The Russians are coming. The Russians are coming. Well, the German Russians anyway. The American Historical Society of Germans from Russia will have their annual convention at the Little America Hotel and Convention Center in Salt Lake City on Aug. 1-7.
Although the society promotes family, genealogical, and historical research, this will be the first time that this group has met in Utah for their convention.
The national AHSGR members are excited about the conference venue, and about this opportunity to visit the famous Family History Library in Salt Lake City. Local society associates are also hopeful to recruit new members for the Intermountain Chapter here in the Salt Lake area. This is shaping up to be a win-win situation all around. Bill Dellos from Orangeville is instrumental in the planning of the event. He is the local chapter president.
The AHSGR works to preserve the history and identity of descendents of those German peoples who moved to Russia in the mid to late 1700s, at the invitation of Catherine the Great.
Catherine was a German-born princess who had married Peter III of Russia. Peter was assassinated within months of becoming Tsar, and Katerina was able to assume the throne. Her Manifestos, invitations for Western Europeans to settle in Russia, were ultimately answered by tens of thousands of German people who were settled in the Volga River region, South Russia, Volhynia, Crimea, and the Caucasus.
Most of these villages in Russia maintained their German culture, language, and religion for many decades under the favorable provisions of the several Manifestos.
But some 100 years later, Tsar Alexander II, worried about the large population of German-speaking citizens in the heart of Russia, systematically dismantled the privileges and special conditions these villagers had enjoyed for so long.
Their exemption from military service was revoked, requirements concerning language and cultural assimilation were enacted and enforced, and in the late 1800- and early 1900s a large scale emigration began which took these peoples all over the world, many to the heartland of the USA.
Many of the early German-Russians immigrants to the US settled in the Midwest, where they could farm the plains, or find jobs with the expanding railroads. The headquarters of the organization is in Lincoln, Neb. and many chapters fill the plains states.
"We expect the heightened awareness that this convention will bring for our AHSGR Intermountain Chapter, may boost our local membership," says Dellos, who leads the small local chapter members that will help host the convention.
"We're excited, and a bit overwhelmed about this opportunity of helping host the convention, and are very grateful for all the help provided by the headquarters organization," Dellos explained.
Highlights of the conference will include tours of local points of interest, cultural music by performers such as the Polkatonics and Kerry Christensen - Alpine and Western Yodeling Master.
Of course, there will be an excellent selection of outstanding classes and presentations for German-Russian researchers, including Village Night activities where descendants of settlers from specific villages can meet and share research notes and family stories.
The 2011 AHSGR Conference is less than a week away so interested persons are invited to learn more by visiting the AHSGR conference webpage at: http://www.ahsgr.org/Conventions/2011Convention/2011_Convention.htm.