Many Catholic Volga Germans chose South America as their new homeland because the official
religion in Brazil and Argentina was Catholic. The ratio of Catholics to Protestant Volga
Germans in South America was 7 to 1. The opposite was true in the Volga, Protestant Volga
Germans outnumbered Catholics by about 2 to 1. So in spite of the numerous stories told
of Volga German immigrants being diverted to South America against their will or being sent
there because they were denied entry to the US due to health reasons, Brazil and Argentina
were the planned destination of many Catholic Volga German immigrants.
For the majority of the emigrants to Brazil, it was their first option and it was the country
they wanted to settle. In 1876 scouts were sent to Brazil to investigate settlement conditions,
as it was done before with the United States, and their reports were favorable. The Volga
German delegation was treated cordially. In looking for farmland for wheat they choose the grass
lands of the state of Parana although Brazilian officials suggested certain forested areas would
be more fertile. "The Volga Germans were granted the privileges of community landholding,
settlement in closed villages and segregation according to religious belief, as in the
Volga Region. The government also freely offered them generous financial assistance to get
themselves established in their new colonies."*
The major immigration to Brazil took place during 1877 & 1878. Unfortunately they found the
grasslands of Parana were less fertile than the Volga steppes, and wheat could not be farmed
successfully by the methods they were accustomed. Right after that, four representatives
traveled to Buenos Aires, on August 1877, and negotiated favorable terms there.
They asked, like their ancestors, exemption from military service, freedom of worship,
and the installment of German schools along with good farm lands.
Under the guidance of Andreas Basgall, Volga Germans started to relocate to Argentina
from Brazil in December of 1877 and in
January of 1878 they founded the first Volga German colony of Hinojo, in the province
of Buenos Aries in Argentina. Some large groups of Volga Germans on ships destined
for Brazil were diverted to Argentina. These people settled in Colonia General Alvear
in the province of Entre Ríos. Additional Volga Germans, some from Brazil and others
directly from Russia, arrived in Argentina over the next few years.
Colonia General Alvear was was for many years the main settlement of Volga Germans in Argentina.
Nearly 90% of the first Volga Germans that arrived in Argentina settled there.
The first census of the Volga Germans in Argentina was performed on March 31, 1881
in "Colonia General Alvear", Entre Rios Province, Argentina.
A complete census index of all the villages within the colony
villages can be found here.
This colony was comprised of 6 villages: Asunción (Spatzenkuter), Concepción (Valle María),
San José (Brasilera),
Agricultores (Protestante), San Francisco (Pfeifer) and Salto (Koeller).
This census provides: Date of arrival in the Colony (24 groups
between 22-01-1878 and 24-04-1880), Name, Nationality, Marital status, age and literacy.
Five of six villages were Catholic. The single Protestant or Lutheran village was
Agricultores (Protestante or Protestantendorf).
From both starting points of Colonia General Alvear and of Colonia Hinojo
they spread in all directions. There are still fifteen villages in Entre Ríos
populated by descendants of the original settlers, twelve of them are of Catholic
origin and the remaining three Protestant. However most Volga Germans live in small
cities like Ramírez, Crespo, Urdinarrain, Galarza and Maciá where they usually
are majority. Expansion from Colonia Hinojo went westwards comprising south of
Buenos Aires and the province of La Pampa; from there they reached Cordoba and
Chaco. Catholic settlers in La Pampa came from south of Buenos Aires and Protestants
from Entre Ríos. The
former founded Santa María and Santa Teresa, the latter Guatraché, San Martín and Alpachiri.
Source: "Los Alemanes del Volga" 1977 Victor Popp - Nicolás Dening
The immigration of Germans from Russia to Argentina kept a steady pace until the
beginning of World War I. Crespo in Entre Ríos and Cornel Suárez in Buenos Aires
became the most outstanding centers of colonization. At the present time, the
descendants of these people live disseminated all over Argentina. The numerous
progeny of the original founders and the division and distribution of their
properties into smaller lots forced many of them to abandon the original colonization
sites and find new occupations.
The fact that Argentina appears among the most important grain producers of the
world is, in part, responsibility of its citizens of Volga German origin.
In 1927 only 6,000 Volga Germans in Brazil as compared to 70,000 in Argentina.
Los Alemanes del Volga 1977 by Victor Popp & Nicolás Dening
From Catherine to Khrushchev by Adam Giesinger
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