Emigration to Russia

Russian Swiss
Return of Russian Swiss in Basel 1917
Spälti Johann Jakob 1839 - 1893 Family
Group of Netstaler in Russia
Leuzinger Karl 1877
Weber Felix 1775
Weber Johann Jakob 1812
Spälti Johann Jakob 1830
Michel Victor Ludwig 1888
Leuzinger Johann Jakob 1828
Russland Glarner aus Netstal 1939

Basics and motivation of emigration to Russia [1]

 

From the late 17th century until the First World War, around 20,000 Swiss emigrated to Russia. Some of them belonged to the rural lower classes, who were no longer able to find work due to the shortage of cultivable land and the rationalization of labor by the emerging textile industry. Since the reign of Empress Catherine II the Great (1782-1796), Russia also specifically recruited specialists in Central and Western Europe (in today's terminology: "expats") to support the modernization efforts of the enlightened absolutist tsarist empire. As part of this migration of specialists, officers, civil servants, scientists, doctors, architects, theologians and confectioners arrived in Russia in a first wave, followed by cheese-makers, educators, merchants and industrialists in a second wave from the middle of the 19th century. By the time of the October Revolution of 1917, some 300 Swiss companies had been established in the machine, food and textile industries, especially in the regions of Moscow, St. Petersburg and Ukraine. In many cases, Swiss entrepreneurs and merchants acted as agents of economic and social modernization in Russia.

 

The reign of Tsar Alexander I was of particular importance for Swiss and thus also for Glarus emigration to Russia. (reign 1801-1825). The Tsar, a grandson of Empress Catherine II. (reigned 1762-1796), was educated by Frédéric de la Harpe (1754-1838) from Vaud and retained a personal interest in Switzerland throughout his life. Under him, new colonies of German and Swiss immigrants were established in the northern coastal areas of the Black Sea and the Sea of Azov. The best known of these was Zürichtal [2] in the Crimea. Founded in 1805 by farmers and craftsmen from the Knonauer Amt, the cantons of Glarus, Lucerne, Solothurn, Fribourg and Vaud, eleven years later the village counted 190 Swiss citizens, 137 of German origin or members of other nations. Zürichtal (today Zolotoe Pole), before the First World War supposedly the most beautiful and richest German-speaking Crimean village, shared the fate of the Volga German colonies in 1941. Thus, after Hitler's attack on the Soviet Union, Stalin had all German-speaking inhabitants deported to Siberia and Central Asia.

 

However, we are not there yet. After the end of the Russian-Turkish War, Bessarabia (today's Republic of Moldova) became part of the Tsarist Empire in 1812. As before on the lower Volga, the tsar's court sought to secure the territory by settling German-speaking settlers first. In 1822, Louis Vincent Tardent (1887-1836), a botanist from Vevey, founded the settlement of Schabo [3] in the extreme southeast of Bessarabia together with some winegrowers from Vaud. In the course of time, Swiss-German families from Baselland and Heinrich Zwicki (1794-), an employee of Tardent, who came from Obstalden, gradually joined them. The wine-growing village achieved a certain prosperity in the second half of the 19th century, so that towards the end of the century two daughter colonies and various hamlets were founded. After the end of the First World War, Bessarabia fell to Romania, which was more to the liking of the settlers. However, in 1940 Romania had to cede this territory to the Soviet Union, and in 1941 Hitler invaded the Soviet Union. Depending on which troops - German, Romanian or Soviet - were on the advance, the settlers fled or returned to their village once again. Many returned to their ancestral civic and residential homes in Switzerland. Among them were the family of Theodor Zwicki (1905-1983) and Mathilde, née Spitzer (1905-1993). After a six-year odyssey, they arrived in Switzerland together with other refugees. They spent the first three months in a camp for returnees near Vevey before they were able to settle in their ancestral town of Obstalden in September 1946.

 

Within the Swiss-Russian migration movements, the cheese-makers, mainly from the canton of Bern and from the canton of Glarus, occupy a special position. Already before 1800 we find the first Glarus cheese maker in Russia. In 1796 Wolfgang Jenny ran a cheese dairy in Gatina, south of St. Petersburg. However, the foundation stone for the Glarus emigration of cheese makers as well as for the individual emigration typical for Glarus was laid by the timber merchant Leonhard Weber (1766-1813). After he had achieved some prosperity in the timber trade and later in the textile industry, he acquired a large estate near St. Petersburg, where he ran a cheese dairy with employees from Glarus [4]. The Glarus cheese makers settled mainly in the Baltic provinces and in Finland, which belonged to the Tsarist Empire until 1918. From the middle of the 19th century, however, the emigration of cheesemakers began to dry up, as the demand for professional cheesemakers in Russia could be met by descendants of other emigrants. The profession of cheesemaker was practiced mainly by the first generation, while subsequent generations turned to other professions, bought an estate, ran a mill or opened a store from the earnings of cheese making.​

 

Around the middle of the 19th century, the state-sponsored settlement of western colonists also came to an end, since securing the border against the Ottoman Empire was no longer in the foreground of Russian foreign policy interests. Second, settlement had proved to be very costly, as the colonists had been granted a number of privileges. For example, until the abolition of serfdom in 1861, colonists were exempt from military service. They also did not have to pay taxes during the early years. Third, the expectation that the farming method would be imitated by the native peasantry was soon dashed, for the settlers had hardly mixed with the Russian peasants.

 

The Crimean War of 1853-1856 and the resulting defeat of the tsarist empire made the tsar's court aware of how much the Western powers had pushed ahead with the industrialization process. In military and transport terms (construction of roads and railroads), Russia was badly behind. Tsar Alexander II. (reigned 1801-1825) carried out several fundamental reforms, such as the abolition of serfdom or the concession of self-government, albeit still limited, to the cities. This created the necessary potential labor force for extensive industrialization. Compared to the Western European states, this process began several decades late. However, this time lag had the advantage for the new immigrants and Russia that the knowledge acquired in the industrialization process of the home country could now be profitably used in Russia. In addition to professional know-how, financially strong investors were also in demand. The emigrants of the second half of the 19th century - among them many from Glarus - were consequently craftsmen of all kinds, traders and merchants, who traveled to Russia initially without family through the mediation of people who had already emigrated earlier. As soon as they found a job, they sent for their wives and children. In contrast to the emigrants to America, most of the Russian-Swiss kept their citizenship. From time to time they returned to Switzerland, either to do business, to hire other emigrants or to look for a bride. 

 

Those who had made a fortune in Russia returned to Switzerland to spend a peaceful retirement in their home community. Emigrants who had made their fortune abroad and were able to act as benefactors after their return to their home community always provided the population with welcome topics of conversation. However, one should not be blinded by such success stories, as there were also countless stories of failure and fates that remained largely unknown. Despite great efforts, a large part of the emigrants had a hard life. Driven by the desire for a better existence, they had left their homeland, abandoned constricting economic and social norms, yet familiar structures in the hope of a new beginning in a foreign country. The Swiss Consulate General in St. Petersburg was repeatedly confronted with emigrants who had entered the country at random, without having addresses they could have contacted immediately upon arrival.

 

Improving one's livelihood was not always the decisive motive for emigration. Some tried to escape an unhappy marriage in this way. Others disappeared for some time in faraway Russia in order to escape their creditors.

 

 

The Return of the Russian Swiss 1917-1945

 

Due to their professional qualifications, the Swiss living in Russia had largely belonged to the upper middle class or even the upper class there. The October Revolution of 1917 therefore represented a massive break for the Russian Swiss. By 1922, 6,000 or about three quarters of them had left Russia. Between 1918 and 1920, five repatriation trains each brought 200 to 600 returnees back to Switzerland. Many had not only been left destitute by the expropriation measures of the new Bolshevik regime, but had already been badly affected by the devastation caused by the civil war. In this chaos, not only the Red Army fought against the White Army supported by intervention forces of Great Britain, France, the United States and Japan, but also autonomous peasant and anarchist units, Polish invaders and German-Baltic Free Corps ran riot. This cruel civil war dragged on until 1922, claiming millions of lives through direct combat, the "Red" and "White" Terror, and famine.

 

In May 1918, the returnees founded the "Association of Russian-Swiss" as a self-help organization, which was to exist until 1965, and in October 1918, the semi-governmental "Swiss Aid and Creditors' Cooperative for Russia" (Secrusse) was founded. This Russian-Swiss lobby helped to further inflame the anti-communist sentiment in Switzerland. The situation of those remaining in Russia worsened even more after Switzerland broke off diplomatic relations with the Soviet Union in November 1918, partly under pressure from the victorious powers of the World War. The consular affairs of the Russian Swiss were now taken care of by the Red Cross, whose delegate in Moscow had to devote a large part of his manpower to their support.

 

Gradually, the Swiss colonies of Kiev, Kharkov, Odessa and Tbilisi became depopulated. Starting in 1937, all foreigners living in Russia were given the ultimatum to either take Russian citizenship or leave the country. This measure in turn prompted many to return to Switzerland, even though they had already been integrated to a high degree in Russia. When the peasants in the south were also threatened with expropriation, deportation or even incarceration, they too were no longer able to withstand the pressure. Often, however, they did not move back to Switzerland. Accustomed to large-scale conditions, many families emigrated to Canada or North America.

 

Many of the Glarner who returned in 1918 considered their stay in Switzerland only a brief interlude. They were convinced that the Bolsheviks would soon be defeated by the White Russians, the champions of the tsardom, with the help of international intervention, and that they would be able to return to Russia and take possession of their factories and estates again. The interlude, however, became permanent, and not a few Russo-Glarusians expressed great difficulty with this situation. Those who had belonged to the upper class in Russia and had enjoyed the corresponding privileges often found it difficult to come to terms with a rather modest lifestyle and a job that was considered menial.

 

Before the outbreak of World War II and after the end of the war, a large number of Russian-Swiss returned to Switzerland. Many Russian-Glarusians settled in Zurich, since especially those who had lived in the big cities of Moscow and St. Petersburg felt more comfortable in an urban environment. A Russian Orthodox clergyman also worked in Zurich, which enabled the returnees to practice their religion. Those who had lived in Russia for four or even five generations understandably had difficulty with the Swiss way of life and the German language [5].

 

 

Glarus enterprises in Tsarist Russia

 

As far as the influence on the Russian economy in agriculture as well as in the trade and industry sector is concerned, in the first epoch among the Swiss the Glarner took an important position. The following is a still incomplete overview of the undertakings carried out by the people of Glarus in Russia, which will be supplemented on an ongoing basis.

 

The Wienerhandlung and its successor companies in Russia (1750 - 1922) [6]

 

The brothers Johann Rudolf (1724-1790) and Gabriel Jenny (1726-1766), together with their brother-in-law Balthasar Aebli (1725-1762), founded the company Jenny, Aebli & Co. in Vienna in 1750, famous as the "Wienerhandlung". This trading house initially traded Swiss textile products to Austria, Poland and Russia, and somewhat later established its own factories in Schwanenstadt in Upper Austria and Hohenelbe in Bohemia. The Viennese trade flourished so successfully that branches were opened in Warsaw, Krakow, Lublin, Berdytschew, Lemberg and Riga. Due to the partitions of Poland (1793, 1795), these branches fell into Russian territory. The Napoleonic Wars (1792-1815) and the Continental Blockade (1806) severely shook the Viennese trade. The subsequent Austrian state bankruptcy of 1811 deprived the owners of Jenny, Aebli & Co. of most of their assets. As a result, the owner families Altmann and Oertli withdrew their money from the Wienerhandlung and returned to Glarus. The owner family Jenny, however, developed in two different directions: 

 

The members of one branch of Johann Rudolf Jenny gave up Swiss citizenship and, after consolidating their fortunes, entered the state and army service of the Habsburg monarchy without abandoning their ancestral Protestant faith. They mostly attained a title of nobility and provided their new fatherland with a number of capable officers (e.g. Johann Karl von Jenny 1792-1865 and his son Heinrich von Jenny 1832-1896), high officials (e.g. Johann Jakob von Jenny 1801-), engineers (e.g. August von Jenny 1842-1862) and professors.

 

The other branch, that of Gabriel Jenny, turned to the East after the consolidation of the family fortune in Austria. What had been branches in the former Poland and Russia were now turned into headquarters of the still powerful group. This branch, which continued the former company, played a pioneering role in the economic revival of the new southwestern provinces of the Russian Empire. The son of the founder Gabriel Jenny, Balthasar Jenny (1757-1812) turned with his three sons Gabriel (1785-1837), Johann Rudolf (1790-1848) and Johann Melchior (1798-1846) to southern Russia (Berdychev and Odessa). They became the progenitors of the representatives of the Jenny families who later worked in Russia.

 

In the meantime, in addition to the textile trade with Swiss linen and cotton goods, the Wienerhandlung also expanded to the wholesale of agricultural products, wood and fuel, and the newly opened branch in Odessa exported grain, wool and tallow to the ports of the Mediterranean. The company developed more and more into a wholesale house for agricultural products and in numerous own factories these products were profitably processed as well. At that time, the business activities of the Jenny brothers covered the entire western part of Russia, from Riga and Warsaw to Odessa. Since 1813, the company Jenny, Trümpy & Co. existed in this flourishing port city on the Black Sea, which especially cultivated exports and also maintained its own sailing ships as a shipping company. The merchant fleet shipped especially wheat, wool, hides and tallow to Trieste, Genoa, Naples, Marseille and the Dutch and English ports and imported iron and colonial goods from there, roofing tiles from Marseille and lava stone for road paving from Messina as return cargo. From about 1826/28, the Odessa branch ran into difficulties, partly as a result of the Berdychev disaster, partly due to the loss of several large sailing ships, as well as losses in other cargoes due to the huge drop in wheat prices that occurred at that time.

 

Johann Jakob Trümpy-Morawek (1793-1823), partner of the Wienerhandlung and then co-founder of Jenny, Trümpy & Co., died already in 1823 and left no sons, but three daughters, who married in Odessa. His brother Fridolin Trümpy (1799-1870) did not join the company, but returned to Glarus after his brother's death and thus saved a good part of the fortune inherited from his father. Back in Glarus, he did not get involved in any more business connections and was elected as the last Landmajor (head of the military) by the Lutheran Landsgemeinde in 1834. His sons, on the other hand, participated in the founding of the Trümpy & Jenny printing factory in Mitlödi in 1856/57.

 

At the head of the still powerful group were the three sons Gabriel, Rudolf and Melchior. Gabriel married his Viennese cousin Katharina von Jenny (1793-1858) in 1811, and his brother Johann Rudolf married her sister Henriette von Jenny (1795-1848). Johann Melchior married in Odessa in 1823 the Russian Katharina Morawek (1795-1845), daughter of the Maître d'Hôtel at the Russian court, Leopold Morawek (1756-1808).

The three brothers ran the multifaceted business together in great harmony. Their headquarters was the city of Berdychev in the Kiev Governorate. There they led the life of great magnates and gave their children an extremely careful and strict education, mostly by teachers and governesses, whom they had brought from Switzerland. But then the great calamity occurred, which was to destroy the accumulated wealth of two generations. The event began with the purchase of the town of Berdychev by the Jenny brothers. This bustling town was one of the commercial and transport centers of Volhynia and the Kiev region and belonged to the Polish prince Radziwi. However, the legal situation at the time of the town purchase had been insufficiently checked by the brothers. The seller had immense debts, which had been concealed from the buyers. Soon after the purchase, which was completed in the early 1820s, there was a hail of arrests, objections and encroachments by creditors. Despite years of fighting for their rights, the collapse of the Jenny brothers could not be stopped. All their companies were dragged into the abyss. To make matters worse, the company Jenny, Trümpy & Co in Odessa had run into difficulties in 1826 and 1828. The brothers lost their entire fortune in this event.

 

Gabriel and Johann Rudolf died of sorrows and grief early in Berdychev. Johann Melchior moved to Odessa to create a new basis for the existence of his relatives from the ruins of the company there. A little more than two decades later, we already meet again the up-and-coming representatives of this family in responsible positions in the sugar industry, as tenants of large estates or as breeders of huge flocks of merino sheep. The second oldest son of Melchior, Johann Friedrich Jenny-Scherff (1826-1902) became one of the largest sugar manufacturers and a pioneer of brewing in Odessa. He thus became a pioneer for his two brothers Gabriel Jenny-Becker (1824-1899) and Heinrich Jenny-Pipp (1829-1904), who actively supported him and became directors of several sugar factories. In 1866 Johann Friedrich Jenny-Scherff founded the first joint stock company in the field of sugar production in Russia, Kalnik AG. This was followed in 1870 by the establishment of the Jarapowitschi company and in 1872 by the Sob factory. He also founded the Kiev Brewery JSC and acquired an obsolete brewery in Odessa, which his son Alexander turned into one of the largest breweries in Russia under the name of F. Jenny & Co into one of the largest brewing enterprises in southern Russia. The company still exists today under the name "ennifoods". Johann Friedrich Jenny died of old age in Monte Carlo in 1902. He could not have foreseen that Russia would be shaken by the revolution and that his descendants would be dragged down in complete collapse.

 

The descendants of Johann Rudolf did not manage to recover from the collapse. His grandson Marjan Jenny (1884-) was in the service of his cousins for many years, finally as director of the sugar factories belonging to them in the Kiev governorate. He did not manage to escape from Russia and died in great misery in Kiev.

 

The descendants of Gabriel were granted a successful life, albeit under hard conditions. Three of his daughters became teachers and the youngest married the Swiss consul in Odessa, Otto Tritten. Son Fridolin Balthasar (1813-1859) lived as a merchant and died single in Odessa in 1859. Son Gabriel (1822-1882) entered government service and also died single as a Russian collegiate councilor. The youngest son Fridolin (1825-1873) became a farmer and participated in the development of the then flourishing Merino sheep breeding and the later emerging grain production. At the best time he owned 35,000 sheep. He married Lina Sophia Dick (1840-) from Bern and had 5 daughters and 2 sons with her. In 1871 he moved with his family first to Mentone and later to Zurich, where he died in 1873. The business was initially still run by an administrator, but was almost brought to ruin by his mismanagement. His son Gabriel Ernst Jenny (1872-1939) took over the business and succeeded in bringing it back to success. However, Bolshevism crushed this enterprise as well, and Gabriel Ernst, like his cousins, had to flee Russia. He was elected professor at the agricultural college in Hohenheim-Stuttgart in 1930. Nine years later, at the age of 67, he died childless in Stuttgart.

 

Table dealer Johannes Jenny (1645-1687)

 

The first documented Glarus trader in Russia was probably Johannes Jenny (1645-1687). He is reported to have traveled with slate tables not only to Moscow, but also by ship to Arkhangelsk in the White Sea.

 

 

Merchant Markus Oertli (1739-1784)

 

Markus Oertli went to Riga as a merchant and died there in 1784. His son Bartholome (1775-1806) also lived and died in Riga. His son Johann Melchior (1801-1852) returned to Glarus in 1823, acquired the property "Rain", and rebuilt it into a large residential house, which his heirs sold in 1863. With his son Johann Heinrich (1832-1864), who was pastor in Elm from 1855-1864, this family died out in the male line.

 

Table merchant Johannes Becker (1691-1767), Fridolin Becker (1722-1797) and Kaspar Becker (1725-1791)

 

Johannes Becker (1691-1767), a table merchant who may have already established trade relations with Russia, had two sons, Fridolin (1722-1797), a merchant called "the Petersburg", and Kaspar (1725-1791), a shipmaster and bailiff, who ran an extensive business to and from Poland and Russia, mostly by water via Holland, and had their staples in Riga and Petersburg. They traded with various goods, especially with grain, which was already at that time a main export article of Russia. After Kaspar's death, they suffered great losses due to the sinking of several shiploads in the Baltic Sea, which caused them to abandon business with Russia. Although the insurance system for losses at sea had been gradually developing in the European trading states since the end of the 15th century, it seems that the two brothers were not insured. In the 1820s, Beckers returned from Russia. A son of Fridolin Becker, Kaspar Becker-Becker (1760-1841), remained faithful to trade, but turned to Brussels and Ghent. 

 

 

Merchant and pioneer of cheese-making in Russia Leonhard Weber (1766-1813)

 

Here too, similar to the Wienerhandlung, emigration started from a large trading house, namely the Holländer Holzhandlung Weber, Aebli & Cie, founded at the latest around 1700. The Weber came from Netstal, the Aebli from Mollis and Ennenda, and they were joined by a Becker family from Ennenda, later called the "Holländer". For a long time, the traffic of this company was limited to shipping and exports of logs and hardwood boards from Glarus to Holland. Five Weber brothers gave this trade a new direction from the end of the 1780s. The second oldest, Leonhard Weber (1766-1813) sailed from Amsterdam to St. Petersburg with a cargo of walnut wood because he had heard that the Russian government was buying such wood for rifle stocks. He stayed in St. Petersburg, expanded his trade to other Swiss products, such as canvas, mousseline and silk ribbons, became a merchant of the first guild and subsequently had his children and relatives come to Russia. Thus, he became the pioneer of the great emigration from Netstal to the Tsarist Empire. Leonhard Weber leased or bought a country estate near St. Petersburg around 1800 and let some young farmers' sons from Netstal come to run the cheese dairy here. Russian noblemen, having become aware of the cheese production, soon followed his example. Through his mediation, they also let Netstal cheese makers come to their extensive estates and from then on, almost every year a larger number of young farmers emigrated to Russia.

 

 

Russian Councillor of Commerce Johann Jakob Blumer (1749-1822)

 

Johann Jakob Blumer (1749-1822) lost his father when he was 22 years old, and his mother fell into hardship with 8 children. Therefore, he decided to join a group of Glarus merchants to sell Glarus products in Russia. From 1771 Johann Jakob Blumer ran a successful trade mainly with Glarus products (Schabziger, dried fruit, silk knitted goods), first in St. Petersburg, then in Moscow. There, in 1814, he opened Russia's first mechanical woolen carpet weaving mill with looms developed by himself, which brought him wealth and high fame and led to his appointment by Tsar Alexander I as a commercial councillor. For his family, who remained in Glarus, he acquired the alp Oberblegi and the upper part of the Lutheran parsonage in Schwanden. In his will of 1818, he bequeathed this property to his relatives living in Glarus, who established a family foundation from it. See also the blog "A Russian Colonel Inherits the Glarus Alp Oberblegi in 1954".

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[1] Peter Kubli Susanne: Netstal. Ein Industriedorf im Wandel. Netstal 2000. Sozialarchiv.ch Moscow retour.

[2] Vollmer Jürg: Die Krim-Schweizer von Zürichtal. Wie Schweizer Lumpenproletarier die Krim-Halbinsel erblühen liessen. Watson 2020.

[3] Zwicky Vladimir: Aufstieg und Niedergang der Schweizer Kolonien in der Ukraine. Zaporozhye 2013.

[4] Tschudi Gisela: Schweizer Käser im Zarenreich. Zur Mentalität und Wirtschaft ausgewanderter Bauernsöhne und Bauerntöchter. Dissertation Zurich 1990.

[5] As examples may be mentioned here: Jost Kubli (1775-1843) and his wife Amalie, née Weber. They had emigrated to Russia at the beginning of the 19th century and settled near St. Petersburg, on the Marienhof estate. In 1920 their great-grandchildren Fridolin, Nikolaus, Waldemar and Heinrich arrived in Switzerland. The same is true for Johann Peter Stauffacher (1801-1854). In 1828 he emigrated to Riga together with his wife Anna, née Kubli. In 1923, the three great-granddaughters Virginie, Eugenie and Eleonora returned to their ancestral homeland.

[6] Jenny Ernst/Jenny Adolf: Alt-Russland und die Russland-Glarner in Zeitungsartikeln beleuchtet. Glarus 1932; Jenny Adolf: Bilder von dem Leben und Streben der Russland-Schweizer und dem traurigen Ende ihrer Wirksamkeit. Glarus 1934.