The Decision to Stay in Russia - 

The Mariental Massacre

Village Coordinators - 

Denise Grau

Kevin Rupp

Population of the Village

The Mariental Massacre

The Volga German region and the rest of the country were still reeling from the ravaging affects of World War I and the Civil war, when the nation was hit by a great famine. The famine, which was fueled by these prolonged conflicts, became catastrophic when one of the worst droughts ever experienced by the USSR caused severe crop failures. The Volga Germans always stored large food reserves to get them through lean years. However, by 1919, there were little food reserves to fall back on.

The crop failures did not deter the Communists in Moscow from draining the last resources from rural communities. The Communists needed wheat and other farm products to participate in the foreign exchange. To squeeze the last reserves out of the farmers, Lenin and his henchmen appointed Red Grain Control Commissars and dispersed them throughout rural Russia. Many of them made their way into the Volga region. They ravaged villages, confiscating any remaining private and community food reserves and livestock. With most ot the land lying idle, many villagers panicked, fleeing from the Volga by the thousands. By the spring of 1921, farmers didn't have enough seed left to plant the next season's crop. Disaster loomed on the horizon.

Fueled by their hatred of the Communists and especially the grain commissars, German villagers and peasants from adjoining Russian communities banded together and sought revenge. They moved swiftly throughout the Volga region, torturing and killing grain commissars and many German Communist collaborators who had assisted the commissars in robbing the villages. News of these reverse terror tactics soon reached Moscow. Lenin immediately deployed Red Army units to the region to bring an end to the uprising. When Red Army troops arrived in the region, most Volga German villages did not challenge them. The people from the village of Mariental were among those who decided to fight. They were no match against the Red Army combat forces. More than two hundred villagers were killed in the short battle, After the villagers surrendered, the Red Army swiftly created mock tribunals. Hundreds of villagers from Mariental were tried, condemned, and executed. Red Army units continued their sweep throughout the region, torturing and killing any opposition, The Volga Germans learned a crucial lesson from these massacres. They were no match against the Red Army. Never again would they organize and take arms against the Communists.

Even though the Red Army re-established control over the region, the Red grain commissars who survived the onslaught by the villagers kept a low profile. The famine, meantime, had grown to catastrophic proportions. Starvation was claiming thousands of lives throughout the Volga and other regions of Russia. In 1921, Lenin, recognizing the terrible economic plight confronting the nation, stopped the Bolshevik's raids and implemented his New Economic Policy. The policy essentially negated the collectivization process, re-introducing capitalism into the economy. Farmers, once again, were allowed to lease and purchase land without being branded as Kulaks (literally meaning "fist", but used in a derogatory way to refer to rich farmers}. Lenin's actions, however came too late to help the victims of the famine. Over a two year period, almost a third of the Volga German population succumbed to starvation. There was hardly a family on the Volga which did not lose one or more of its members to the famine. Malnutrition resulted in many diseases, including cholera, malaria, and typhus. The remains of the dead were collected daily and buried. As the disaster intensified, most of the living didn't have the strength to bury their dead.

Submitted by Frank Jacobs

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