Alexandrovka: A Russian island in Prussia

Alexandrovka: A Russian island in Prussia

Imitation of an "Izba"

The houses were constructed by a Prussian architect under Peter Joseph Lenné, the director general of the Royal Prussian palaces, in the style of traditional German timbered houses. Only the cladding was done in Russian style in an attempt to imitate a so-called "Izba", a traditional Russian wooden house.

Alexandrovka: A Russian island in Prussia

How the tiny version of Russia was planned

A total of 14 such houses, a church and a church house were built in 1826-27. In line with a meticulously organized plan, the homesteads were erected on two cross streets. Streets in real Russian villages never looked so orderly. But in the Prussian context, the order was quite appealing. Each grange was given a plot of land where people could plant fruit trees and vegetables.

Alexandrovka: A Russian island in Prussia

The social ranking order was observed

The biggest house at the crossing of the two streets was reserved for the village elder. Prussian King Frederick William III, who had a keen interest in Russian art and architecture, ordered designs with ornaments and motives of Russian wooden architecture from Saint Petersburg (later Leningrad), to make sure the buildings would be constructed in the proper style.

Alexandrovka: A Russian island in Prussia

A private museum offers a retrospective

Nowadays, the building houses a small private museum. It was initiated by Hermann Krämer, a doctor from Westphalia, who was a big fan of Alexandrovka. The small exhibition attempts to reconstruct the way of life of the first colonists.

Alexandrovka: A Russian island in Prussia

A church honoring a hero

What would be a village without a church? This church in Alexandrovka was inaugurated in 1829 and devoted to St. Alexander Yaroslavich Nevsky, who served as Prince of Novgorod in medieval times. Interestingly, he was beatified by the Catholic Church after having defeated the Teutonic Order in 1242.

Alexandrovka: A Russian island in Prussia

Outstandingly beautiful homes

Most of these homes have come into private ownership after German reunification. They are seen as very special buildings in a booming region with mostly modern homes. Alexandrovka is part of Potsdam's celebrated cultural region that has been declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Alexandrovka: A Russian island in Prussia

A commonly shared fruit garden

The fruit garden that was created with the construction of the colony was owned by the Prussian king. However, the colonists were allowed to keep a part of the harvest for themselves, or to sell it.

Alexandrovka: A Russian island in Prussia

Alexandrovka without Russians

Alexander Jablokov (honored in the pictured plaque) was one of the twelve singer soldiers that inspired Alexandrovka. His son Nicolaj also lived in the village. The last Russian singer soldier died in 1861. During the Weimar Republic, only four families with Russian roots still lived in Alexandrovka. The last descendant of the Russian colonists died in 2008.

Alexandrovka: A Russian island in Prussia

"A little window towards Russia"

And yet, Alexandrovka has remained an appealing monument that documents a part of history that was shared by Prussia and Russia. It's a connection that is not limited to architecture, but has remained in the collective memory of both Germans and Russians.

A "Russendorf", or Russian village, that once belonged to the former Prussian Empire can still be found in Potsdam. The small colony was intended to soothe the homesickness of Russian singer soldiers.