|The Volga Germans
Germans who left their homeland to settle in the Volga valley did so at
the invitation of the Russian Tsarina Catherine. On December 4,
1762, Catherine the Great issued a Manifesto inviting Western Europeans
to settle in Russia. However, it was her second Manifesto of July 22,
1763, which offered transportation to Russia, religious and political
autonomy, and land that incited many Western Europeans, mostly Germans,
to migrate to Russia. By the end of 1767 German settlers, coming
primarily from central Germany, had organized more than one hundred
colonies along the Volga River near Saratov. By 1869, the German
population in the Volga region would exceed
of the Village Frank
The colony of Frank was officially founded in 1767. At first the colony did not have a name, only a
number, and was called Frank by the colonists. Shortly after this, it received its official Russian name of
Med-Weditskoi Krestovoi Bujerak. According to the "Dictionary of Geographical Expressions, the word "buerak"
means a ravine, gorge, hollow, or depression. It is a loan word from the Turkic language and in Russian
occurs through-out the area of the Privolzhskaia Vozvyshennost (Volga Hills) which the Germans called the "Bergseite".
The village of Frank was called by the Russians, "Medveditskoi Krestovoi Buerak". "Medved" is a bear. "Medveditsa
is a she bear, and "krest" a crossing. In addition Frank was located on the left bank of the river. So the
Russian interpretation of the name of Frank would by "Bear Crossing Ravine".
Frank was located on the east bank of the Medveditsa
River, on the western edge of the Saratov Province of the Lower Volga area. It is primarily an
agricultural area, with some oil and gas resources in the area.
The village of Frank was populated by German immigrants at the invitation of Catherine-the-Great of
Russia. It is believed that many of the original settlers were from the Hessen area of Germany, in the
The official statistics state that 525 people of the Lutheran faith were settled here in 1767. Most of
them had left their homelands the previous spring and had spend over a year in getting there. Many traveled
by ship from Germany to Oranienbaum (near St. Petersburg) and then by wagons or boats to the steppes of the
According to tradition, the colonists found little or no preparation had been made for them. and like the
settlers in the other Volga colonies, they had to dig into the banks of the river to make crude shelters for
themselves. However, after a number of years, the village of Frank became a very prosperous agriculture
The picture of the church is that of the third church erected Frank. It was build in 1842 in what was
called the :KontorStil (Official Style). It seated 1,114 people but more were often accommodated. The small
old wooden church was then rebuilt in the daughter colony of Neu-Frank. The church was the focal point of
the colony. From the bell tower, the sexton announced the deaths in the community by means of the church
bell, designating by the first peals, whether the deceased by a man, woman, or child, and then tolling out
the age. The bells were further used in cases of fire, and blizzards in order to direct wanderers to the
In the early years, educational interest was not high. The principal aim of the whole system was to
perpetuate the German language and the traditional and religious customs and practices. In subsequent year
the educational cause was promoted and higher educational standards realized.
Frank families were large. Like all pioneers, a part of their service was to multiply and replenish the
steppes. Despite suffering, sacrifice, and struggle, the population grew.
When in the early seventies of the 19th century the Czar put an end to all privileges and was determined
to make of these Germans full-fledged Russians, they sought a land of liberty, and America was the magnet.
Emigration began almost at once, some going to South America, a few to Canada, but by far the largest number
came to the United States.
Many settled in the State of Nebraska, Kansas, North Dakota, South Dakota, Colorado, Washington State and
California. The immigration period started to decline about 1915.
Original Settlers of Frank FRANK
(Russian name: Medweditskij or Medwedizkoi Krestowoj Bujerak), present name is Medweditza, Kanton: Frank,
Wolost: Frank. Established May 16, 1767, 115 families, 525 settlers, Lutheran Colony on the Bergseite, near
Saratov and Engels, Russia. Listing of names as given by Mr. Carl Eckhardt, Hastings, Nebraska in Die Welt
Post, October 19, 1939.