Bismarck, ND-Early in the 1800s, the Russian government invited German families to take land on the open steppe not far from Odessa on the Black Sea. Beginning with a cluster of clay houses, a village grew up along the Kutschurgan river, which took the Alsatian name of Selz. Growing into a thriving town, Selz served as a religious, cultural, and commercial center for surrounding smaller German communities.
In this extensively researched book, noted North Dakota author and scholar William C. Sherman takes readers on a compelling historical journey spanning the Communist Revolution, rising Russian nationalism, and two bloody world wars that gave rise to enormous resentment of the Germans. In words and photos, Selz Russia Home Colony paints a haunting picture of Selz's decline in the face of religious persecution, Siberian exile, labor camps, and deliberate starvation.
Today, the Germans are gone from Selz, and the town that remains is called Limanskoye, occupied by Ukrainian refugees from war-torn villages. Two places named Selz existed in North Dakota: In the late 1800s, Anton Vetter established a post office named Selz, in Emmons County, and the county's southeastern township still bears this name. Another Selz was founded on the east edge of Pierce County.
This slim, 32-page volume details the heroic and sad moments of the German past, combining memories, interviews, and historical information that has become available with the fall of Communism. The book will enlighten the thousands of Americans and Canadians who see the name Selz in their genealogies about the world their ancestors built and what happened to their relatives who were not fortunate enough to get to the New World.
Selz Russia Home Colony, a publication of the University of Mary Press, is available from the University of Mary Bookstore for $14.95. For details, call
About the Author
William Sherman is a Catholic priest and professor emeritus in Sociology at North Dakota State University. He is also the author of Prairie Mosaic; Valerian Paczek: Priest, Soldier and Quiet Hero; and Wagons Norte: Minnesota to Oregon; and co-author of Plains Folk, Prairie Peddlers: Syrian Lebanese in North Dakota.