Volga German immigration to Argentina
Upon the invitation of Catherine the Great, 25,000 Germans immigrated to the Volga valley of Russia to establish 104 German villages from 1764 to 1767. A century after the first Germans had settled in the Volga region, Russia passed legislation that revoked many of the privileges promised to them by Catherine the Great. The sentiment in Russia became decidedly anti-German. Russia first made changes to the German local government. In 1874, a new military law decreed that all male Russian subjects, when they reached the age of 20, were eligible to serve in the military for 6 years. For the German colonists, this law represented a breach of faith. In the 1880s the Russian government began a subtle attack on the German schools.
Just when Russia was abridging the privileges granted to the Germans in an earlier era, several nations in the Americas were attempting to attract settlers by offering inducements reminiscent of those of Catherine the Great. Soon after the military service bill became law, both Protestant and Catholic Volga Germans gathered and chose delegations to journey across the Atlantic to examine settlement conditions in countries like the United States, Argentina, Brazil, and Canada.
Many Catholic Volga Germans chose South America as their new homeland because the official religion in Brazil and Argentina was Roman Catholic. The ratio of Catholic to Protestant Volga Germans in South America was 7 to 1. The opposite was true in Russia, Protestant Volga Germans outnumbered Catholics by about 2 to 1. So in spite of the numerous stories told of Volga German immigrants being diverted to South America against their will or being sent there because they were denied entry to the US due to health reasons, Brazil and Argentina were the planned destination of many Catholic Volga German immigrants.
Under the guidance of Andreas Basgall, Volga Germans started to relocate to Argentina from Brazil in December 1877 and in January 1 78 they founded the first Volga German colony of Hinojo, in the province of Buenos Aires. Some large groups of Volga Germans on ships destined for Brazil were diverted to Argentina. These people settled in Colonia General Alvear in the province of Entre Ríos. Additional Volga Germans, some from Brazil and others directly from Russia, arrived in Argentina over the next few years. Colonia General Alvear was for many years the main settlement of Volga Germans in Argentina. Nearly 90% of the first Volga Germans who arrived in Argentina settled there.
The first census of the Volga Germans in Argentina was performed on March 31, 1881 in "Colonia General Alvear", Entre Rios Province. This colony was composed of 6 villages: Asunción (Spatzenkutter), Concepción (Valle María), San José (Brasilera), Agricultores (Protestante), San Francisco (Pfeiffer) and Salto (Koeller). This census provides: Date of arrival in the Colony (24 groups between 22-01-1878 and 24-04-1880), Name, Nationality, Marital status, age and literacy. Five of six villages were Catholic. The single Lutheran village was Agricultores (Protestante or Protestantendorf).
Upon arriving in Argentina, the Volga German families were very happy even though they had to begin from scratch, because they were finally living in freedom. In contrast to their Volga German countrymen in Russia, they would never be exiled, they did not experience famines like those of 1921 and 1933 in the Volga region nor any mass shootings and deportation as under Stalin's regime. Finally, they were never dispossessed, they kept their land and their animals – something they remain proud of to this day. The immigration of Germans from Russia to Argentina kept a steady pace until the beginning of World War I. Crespo in Entre Ríos Province and Coronel Suárez in Buenos Aires Province became the most outstanding centers of colonization, as in both cities people of Volga German descent make up the majority of the population. At the present time, the descendants of these people live disseminated all over Argentina. The numerous progeny of the original founders and the division and distribution of their properties into smaller lots forced many of them to abandon the original colonization sites and find new occupations.
The fact that Argentina appears among the most important grain producers of the world is, in part, responsibility of its citizens of Volga German origin.
Today the Volga-German population alone in Argentina is well over 2 million.
Population by Region of German descent in Argentina