http://klippingsberg.com/12883.php Gradually, the colonists from different areas of origin developed new regional identities, such as, for example, Volga Germans or Black Sea Germans. Important factors in the development of a new sense of belonging and a distinction from other population groups were religion and language, aspects that are mirrored, for instance, in the layout of the colonies, which were Protestant or Catholic or Mennonite and exclusively inhabited by German-speaking settlers.
The colonists retained their German language and many other elements of everyday life from their regions of origin. However, influences from their new environments also gradually became part of their way of life and the German colonists began to see themselves as Russian citizens. This was brought about by a number of reasons. Under his reform policy, Alexander II had gradually discontinued the privileges of the German settlers. There was also a rise of nationalism and the development of the concept of Pan-Slavism, which led to a growing hostility towards non- Slavic segments of the Russian population.
An additional factor was the steady growth of the Russian-German population, paralleled by an increasing scarcity of land, and consequently fewer possibilities for establishing new colonies. Also and in contrast to the more prosperous Black Sea Germans , many Volga Germans wanted to escape the poverty caused by frequent crop failures and a massive shortage of land. Last but not least, migration agents and their promotion of America had reached the Russian-German colonies and many regarded emigration to America as an attractive option.
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As a general rule, the new settlements were separated by region of origin and denomination. From the very beginning, the immigrants organised their communal activities at a local level. They established schools, built churches, launched newspapers and founded mutual aid associations, as well as maintained their regional and religious identities as former Volga or Black Sea Germans, as Protestants, Catholics or Mennonites Sallet 83— During the two World Wars, however, the everyday lives of German-speaking settlers in the United States changed remarkably.
In the course of both wars, a Germanophobic climate unfolded, and several states restricted the use of the German language, which was now regarded as the language of the enemy. There was a growing mistrust towards anything German. As a consequence, the German language lost its importance as the language of instruction and the language of the church, the number of German-language publications decreased significantly Tolzmann x, Schmid 35—37, Bridenthal f. By the late s, however, the attitude towards German-speaking immigrants had become more positive.
Matoh northlanders,. The Ottoman crisis of in early seventeenth-century literature. References Assmann, Aleida. ORp Bayrak, M. They established schools, built churches, launched newspapers and founded mutual aid associations, as well as maintained their regional and religious identities as former Volga or Black Sea Germans, as Protestants, Catholics or Mennonites Sallet 83— Sie hat einfach einen coolen Vibe, ihr ganzes Branding ist unglaublich, alles was sie tut sieht und klingt perfekt. From the historical to the contemporary.
The discourse in the early s on the meanings and functions of songs led by Americans of Russian-German descent has to be located and understood within this context. The impetus to set up such an organisation sprang from the meeting in of several Americans with Russian-German backgrounds who shared an interest in exploring their cultural roots. Although there had been an earlier initiative, in the s, to found an association of Germans from Russia, this had not come to fruition.
Eventually, by the end of the s, American society was ready to embrace the emergence of associations whose purpose was to represent and maintain the culture of specific ethnic groups. For the Germans from Russia, organising themselves in such a way at a supra-regional level was a novelty, as, unlike the AHSGR, German immigrant associations of the earlier 20th century had operated only on a regional basis. These associations had been founded in order to address a specific need and were meant to provide mutual aid but, on the whole, they were not of any great importance for most Russian- German settlers in the United States Sallet 83— Its creation was primarily triggered by an awareness of the loss of cultural knowledge, an issue that was frequently addressed in AHSGR publications.
The first chairperson of this committee, Ruth Stoll, expressed her concerns with the following words. The American Historical Society of Germans from Russia, the collection of folk songs and cultural maintenance Initially, the Folklore Committee devoted itself to the whole range of Russian-German folklore, without specific issues or priorities. From onwards, special attention was given to songs, which soon became the subject of an emerging debate on Russian-German identity. A speech held by the pastor Fred W.
Gross in was, in this regard, a key event. Living as a retiree in Sacramento California in , he recalled that he used to live and work in Argentina in the s, just as Kopp had done, and it is possible that they had met. Das Lied der Auslanddeutschen The song of the foreign Germans 2. Lieder, welche die Welt durchwanderten Songs that wandered throughout the world 3. Wir singen unsere Geschichte We sing our history 4.
Wir singen von unserem Schicksal We sing of our destiny 5.
Liebe Love 6. Tanzlieder Dance songs 7. Von der Wiege bis zum Grabe From the cradle to the grave. Gross 49; English translation of chapter headings: Gross. For instance, he pointed out that although the melodies and texts of colonist songs frequently had different versions, in his view these music-related details were of minor importance within the context of the AHSGR and that attention should rather be given to the content of the lyrics and their spirit and message Gross This becomes particularly obvious in his conclusion, which leads his audience not only to incorporate the singing of songs at AHSGR meetings but also to embrace this practice as a prominent feature of the annual assemblies and adopt it as a facet of their ethnic identity.
A people that sings is a happy people; it will have found the secret of life and will always be able to overcome any deprivation, hardship, or persecution. Our forefathers knew how to sing and when to sing; they knew how to live and how to keep the faith.
They were the agricultural giants of the Russian steppes on the Volga and the Black Sea. This heritage of our people can only become ours as we labour hard to possess it Gross By invoking, so to speak, the spirit of the ancestors, Gross suggests that singing was a means of connecting to an assumed essence of Russian- Germanness and, by doing so, appropriating it.
His talk became the initial spark for, and provided the fundamental ideas of, a subsequent discourse on Russian-German songs. Journal 17 issues of this column in total. Kloberdanz, Timothy J. Weigel, Lawrence A. Oral Tradition and the Germans from Russia. Edited by Sidney Heitman. Mirror of an Ethnic Minority. Schneider Freehling, Ruth. Hoffman, Klaus D.
Windholz, Johann. Berg, Wesley. The Songs of the Germans in Russia.
Music from Three Countries. Zersen, David. Songs We Love to Sing. Bismarck, ND. Joseph S. Height ed. Folksongs of our Forefathers in Russia, America and Canada. Lieder der Schwarzmeerdeutschen. German Folk Songs from the Volga. Hays, KS [self-published]. Unser Deutsches Liederbuch. The activities of Weigel and Kloberdanz complemented each other well.
Weigel acted primarily as a collector, singer and author, with the aim of spreading knowledge of Russian-German songs. His articles are dedicated to the description of the historical contexts and former functions of these songs. He drew on examples from a collection of songs that he and Nick Pfannenstiel started to compile in the s, and which was constantly expanded on by Weigel. Another binding element is the new conception of the collective of Germans from Russia as an ethnic group and the assumption that songs importantly reflect its history.
What become apparent are a kind of call-and-response pattern and the consolidation of wordings, ideas and concepts through repetition. Discussing the role and importance of songs contributes to a newly emerging self-perception of the Germans from Russia in the United States. Another important aspect of this development constitutes the changes in the ways in which songs are used and interpreted. Songs which were originally sung only for entertainment or those designed to accompany secular or religious events or festivities during the course of the year or the course of life were now assigned the additional function of serving as a kind of musical narration of the history of the Germans from Russia.
Consequently, songs about historic events now take on an important role; within this discourse there is a consensus that songs provide an objective picture of historical events.
In the collection of folk songs none are of greater interest and value than those that tell the history of a people. Weigel 34 Such a reading, however, excludes processes of re-working and re- interpretation of songs or song variants, which offer a divergent view of the same event. In this regard, quotations from songs help to support and illustrate a particular already established conception of history; factual accuracy and the possibility of verifying historical information to which reference is made, or the possibility of an alternative interpretation of historical events, are of lesser importance.
This different approach to the songs and their meanings and functions also reflects changes in the concept of identity of the Germans from Russia. In the colonies in Russia, identity was primarily created through affiliation to a village or a region and, above all, through religious confession, while in the United States, identity concepts shifted towards affiliation through ethnicity. In this process, songs became identity markers and repositories of memory in a new way.
This development is clearly shown in the case of songs about historic events. In the colonies, these songs reminded people of important events in the life of specific villages whereas now, in the United States, they were contributing to the moulding, consolidation and representation of the overall community of Germans from Russia.
In this way, the songs became a vital expression of, and vital tools for, cultural change. In the early s, the process outlined above gained momentum. His ideas laid the foundations for a new approach to songs and gave direction to the emerging discourse; views and wordings which first appeared in his speech merged in a common train of thought. Non-existent until the s, song-related publications focusing especially on cultural memory and identity politics among Russian-Germans in the United States flourished in the s and s.
Although Gross made no further public appearances within the AHSGR after , his speech served an important catalysing function. They played a formative role in the discourse on the songs, cultural memory and ethnic identity of the Germans from Russia in the United States in the s and s, but this is not the end of the story.
The aforementioned songbooks and all the other books and articles published on songs during that time clearly show that German-language skills——being a pre-requisite for both understanding and performing the songs——were already an exception. In , German was one of the immigrant languages in the United States with the greatest decline.
The decline in German-language skills was clearly the main reason for no more Russian-German songbooks being published in the United States after Instead, the focus shifted to dances and dance tunes associated with Russian-German origins——the so-called Dutch Hop. Dutch Hop is basically polka music and its related dances, and is considered by the Germans from Russia in the United States to be part of their cultural heritage.
At the turn of the millennium, Dutch Hop appeared to take over the role that songs had in the early phase of identity formation of the Germans from Russia in the United States. Current music-related publications and activities in the context of the AHSGR clearly show this shift of emphasis. The book Colorado Dutch Hop Music by Kurt Edward Goldenstein includes, for instance, a section about the singing tradition of the Germans from Russia, which is only a few pages long and the passages in German show an obvious lack of language knowledge; the major part of the book is devoted to dance tunes and portrays the main protagonists in the development of Dutch Hop.
In the last 20 years or so, songs have therefore faded into the background of the discourse on cultural identity of the Germans from Russia in the United States. Conclusion The historian Valentin Groebner construes history as a wishing machine Groebner 9 : history is created and made meaningful in retrospect—in order to help shape the present. This means that while in the present moment a certain event is experienced in reality, in hindsight it can be transformed into a projection screen that might show whatever we wish to see. This change of perspective in looking back also involves a change of interpretation: things are seen differently, and in order to serve current needs, it might become less relevant how exactly an event occurred.
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