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Spotlight on Culture

People that call this area Home:

European cultures and the people that emigrated

looking for a better life in a continent across the Atlantic

Germans from Russia


Российские немцы

Artistic Expressions: Prairie crosses.

The handmade wrought iron cross tradition was brought to North Dakota as well as the central and northern plains by blacksmiths from this community.

There is a large number of German-Russian wrought-iron cross sites found throughout the state. It's possible that no other area of the United States includes so many examples of traditional, blacksmith-made iron grave crosses as North Dakota.

In recent years, the distinctive funerary folk art of the German from Russia has become more known, even garnering attention from scholars. The wrought-iron cross sites of the German Russians, however, remain relatively unknown and scantly recorded.

Many modern-day descendants of the original German-Russian settlers are unaware of the wrought-iron cross tradition and the rural blacksmiths who keep it alive. In January, 1987, Louis Snider—one of North Dakota's last German-Russian iron cross makers—passed away at the age of 85. Since then, very few others have continued the tradition. The state of ND has started a record of the sites these crosses are at, in an effort to preserve them, since more than a century has passed since the first German Russians took up homesteads here. In all but a few cases, their original earthen homes and simply-constructed pioneer churches are gone. But many of their rural cemeteries and blacksmith-made, wrought-iron crosses are still there.

These wrought-iron crosses represent much more than a unique type of prairie grave marker or funerary folk art; these hand-crafted crosses represent an important period in this nation's history, when Europeans settled on the American Plains and, in so doing, left an indelible mark on the land. These crosses are symbols of their strength, and how important their Christian faith and their spiritual life is for them.

For more information on these sites, their history, and where they are located, you can read this document by the National Park Service.

Prairie Public created a documentary about these beautiful works of art.

This picture was published by the 'Germans from Russia Heritage Collection', from NDSU. You can find their Flickr page, and many more pictures, here.

In this picture you can see Jeff Malm, from Kulm, ND, blacksmith and wrought iron cross maker, and Michael Miller at the Kulm 125th Celebration on the 23rd of June, 2017.

They are standing by the Germans from Russia Heritage Collection Display, at the Hometown Credit Union. Photograph by Michael M. Miller.

The next one is also from their collection,

Wrought-iron cross in a cemetery near Krem ND, North of Hazen, August 2014.

Artistic Expressions: Architecture

The cultural architecture of the Germans from Russia includes housing construction and building materials focusing on North Dakota and the Northern Plains. The Germans from Russia Heritage collection from NDSU, promotes and assists preservation of German-Russian architecture as an important aspect of remembering German-Russian heritage.

Several institutions and people have also surveyed and recorded where these pioneer buildings are. GRHC’s Father William C. Sherman Photograph Collection encompasses over 13,000 black and white photographs, negatives, color slides, floor plans and site survey documents. The subjects of interest include houses, barns, sheds, and various agricultural structures. Today, many of these structures no longer exist. The Welk Homestead State Historic Site of the State Historical Society of North Dakota (SHSND), located near Strasburg, ND, presents important Germans from Russia architectural construction of the original 1899 farmhouse, made from traditional sun-baked clay basta bricks, as well as the original summer kitchen, granary and privy.

Artistic Expressions: Culinary Arts

Most Germans from Russia on the northern plains are not Volga Germans, but rather Black Sea Germans, and they have their own characteristic food. Three of them have reached the threshold of regional recognition.

These are Knoephla soup (spelling varies), Fleischkuechle (again, spelling varies) and Kuchen. These dishes appear frequently on cafe menus and are known to non-German-Russians. Knoephla soup is a variant of cream-of-potato soup that has fluffy dumplings floating around in it. This is the ultimate comfort food of the German-Russian heartland in the Dakotas. Fleischkuechle are patties and fried in fat. These are a main dish. Kuchen may look like pies, but they are custards. The crust is a yeast dough, and the filling is a cheesy custard with some kind of fruit in it. prune is traditional; most people seem to enjoy rhubarb. Their traditions, however, as is true of many other cultures, goes beyond these three.

Brewing traditions can be found in this document here. Bread Baking, here. Butchering traditions, here. Stories of Cheese making, here. Information about their Cream Separators and Cows in General, here. An account of the German and Russian Holiday Foods, here. A story of Kholodetz (Pig's Feet), here. An account of Kuga, German-Russian Christmas Cooking, here. There's also a sausage making tradition that's shared with other cultures from Germany, the most famous ones found in the small town of Wishek.

The following videos were published by Prairie Public. They document the resourcefulness of the Germans from Russia in the preparation of food for large families by showing traditional cooks presenting family-pleasing recipes. Traditional foods, savory recipes, and folk memories are important in the history and culture of the Germans from Russia community.

"Recipes from Grandma's Kitchen 1" provides step-by-step detailed cooking and ingredients.

It was filmed in the kitchens of Millie Doll Hauck, from Richardton, ND who stirs up Pheasant Paprikash Soup and dessert Strudel; Alma Janke Schott, Gackle, ND and her recipe for Christmas Tea Ring; Bernadine Lang Kuhn, Owatonna, MN who rolls out Dessert Kuchen; Erica Lang Wangler, Bismarck, ND who demonstrates how to make Schupfnoodla with Chicken; and Helen Gefroh Fischer, Hague, ND who whips up a batch of Strudel with Chicken.

"Recipes from Grandma's Kitchen Volume II" also presents German-Russian cooks whipping up the favorite recipes that speak to the proverb that food is love. Traditional foods, savory recipes, and folk memories are important in the history and culture of the Germans from Russia community. This time, we see the kitchens of Viola Welk Bosch, from Linton ND, who makes Grumbere Maultaschen (Potato Pockets); Arlene Kruckenberg Knutson, from Tuttle ND, who bakes Baska (Easter Bread); Bernadine Lang Kuhn, from Owatonna MN, who whips up Baked Rice with Raisins; Vi Kruckenberg Schielke, from Beulah ND, who stirs up a batch of Knepfla mit Wurst und Kartoffel (Dumplings with Sausage and Potatoes); Alma Janke Schott, from Gackle ND, who rolls out German Lebkuchen; Martha Schaeffer Suppan, from Brooklyn Center MN, who brings in everyone's favorite Halupsie (Pigs in Blankets); Paul Welder, from Linton ND, who gives advice on making Baking Powder Noodles; and Theresa Voller Wolf, from Strasburg ND, who kneads a batch of classic White Bread.

These Prairie Public Classics first aired in 2005.

Next week we'll continue this series with more information on the Germans from Russia- the religious traditions they brought from their homeland, and how they celebrated them.

Stay tuned for more information on more cultures in future posts. Our area is blessed to be called home by many people of many cultures, and they deserve to be acknowledged.


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