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And that’s the story of this chapter: How the German Reformed Church became German-Russian. We wish that they were, seeing that in the 1970s according to the estimate of Richard Sallet there were 303,532 first and second generation German-Russians in the U. North Dakota led the way by far with approximately 70,000 while South Dakota and Kansas each had less than half that amount with Nebraska and Colorado numbering a little over 20,000 each. Of these 67 percent were Evangelical, that is, Lutheran, Reformed, Congregational, etc., while 21 percent were Catholics and 12 percent Mennonites. Of these I would estimate that 58 percent are German-Russians. So it was the German-Russians who were Kohlbrueggians who maintained and saved the Reformed Church in the U. And that’s what this chapter of our celebration volume is all about. It can even be more accurately Russian Germans, or the name that perhaps says it best: Germans from Russia, as in the “Germans from Russian Heritage Society” at Bismarck, North Dakota, and the “American Historical Society Of Germans from Russia” at Lincoln, Nebraska.
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They not only came from Germany, but they were Germans all the way through.
So faithfully had they maintained their heritage that in the 1940s when some returned as refugees to Germany the native Germans said of them.
(That was before TV and the leveling, or should I say mongrelization, of all cultures in America and the even more horrible modern “multi-culturalism.”) But the story of the German-Russians is well-known, appearing in the celebration booklets of our churches in Nebraska and the Dakotas. Wenzlaff titled his work, As Dickens began that work with the familiar words, “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times,” so in God’s providence it was the worst of times in Germany that made emigration attractive to these solid German farmers and burghers to leave their homeland and go to the bleak steppe of Russia, and then a century later when they saw their situation in Russia worsening that they looked to another great plain for a homeland. He stays in his own village and only maintains a limited contact even with the nearest German colony; often only a mile (five English miles) wide field on the steppe separates a neighbor, but is a formidable obstacle for any contact.