Proverbial Ambition:

The Settlement of Swabian Population Groups in Bukovina

by Dr. Claus Stephani
Printed in Neuer Weg (Bucharest), Vol. 31, No. 9345, June 5, 1979, p. 6
translated by. Dr. Sophie A. Welisch

Posted with permission of the author
December 7, 2002

Soon after the occupation of northern Moldavia, Bukovina, by Austrian troops, General von Splény, in a report of December 10, 1774, urged the settlement of “good German craftsmen” and farmers from the ”furthest northern lands” with assurance of “certain freedoms.” Thus, aside from numerous Austrian officials, Swabians, Saxons and German-Bohemians immigrated to southern Bukovina in groups in the following decades and individually until the 1890s. Copyright © 1991-2003, Bukovina Society of the Americas

While the Zipsers [from the High Tatra Mountains, today in Slovakia] were primarily lumberers, rafters, miners and craftsmen and the German-Bohemians built the first installations for glass production, the Swabians came to the land as farmers. In a report of 1780 the Bukovinian cartography director Budinszky noted that the Swabian farmers “are very knowledgeable in agriculture.” Here it must be pointed out that the later term “Swabian,” aside from being applied to the immigrants from Baden-Württemberg, the Palatinate, etc., was also frequently used to designate other German-speaking settlers who took up residence in Swabian villages.

It is characteristic of the Bukovinian Swabians that they, in contrast to the Zipsers, clung to their native customs for a longer time than did other population groups.

The first “Swabian” immigrants came, as was later said, “as a result of an absurd comment by an official” from the Banat and arrived in June 1782. They included twelve prolific families whose forebears had immigrated to the Banat from the Main-Rhine area. Since the Austrian agricultural administration had not previously been apprized of their arrival and were thus totally unprepared for them, they at first had to settle for “lesser benefactions” until they could be accommodated in the already-existing communities of Molodia (Jungheim), Rosch, Mitoka-Dragomirna and Zutschka.

The immigrants’ situation improved the following year. Until the end of June 1783 they receive flour and grain, plows and various tools free of charge as well as loans for the purchase of livestock. For many years they enjoyed exemption from regional taxation; nonetheless, beginning in 1783 they had to pay feudal dues to their landlords. It was proverbial Swabian ambition, still obvious today, that later enabled these farming communities to achieve unusual prosperity.

Upon the instigation of director Ainser of the State Properties’ Administration, a second wave of Swabian settlers followed in 1787, when fifty families from various German villages in nearby districts came to Bukovina. Their forebears had migrated to Galicia from Franconia and Swabia; after “being pushed from manor to manor for years,” they came to Bukovina “via horse-drawn wagons” for which ten Kreuzers had to be paid “for rental and horse.” These families consisted of ninety-three males and eighty-nine females; all were farmers, although on the side they also plied various trades, characteristic of the multifaceted talents of the Bukovinian Swabians. Among them were several shoemakers, tailors, carpenters, cabinetmakers, one mason, and one woodcutter.

Settling in the communities of Altfratautz, Deutsch-Neufratautz, Deutsch Satulmare, Millischoutz, Badeutz, St. Onufry and Arbore, Deutsch-Itzkany, Deutsch Terebleschti, and Deutsch-Illischestie, each family received a wooden house, usually consisting of a sitting room, bedroom and antechamber as well as stable and barn. All settlers, “Swabians” and “Germans,” were quit renters, i.e., they obtained their properties in hereditary ownership in return for the payment of certain taxes and, depending on their “manor,” rendered neither corvée labor nor produce; they paid only a property and house tax. Thus from the very beginning their economic circumstances were far more favorable than those of the Zipsers, who settled on the eastern ridge of the forested Carpathians.

In addition it should be mentioned that in about the mid-nineteenth century, through migration from overpopulated Swabian communities, smaller settlements were established on various private lands, e.g., on the estate of the Swabian landowner Franz Sauer in Balatschana in 1848, Unter-Staneschti in 1860, and Alexanderdorf in 1863.