Alexandertal 2001

This page started 2 June and revised 14 June 2001 -- rak.

In May I had the great good fortune of visiting the Saratov region as a member of the 2001 Russian German Heritage Tour lead by John Klein of Lincoln, Nebraska.  John will likely be doing more tours in the future; if you have any interest in participating in one, I urge you to contact him at: [email protected].  

The following report is based on my visit to Alexandertal on May 19th.  All photos are thumbnails; click on one if you wish to see it full size.

Alexandertal was named for Czar Alexander I who was much beloved by the Germans in Russia.  Here is his tomb in the Peter and Paul Cathedral in St. Petersburg where all the Romanov Czars are buried.  His tomb is behind his name plaque.  alexanderItomb.JPG (128880 bytes)  As you can see from the scaffolding, considerable renovation was going on in May 2001.

Alexandertal is today known by the Russian name Alexandrovka and is some 140 km south of Saratov.  As you can see from the picture if you click on it, the village lies 2 km west of the alexsign.JPG (36139 bytes) new "Astrakan" highway, the main road leading south from Saratov on the west side of the Volga.  As you can see, the highway is paved and in quite good shape.  The picture was taken looking north.

As you proceed west on the access road, after about 1 km in you come over a small rise and you get your first view of Alexandertal as shown in the next two pictures: alex1stview.JPG (43398 bytes) Part of the access road is paved, part is not, but overall it was one of the better such roads we found in the area.  As you can alex2ndview.JPG (13446 bytes) see the land is open (very few trees except in the bottoms) and rolling rather than absolutely flat.  In fact it reminded me much of Marion County in east central Kansas.  I found this interesting because my great grandparents Kraus left Alexandertal and then first settled in Marion County.  In the second of these two views you can clearly see "Russian" thistles in bloom in the foreground -- a plant now found throughout the American high plains.

The next view is taken facing north from the village cemetery.  The cemetery is on a low rise about 1/2 km to the south of the alexcemview.JPG (71498 bytes) village up a dirt trail sometimes barely discernable through a pasture.  The three people in the picture are from left to right: 1) Elena Oginskaya, our very able interpreter, 2) Frau Horst, Russian lady whose German-Russian husband is buried in the Alexandertal village cemetery, and 3) Ed Hoak, a fellow member of the 2001 tour and a member of the AHSGR international board.  In it you can see that the village now consists of a total of some 20-25 buildings including outbuildings.  There are only about a dozen homes, most of which are "modern" built of whitish tile-like brick.  These brick are invariably laid without any "pointing" so in spite of the slick bricks the appearance of the houses is fairly disheveled.

The village was once much larger.  According to Baretz, p.356, its population in 1912 was 1860!

There are only two houses left which the villagers say were built by Germans.  The larger is shown here: alexgerhouse1.JPG (98313 bytes)  If built by Germans, this house was built before 1941 and possibly before 1900.  It like the other "German-built" house is lived in.  As you can see, the village homes are served by electricity and phones.  Here is a second view: alexgerhouse2.JPG (111395 bytes) As you can see, the street, which beyond the grass and weeds is mud, has some fairly heavy "litter".  This third photo shows the decorations above and around the window quite clearly: alexgerhouse3.JPG (128263 bytes) The second "German-built" house is the subject of the next photo: alexgerhouse4.JPG (132105 bytes)  An older male occupant's shoe can barely be seen through the open gate.  I think he was trying to figure out what I was doing and was trying to decide whether to come shoo me away.

There were two streets in the village which intersected roughly at right angles.  "Main" street is shown here: alexmainstreet.JPG (50947 bytes)  As you can see, the street is not paved and not well maintained.  However it was guarded by the village goose: alexgoose.JPG (83883 bytes) The other "street" crossed "Main" behind me when I took the picture of "Main" street looking north.  This other street ran west a short distance to the railroad tracks.  I did not go down it.  I should have!

This alexvisitors.JPG (123837 bytes) is a picture of me, Anna Etsel, and Ed Hoak in front of Frau Etsel's married daughter's home.  The picture was taken by our intrepid driver, Yuri Bartenev.  Frau Horst has two married daughters living in the village.  She herself lives in Germany where her sons live.  Her husband Paul had been born in Schuck coming here in the late 70's or early 80's.  They moved to Germany in 1984.  On the day of our visit she was in the midst of a two-week visit to Russia to see her daughters and grandchildren.  This picture was taken across the street from the first "German-built" house shown above.  The camera is looking south.

Frau Estel went with us and showed us the way to the village cemetery where there were fairly recent graves of Germans.  The Lauman's are shown in this photo: alexgraves1.JPG (68184 bytes) Another German grave is shown in the next one.  Frau Estel and Elena are also in the photo. alexgraves2.JPG (84920 bytes)

Finally we have a picture of my "village visit team", Elena, myself, and Yuri.  alexteam.JPG (32781 bytes)  Altogether we visited seven German villages in three days.

These visits were for me the culmination of a life-time hope.  Words cannot express what they meant to me.

To go on to reports on my other village visits, click here.

To go back to the main Alexandertal page, click it.