Catherine II (1729-1796), Empress of Russia, who is popularly remembered as “Catherine the Great”, undertook a large settlement program where Germans wishing to flee from the shifting borders, petty wars and religious disputes of the 18th century in Central Europe would be welcomed to set up colonies in the lower Volga River valley. These settlers were allowed to keep their language, religion, culture and communal associations. Religious-based groups, such as the Mennonites and the Moravians, took advantage of this.

However, about a hundred years later the decision of the Tsar to enforce conscription began a steady outmigration of Volga Germans, many of whom were Pacifists. They came to North America, especially to the Prairies since they were dry-land wheat farmers, with significant settlement in Manitoba, Saskatchewan, Alberta, the Dakotas, Nebraska and Kansas. With the onset of war in 1914 it became Russian policy to persecute the Volga Germans. The Revolution and the Civil Wars slowed this process down somewhat but in 1941 Stalin transported all of them to Siberia.

In Portland , Oregon today there is a significant population of persons of Volga German descent. You can read about the Volga Germans by clicking on this link.

James (“Jim”) Patton BS BA MPA is a retired state official from Shawnee, Kansas and a frequent contributor to several WW1 e-publications, including "Roads to the Great War," "St. Mihiel Tripwire," "Over the Top" and "Medicine in the First World War." He has spent many hours walking the WW1 battlefields, and is also an authority on British regiments and a collector of their badges. An Army Engineer during the Vietnam War, he does work for the US World War 1 Centennial Commission and has memberships in the WW1 Historical Association, the Western Front Association, the Indian Military Historical Society and the Salonika Campaign Society.