View Full Version : The Golendry of Siberia (Olendry, Holendry, Bughollaеnder, Haulaender)

Friday, August 1st, 2008, 01:42 AM
On a domestic flight from Moscow to the Caucasus, I recently came across an interesting article that I thought might be nice to translate into Anglisky for the benefit of Althing members. I’ll scan in some photos tomorrow maybe.:

Hollanders in Siberia
Text: Yekaterina Arbuzova, Kseniya Dokukina
Photos: Aleksandr Sorin
Deep in the Siberian Taiga, for the last one hundred years, a European people have been living in three little villages. They are the Golendry. During this time, the settlers have maintained their distinct character while adopting some traits of other peoples. The Golendry speak Russian with a Belarussian accent, they sing in Polish, build houses in the German style, and celebrate like Russians. The Golendry have no plans to return to their historical homeland in northwestern Germany, for in Siberia these descendants of Europeans have long made their home - although many take their settlement for a museum, and the Golendry themselves for exhibits.

Beyond mobile coverage

On the road leading to the Golendry, there are no villages or signs – all around is the Taiga, and above the treetops the peaks of the Sayan Mountains. There is a complete sense of removal from the outside world; even mobile phone pick up no reception. Nor is there a telephone in the village itself. The single payphone in Pikhtinsk was set up as a mere decoration – as the villagers themselves admit, the new apparatus has never been operational. The three villages of the Golendry are found at a distance of 70km from the settlement of Zalari, the regional centre, and 290km from the capital of Eastern Siberia, Irkutsk. They are very compactly situated, with not three kilometres between the three of them. Pikhtinsk almost immediately leads into Sredniy (Middle) Pikhtinsk, and the latter into Dagnik. Before 1955 the territory of the Golendry was closed to the outside world. The small nation was isolated from the rest of the country in which, according to the ruling ideology, everyone was ‘Sovetskie’. “All our lives we have been considered Germans. People were afraid to maintain links with relatives abroad, fearing a return to the past,” reminisces the Golendr Ivan Zelent, the most prominent member of this community, serving as President of Irkutsk Oblast’s Legislative Council from 1994 to 2000. He opened the way to the Golendry in both the direct and metaphorical sense. In 1955 he and his brother first left for the capital of PriAngarye (Irkutsk is sited on the River Angara), one to study, and the other for the army. Eleven years ago a road was built to the villages on Zelent’s initiative.

In Sredniy Pikhtinsk there is only one street, without a name. As one local remarked; “What are street names and house numbers to us?! This is the countryside!” The village is quite different from the typical Russian, with its distinct architecture: Here the one storey houses are very long – 20-25 metres. “Living quarters and working rooms are found under the one roof and are united by a corridor,” as we were explained. “It is very convenient, for the whole day can be spent working without ever leaving the building.” In this the true German practicality of the Golendry shows itself, one of several traits they have inherited from their European ancestors.

The first settlers spoke German, but now nobody knows the language. In the war years the inhabitants deliberately refrained from learning their own language – they were afraid. Nowadays, the Golendry speak Russian with a Belarussian accent and sing songs in Polish.

A house museum

The club and museum became the base for our ethnographic researches. As the villagers recall, a rebirth of national identity began in 1994, and the museum is now quite well appointed. Tours were given by Natalya Lyudvig, the head of the local historical society. “Here we have a cradle,” she explained, pointing out a structure plaited from reeds. “I used to rock my own children to sleep in such a thing.” Basketry with vines is reckoned a national craft, predominantly carried out by men. Such baskets were formally used instead of refrigerators. In another corner of the museum is exhibited a traditional dowry. Golendry considered it their duty to sew a bedding set for a bride; three pillows, an undersheet and a bedcover. “The tradition is still observed today. I have sewn the same for my daughters. And those who aren’t able order a set from an old woman.” Among the exhibits are included a semi-operational loom and a broken spinning wheel. Many local residents still weave, but now on electrical machines. “In the museum you can see the same objects that Golendry have in their homes,” remarked our guide as we went to visit the Pastrik family, living in the neighbouring village of Dagnik. In the homestead of Rudolf Mikhailovich and Emma Mikhailovna we found beds covered with embroidered sheets, tapestries on the walls, and in the corner a dowry-chest. On the chest of drawers in the bedroom was a statuette of the Virgin Mary beside a portrait of the Pope, although the majority of Golendry are Protestants. However, in so far as there was no Protestant church here, the settlers requalified as Catholics. And yet holy days are observed in general according to Protestant and Orthodox custom.

Our guide went first to the kitchen to ask the mistress of the house if she would receive members of the press. “Oh, it’s always alright for me,” said the old woman merrily. “Emma Mikhailovna managed to change while we were on our way,” whispered Natalya Lyudvig in secret. The housewife sat behind her spinning wheel during the conversation. “Walk and work I cannot, but spin I may,” she explained.

Emma Mikhailovna was born in Sredniy Pikhtinsk, and moved to Dagnik on marriage. “My mama married who her parents told her to, but didn’t make her own children. And so I rejected my first proposal,” recalled Emma Pastrik. Among the Golendry, rejected suitors are given a basket with a hole in, told her contented husband Rudolf Pastrik. Emma Mikhailovna had accepted his proposal. The couple now have seven children and a huge house and land for sheep, cows and chickens. The Pastriks have never been to town. “I’ve never been further than our villages. I won’t even go to Irkutsk alone – I’d get lost!” smiled Emma Mikhailovna. Her parents, on the other hand, had managed to travel. They had moved as children from Poland before the First World War. Then the voluntary resettlement of the Golendry to Irkutskaya Oblast had taken place. There was insufficient land back home, and in search of a better life the people travelled into Siberia, finding their “better life” deep in the Taiga. “When they first started to build, there was nothing here. As my parents used to say, people followed the sounds of the axe,” recounted Rudolf Pastrik.

A European Izba

When we were returning from our visit, another house caught our eye; long, whitewashed, with a cat resting on the window sill. Natalya Lyudvig said that this was the home of her mother. “While Mama is not home you can come in and have a look,” she permitted. We entered the dwelling not quite legally, climbing through a hole in the fence. Through a wild plot (elderly Golendry rarely work their land) we made our way into a storage room, and along a corridor into the kitchen. The room was taken up chiefly by a dark blue painted stove, the local inhabitants preferring this colour most of all; “It’s more beautiful that way,” they reckon. On Pikhtinsk’s buildings themselves however there is no ornamentation.

The architecture of the Golendry is the essence of minimalism; in building they did not even employ usual nails. All parts of the house support each other, and the beams and openings are held fast with wooden pegs. Each building is divided into a “staika” (bier), “tok” (barn for grain, cart and sleigh), and an “izba” (living quarters).

Such a principle of organisation of living and working space is native to many European countries. The izbushki of the Golendry are not sited “back to the forest, front to the river” as is the custom in Russian villages in Siberia, - their houses are orientated on the four cardinal points. In general, everything in the homes of the Golendry seems as though taken from a fairy tale, as though in a painting.

Wedding flurries

In the villages of the Golendry, practically everyone is related. “I, for example, began living with my three-family nephew in 1995,” divulged the director of the local club, Yelena Lyudvig. Weddings are a rare occurrence among the Golendry. Yelena Lyudvig’s formal marriage took place only in the Autumn of 2006. It seems that some marriages never take place, because of a superstition held amongst the Golendry that if during courtship a horse rears, the couple cannot live together. If however all goes well, then for such an event a whole year is needed for preparation. For three days before the wedding the bride is initiated into wifedom. Instead of the bridal veil usual to Russians, the bride dons a bonnet, the ritual being accompanied by a rifle volley. As the bride bids farewell to her parents and weeps (this is a compulsory condition) old women sing prayers in Polish.

Weddings among these German descended Siberians require much time and stamina, as the whole village celebrates for three days. “The inlaws and friends of both parties, the cooks, all have to assemble,” commented Yelena as the video of her own wedding flickered on her small television screen. The first day of celebration is held at the bride’s home, the remaining two at the groom’s. Special decorations for a Golendr wedding include garlands of wimberries, bouquets of paper flowers for the clothes of the guests, and little branches , wrapped with crimped paper on which sweets are hung.
“We’re almost all relatives here, so all the village is invited to the celebration,” said Yelena.

Family Hospitality

Only a few surnames are in use in the settlement of the Golendry; Bendik, Kunts, Zelent, Gil’debrand, Gimburg, and Lyudvig. It later turned out that all the women working at the club bore the surname Lyudvig. It was due to their German surnames that the Golendry were not sent to fight on the front in the Great Fatherland War, but were recruited into the labour front. One of the local resident – Yuzofina – did her bit at the time. We turned up at Granny Yuzufina’s unannounced; all the doors were open, as indeed there is nothing to fear from relatives. Golendry are very conscientious about family relations.

At the age of 84 Yuzufina lives alone. The house is light and tidy, on the table stands a samovar covered with a towel. “She’s hard of hearing,” whispered the director of the club, and loudly asked Yuzufina to tell about her life. “During the war they conscripted me into the labour-army” said Yuzufina, smilingly sadly. “Then I worked on the Kolkhoz. That’s my life. A hard one.” Her husband and son had died, and she now supports close family relations with her grandson – they write letters to each other. “I was illiterate. In childhood my stepmother didn’t let us go to school, and then there was no time for education. And so I had to learn at the age of 80. I had to answer my grandson’s letters somehow!”

We began to take our leave; the road home was long. Granny Yuzufina fussed over us; “You’re going to leave hungry? I should cook something. Let’s have pelmeni!” But we couldn’t disturb the old woman any further, and left her in her previous solitude.

The younger generation leave Sredniy Pikhtinsk, as they do other villages. The present population in the village does not exceed 300 persons. They are solving the demographic problem here in their own way. More than ten adoptive parents have taken children from the home in the nearby settlement of Khor-Tagna.

Taiga Tourism

Yelena and Natalya Lyudvig valorously accompanied the whole day, their day off work. Our interviews with local people continued late into the evening. Returning to the club, we enquired of the staff whether they invited journalists to the village. “Journalists? They come all by themselves, we’re sick of them already,” shrugged Natalya Lyudvig, forgetting that the same “annoying press” stood right before her.

Soon enough, tourists will be disturbing the Golendry. On the territory of the three villages, they plan to open an interactive village-museum. In Pikhtinsk, one homestead has already been kitted out for these aims. The originators of the idea are now collecting exhibits and preparing displays. According to the project, the interactive village will become part of the “Moscow Resettlement Ring”. The organisers are setting their hopes on the development of local infrastructure, Golendr national cuisine and the German hardiness of the people.

For now, the Golendry are not too tired of visitors. Before our departure, they hospitably sat us down round a table and fed us their national dish – Kartuflyanki. They are made from mashed potato, mixed with flour, rolled into balls and fried in lard. And there was samogon – the real thing! Since the local spirits distillery had closed down, everyone had returned to the domestic production of alcohol.

Autonym – Golendry (in translation from Polish = Hollanders, Dutchmen). They have German, Dutch, Belorussian and Polish roots.

Home territory – Irkutskaya Oblast, Zalarinsky Raion, the villages Pikhtinsk (Zamosteche), Sredniy Pikhtinsk (Noviny), and Dagnik

Date of Resettlement – 1908 – 1910

Reason of Resettlement – Voluntary or forced resettlement to Siberia in search of free lands in the time of Stolypin’s agricultural reforms.

Population – In three villages, approximately 500 persons.

Wikipedia has the following:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/History_of_Germans_in_Russia_and_the_Sov iet_Union

Between 1911 and 1915, a small group of Volhynian German farmers (36 families - more than 200 people) chose instead to move to Eastern Siberia, making use of the resettlement subsidies of the Stolypin reform. They settled in three villages (Pikhtinsk, Sredne-Pikhtinsk, and Dagnik) in what is today Zalari District of Irkutsk Oblast, where they became known as the "Bug Hollanders". They apparently were not using German any more, but rather spoke Ukrainian and used Lutheran Bibles that had been printed in East Prussia, in Polish, but in Gothic script. Their descendants, still bearing German names, continue to live in the district into the 21st century.[1]

One small ethnic group, concentrated in three villages (Pikhtinsk, Sredne-Pikhtinsk, and Dagnik) in the Zalari District is the so-called "Bug Hollanders": descendants of Polish-speaking Lutheran farmers who had moved to Siberia from the then Russian Volhynia in 1911-1912 in search of affordable land. Although they had long lost German (or Dutch) language of their ancestors (even in the early 20th century they spoke Ukrainian and read Polish), they were still considered ethnic Germans, and during World War II were usually drafted for work in labor camps, instead of front-line military service.

There's a good text here, but far too long to translate! Perhaps there are interested Russian speakers reading:

Friday, August 1st, 2008, 02:24 AM
I found some photos on the 'RuNet':





It seems there's still a railway station in the south west Ukraine that bears their name.

There are various theories about the origin of the name. Some see the Holland idea to be a mere coincidence.

The Russian language article by Olga Solovyeva in the first post contains a section that's worth summarizing:

There are three versions:

1. They lived in the lower Rhineland, but left for the Vistula in the mid 16th century, settling around Danzig, later settling the lands of Count Leszczinski.

2. They were Dutch Lutherans, fleeing religious persecution. They moved to Danzig, and later to the Western Bug.

3. They originated in Prussia. This view is supported by the modern German scholar Helmut Holz: "Neither their religion, language, customs nor national costume link them with Holland. ... they were Prussians."

They pronounce their name 'Olendry', or 'Holendry' as in Polish, Bughollaеnder — in German.
Holz managed to find an old church chronicle in which they were not termed Bughollaеnder, but Haulaеnder. Hauland being the German term for ploughland cleared by the chopping down and burning of forest cover - hauen is the English 'hew' - and the settlers did just that - in the Volyn in the late middle ages, and in Siberia in the early 20th century.

EDIT: If you like playing with Google Earth, or just want to look in an atlas for where they live, the coordinates are
53'22''52 N 101'40''30 E
Roughly halfway between the Angara and the Sayany.

Friday, August 1st, 2008, 03:51 AM
If you are playing with google earth you can just search for Dagnik :)