State Historical archive of the Volga Germans in Engels.
the Director: Erina Elizaveta Moiseevna
Honoured worker of culture of the Russian Federation
the Assistant: Skuchaeva Olga Evgen'evna
Staff: 13 employees, from them 11 are main and leading experts. Works on genealogy are carried out by the main experts with experience.
The history of branch of State archive of Saratov region in Engels attracts to itself an attention of scientists of many countries, and it is not surprisingly. The archive keeps the basic document file on history of the Germans of Volga region from the moment of their settlement in 1764 –1767 and later, right up to eviction in 1941.
The archive is founded August 20, 1923 as an archival bureau of Area of the Germans of Volga region, later (since January, 1924) Central archival management ASSR NP (Independent Soviet Socialist Republic of the Germans of Volga region).
In 1922 Pokrovsk district was part of Area of the Germans of Volga region and Pokrovsk became its capital. In March, 1923 there was a question on creation of archive. On August, 20th of 1923 the archive began its activity.
The first manager of the archive became Piskunov Michael Fedorovich, graduate from Kharkov University, worked in Archives of the Ministries of Foreign Affairs, Justice, the Main military staff on drawing up of a history of the Donskoy Army. In 1924, in connection with creation ASSR NP, the archive became republican. In the first year Piskunov Michael, having received 2 small rooms in building of TSIK ASSR NP and has collected about 57 thousand records. That was a beginning of the archive’s forming with documents of village meetings, and district administrations of territories, which were populated with foreigners under Manifests of Russian tsarina Ekaterina II of 1762 and 1763. Thousand immigrants came to Russia from various places of the shattered Germany (Giessen, Baden, Trier, Saxony, Golshtinia, Mainz etc.), Austria, Holland, Denmark, France, Sweden and other countries. The way of the first colonists to Volga area was long and difficult. These are complexities of travel up to seaports of Europe in Luebeck and Danzig, then even more tiresome way over Baltic sea in the crowded ships up to Oranienbaum, that near Saint Petersburg. And after that, the most difficult travel on boundless open spaces of Russia up to Saratov. Only on this last piece of the way left more than a year. Sets of tombs of the first colonists were along coasts of the Great Russian River. Despite of all difficulties, in the period from 1764 to 1768 here were formed 104 colonies on the right (“hilly”) and the left (“meadow”) sides in which lived more than 30 000 person. These people have put in pawn a basis of formation of new people in territory of Russia - the Volga Germans.
Having overcome difficulties of the first years of residing on Volga where it was necessary to build villages, to cultivate a virgin soil and to struggle with attacks of nomads, colonists could already at the end of the 18th century achieve the great successes. In the beginning of the 19th this territory was economically one of the most advanced in Volga region.
In the middle of the 19th small group of Mennonites has arrived to Volga region from Prussia. They have formed in the Volga steppes 9 colonies.
To that time in Volga region was already 170 colonies, and on a boundary of the 20th - 190 (407,5 thousand people).
The overall objective of the created 80 years ago the archive was first of all to rescue the documents kept for that period on life of colonists, and also other nationalities (Russian, Ukrainians, Tatars, etc.), living in region. But some events have resulted in loss of a part of unique documents. In 1774 Pugachev has destroyed the majority of documents of the first years of residing of colonists on Volga. Liquidation of the office of guardianship of foreign settlers in 70th of the 19th century has resulted also in loss of a part of the documents determined by officials as "unimportant”.
Acts of nature (fires and flooding), revolution, civil war, destruction of churches, a cold and famine, including “paper” famine in 20th years did not promote full safety of documents. By 1930 the archive has received a building of the grain barn constructed in 1902 on the central square of the capital of Nemrespublika (Germans republic) where it is now.
In February, 1927 the new manager of the archive becomes Joseph Petrovich Prints. The worker of the same archive, he has continued business of the predecessor. On a share of the new manager many difficulties have dropped out also. And still, despite of all obstacles, work was not stopped, and the new building has begun the big archival work. In heavy conditions employees of the archive worked to keep a history. In the afternoon executed inquiries of citizens, on evenings at light of kerosene lamps, took into account funds. Following often change of heads of the archive, which have not left an appreciable trace in work of it troubled archival business. The young staff, such as P.G. Krauze and A.I. Martynova who have come in the archive in 1931, worked, studied at courses of improvement of qualification at the Moscow historical-archival institute and used the best efforts for improvement of work of the archive. Praskovia Krauze last 14 years, up to retirement on pension worked as the director of the archive.
On January, 1, 1941 it was concentrated 1475 funds on 320195 records in the archive.
The heaviest tests have fallen to archivists and the documents stored in archive after the beginning of Patriotic war in 1941, after the Decree of Presidium of a Supreme Soviet of the USSR from August 28, 1941 "About eviction of the Germans living in areas of Volga region". War with fascists in1941-1945 has interrupted creative work of archivists. Urgent gathering of the documents which have stayed on places, despite of the strict order of Ministry of Internal Affairs ASSR NP “About the guarantee of safety of the documentary materials of establishments, organizations and enterprises of ASSR NP" there were losses.
By the order from October, 13, 1941 was liquidated Central State Archive of the republic, and later the archive became branch of the State archive of Saratovskaya oblast’.
Evacuation of documents, transfer to Moscow, re-evacuation, transfer of metric books to bodies of Registry offices, of some archival funds (office of guardianship of foreigners 1096 records) in GASO (State Archive of Saratovskaya oblast’), in Volgograd archive.
After the liquidation of Nemrespublik 15 cantons territorially were referred to Saratov, 7-to Volgograd area after the Decree of Presidium of a Supreme Soviet from September, 7, 1941 and so to the Archive of Volgogradskaya oblast’ went 350 funds on more than 17 000 unit of issues. The documents reflecting a history of settling and development of a part of the Volga region lands by foreigners - administration boards and village administrations of Zeevald, Neidengoff, Kolb, Nei-Bauer, Josephstal, Gussenbach, Dittel and etc. have left the archive. Same happened to documents of churches. Evangelical- Lutheran and Catholic churches of villages Val'ter, Gussenbach, Kraft, Kano, Markel’, Shtefan etc. were transferred also in Kamyshinsky branch (now Volgograd Archive), as well as funds of the enterprises and the organizations of Soviet period of: kantispolkomov, volispolkomov, village councils, military registration and enlistment offices, trade unions, MTS, state farms and cooperatives of Gmelinskiy, Palasovskiy, Staro-Poltavskiy, Ilovatskiy, Dobrinskiy, Erlenbakhskiy and Frank cantons.
The basic document file on a history of settling of Volga region lands by colonists and the first German autonomy that makes about 180 thousand records from almost 214 is stored today in the archive of Engels.
Long years archive was closed, its reading room did not work. Actually it became accessible to researchers only in the beginning of 90th of the 20th century. The archive not only keeps and also itself widely uses documents, works on inquiries of genealogic character, but also collects documents on a history of Volga region Germans from public organizations and persons.
Archivists continue work on gathering and use of archival materials, are united with researchers, scientific, regional specialists, workers of museums, libraries of our country, and last decade - with scientists of Germany, America and other countries.
Honorable guests visit the archive frequently. Among them V.A. Mihailov, Minister on affairs of Federation and nationalities of the Russian Federation; his deputy B.B. Khamchiev; Mr. Shtudnits, the Ambassador of Germany in the Russian Federation; Mr. Vel't, the representative of the government of Germany on affairs of immigrants; Mr. Vokalek, the General consul of Germany in Saratov; D.Gaier, the head of Joint-Stock Company "Volga - development "; members of the joint Russian - German commission and other officials. Numerous receptions of remarkable guests, and also delegations of tourists from Germany, America which ancestors came from Volga region, the researchers writing in German, students have resulted archivists in necessity of preparation of documentary exhibitions in view of interests of each separate audience.
Elizaveta Moiseevna Erina over 43 years works in a post of the director of branch of State archive of Saratovskaya oblast’ in Engels. For years of work she saves up an extensive complex of documents for 1806 - 2000 both created by her, and collected which were included in personal fund. For the period of her work major overhauls and re-equipment of a grain barn under storehouse of documents were repeatedly carried out, the extension of additional premises that has considerably expanded working rooms for collective is carried out, as well as steam heating, the roof of archive is blocked, acceptable sanitary-and-hygienic conditions in archive are created.