Multiple Language and Cultural Self-Identities of the German-Speaking Lutheran Minorities in Russian Poland (Mazowsze Suvalkija) in the Nineteenth and Twentieth Centuries By Cynthia Vakarelyska

Another early follower of this blog, researcher, A. S, told me about this article in the early days of the blog. I found it most intriguing and after reading it, made some observations. At the same time I contacted the author and found a very gracious professional interested in the work of a serious amateur. In a series of four posts, I share these observations with personal comments: Introduction, Polish-Texts, Russia, Conclusions and Notes.

You can download the first part of the article as a pdf by providing your e-mail. If you want to read the entire article, you must sign up which I did in order to provide the following comments. Because they were made from a personal standpoint, another researcher may find a different perspective from reading the whole article.

1. By far the most important information is a reaffirmation of the ethnicity of the –at names: Endnote 5: “German truncation of Lithuanian suffixes – aitis, -aite to –at, eyt; etc.

2. First 3 paragraphs on page 195 give a summary of the “Russian Germans” (do not often see this term) now primarily (later she states 2/3) in southwestern Lithuania.

They were part of the settlements in the late 18 and early 19th centuries by Catherine II and Paul I. Do not often see this written either. Suwalki settled by sizable groups from Salzburg and Alsace Lorraine.

This supports my idea of when they came to Suwalki: at the time of the Third Partition in 1795.

Says Suwalki was never part of Prussia but part of it was part of New East Prussia from 1795 to 1805. Others have said 1807.

3. Lutheran liturgy, Sunday School, and Confirmation all contributed to the continued use reading and speaking the German language.

Fits the Spurgats to the final t!

4. Two sources of info on this area include: Heberle’s 1927 sociological comparison of German groups in various parts of Lithuania and Rolf Brandt’s (1915 to 1936) fictional and documentary novels based on soldiers’ experiences in WWI.

Both agree that Suwalki Germans considered themselves a culturally distinct group from Germans in Germany and East Prussia. They got along well with their Polish, Russian, and Jewish neighbors and did not feel any political allegiance to Germany.

This information supports the stories that have come from one of the three Spurgat families.

5. In WWI these German “colonists” were sent to Russia.

In the collection of statistics of these people the terms German and Lutheran were used interchangeably.

Many different ethnic groups lived and worked close together. By the early 19th century there was already significant intermarriage with other groups. By the mid 19th century these Russian Germans appear to have a native or near native proficiency in Polish. Some knew Russian and Yiddish.

This info supports the stories that have come from one of the three Spurgat families.

6. Among themselves (1927) they talked in Polish, Russian, or Lithuanian.

Two factors secured their identity as Germans: 1. The German language was used at home and at church. 2. Lutheranism.

Fits the Spurgats to the final t!

7. “There was a duty to one’s family history to ensure that both the language and the confession were passed on to future generations within the family, even in instances of intermarriage with other groups.”

I have said in my book that somewhere along the line, perhaps a German woman married a Spurgat, a Lithuanian name, and the family assumed the religion of the mother. That was how the Spurgats became Lutheran.

8. Even those with Polish or Lithuanian names or of mixed ancestry described themselves as German into the early 20th century.

Fits the Spurgats to the final t!

9. The rest of the article examines the “interference” of the various languages used in the parish records of the Marijampole Lutheran Church, the Seirjai Protestant (Lutheran and Reformed) Church, and the Sakiai and Prienai Lutheran churches with respect to the accuracy and authenticity with which the records were kept in the official language, Polish, and later Russian. How much German (and Polish) was inserted into the records and what do those insertions tell us about the language as used in its written and spoken form?

About suwalkigermans

I started family research in 1993. My first two books focused on my maternal grandparents. Both families came from Kreis Rosenberg, West Prussia, to Big Rapids, Michigan. I left the Spurgats from Wylkowiszki in the Russian Empire as the third book because of the difficult and challenging research it required. After I published the book in 2010, I wondered what to do next. I thought I might try to share some of my research with others and maybe at the same time, by going digital, someone would find me. When you read the comments, you will see that happened. The best part of all this is helping others.
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2 Responses to Multiple Language and Cultural Self-Identities of the German-Speaking Lutheran Minorities in Russian Poland (Mazowsze Suvalkija) in the Nineteenth and Twentieth Centuries By Cynthia Vakarelyska

  1. A.e. visgin says:

    My great grandmother was Anna Lingertat. She married Leopold Herman. They had several children including my grandmother Henriette. They lived a distance away from Mariampole but since that city was the hub of Lutheran activity for Germans and Lithuanians in that region, I am hoping there is additional information available on Anna and the Lingertat family.

    • W. Peter Marwede says:

      I have learned that Adam Lingertat (1794-1864), my great-great-grandfather, was born in the Tilsit area of East Prussia. After having worked on several large farms in East Prussia, he came to Lithuania around 1827 to have his own farm and a better life. He acquired a farm in the village of Marciniskiai near both Sunskai and Marijampole. Adam had four sons and four daughters. One of Adam’s sons was Johann (1827-1880), my great-grandfather. Johann settled in Opsrutai near Vilkaviskis. Mathilda Lingertat Drignat (1879-1962), my grandmother, was born in Opsrutai and died in Naugatuck, Connecticut. She was the youngest of Johann’s children. By the time she left Lithuania in 1901 to come to America, there must have been a considerable number of Adam’s descendents in Lithuania and America, given the large families our ancestors had. In her family records, my grandmother listed Anna and Henrijette as two of her sisters. Possibly her sister Anna is your great-grandmother. It would make sense that your great-grandmother would name your grandmother Henriette after her own sister. My grandmother placed crosses over both the names Anna and Henrijette in her family records, signifying to me that at some time she was told of their deaths. I am not aware that either Anna or Henrijette came to America. Hilda Drignat Marwede (1909-1989), my mother, was the daughter of Mathilda Lingertat Drignat and Rev. Peter Drignat. Do you have any dates or places for your grandmother and great-grandmother? We are very probably relatives.

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