Kautz (Werschinka), Russia

Our People from Kautz

KAUTZ

STATISTICS: Kautz/Kauz (Werschinka), Russia was settled 20 May 1767, 103 Wersts (pronounced verst) from Saratov (1 Werst = 0.6629 miles -- approximately 68 miles). The statistics were broken down to show how many males and how many females made up the total of 141 people who originally settled in Kautz. This information states that the village was settled with 30 families, 74 males, 67 females, total of 141 people. (Source: Kirchenbote-Kalender 1949)

Kautz, Russia -- was the name of a far-away place which I had heard about over and over again from the time I can remember. This is where my family came from. A German colony near the Volga River in Russia. Kautz is spelled Kauz on the maps which I have seen, but in every handwritten paper, including our Family Bible, in the handwriting of different immigrant members originating from Kautz, it has always been KAUTZ. For many years, it was my dream to someday be able to visit Kautz, and walk the streets of my ancestors! That dream came true in August of 1991! My story of that adventure is printed in the AHSGR Journal Fall 1992, and we have two 2-hour videos covering this experience of "walking the land"!

Kautz was destroyed by the Russian Army between the years of 1961-1964. The reason given was "they did not want the smaller villages to exist anymore" -- at this period in time many of the Volga German people were returning to the Volga area from Siberia, and the "smaller villages were being destroyed in order to discourage the return of the German people" to this area.

In August of 1991, Elaine and George Davison "walked the land" of Kautz, and were able, with the help of Wilhelm Pister who lived in Kratzke, to find the landmarks of Kautz, the deep wagon ruts, the mounds of what were once houses, fruit trees still growing, etc.

It was a step back in time to see what was left of the villages of Kratzke, Merkel and Dietel. The houses in these villages, we were told, looked exactly like the houses in Kautz prior to 1961.

Prior to the Revolution (in the time of the Czars), the people of Kautz were mainly farmers, but during the long winter months they had other sidelines to keep them busy, such as hide tanning, wagon making, barrel making, cabinet making, etc., they were a very self-sufficient community. They even made their own bricks out of clay from the river banks, mixed with straw, to build their houses. The crops were rye, wheat, barley, oats, sunflower seeds (from which cooking oil was made), watermelons -- and their own vegetable gardens and fruit trees. Each family was allotted land (the size of which depended on how many males were in the family), where they had their own gardens and where they could raise their crops.

The villages were close to each other, mainly for protection against marauders who raided the villages, and to be of help to each other. The farmland was away from the village, far enough away so they had to stay out on the land all week. The farm land wasn't all in one area, an acre here, an acre there, and an acre somewhere else. As each son was born to a family, they were allotted more land, and this is why it wasn't all in the same area, as it was allotted at different times. A family who had all girls did not have much land; a family with all sons were quite well off. Since the land was in different areas surrounding Kautz, it took quite a long time to move their equipment from one piece of land to another, so that is why they stayed out all week and only came home on weekends during the summer months.

Family custom was to choose the bride for a son, and when the sons married, the bride and groom lived with HIS parents in their home, until there were too many children, and then the land would be divided and another home built.

Every son was taught a trade, other than farming, such as carpentry, brick-making and laying, blacksmith, etc., and became an apprentice to their teacher.

Now, very little of the above is happening in these villages. The farmland had all been made into Collectives, through the government. The people no longer have farmland they can work as their own. They do have their own gardens, their own livestock, and produce enough for their own families to eat -- but they have very little else.

The mystery of how Kautz got it's name has been solved!!! Information received 8 January 1997 from Darrell Kautz, Kansas City, Missouri, contains proof that the village of Kautz was actually named for a living person by the name of KAUTZ! Darrell Kautz had requested the genealogy from Igor Pleve on his Kautz family, and shared the most important information with us!

D. Michael Frank
Village Coordinator for Kautz

Email: d m 4 8 @ c o m c a s t . n e t.