Vom Zarenreich in den amerikanischen Westen:

Deutsche in Russland und Russlanddeutsche in den USA (1871-1928): Die politische, sozio-ökonomische un kulturelle Adaption einer ethnischen Gruppe im Kontext zweier Staaten

From the Tsarist Empire to the American West: Germans in Russia and German Russians in the USA (1871-1928): the political, socio-economic and cultural adaptation of an ethnic group in the context of two countries

by Dr. Susanne Janssen

Studien zu Geschichte, Politik und Gesellschaft Nordamerikas, John F. Kennedy-Institut für Nordamerikastudien, Freie Universität Berlin, LIT Verlag, Münster, Germany, 1997, 327 pages, softcover, German language.

German

The Germans from Russia Heritage Collection is pleased to announce the publication of Dr. Susanne Janssen's book, Vom Zarenreich in den amerikanischen Westen. The book in the German language was based on her dissertation completed at the John F. Kennedy Institute, Berlin, Germany completed in 1991. Dr. Janssen visited Nebraska and North Dakota populated by Germans from Russia people.

For her dissertation, Dr. Janssen researched the German from Russia Heritage Collection at North Dakota State University Libraries, Fargo, ND and the library of the American Historical Society, Lincoln, NE. She interviewed persons of Black Sea German ancestry in North Dakota and persons of Volga German ancestry in Nebraska.

The work compares how the German-Russians in Russia and later in America adapted to a new country. Her writing raises an awareness and an understanding for the recent immigrants of the ethnic Germans who lived in the former Soviet Union who have immigrated to Germany facing similar problems as the early settlers. The author reviews the problem from the political, socio-economic, and cultural view. She examines: 1) how the German-Russians and the Americans reacted to WWI; 2) what measures they took for an anti-German campaign and 3) differences and similarities of how they adapted in a free and in an unfree society between 1871 and 1928 were investigated.

Some of the persons Dr. Janssen interviewed include the following: Ruth M. Amen, Lydia R. Grasmick, Henry Grenemeier, Mollie Grenemeier, Adolph W. Miller and Alex Stier (Lincoln, NE); Mathilda Becker, Jacob Groszhans, Henry Huether, Anna M. Maier and Emma Roeszler (Ashley, ND); Thekla Dosch, Joseph and Rosalie Mattern and Magdalena Schwab (Strasburg, ND); Hilda Koepplin, William L. Moser and Bertha Ruff (Wishek, ND). Responses and interview summary is in the English and German languages in some cases. Pages 302 - 327, the complete oral interviews are published entirely in the English language with questions and answers for the following interviewees: Alma Herman, Fargo, ND; Henry Grenemeier, Lincoln, NE; and Ruth M. Amen, Lincoln, NE.

Dr. Janssen includes an extensive bibliography of references.


Susanne Janssen, Vom Zarenreich in den amerikanischen Western: Deutsche in Rußland und Rußlanddeutsche in den USA 1871-1928, Münster, Germany, Lit Verlag, 1997), 327 pp. paper, ISBN 3-8258-3292-9. Published in the series Studien zu Geschichte, Politik und Gesellschaft Nordamerikas, editor, Dr. Willi Paul Adams.

In her dissertation Janssen compares the assimilation process of the approximately 150,000 Germans who migrated from Russia during the 60 year time frame to lands, especially North Dakota and Nebraska. Uppermost for the study is a view to replicating the assimilation experience for the Russian Germans in both countries, with a view to currently returning `emigr'es from the CIS to Germany, approximately 1.5 million since the Wall fell. Thus Janssen analyzes the political situation in Russian, the socio-economic adaption of the colonists to the Russian situation, their cultural and political assimilation in the United States up to the First World War, and the problems they faced as "Germans" during the conflict both in Czarist Russia and in the U.S. Interestingly, WWI allowed the Germans from Russia in the United States to achieve, finally, "German" status, that having become a sufficiently negative designation to umbrella all immigrants with a German culture.

Prior to 1917, German Rooschians were distinctly sub-categorized socially by the Reich and the non-German settlers. Result: Germans from Russia were slow to enter American politics, strong in their religious affiliation and economically rather successful. When matters hit close to home, however, German Russians became politically active, e.g. on behalf of the Non Partisan League in North Dakota. And in Russia, the Germans remained culturally superior to their dominant ethnic outsider group in spite of their education being limited to the grades, whereas in America the Russian Germans remained educationally below their neighbors the Norwegians, Reich Germans and Anglo-Americans. Within this frame work, however, the Germans in Russia resisted adaption whereas in the U.S. they welcomed the absorption process.

Thus, an assimilative parallel between the Russian and the American sequence of events fails to replicate. In conclusion, Janssen discovers the irony that success for the Germans in Russia aroused Slavophobic antipathy while economic achievement in the sugar beet districts of Nebraska, and the wheat field of North Dakota, and in the politically strong Non Partisan League awakened the jealousy and enmity of the Americans during World War I. Thus whether in a democracy or in a monarchy, minority tolerance by the majority was dramatically lacking, though of course in the former there was no mass internment, deportation or liquidation of settlements.

Thoroughly researched with references to most of the scholarly work done to date on Russian Germans, very extensive bibliography, fine table of contents breakdown but no index. A masterful work deserving of close attention in all serious German-Russian scholarship.

Reprinted with permission of Society for German American Studies, volume 19, number 2, June, 1998, page 15.

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Review by Frederik Ohles


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