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OUR HISTORY

In 1763, Russian-German immigrants from the Volga region moved to the St. Petersburg suburbs. There, they founded a colony and named it after a city on the Volga, Saratov (Novosaratovka means "new, little Saratov.") Already by 1766 the colonists had built a wooden church for their Lutheran services. That building was built on the site where the Seminary's main building now stands. The church was named St. Catherine's, insofar as it was the time of the Catherine the Great's rule, and she gave a large offering that helped to build the church. In the 19th century the colonists erected a new, stone structure. The cornerstone was laid on September 24, 1833, 165 years to the day before the dedication of our seminary. Two years later, December 8, 1835, the newly constructed church building of St. Catherine's was dedicated. The cemetery located next to the Seminary at one time belonged to St. Catherine's. Today, it is still possible to see a few German names on headstones there, including Otto German von Stalio who served as pastor in Novosaratovka from 1868 to 1875. At the beginning of the 20th century, about 1100 people lived in Novosaratovka; for the most part, they were ethnic Germans. After the 1917 revolution, and especially in the 1930's and early 40's, Novosaratovka went through a hard time - people were arrested and thrown into prison without explanation; many were shot. On September 21, 1935, almost a century after the dedication of the church and 63 years before the establishment of the Seminary, the Soviet powers closed the church. After the closure of St. Catherine's the congregation's last pastor, Bruno Reichert, continued to care for the congregation for two years. His father, Pastor Paul Reichert, who served from 1922 to 1932 in Novosaratovka and who was at the time serving at St. Peter's Church in St. Petersburg, died a martyr's death. In 1941, the final ethnic German residences of Novosaratovka were deported to Siberia, Kazakhstan and Central Asia. Only a few were lucky enough to survive. During this same period, for a short time a seminary for preachers (the same one that Pastor Bruno Reichert attended) worked in Leningrad and the Leningrad region. This seminary was opened on September 15, 1925. The idea of the foundation of such a seminary came from Bishop Alexander Theophil Meyer, and this idea was later made a reality by Bishop Arthur Malmgren. Studies there lasted three years. At the end of the 20's the Seminary had to end its work in Leningrad and by the middle of the 30's the seminary was completely shut down. Our Seminary continues the tradition of these heroic efforts to provide theological education in a time of persecution. During World War II, the bell tower of the church was removed insofar as government authorities felt that it could serve as an orientation point for German airplanes. After the War the church was renovated and made into a school. At the same time, the building was lengthened on the east end. This addition is quite noticeable, since the addition lacks the rounded, windows on the first-floor that characterize the earlier section of the building. In 1987 the school was closed. For some time a driving school occupied the building. When the Evangelical Lutheran Church received the building in 1994, it was in terrible shape. One can recognize the old, classical church construction thanks to the classical columns near the western entrance, the narthex in front of the chapel and the building's arched windows. After a long period of reconstruction the former St. Catherine's church building began to serve as a place of preparation for pastors for the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Russia, the Ukraine, Kazakhstan and Central Asia. The chapel, located on the first floor, is named after the former church. On May 1st, 1997, the first classes were held in the building of the Theological Seminary, and on September 26, 1998, the building was dedicated.