Russia of the 18th – 19th centuries faced a crucial challenge of sparsely populated suburbs consolidation through their economic development. Acute shortage of work force to be involved for transformation of Novorossiya, the steppes of the North Caucasus and the Middle Volga region, Siberia and some other regions into the centers of commodity agriculture and industrial production, forced the authorities to turn to the use of European experience and place a bet on foreign colonization. Central Europe, devastated by the Seven-Year War, brought to life tens of thousands of potential colonists, who answered the call of Empress Catherine the Great to move to the unoccupied lands of the Russian Empire. Since 1765, the first colonies (Novo-Saratovka, Srednaya Rogatka, Yamburg and Izhora colonies) were formed near St. Petersburg. Investigation of the history of these settlements in the imperial period is extremely poor in modern historiography. The article examines the initial period of their existence (1765 – 1800s). It took about 30 years for German colonists to adapt to new living conditions. Some colonies (Srednaya Rogatka) became centers of commodity production of agricultural products (potatoes, etc.), sold in the capital-city market, at the beginning of the 19th century already. Experiments on the advanced multi-field system implementation, initiated by Semyon Dzhunkovsky, opened the way to increase productivity and income of the colonists. The new crop rotation system spurted into popularity not only in the colonies, but in the neighboring settlements of Russian peasants as well. The article is intended for specialists engaged in the study of agrarian development, ethnic minorities of Russia in the imperial period.
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