149 - Germany-on-the-Volga (1924-1941)
From a young age, Frank was fascinated by maps and atlases, and the stories they contained. Finding his birthplace on the map in the endpapers of Tolkien's Lord of the Rings only increased his interest in the mystery and message of maps.
While pursuing a career in journalism, Frank started a blog called Strange Maps, as a repository for the weird and wonderful cartography he found hidden in books, posing as everyday objects and (of course) floating around the Internet.
"Each map tells a story, but the stories told by your standard atlas for school or reference are limited and literal: they show only the most practical side of the world, its geography and its political divisions. Strange Maps aims to collect and comment on maps that do everything but that - maps that show the world from a different angle".
A remit that wide allows for a steady, varied diet of maps: Frank has been writing about strange maps since 2006, published a book on the subject in 2009 and joined Big Think in 2010. Readers send in new material daily, and he keeps bumping in to cartography that is delightfully obscure, amazingly beautiful, shockingly partisan, and more.
In a place far from the geographic heart of German culture, on the lower reaches of the Volga River in the southern part of European Russia, there once existed a separate republic for Russia’s Germans. The story of how these Wolgadeutsche or Russlanddeutsche (Volga-Germans or Russian Germans) came to live in Russia and later leave it again, is a now largely forgotten part of European history.
That story starts with one of Russia’s most influential monarchs, Catherine II the Great (1729-1796), whose enlightened rule lasted for almost the entire last third of the 18th century. Yekaterina, as she was known to her subjects, was born in Stettin as Sophie Fredericke Auguste von Anhalt-Zerbst, a German princess. In 1762, she invited Western Europeans to immigrate to Russia to farm and develop the sparsely inhabited parts of her Empire, promising them they could maintain their language and culture.
Whether or not there was a special link between her country of birth and the direction of her plea, I do not know. Fact is, it was mainly Germans who responded to her offer – Germany suffering from large-scale poverty at the time, other European nationalities preferring emigration to America. Additionally appealing to religious communities such as the Mennonites was the promise of exclusion from military service – later revoked, causing an emigration wave of Volga-Germans to the Americas (where many settled in the Plains areas of the US and Canada, where they could practice agriculture in a similar way as in their ancestral areas).
The Nationalities Policy established after the Communist Revolution of 1917 provided for limited territorial autonomy for many of the 100-plus non-Russian peoples living in what was subsequently called the Russian Soviet Federative Socialist Republic (RSFSR). For the Volga-Germans, this meant the formation in 1924 of the Volga-German Autonomous Soviet Socialist Republic (VGASSR; in German Autonome Sozialistische Sowjetrepublik der Wolgadeutschen – ASSWD; in Russian Avtonomnaya Sovietskaya Sotsialisticheskaya Respublika Nyemtsev Povolzhaya – ASSRNP; Communists preferred their acronyms without too many vowels).
The capital of the Volga-German Republic was Pokrovsk (known in German as Kosakenstadt), renamed Engels (after the German Communist theoretician) in 1931. The area counted about 2 million inhabitants – Germans, Russians and others – at the turn of the 20th century. When the Volga-German Republic was formed, the population was at least 1/3 lower: the deeply religious Volga-Germans (mainly Lutherans) came into conflict with the anti-religious Bolsheviks. Many Volga-Germans sided with the ‘Whites’ during the Russian Civil War (1917-1922) which was won by the ‘Reds’. Pastors were sent off to Siberia, many Volga-German towns were fiercely attacked by the Reds, many civilians died in the famines of that period.
After the Civil War, a limited amnesty was declared by the Communist authorities, and German language was promoted officially. According to the 1939 census, the Volga-German ASSR counted just over 600.000 German-speaking inhabitants. The death-knell of ‘Germany-on-the-Volga’ was sounded by Nazi-Germany, when it invaded the USSR in 1941. The Volga-German ASSR was disbanded. All Germans living in the Soviet Union were declared enemies of the state, and exiled further from the potential front, mainly to Kazakhstan. Other nationalities, notably the Krim Tatars and the Chechens, suffered the same fate. After the war, many Volga-Germans had to sign declarations promising never to return to the Volga area.
The Stalinist decrees of banishment and cultural oppression were reversed in the 1950s and ‘60s, but the Volga-German ASSR was never re-established. After the fall of the Soviet Union in the early 1990s, many ethnic Germans took advantage of a German law allowing an easy ‘return’ to the Heimat of people of German descent (mainly in Eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union), thus effectively ending the brief speculation of re-establishing some sort of Volga-German autonomy, and more broadly, several centuries of German presence in Russia.
The map shows the 14 cantons of the Volga-German ASSR, 10 of them carrying Russian names (such as Fjodorowka, Krasny-Kut, Tonkoschurowka, Krasnojar, Pokrowsk, Kukkus, Staraja Poltawka, Pallasowka, Kamenka, Solotoje) and 4 of them German names (Marxstadt, Frank, Seelmann, Balzer).
The map legend indicates German towns with a red dot, Tatar towns with a crescent, Russian towns in the ASSR with a black and without it with a white dot. A separate dot colour, unfortunately indistinguishable from the Russian black on this map, indicates Estonian towns. The map legend further seems to indicate that each canton either had a Russian or a German capital city.
Some towns with unmistakably German names include: Frankreich, Alt Weimar and Strassburg (in Pallasowka canton), Friedenberg (in the mainly Russian Staraja Poltawka canton), Brunnental and Warenburg (in the apparently bilingual Seelmann canton), Unterdorf and Rosenberg (in the heavily German Kamenka canton),and Schöndorf, Schönfeld and Schöntal (in what must be the very picturesque Krasny Kut canton).
This map was found here (where it can be seen in a higher, slightly more legible resolution) at Arwela, a bilingual German-Russian website apparently mainly dedicated to architecture. The annoying sidebar to the right, blocking out much of the map, can be circumvented by clicking on the map itself.
Explore how alcohol affects your brain, from the first sip at the bar to life-long drinking habits.
- Alcohol is the world's most popular drug and has been a part of human culture for at least 9,000 years.
- Alcohol's effects on the brain range from temporarily limiting mental activity to sustained brain damage, depending on levels consumed and frequency of use.
- Understanding how alcohol affects your brain can help you determine what drinking habits are best for you.
If you want to know what makes a Canadian lynx a Canadian lynx a team of DNA sequencers has figured that out.
- A team at UMass Amherst recently sequenced the genome of the Canadian lynx.
- It's part of a project intending to sequence the genome of every vertebrate in the world.
- Conservationists interested in the Canadian lynx have a new tool to work with.
If you want to know what makes a Canadian lynx a Canadian lynx, I can now—as of this month—point you directly to the DNA of a Canadian lynx, and say, "That's what makes a lynx a lynx." The genome was sequenced by a team at UMass Amherst, and it's one of 15 animals whose genomes have been sequenced by the Vertebrate Genomes Project, whose stated goal is to sequence the genome of all 66,000 vertebrate species in the world.
Sequencing the genome of a particular species of an animal is important in terms of preserving genetic diversity. Future generations don't necessarily have to worry about our memory of the Canadian Lynx warping the way hearsay warped perception a long time ago.
Artwork: Guillaume le Clerc / Wikimedia Commons
13th-century fantastical depiction of an elephant.
It is easy to see how one can look at 66,000 genomic sequences stored away as being the analogous equivalent of the Svalbard Global Seed Vault. It is a potential tool for future conservationists.
But what are the practicalities of sequencing the genome of a lynx beyond engaging with broad bioethical questions? As the animal's habitat shrinks and Earth warms, the Canadian lynx is demonstrating less genetic diversity. Cross-breeding with bobcats in some portions of the lynx's habitat also represents a challenge to the lynx's genetic makeup. The two themselves are also linked: warming climates could drive Canadian lynxes to cross-breed with bobcats.
John Organ, chief of the U.S. Geological Survey's Cooperative Fish and Wildlife units, said to MassLive that the results of the sequencing "can help us look at land conservation strategies to help maintain lynx on the landscape."
What does DNA have to do with land conservation strategies? Consider the fact that the food found in a landscape, the toxins found in a landscape, or the exposure to drugs can have an impact on genetic activity. That potential change can be transmitted down the generative line. If you know exactly how a lynx's DNA is impacted by something, then the environment they occupy can be fine-tuned to meet the needs of the lynx and any other creature that happens to inhabit that particular portion of the earth.
Given that the Trump administration is considering withdrawing protection for the Canadian lynx, a move that caught scientists by surprise, it is worth having as much information on hand as possible for those who have an interest in preserving the health of this creature—all the way down to the building blocks of a lynx's life.
The exploding popularity of the keto diet puts a less used veggie into the spotlight.
- The cauliflower is a vegetable of choice if you're on the keto diet.
- The plant is low in carbs and can replace potatoes, rice and pasta.
- It can be eaten both raw and cooked for different benefits.
SMARTER FASTER trademarks owned by The Big Think, Inc. All rights reserved.