Nieder-Monjou, Russia


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Nieder-Monjou was founded on 7 June 1767 by Baron Caneau de Beauregard. Nieder-Monjou is located at 46°38´ east longitude and 51°38´ north latitude, along the Wiesenseite (meadow side) of the Volga River, northeast of Saratov. After 1915 Nieder-Monjou was given the Russian name Bobrovka which is sometimes seen in the German form, Bobrowka. The following history of Nieder-Monjou was written by the former longtime AHSGR Nieder-Monjou Village Coordinators, Carolyn and John Gorr.


Nieder-Monjou, in the district of Saratov, was one of 27 colonies founded by Baron Caneau de Beauregard. According to Gottlieb Beratz in his, The German Colonies on the Lower Volga, the Baron had, "made a deal with the Russian government to bring settlers to the Volga region in return for certain financial considerations and special privileges in the new settlements." The name of the village derives from Beauregard's assistant, Otto de Monjou.

Beauregard recruited more than 1500 families who settled in villages on the east or meadow side of the Volga. Nieder-Monjou was settled by 279 people in 1767. There were 308 people by 1769 and by 1912 the population had grown to 4,201. The population dropped to 2,638 by 1926 due to emigration to North America, World War I and the starvation years of the 1920s.

The period of emigration into the Volga area of Russia took place between 1763 and 1768. Separate colonies were settled by Catholics and Evangelical Lutherans who came mostly from the kingdoms of Hesse, Rhineland, the Palatinate, Saxony, Wurttemberg and Switzerland.

Unsere Leute, Our People

In the First Statistical Report on the Volga Colonies, dated 4 February 1769 and presented to Empress Catherine II by Count Orlov, the head of the council appointed to supervise the settlement of foreigners in Russia, Nieder Monjou consisted of 87 families. Of these, 84 families were suited to farming and three were not. There were 154 males and 154 females for a total population of 308. The village consisted of 63 houses, two granaries and 16 stables at that time.

By the 1798 Census there were 182 males, 180 females, comprising 63 families and a total of 362 people. The number of people increased but the number of families declined. Some of the colonists moved to other colonies between 1769 and 1798. Thirty-two families were Lutheran and thirty-one were of the Reformed faith. They all belonged to the parish churches in Katharinenstadt however, there was a church building in the colony of Nieder Monjou. The colonists' religious needs were served by the Reformed pastor because the Lutheran pastor had recently been dismissed. A schoolmaster, elected by the colonists, taught the children reading, writing and religion in his own house, as the colony did not have a school building.

The majority of the colonists were engaged in farming. Of the skilled trades, there were two weavers, a shoemaker and a blacksmith. According to this census, "the colonists were diligent toward work."


Nieder-Monjou colony was located in the district of Saratov, on the Wiesenseite or meadow side of the Volga River, near the Bobrovo dry creek bed. It was 40 versts from the provincial city of Saratov, and 12 versts from the Volga River and its boat landing. This colony bordered on the lands of Lipov Kut [Urbach], Lugovaya Gryaznukha [Schulz], Zvonarev Kut [Stahl am Karaman], Telyauza [Fischer], Paulskaya, and by state-owned, uninhabited steppe lands. [one verst = about 3500 feet].

Village Layout

The layoutof the Volga area villages had a checkerboard pattern, with one main street and several parallel and cross streets. The houses were mostly one-storied and often built of wood; the latter was also true of the church buildings, according to K.Stumpp in, The German Russians. The church was usually placed in the center of the village.

The colonists lived in moderate conditions, except for 12 families. Some of these had just established their own households and others supported themselves by working for others. Buildings were mostly dilapidated, but a few were new or well repaired. Village housing consisted of huts with porches, barns, granaries and stables. Houses are enclosed with wattle fences. There are no stone or adobe houses in this colony, because there is no source of suitable stone in or near the colony. There are gardens behind every house, where families plant all sorts of vegetables and tobacco. There are several orchards as well.

The Land These Colonists Cultivated

At a previous Kontora land survey, the colony was allocated 3073 desyatinas of arable farm land, 62 desyatinas of hay lands, and 340 desyatinas of forest in the waste plot located six versts from the colony, beyond Telyauza Brook. This totaled 3,818 versts. Of this amount, the colony had about 60 desyatinas taken by farm steads, six desyatinas taken by roads. Cultivated lands total 450 desyatinas. The colonists reported that the remainder of the farmland was saline and unsuitable for farming, so they used it as a pasture for their livestock. The colonists farmed on 300 desyatinas of state-owned steppe land which adjoins their property.

There were nearly 450 desyatinas of hay lands in both locations, which the colonists used to feed their existing cattle. The colony also had about 200 desyatinas of forest, mostly oak, all held in reserve. It was not suitable for construction. For firewood and other needs, the colonists cut a few trees, but heated their stoves with animal dung used as fuel. Of the two shortages, only forest was satisfied completely by allocating more of the state-owned forests located near the waste plot along the Volga River. Although there was sufficient arable land in the state-owned wild steppe area, neighboring colonies, with greater shortages, were also in need of suitable farm land. The Nieder-Monjou colonists had no other shortages, except for hemp and flax, which didn't grow there. They purchased canvas instead.

The nearest field was four versts from the colony and the farthest was ten versts. The farmland was divided into three fields and the colonists practiced crop rotation. They tilled with iron plows and used no fertilizer. During fertile seasons, harvests were good for all crops. After crops were harvested and threshed the colonists sold their grain and other products in Katharinenstadt. Sale prices varied according to the times. The crops that the colonists sowed were rye, wheat, barley, oats, millet, potatoes and tobacco. The community grain storage facility was considered old in 1798, but it was large and built in a convenient and safe place.

Systems of measurement in Russia changed in the 18th & 19th centuries. The basic unit of distance, the verst, varied from 500 to 700 sazhen in length. The following table can be used as a general guideline:

verst = about 3500 feet; desyatina = about 2.7 acres; sazhen = from 1.8 to 2.2 meters; chetvert = about 210 liters; chetverik = about 26 liters; pood = about 36 pounds


There were at least two reasons that led the Russian government to invite peasants from foreign countries, particularly from Germany, to come to Russia. On the one hand, it was necessary to cultivate vast areas of untilled land and introduce agriculture; on the other hand, the German colonists were to provide a protective wall against the Asiatic tribes, according to Karl Stumpp in, The German-Russians, page 9.

Copyright 1997 by Carolyn and John Gorr, Palatine, Illinois

Last modified Sunday, 28-Jun-2020 11:41:01 CDT

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