December 2, 2017 - Bloomington, Minnesota - 250th Anniversary of the Volga Germans

250th Anniversary of the Volga Germans

2 December 2017
Bloomington, Minnesota

In honor of the 250th Anniversary of the founding of the Volga German colonies, the Volga German Institute at Fairfield University will be hosting a seminar series in Bloomington, Minnesota, home of the Mall of America.

The public is invited to attend.  Because of the size of the venue, attendance will be limited to the first 40 who register.


Early Registration: $50 per person if you register on or before 10 November 2017.

Regular Registration: $75 per person for registration received after 10 November 2017 or at the door.

To register & pay by credit/debit card, please follow this link for Online Registration.

If you prefer to pay by check, print the Registration Form, and mail it along with your check. To qualify for the Early Registration rate, payment must be received by November 10.

If you have questions, please call Jill at 203.254.4000 x2648.

[Note: There is no discount for partial attendance of this event. Notice of cancellation before 10 November 2017 will receive a full refund; after 10 November 2017 will receive no refund.]


Courtyard Blooming by Mall of America


​Registration and all workshop events will be held at the Courtyard Bloomington by Mall of America.

7800 Bloomington Ave. South
Bloomington, MN 55425
(Phone: 952.876.0100)

The Courtyard Bloomington is located approximately one mile from the Mall of America, the nation's largest shopping and entertainment destination featuring over 520 stores, 50 restaurants, and the indoor Nickelodeon Universe theme park, SEA LIFE Minnesota Aquarium, The LEGO store, American Girl Store, Theatres at Mall of America and Moose Mountain Adventure Golf are also fun-filled attractions available to our guests. Plus there's no sales tax on clothing or shoes!

Parking: free on-site parking

Dr. Brent Mai


Speaker for the workshop will be Dr. Brent Mai.  Dr. Mai serves as the Dean of Libraries and University Librarian at Fairfield University in Fairfield, Connecticut, where he also leads the Volga German Institute.  Dr. Mai has spoken world-wide on many topics related to Volga German history and culture, authored dozens of articles and several books, and translated hundreds of documents. Dr. Mai, whose father's side is Volga German, grew up in Western Kansas, graduated from Bethany College in Lindsborg, and continued graduate studies at George Washington University, the University of Texas at Austin, and Vanderbilt University. He came to Fairfield from Concordia University in Portland, Oregon, where he had been the founding director of the Center for Volga German Studies.


Schedule for Saturday, 2 December 2017

8:30 - 9:00 Registration & Visiting
9:00 - 9:45 Session 1: Introduction to the Volga Germans and their Heritage
Everyone starts on a different page when it comes to their knowledge of who the Volga Germans are and how they came to be in Russia. This session will bring all attendees to the same place in that understanding - and we'll carry on from there.
10:00 - 10:45 Session 2: Catherine the Great
Catherine the Great plays a big role in the history of the Volga Germans, both in reality and myth.  This session will delve into her life.  How did this minor German princess end up in Russia?  What brought her to the throne?  Why was there interest in inviting foreigners to Russia?  How did she interact with and govern the Volga Germans after their arrival?  During this session we'll address these and other topics surrounding the life of Catherine the Great.
11:00 - Noon Session 3: Volga German Religious Faith and Practice
Faith practice in the Eighteenth Century was often fraught with trial and tribulation. The 100 Years' War was followed by the Thirty Years' War which was followed by the Seven Years' War - each with a significant religious turmoil wrought upon the local populations.  The Germans carried their religious practices with them to Russia, and they developed in their own way for the next 200 years. Those who immigrated to the Western Hemisphere brought these practices with them.  We'll look into these practices and their evolution during this session.
Noon - 1:00 Lunch
Lunch will be provided. Those with special dietary needs should let Jill know during the registration process.
1:00 - 2:00 Session 4: Resources for Volga German Genealogy
Before the collapse of the Soviet Union, there were few resources available to those interested in researching the genealogies of Volga Germans.  Since about 1990, Western researchers have had access to several archives in the Volga region where many documents have been located.  For most, using them is complicated by language - either German or Russian - and the corresponding Latin or Cyrillic alphabets. This session will deal primarily with the resources that are available from Russian Archives - where to get them and how to use them.
2:15 - 3:00 Session 5: The 1921 Famine - A Story of Resilience
The Russian Revolution of 1917 was followed by a famine in 1921 that consumed the entire Volga German region. The pain and suffering of those who had not immigrated was unimaginable.  Through the auspices of Herbert Hoover and the American Relief Administration (ARA), those living in North and South America came to the rescue, saving hundreds of thousands of lives.  During this session, we'll examine the causes of this famine, the suffering it caused, and the resiliency of those who came to the rescue.
3:15 - 4:15 Session 6: Volga German Architecture
When they immigrated to Russia in the 1760s, the Volga Germans brought with them the German architectural style of their ancestors. The Volga German colonies existed for 177 years, and the colonists incorporated many elements of local architectural style into their homes, churches, and public buildings.  We'll take a visual journey through this architectural evolution and look for examples of it in the Western Hemisphere as well.
4:30 - 5:30 Session 7: Volga Germans Today
The descendants of those original Volga German immigrants today live all around the globe with the largest numbers in the United States, Canada, Germany, Argentina, Brazil, Russia, Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, South Africa, and Australia.  What parts of their ancestral heritage have they taken with them to these new lands?  This session will take a look into the lives of Volga Germans around the world - today.

Area Hotels

Courtyard Bloomington by Mall of America
7800 Bloomington Ave. South

Comfort Inn Airport
1321 E 78th St

Residence Inn by Mall of America
7850 Bloomington Ave. South

Radison Hotel Bloomington
1700 American Blvd. East