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From the Steppes to the Plains: Nebraska’s Germans from Russia

By the Nebraska Folklife Network Inc., Lincoln NE © 2005

Manual (in Notebook)

Teachers Guide (90-100 pages) Contains 12 lesson plans, 4th and 8th grade NE educational standards addressed, handout masters and an appendix of reference materials

Photos and other Images

  • Image Packet (Contains a timeline, and 38 other images, including photographs, drawings, maps, etc. All are 81/2 x 11 and laminated. Details are on a list of images in the packet and on the backs of the images.)


  • Traditional Clothing (both boy’s and girl’s outfits in smaller and in larger sizes.
    • 2 sets of girl’s reproduction two-piece dresses, The style is circa 1920s. (See image #26 taken in Lincoln NE.)
    • 2 sets of boy’s Russian style shirts and pants, (Example also in image #26)
    • 1 traditional women’s babushka (head scarf or shawl)
  • German Flag
  • 13 “Bunnock” (meaning “bones” because the original pieces were said to have been ankle bones from horses) game pieces. This is a traditional game of Germans from Russia in which large game pieces are tossed to hit the opponent’s game pieces. Best played outdoors! (1 blue painted “guard” piece, two large red painted “throwers” and 10 white ones) Directions are in manual.
  • 1 Sample of “Turkey Red” hard winter wheat sealed in a small round plastic container. This wheat is associated with the Germans from Russia, who were instrumental in spreading its use to most of the Great Plains.
  • Sugar beet replica made with a foam base covered with liquid rubber
  • Matroyska Russian Nesting Doll (five wooden dolls that nest inside one another) a favorite toy that Germans Russian children played with during their stay in Russia.
  • 1 Miniature reproduction of a German Russian “wedding cane”. (Used in an old time wedding invitation custom in which young men road horses around to farms and recited poems in German to invite families to a wedding dance. Those families who were coming tied a ribbon on the cane. This was so that the young men could remember how many families were coming, as they each usually had a drink of “schnapps” at every stop.)

Audio Media

  • Cassette – Albert Fahlbusch and Bob Schmer radio spot on Dutch Hop music narrated by Gwen Meister 1992, by the Nebraska Arts Council (9 minutes)
  • CD and song book - Gott Ist Die Liebe (God is Love), 2002, Salem Congregational Church German Choir, Scottsbluff NE These songs illustrate the strong religious faith of both the early immigrants and today’s Germans from Russia, many of whom are Lutheran. There are also Germans from Russia who are Catholic or Mennonite.
  • CD – Volga. 2003, Dutch Hop music by the River Boys, of Scottsbluff NE and Northeastern Colorado. Dutch Hop is the typical traditional dance music of the Germans from Russia who lived along the Volga River when in Russia. It was very prevalent throughout Nebraska up until the 1960s and is still very much alive in Western Nebraska, Eastern Colorado and parts of Kansas and Wyoming.

Video Media

  • Broda Dinner, 2003, DVD, by the Nebraska Folklife Network, (7:35 minutes) A short video narrated by a 5th grade student that features a traditional German Russian community dinner.
  • The Beet Tenders’ Destiny, 1992, DVD, NE Panhandle Chapter AHSGR (25 minutes) This is a long, detailed account of the experiences of Germans from Russia in the western Nebraska sugar beet fields. Portions of it can be used in the classroom for youger students or all can be played for older students.
  • The Germans from Russia, Children of the Steppe, Children of the Prairie, 1999, Prairie Public Broadcasting, Inc., North Dakota (See teachers guide in kit manual for time and details.)

Reference Publications

1 Road map of modern Germany for reference on the areas from which Germans from Russia originally came.

American Historical Society of Germans from Russia (AHSGR) Lincoln NE
Küche Kochen (Kitchen Cooking), 1973, 18th printing 2002. German Russian cookbook with some interesting historical information about traditional foods as well.

Kloberdanz, Timothy J. and Rosalinda Kloberdanz,
Thunder on the Steppe: Volga German Folklife in a Changing Russia, 1993, 3rd printing 2001, AHSGR, Lincoln NE. Although this book was written about the Germans settlers who still live in Russia today, it is a treasure trove of German Russian folklore that has many similarities to the folklore of the Germans from Russia who settled in Nebraska. The sections on proverbs, beinamen (nicknames), and traditional Volga German stories are particularly interesting and useful.

Williams, Hattie Plum
The Czar’s Germans, 1975, 3rd printing 2001, AHSGR. This book has detailed accounts of the German settlers’ immigration to Russia, their life in Russia, and their later immigration from Russia to the United States. It is recommended as a reference text and for the many historical photos and drawings it contains. Dr. Williams lived in Lincoln and is remembered chiefly for her research and writings on the Germans from Russia.

A Social Study of the Russian German, 1915 Doctoral Thesis on the Lincoln NE settlements of Germans from Russia. Reprinted by AHSGR 1984. This book is useful for the very detailed picture it gives of Germans from Russia when they were newly immigrated to Lincoln NE. Pages 5-34, in particular, describe their living conditions, and many of their customs.