These –at families, as Germans living in the Russian Empire, should not be confused with the more widely-known “Germans from Russia.” Those Germans had been invited to colonize Russia during the reign of the German princess who later became Catherine the Great. The -at families were a part of “the relatively small number of Germans who settled in what was Lithuania proper prior to the cession of the Memel area in north east Prussia” 1 and smaller German settlements in what is now southwest Lithuania. After the institution of the “Russification” policy initiated by Czar Nicolas I between 1881 1905, Germans found themselves in less desirable circumstances.
All men were required to register for military service in the Russian Army and could expect to be scattered throughout the Empire. The army consisted of as much as 10% of the population in districts like Maryampol. All youths were obliged to do their military service outside the country, in effect lowering the native population. 2 The various military records in a future post will provide details of the hard and unpleasant life of a member of the Russian Army. An uprising or revolution in 1905 and the beginning of the Russo Japanese War also affected the ratio of men to women. 3
1 Brandt, Germanic Genealogy, 276.
2 Polish Encyclopaedia of 1923, 615.
3 Polish Encyclopaedia of 1923, 226.