History > Historical Timeline
A Historical Timeline of the Colony of Norka and its People
1708 - In December, Peter the Great orders that Russia be divided into eight Governorate (provinces). The land where the colony of Norka would be established in 1767 was part of the Kazan Governorate.
1717 - The Governorate of Astrakhan is established through the subdivision of the Governorate of Kazan. The future settlement of Norka is within the boundaries of Astrakhan.
1729 - Sophia Augusta Fredericka, a princess of Anhalt-Zerbst is born in Stettin, Pomerania, Prussia. She will later rule the vast Russian Empire under the title Catherine II, but she is better known as Catherine the Great.
1735 - Russia declares war on Turkey. One goal was to gain access to the Black Sea.
1750s - Most people in German speaking Europe are landless subjects of their rulers. They are heavily taxed, have few civil rights, men are frequently conscripted to fight wars, and life is a constant struggle for survival.
1756 - The Seven Years' War begins and some 900,000 to 1,400,000 people will die in this conflict.
1762 - Catherine II (the Great) becomes Empress of Russia at the age of 33.
1762 - Catherine the Great issues her first Manifesto on December 4th inviting foreigners to settle in Russia. Due to a lack of specifics about what was being offered, this Manifesto did not achieve the desired response in attracting colonists.
1763 - Catherine the Great issues her second Manifesto on July 22nd encouraging Western Europeans to settle in Russia. The second Manifesto attracts thousands of colonists from German speaking Europe, largely because of benefits and promised incentives that were not included in the first Manifesto.
1764 - On March 19, Catherine the Great approves the colonial law recommended by the Governing Senate which allocated land for the settlement of foreign colonists.
1764 to 1766 - The Russian government plans for the colonists' arrival.
1764 - The first Volga German colony, Dobrinka, was established on June 29th.
1766 - On April 30th, the Office of Guardianship of Foreigner Settlers was established in Saratov.
1767 - The colony of Norka is founded on August 15th. By September, there are 738 people living there. At the time, the colony was within the Governorate of Astrakhan in the District of Zolotoy.
1768 - 104 Mother colonies have been established in the lower Volga region.
1768 - On February 26th, the Office for the Guardianship of Foreign Settlers issues a decree providing the official names of the colonies.
1768 - First Turkish war against Catherine the Great begins. The war was ended by the Treaty of Kuchuk Kainarji in July 1774. Russia gained considerable territory in the Pontic-Caspian steppe.
1769 - Count Grigory Orlov submits a report about the Volga German settlements (including Norka) to Catherine the Great. On Dec. 25th, the province of Saratov is established as part of the Astrakhan Governorate.
1771 - The first school and prayer house is built in Norka.
1771 - A fire ravages the fledgling colony of Norka and many homes are lost.
1773 - Renowned German naturalist Peter Simon Pallas visits Norka.
1774 - The insurrectionist Pugachev leads a band of raiders through Norka.
1775 - A crop failure in the Volga region results in thousands of deaths from starvation.
1780 - On November 7th, the northern districts of the Astrakhan Governorate are designated as the Saratov governorship by Catherine the Great.
1782 - The Office for the Guardianship of Foreign Settlers is abolished on April 20th.
1784 - Rev. Cattaneo begins his remarkable 46 year term as the pastor in Norka.
1787 - The second Turkish War against Catherine the Great began. The war was concluded by the Treaty of Jassy in January 1792.
1796 - Catherine the Great dies and is succeeded by her son, Paul I.
1797 - Catherine's governorships are abolished by her son, Paul I, and Saratov Province is established with its capital in the city of Saratov.
1798 - The Saratov Office for the Guardianship of Foreign Settlers prepares a census report on conditions in Norka. The population has grown to 1,662. Norka is located in the district of Kamyshin.
1801 - Paul I dies and is succeeded by Alexander I.
1811 - The Russian government prepares a census of all males living in Norka. Norka is in the district (uyezd) of Kamyshin.
1812 - Napoleon's invasion of Russia fails and one of his deserting soldiers chooses to settle in Norka.
1814-1815 - A grasshopper invasion devastated Norka and the surrounding area.
1825 - Alexander I dies from typhus and is succeeded by Nicholas I.
1834 - A full census of Norka is prepared showing a large growth in population with 4,113 people listed.
1840 - On March 12, additional land is allocated to the colonists. The decree recommends the establishment of new colonies.
1848-1849 - A severe cholera epidemic rages in Norka claiming many lives.
1851 - Samara Province is created from lands east of the Volga River with its capital in the city of Samara.
1855 - Nicholas I dies and is succeeded by Alexander II.
1856 - Cholera strikes Norka again prompting some to move to daughters colonies east of the Volga.
1857 - The 10th Census Revision is taken and shows 6,300 people living in Norka.
1861 - Russian serfs are emancipated. There is no impact to the Volga Germans who are considered "colonists."
1861 - Tsar Alexander II is assassinated and succeeded by Alexander III.
1868-1869 - Another cholera pandemic rages through Norka.
1871 - The unification of Germany into a politically and administratively integrated nation state.
1871 to 1874 - Privileges granted by Catherine the Great are taken away from the German colonists. On June 16, 1871, self-government of the German colonies was abolished.
1872 - Wildfires destroy part of Norka. These were the largest fires in the history of the colony.
1874 - On January 1, universal conscription is mandated for all Russians. The first men from Norka were called to military service.
1874 - Volga German scouts sent to the USA to determine if conditions are suitable for settlement.
1875 - Among the first Volga Germans in the United States are families from Norka.
1877 to 1878 - Volga Germans are conscripted to fight in the Russo-Turkish war.
1880 - The foundation stone for the third church is laid on June 2nd.
1891 to 1892 - Famine strikes the Volga region.
1894 - Alexander III dies and is succeeded by his son, Nicholas II.
1898 - The Marxist Russian Social Democratic Labour Party holds its first Party Congress.
1898 - A description of Norka is written by A. N. Minkh, a member of the Saratov Scientific Archive Commission. Norka remains part of the Kamyshin district (uyezd).
1901 - The Socialist-Revolutionary Party is founded.
1904 to 1906 - The disastrous Russo-Japanese War plants the seeds for overthrowing Czar Nicholas II.
1907 to 1914 - The Stolypin agrarian reforms are introduced. Some landless and small land owners move to Siberia.
1908 to 1910 - Another cholera epidemic strikes the lower Volga River region.
1910 - Peter Sinner proposes to put street lights throughout Norka. He tells the town council that if they buy and set up the poles and electrical wires, he will supply the lights and power. The council votes "No."
1912 - The population of Norka peaks at 14,236.
1914 to 1918 - World War I consumes Europe and places the Volga Germans in a precarious position.
1914 - A medical and dental clinic is built in Norka.
1915 - On December 13th, the government prepares a decree which would evict the entire German population of the Volga region to Siberia beginning in 1917.
1917 to 1922 - The Bolshevik Revolution divides Russia and leads to Civil War. Vladimir Lenin assumes control of Russia.
1917 - On February 6th, Emperor Nicholas II authorizes the "liquidation laws" on land expropriations of Germans. These laws are suspended in March after the February Revolution.
1918 - Nicholas II and the rest of the royal family are executed on direct orders from Lenin.
1918 - On March 3, a peace treaty is signed between Russia and Germany.
1918 - The Council of People’s Commissars of the Russian Soviet Federated Socialist Republic (RSFSR) creates the Volga German Workers' Commune. Part of Saratov Province is incorporated into the new autonomous republic.
1920 - In March and April, an uprising in the Volga German settlement is brutally suppressed by the government.
1921 to 1924 - A severe famine strikes the Volga German colonies and tens of thousands die. The population of Norka declines to 6,913 in 1923.
1923 - The Volga German Commune is reorganized as Volga German Autonomous Soviet Socialist Republic.
1924 - Lenin dies and Josef Stalin assumes leadership of the Communist party.
1928 - On May 21st, Saratov Province is abolished and it is made part of the Lower Volga Oblast and later the Lower Volga krai.
1928 - In the fall, Heinrich Wacker returns to Norka and brings his movie camera, recording rare scenes from Norka.
1930 - The Gulag is officially established.
1930 - Volga German farmers, considered Kulaks (rich peasants) by the Soviets, are forced to work under collectives. Their property and farms are confiscated by the Soviet government. Many are killed or sent to Gulags.
1932 to 1933 - A famine created in large part by the Soviets strikes the Volga region and the Ukraine.
1936 - On Dec. 5th, the Saratov Oblast is established.
1936 to 1938 - Stalin's Great Terror sweeps across the Soviet Union.
1937 - The Narodnyy Komissariat Vnutrennikh Del (NKVD) troika sets nationwide quotas for the execution and enslavement of "anti-Soviet elements."
1938 - A new decree requires the teaching of Russian in all non-Russian schools.
1939 -The Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact is signed, promising mutual non-aggression between Germany and the Soviet Union and agreeing to a division of much of Europe between those two countries.
1939 - A census of the Volga German Autonomous Republic lists 606,532 people.
1940 - The largest grain harvest in history is recorded in the Volga German region.
1941 - In June, Adolph Hitler betrays Stalin and Nazi Germany attacks the USSR in Operation Barbarossa. This is reported in the German colonies on June 22nd.
1941 - In July and August, militia units are formed and broadly supported within the Volga German Autonomous Republic.
1941 - Norka becomes part of the Canton of Balzer.
1941 - On August 28th, the Soviets claim that all ethnic Germans are "spies and saboteurs" and deport the Germans to Siberia and Central Asia.
1941 - In September and October, people from Norka are confined to Special Settlements and Labor Camps. This marks the end of Norka and the Volga German colonies which were founded from 1764 to 1767.
1942 - On May 19th, all German place names (including Norka) are removed from the Volga colonies. Norka is renamed Nekrasovo.
1942 - From January to March, the Russian Trudarmee (Labor Army) is activated and more than 300,000 Volga Germans are mobilized.
1946 - The Labor Camps are abolished, but Volga Germans must remain in Special Settlements and are forbidden to return to the Volga region.
1953 - Stalin dies and he is succeeded by Nikita Khrushchev.
1955 - Ethnic Germans are again allowed to have internal passports.
1956 - Soviet leader Khrushchev condemns the deportations as a violation of Leninist principles.
1964 - The German Russians are declared to be "rehabilitated" but are still forbidden from returning to their homelands.
1972 - Restrictions are lifted on where Volga Germans can live within the USSR, but they are discouraged from returning to the Volga homeland.
1979 - The government considers establishment of an autonomous German region in northern Kazakhstan. Local opposition stops the plan from going forward.
1989 - The Wiedergeburt (or Rebirth) movement by leaders of the German minority in Russia attempt to gain the right to return to their former homes. The proposal is denied by the government.
1990 - Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev signs a decree "On the restoration of the rights of victims of political repression 1920-1950." Unfortunately, much of what was promised to repressed peoples, including the German Russians, is never implemented.
1991 - The Communist party falls from power and the Soviet Union breaks up into independent states.
1991 - The Russian government belatedly issues a decree rehabilitating all victims of political repression.
1991 to 2022 - Millions of Russian Germans immigrate to a unified Germany where they are offered citizenship stemming from their German ancestry.
Today - Descendants of those who once lived in Norka are dispersed all over the world with the highest concentrations living in the United States, Canada, Germany, Russia and Kazakhstan.
The video below provides a comprehensive overview of the history of the Volga Germans.
Last updated February 19, 2023