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.
The first wave of migration occurred in the Volga River region beginning in 1764. By the late 1760s some isolated settlements were already founded in South Russia. Hutterites first settled in Russia in 1770 and Mennonites began to settle in Russia by 1789. Settlements in the Bessarabian and Black Sea regions were being established in the early nineteenth century. In the mid-nineteenth century the areas of Volhynia, Crimea, and the Caucasus were being settled by Germans. Beginning in the late nineteenth century and continuing into the first decade of the 1900s, settlements were being founded by Germans in Siberia. Russia had a population of approximately 1.8 million Germans at the end of the nineteenth century. An excellent series of maps developed by Mitch Roll illustrates the locations of the German settlements. To see them go here: 1700s & 1800s German-Russian Settlements.
There were about 1,000 German villages in Russia before 1941, when the Soviet authorities issued a decree resulting in a forced evacuation of the villages and resettlement of villagers to Siberia and the Asiatic Republics (Kazakhstan). Some villages and regions have more focused research than others, the result of the interest and activity of people working to learn about "their" village or region. Volunteers serve as Village Coordinators (VC) to coordinate research for individual villages.
Village Files are available to AHSGR Premium and Life members only.