The Center for Volga German Studies supports research into and preservation of the heritage, history, traditions and accomplishments of the Volga Germans. The Center seeks knowledge and understanding of the relevance of Volga Germans yesterday, today and tomorrow. As a research center, it seeks to answer the following questions:
- What does the study of Volga German history teach us about yesterday?
- What difference does a Volga German heritage make today?
- What impact will knowledge and understanding of Volga German history make on tomorrow?
“You look astonishingly pretty,” admits Johanna when Sophia steps out of her bedroom dressed in Ulrika’s magnificent gown. Sophia is stunned, halting in mid-step. This is rare praise from her cold mother, so she must, indeed, look very good. At Frederick’s side during the elaborate court dinner, Sophia shines and sparkles with youth and wit. The monarch is very pleased with his choice. Indeed, he is so enamored with the girl that he opens his purse to outfit mother and daughter, both woefully deficient in material matters appropriate for court life.
So begins the transformation of Princess Sophia of Anhalt-Zerbst into Catherine the Great of Russia. The personal and professional triumphs and tribulations of this remarkable woman are retold by Sigrid Weidenweber, whose research into the life of Catherine reveals a new perspective on Catherine, from the inside out. Sigrid portrays with heartfelt understanding what it was like to have been such a major European political and military, social and cultural figure during the eighteenth century.
The Meiningers had set out for Russia seeking to improve their lives, to escape the political and religious turmoil often surrounding their otherwise picturesque German homes and villages. They dreamed of the faraway place awaiting them. They colored the soil beneath the vast steppe rich and black in their minds – ready to be tilled. And there would be a neat little house ready to receive them. In their wildest dreams, they could not have imagined what actually awaited their arrival. There were no houses, no fields – nothing but grass as far as the eye could see. It was almost evening; they were hungry, wet and cold and felt like orphaned children.
These German immigrants and their descendants civilized this bleak Russian frontier, converted the harsh steppe into fields of waving grain dotted with wind-driven flour mills, and in this isolated place, developed a culture that was uniquely their own. They survived savage attacks of marauding tribes, the unpredictable often harsh climate, and the vagaries of tsarist edicts. Sigrid tells the fascinating story of these remarkable people in The Volga Germans.
In my darkest hours, when worry and despair about the future of my family blankets my soul, I hear my father's voice, giving me hope. On the day they dragged him to the gulag, he had looked at my mother with courage in his eyes, and said, "We are eternal; our faith, like the Volga, flows forever."
The heroine of this powerful work, Katya, is a bright, energetic and resourceful Volga German girl, a worthy descendant of those first pioneers of the steppe we learned to know in the second volume. Katya is free to reveal, through her feminine creator, thoughts and circumstances often hidden to men. Sigrid artfully illuminates dress, colors, textures, foods and challenges as Katya embarks upon an adventurous escape from a gulag on the arctic tundra.