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From Far Away Russia - Part 5

Hertel  wedding photo

Russian-Germans in Kansas

German Customs With a Russian Flavor

"They were all Germans, but having lived all their lives in Russia, their German has a curious Russian flavor."
--Topeka Commonwealth, September 10, 1874

Russian-Germans in Kansas did not quickly adopt American customs and manners.

As in Russia, they settled in close-knit rural communities and remained somewhat isolated from other residents. They preserved their language and traditions for decades, entering mainstream American life only gradually and over a number of generations.

Here, Joseph and Clementina Hertel pose for their wedding photograph in Ellis County (top, right). Traditional Volga German wedding celebrations continued for days and involved much food, drink, dance, and ceremony.

Gottfried Schuvie of Hays

Dressing Differently

The clothing of early Volga Germans was a constant source of amusement to newspaper columnists.

Accustomed to severe Russian winters, Volga German immigrants wore large coats and head coverings much heavier than the Kansas climate required.

Volga German women in Ellis, ca. 1895Gottfried Schuvie, a Volga German resident of Hays, Kansas, posed for a photograph in 1912 (center, left).  Born in Russia, he had arrived in the United States only about four years before this image was taken.  Obviously, Schuvie's clothing reflects the foreign traditions to which he was accustomed.

Volga German women in Kansas wore simple, dark dresses and dark shawls occasionally decorated with colorful embroidered flowers.

Americanized dress was adopted by generations born in this country.

  1. Introduction
  2. Lured to Kansas by Railroads
  3. Early Years in Kansas
  4. Growing Wheat
  5. German Customs With a Russian Flavor
  6. A Profound Faith