Norka

Names: 
Nekrasovo
Norka
Weigand
Вейганд
Норка
Старая Норка
History: 

Norka was founded on 15 August 1767 by the Government about 65 kilometers southwest of the city of Saratov. Its inhabitants were mostly of the Reformed faith, although some were Lutheran. The colonists were primarily from the Hessen area of present day Germany. Norka grew from a fledgling settlement to become a large and very prosperous colony.      

According to Jacob Dietz, Norka was named after the river along which it is located. The Norka River starts 2 to 3 kilometers west of the colony. The land surrounding the river was covered by tall grasses, shrubs and scattered forest areas.      

There was a cholera epidemic in Norka in 1848 and 1849. There was a large fire in the colony in 1872.

Today, what remains of the former colony of Norka is still called Norka.

Church: 

Based on the 1767 census of Norka, a majority of the 218 families were of the Reformed faith; 16 families (7 percent) identified themselves as Lutherans; 6 families (3 percent) as Roman Catholics. By 1906, the Norka Parish, which also served the colonists living in Huck and Neu-Messer, had grown to 23,179 members. Of those, 385 were Lutheran, the remainder being of the Reformed faith.       

Norka’s church was constructed in the center of the colony. The colony's first organ was purchased in 1791. In the early years, separate church services were held for the Lutheran and Reformed faith families. A new church building was constructed in 1822 on the site of the original facility.      

Construction of the third church building began in 1880 on 9th street. The cornerstone was laid on 24 June 1880 during a worship service attended by former Norka pastor Rev. Gottlieb Bonwetsch, the Rev. Gottlieb Jordan from neighboring Balzer and the Rev. Wilhelm Stärkel, who was the pastor of the Norka parish at the time. The cross was placed atop the steeple on 6 October 1880. The church was built in the Kontor style with white Doric columns and stately doorways. The dome of the edifice could be seen from miles away. The basement walls, serving as the foundation of the massive structure, were made of mortar and stone about three feet thick. At its widest and longest points, the dimensions of the foundation measured 127 feet wide by 175 feet long.      

In the balcony at the back of the sanctuary, a new pipe organ was installed in 1891. The organ had been manufactured by E.F. Walcker of Ludwigsburg, Germany, and was the 586th organ (Opus 586) built by the company.      

The church in Norka was officially closed in 1935 and torn down in 1939.

Pastors & Priests: 

The Norka congregation was served by the following pastors:

  • 1769-1782 Johann Georg Herwig
  • 1784-1831 Johann Baptista Cattaneo
  • 1831-1840 Friedrich Börner
  • 1845-1876 Christoph Heinrich Bonwetsch
  • 1876-1877 Gottlieb Nathanael Bonwetsch
  • 1878-1908 Wilhelm Stärkel
  • 1910-1913 David Weigum
  • 1913-1926 Friedrich Alexander Wacker
  • 1914-? Emil Wegener
  • 1929-1934 Emil Pfeiffer

      The following served as an Assistant Pastor in Norka:

  • 1897-1901 Woldemar Emil Arthur Sibbul
Population: 
Year
Households
Population
Total
Male
Female
1767
218
753
 
 
1769
212
772
400
372
1773
219
957
501
456
1788
206
1,358
690
668
1798
225
1,660
845
815
1816
300
2,509
1,274
1,235
1834
445
4,113
2,095
2,018
1850
465
5,951
3,081
2,870
1857
628
6,300
3,251
3,049
1860
483
6,894
3,289
3,065
1886
877
7,641
3,898
3,743
1891
727
10,200
5,202
4,998
1894
 
10,518
5,302
5,216
1897
 
6,843*
3,381
3,462
1905
 
13,500
 
 
1910
 
13,623
 
 
1911
 
14,174
 
 
1912
 
14,236
 
 
1920
954**
7,325
 
 
1922
 
7,292
 
 
1923
 
6,913
 
 
1926***
1,062
7,466
3,648
3,818
1931
 
7,707****
 
 

*Of whom 6,815 were German.
**Of which 902 households were German.
***Of whom 7,454 were German (1,057 households: 3,640 male & 3,814 female).
****Of whom 7,693 were German.

Sources: 

- Beratz, Gottieb. The German colonies on the Lower Volga, their origin and early development: a memorial for the 150th anniversary of the arrival of the first German settlers on the Volga, 29 June 1764. Translated by Adam Giesinger (Lincoln, NE: American Historical Society of Germans from Russia, 1991): 351.
- Diesendorf, V.F. Die Deutschen Russlands : Siedlungen und Siedlungsgebiete : Lexicon. Moscow, 2006.
- Klaus, A.A. Our Colonies. Saint Petersburg, Russia, 1869.
- List of Populated Places of the Russian Empire, vol. 36 (Samara Province). St. Petersburg, 1864.
- Minkh, A.N. Historical and Georgraphical Dictionary of the Saratov Province (Saratov, 1898): 688-691. Online.
- Orlov, Gregorii. Report of Conditions of Settlements on the Volga to Catherine II, 14 February 1769.
- Pallas, P.S. Reise durch verschiedene Provinzen des Russischen Reichs. Theil 3,2, Reise aus Sibirien zurueck an die Wolga im 1773sten Jahr (St. Petersburg: Kaiserl. Academie der Wissenschaften, 1776): 622.
- Pleve, Igor R. The German Colonies on the Volga: The Second Half of the Eighteenth Century, translated by Richard Rye (Lincoln, NE: American Historical Society of Germans from Russia, 2001): 319.
- Preisendorf, J. Personal manuscript entitled "Out of the Volga Region - Chronicle of the Colony of Norka."
- Preliminary Results of the Soviet Census of 1926 on the Volga German Autonomous Soviet Socialist Republic (Pokrovsk, 1927): 28-83.
- Schnurr, Joseph. Die Kirchen und das Religiöse Leben der Russlanddeutschen, Evangelischer Teil (Stuttgart: Landsmannschaft der Deutschen aus Russland): 344-345.
- "Settlements in the 1897 Census." Journal of the American Historical Society of Germans from Russia (Winter, 1990): 18.

Map showing Norka (1935).

Norka Church.

Norka, Russia.
Looking from the north toward the south.

Norka Church in winter.
Source: Heimatbuch der Deutschen aus Rußland, 1972.

Norka bell tower.

Norka Church interior.

Norka Church interior showing the organ at the back of the sanctuary (1912).
Source: AHSGR Journal (Summer, 1985).

Norka Church parsonage.

Norka Church choir.

Norka parishoners with Pastor Stärkel.

Norka parishners.

Karamysh River on the eastern edge of the Norka colony.
Source: Steve Schreiber.

Reformed Church in Norka (1912).
Source: A. Baumung.

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