Wikipedia says:

The greatest number of Volga Germans emigrated from Hesse and the Palatinate, and spoke Hessian and Palatine Rhine Franconian dialects[61][62] to which the colonists from other regions, and even from other countries like Sweden, assimilated.[63]

But does this 98-year-old Volga German sound like an 18th century Hessian and/or Franconian?

part 1: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=O1yGvWMQHSs

part 2: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=P-La5JjBcns

People in the comments are saying that she sounds Swabian or Bavarian.

Another woman apparently speaking Volga German: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QmZMSzpIH_w

A few more samples of Volga German: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fCOYoAhxPNE&t=20m (starting at 20:00)

  • 1
    Yes, I think it does. What is compelling is that the melody is very, very similar to Pennsylvania Dutch, which basically stems from the same dialects, but spoken several 1000kms west.
    – tofro
    Feb 22 at 23:11
  • @tofro It's interesting that most Germans that ended up abroad in 1670-1770 were from the same region: (1) The Amish (2) Other PA Germans (3) Volga Germans (4) The Hessians - half (?) of the King's army during the Revolutionary War.
    – user27384
    Feb 27 at 22:42
  • That has to do with a series of famines in the 17th century. Another event was the ice flooding of many rivers in 1784, caused by extremely harsh winters (sometimes called "small ice age") after a volcano outbreak in Iceland. The most affected regions saw somewhat of a mass exodus.
    – tofro
    Feb 27 at 23:36
  • @MWB you could also add the repopulation of the military districts along the Danube. Despite the common word Donauschwaben, the recruiters also visited Palatinate (and maybe the Hessian lands of the Mainz Diocese, my family history seems to imply that). Also, after the Thirty Years War, when other German territories started to modernize the economy, the Langraf of Hesse and the Archbishop of Mainz decided to invest mostly in military infrastructure and palatial architecture.
    – ccprog
    Feb 28 at 17:54
  • @ccprog Under the third video, someone wrote "Den gleichen deutschen Dialekt sprechen auch die Banater Schwaben rund um Temeswar."
    – user27384
    Feb 29 at 22:10

1 Answer 1


Yes. The first woman sounds like I know dialect speakers from Westerwald or Mainz to speak. (With some Russian quirks inbetween, but they are rare. Note that in southern Hesse Freunde would sound more like Fraende, with less of an umlaut than can be heard.) At 1:31

Die sinn da all foatgefoore von doat, unsre Freinde, von Sibirien, daneer bin I dann druffen Dorf gfoare...

Die sind dann alle weggegangen, unsere Freunde, von Sibirien, danach bin ich dann in ein Dorf gezogen...

As for the other videos, the dialects differ between all speakers, and all are made up of multiple components. The woman in the third video (Elvira Schwarz) has the southernmost dialect with a lot of words heard in the upper Rhine valey (Freiburg/Basel). But it is not pure allemanic, it is mixed with components from the East that I cannot clearly locate. Most notable are the double negations she uses on some occasions.

[3:13] Unsre Eltern han nimans nix gemache, und unsre Kinder mache nimans nix. Ich bin ach kin Faschist nich.

[4:37] Sechzehn Jahr ha Ich angfange schavfe, weil mein Mutti war allein gebliebet, Vater han sie weggenomme, in die Zwangsarbeit, dr Vatr, noch Swerdlowsk dort naus. Un Muttr is mit drei Kindr zurickgeblieb. Ich un mei Bruadr, vierendreißich, und dr kleine Woldemar von veerzich gebore.

In the fourth video, every speaker is different.

  • The younger women (the one in the black dress, the large group sitting together inside knitting and the one with the blue t-shirt) have almost no discernable German regional accent, but a heavy Russian accent.

  • The man with the orange shirt has some aspects of Palatinate accent, but more through a filter that sounds Yiddish (Silesian?) to me. Again the double negations stand out, together with changes in word order and the -ei umlaut.

    [3:05] Aber das is die Zeit gekommen nicht lange dahier, mir konn hat a paar Worte sang. Mir durt nix, imma schweign...

    [4:50] Siebzehn Jahr hat der abgesotzn...Einer is zurickgekommen hat sei Famile (net gefähr?) gefunde noch. Der wusste gar nich wo mir wahrn. Uns ham sie verschmissn in einanveerzich in gonse Sebrn (Sibirien?).

  • the voice at the burial has, beside the Russian accent, clearly a Bavarian tint ("rolling R"), but seems to make an effort to speak correctly, due to the occasion.

  • The accent of the man with the jacket and the infant on his knees and the old woman with the black headscarf have the most resemblance with the woman of the first video, but you can hear a lot of eastern influence – note the Prussian j sound and the sentences begining with the verb.

    [21:03] Un dann ham sie Schiffe gebracht. Warn die verwunde Leide drauf - vom Krieje. Sind wir immer durchgeshlupft dur dem Zuge und habn uns hingeschafft und wollten gucken nach unsere Freinde haben wir gesucht. Habn viel Leite geleng mit de weiße Decke (?) zujedeckt. Sein kunden wir keine nicht.

  • The group of old women sitting together at the end speak a dialect from southern Palatinate/northern Badenia (Weinstraße or Mannheim).

    [25:20] Da durt ma net furt wa ma wolde. A zu esse wa a nix. Im Kolchos hemmer gschafft. Mei Tochta, des wor a klein Kind, zwoi Mond wars old, ho i a'n Arm genomm, z'r nei gelovva, bissche ma was verkaaft, bissche was Esse gekaaft, das ich weidr levve konnt.

A problem is that several eastern German dialects (from Eastern Prussia, Silesia, Sudeten) have now disappeared. Being expulsed from their homelands, I have heard in my own youth only a handfull of old people speaking those dialects, while their descendants had immersed themselves in western German society and lost their ancestral language. Yiddish was murderously extinguished. I feel very uncertain to identify those components correctly.

  • Isn't "i" more of an Swabian / Bavarian thing?
    – user27384
    Feb 23 at 0:46
  • 2
    If you listen a bit longer, you will find this is the only time where she shortens I(s)ch to I. Yes, it is a bit odd, but explainable by the tendency in Hessia to shorten the last sound of a word (more pronounced the further you go up the Main river) and to slur them with the next word.
    – ccprog
    Feb 23 at 1:01
  • As Hessian singer and comedian Gerd Knebel once described, the main rule of speaking Hessian is "schlabbern lasse": let it flap, never use the muscles in the lower jaw. According to that rule, speaking sch before da would be too much work for the lazy approach to sounds the dialect has.
    – ccprog
    Feb 23 at 1:23
  • Thanks! So you don't detect any Swabian or Bavarian in her speech? (I don't know if you are familiar with those dialects)
    – user27384
    Feb 23 at 3:22
  • 2
    There is no Swabian or Bavarian in her language. It's clearly somewhat on the border of Hessian and northern Palatian. Those dialects might sound somewhat similar to foreigners, to their own native speakers, however, they're definitively different.
    – tofro
    Feb 23 at 7:31

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