Heinz Majer describes the difference between German hamlets, villages, towns, and cities:
In German "Stadt" (town, city) means a place that had a large number of inhabitants, density/closed-up buildings, division of labor (cf. the town guilds), and was a centre for the area (cf. the Oberamtstadt). "Städte" have existed for centuries in Germany, Europe, etc. The building/con- struction/structure of a Stadt often was determined by the consideration of (good) possibilities of defense, and location/situation near important roads or rivers, which were needed by such a trading centre for the transportation of goods.
You will almost immediately realize whether a place is an old Stadt or not when you see the "Altstadt", which is the old part of a Stadt. It is an old town centre with a "Stadtmauer" (Mauer = wall) that served as a means of defense. Best examples of this are the still preserved old town/city scapes of the small medieval towns of Rothenburg ob der Tauber, or Dinkelbühl; both in Bavaria.
A Stadt received a medieval "Stadtrecht" (town charter) and usually belonged to a "Stadtrechtsfamilie", which means it had received the charter, together with many other Städte, from a "superior" Stadt (city) like Freiburg im Breisgau (Baden), or many east German or European Städte who received it from Magdeburg. Magdeburg was the most important "German" Stadt that awarded the Stadtrecht not only to Städte e.g. in Saxony, Silesia, Brandenburg, but also in Poland, Lithuania, Hungary, and even in Russia.
There also were the "Reichsstädte", the Imperial Cities that existed until about 1800. The were also called "Freie" Reichsstädte, because they were "free" in that they did not depend on the local ruler, like the count or duke, but were directly responsable to the Emperor of the Holy Roman Empire. Examples of these were Hall (today Schwäbisch Hall), or Esslingen, both in the Baden-Württemberg area.
Today, a Stadt is one of the old places like the above, or it is a place that only recently received the Stadtrecht from the Baden-Württemberg government/administration. On application it is usually given to a former place that had no town charter. Such a place is supposed to have a certain number of inhabitants (at least 20,000/25,000) and should have a good infrastructure, e.g. with all types of schools, not only elementary schools, but also secondary schools, old peoples' homes, etc. The intent of the Baden-Württemberg reform of the municipalities was to create larger units by forming a new place (lower costs of administration, etc.). A good example for this is the "Stadt" Freiberg am Neckar (new name), which is an amalgamation of the old "Dörfer" (villages) of Beihingen, Geisingen, and Heutingsheim.
Finally, I can now be brief. A "Dorf", a "village", was a place that was not a "Stadt" but nevertheless had its own local government, a church, a school, etc. Such a former village is now called "Gemeinde" (municipality).
A "Weiler", a "hamlet", was just a very small village, often with only a couple of houses, which had no local administration and, most important, it had NO CHURCH! It was administered by the village it belonged to. There are many place names that end in "-weiler", e.g. Badenweiler, Poppenweiler, Hertmannsweiler, etc. It is typically a second part of a Swabian place name generally meaning "settlement". In Alsace (France) one has this as "-willer", e.g. places called Bouxwiller. When Alsace was German these were called Buchsweiler. The origin of Weiler (pronounced like viler in English): Latin "villa", meaning "farm/estate in the country". It is supposed to be cognate to Latin "vicus", meaning "farm, group of houses, hamlet, village" (German has vicus in Weichbild), comparable to medieval Latin "villare" or "Weiler".
"The rest is silence." (Hamlet)
More extensive lists of South Russian towns can be found at:
A full alphabetical surname listings of the Catholic Beresan colonies (
Franzfeld, Josephstal, Katharinental, Karlsruhe, Kleinliebental, Landau, Marienthal, München, Rastadt, Speier, Sulz) is published by the Odessa Digital Library:
References: 1) "The Emigration from Germany to Russia in the years 1763 to 1862" by Karl Stumpp; 2) "The German Colonies In South Russia, 1804 - 1904", by Rev. Conrad Keller
Beresan District, South Russia Repressions (1930's Communist "Russification" and Extermination). Surnames include: ACKERMANN, ADLER, ALGAER, AMAN, AMMAN, AMON, ASCHENBRENNER, ASPENLEITER, ASPERGER, AUCH, BACHMANN, BAER, BAJDUSH, BANGERT, BARBUS, BARTH, BARTSCH, BAST, BATTMANN, BAUDER, BAUER, BAUMANN, BAUMGAERTNER, BE, BECHLER, BECK, BECKER, BECKWINOL, BELIDER, BELISTER, BELOIVANENKO, BEMERT, BENDER, BENTZ, BERGER, BERNHARDT, BESH, BIEGLER, BIER, BITTERMANN, BITZ, BLECH, BLYUM, BOCK, BOCKENMAIER, BOLENDER, BRITTNER, BROECKEL, BUEHLER, BUSCHOLL, BUSHON, BUSHTALER, CHOLD, CHULET, DANK, DAUENHAUER, DAUM, DECK, DEEG, DEIBELE, DEUTSCH DEINES, DELSTER, DENIUS, DICKHAUT, DIDENKO, DIEDE, DIETRICH, DIETZ, DILLMANN, DORMAEV, DORN, DUKART, EBEL, EBENAL, EBERLE, EBERTS, ECKERT, EDINGER, EGER, EHLI, EHRET, EHRMANTRAUT, EISENBEIS, ELFIMOVA, ENGEL, ERHARDT, ESSINGER, ESTERLEIN, FACT, FALKENBERG, FEHR, FETT, FILIN, FISCHER, FITTERER, FITZ, FIX, FLEIHMANN, FLEIJTER, FLINK, FOERDERER, FRANK, FREIZ, FRIEDT, FRITZ, FROEHLICH, FUCHS, FUHRMAN, FUNK, FURSMAN, GAAB, GAERTNER, GAISER, GALL, GARRECHT, GAUGEL, GECKEL, GEIS, GEISE, GEMAR, GEN, GENULE, GENUMAN, GERANTYEV, GERHARDT, GERMAN, GEUFRID, GEWISS, GIBNER, GIECK, GIESINGER, GILDER, GISI, GLEKLER, GLUECK, GRIEBELE, GROSS, GRYUNKE, GUGGENHEIMER, GUN, GUSTIN, HAAF, HABERSTROH, HARTMAN, HATZENBUEHLER, HAUCK, HAUGER, HECKENLEIBLE, HECKER, HEFNER, HEID, HEINLE, HEINRICH, HEISER, HELLMANN, HERBOLT, HERDT, HERTLE, HERTZ, HERTZEL, HILD, HILDEBRAND, HILFER, HILZ, HOCHHALTER, HOERDT, HOERNER, HOERTH, HOFMANN, HOPFAUF, HUBER, ILLI, IMEL, IWICH, JAEGAR, JAHNER, JANZER, JOBE, JOCHIM, JONAS, JORDAN, JUNKDT, KAIERLEBER, KAISER, KANTZ, KAPPLER, KELLER, KELLERMAN, KESSELL, KIEFEL, KIRG, KLEIN, KLEMMER, KLETTKE, KLOSSEN, KLOTZ, KLUNDT, KNITTEL, KNOELL, KOCH, KOEPPLIN, KOERNER, KOFFLER, KOLLE, KOPP, KORENBLYUM, KOVNE, KOWIS, KRAFT, KRANK, KRAUSE, KRIEGER, KRUPA, KRUSSER, KUECHLE, KUHN, KUPPER, KURZ, KVENSTER, LABUN, LAKKE, LAMPA, LANDEIS, LANTZ, LERNER, LEVI, LINDENMANN, LINKOR, LIPP, LITKE, LORENTZ, LUTZ, MAAS, MAI, MAIER, MAIZLINGER, MAKELKE, MANN, MARIS, MARSAL, MARTIN, MASSER, MATERI, MATZ, MAUCH, MAZER, MECKLER, MEIN, MEISNER, MEITZEL, MEISNER, MERDIAN, MERKLINGER, MESSER, MEYER, MOOS, MORTENS, MOSER, MUELLER, MYCHAILENKO, NATHAN, NIKOLAUS, NUSS, NUTZ, OCHS, OCHSNER, OHLHAEUSER, OSWALD, PAUL, PEITER, PERLENFEIN, PFAFF, PFALTZKRAFT, PFEIFER, PHILIPS, PUDVILL, RAICHERT, RAINCHERT, RAUCH REDINGER, REDLER, REICH, REICHERT, REINHARDT, REMBOLD, RENGARDT, RENNER, RESCH, RIEDINGER, RIM, RISLING, RITTE, ROAT, ROGLER, ROTH, RUFF, RUNG, SAILER, SAUTER, SAYLER, SCHAAF, SCHAEFER, SCHALKOWSKI, SCHATZ, SCHECK, SCHEFF, SCHEFFER, SCHEIDT, SCHELL, SCHERER, SCHERGER, SCHERR, SCHILLER, SCHLOSSER, SCHLUETER, SCHMALZ, SCHMIDT, SCHMIERER, SCHNEIDER, SCHOCK, SCHOENFELD, SCHORTZMANN, SCHPECHT, SCHUELER, SCHUH, SCHURR, SCHWAB, SCHWAIGERT, SCHWENK, SEELINGER, SEIFERT, SENN, SHAB, SHILEF, SCHIMPF, SHIRMEISTER, SIELER, SOILER, SPEYN, SREMLING, STEBNER, STEIF, STEIN, STICKA, STIER, STOLLER, STRASSER, STROH, THOME, TILLMANN, TRAUTMANN, TROST, UNZER, VEITENHEIMER, VETIMELLER, VOGEL, VOGT, VOLGENGUD, VOLTAIRE, WALISER, WANNER, WEBER, WEHL, WEIKUM, WEISGERBER, WELDE, WENTZ, WERNER, WETSCH, WETZEL, WETZSTEIN, WIEDEMANN, WIEST, WILD, WILDERMUTH, WILHELM, WILL, WIRTZ, WITTMER, WOLBAUM, WOLF, YANZEV, ZACHER, ZELENSKY, ZENTNER, ZICKERMANN, ZIEBARTH, ZIEGEL, and ZIMBELMANN,
Roland Wagner wrote: "One of the most maddening things about some of the old accounts of village origns is that they were so unspecific about location. We find statements like "Russia," "Odessa," "Nikolaiev" (or in a couple cases in my family, "Nikolae"), which probably meant "in the region of...." Then when you check the ship records, it may be very specific (if you're lucky). My impression is that the old-timers were very specific with each other, usually mentioning a specific village, but when they spoke with people who weren't born in Russia they often shifted to vague generalities. In my family they labeled people as "Rastadter," "Karlsruher," "Muenchener," but to outsiders they just came from "Russia."
Listed below is Roland Wagner's attempt to sort out the maze of adminstrative terminology during the Tsarist and Soviet eras. Any corrections and elaborations would be appreciated (Wagnerd@@esuhsd.org).Czarist Administrative Terminology:
Guberniia province; administrative unit above the uezd level. Equivalent to the oblast during the Soviet era.
Uezd District or county; smallest administrative unit in czarist Russia. The chief administrative town of the uezd was known as the uezdny gorod, roughly equivalent to "county seat" in the USA. Equivalent to the raion during the Soviet era.
Zemstvo (pl. zemstva) Elected assemblies at the guberniia and uezd level. A district, self-governing institution with jurisdiction over schools, public health, food supply, roads, insurance, relief for the poor, maintenance of prisons, and other local concerns. It was created in 1864 as a broader organ of local government, incorporating all classes and ethnic groups, including the nobility. Existed from 1864 until the Bolshevik Revolution in 1917.
Volost An organ of peasant self-government in the post-emancipation period. The peasantry were organized into administrative units known as volost, governed by locally elected representatives who were independent of the nobility. The volost functioned strictly at the local level.
Union republic One of the fifteen primary administrative subdivisions of the Soviet Union. Except for some of the smaller ones, the union republics were divided into oblasts, autonomous oblasts, kraia, and autonomous republics as major subdivisions. Also known as Soviet Socialist Republic (SSR).
Autonomous republic (autonomous soviet socialist republic--ASSR) A territorial and administrative subdivision of some union republics, created to grant a degree of administrative autonomy to some major minority groups. Directly subordinate to its union republic. In 1989 the Soviet Union had twenty autonomous republics, sixteen of which were in the Russian Republic.
Krai (pl., kraia) A large territorial and administrative subdivision found only in the Russian Republic, where there are six, all of which are thinly populated. The boundaries of a krai are laid out primarily for ease of administration but may also contain lesser political subdivisions based on nationality groups--autonomous oblast, or autonomous okrug, or both. Directly subordinate to its union republic. The term "krai" means "edge, border," with the connotation of a frontier, a region on the edge of Russian lands - e.g., the "Far East Krai." A krai usually has many ethnic minorities.
Autonomous oblast A territorial and administrative subdivision of a union republic or of a krai in the Russian Republic, created to grant a degree of autonomy to a national minority within that krai or union republic. In 1989 the Soviet Union had eight autonomous oblasts, five of which were in the Russian Republic.
Oblast (pl., oblasts) A territorial and administrative subdivision in ten of the fifteen union republics. Directly subordinate to its union republic. Equivalent to the gubernia in czarist times. Gubernia was replaced by oblast or kary in 1929.
Autonomous okrug (pl., okruga) A territorial and administrative subdivision of a krai or oblast in the Russian Republic that granted a degree of administrative autonomy to a nationality; usually found in large, remote areas of sparse population. In 1989 the Soviet Union had ten autonomous okruga, all of which were in the Russian Republic.
Raion/Rayon (pl., raiony) A low-level territorial and administrative subdivision for rural and municipal administration. A rural raion was a county-sized district in a krai, oblast, autonomous republic, autonomous okrug, or union republic. A city raion was similar to a borough in some large cities in the United States.
Major source: http://www.fas.org/irp/world/russia/su_gloss.html, by John Pike
The 1990 National Geographic Magazine map states, "The Union of Soviet Socialist Republics consists of 15 republics, each colored separately on the map. Ten of these are subdivided into Oblasts [Regions], Krays [Territories], Autonomous Soviet Socialist Republics, or autonomous Oblasts. In the largest republic - the Russian Soviet Federative Socialist Republic - some of the Oblasts and Krays are further subdivided into Autonomous Oblasts and Autonomous Okrugs [Districts]. Where space on the map does not permit naming of the administrative units, numbers from (an attached list) are used".