The First Bohnstedts in Russia

by Thomas Allen Bohnstedt, California USA
     (the text of this page is my intellectual property. Please do not copy and repost without my written permission)


Map of St. Petersburg, Russia, 1834.  Ludvig Bohnstedt left  Stralsund for St. Petersburg sometime before 1821.  The city must have looked much like this.


The Bohnstedts in the Seaport City of St. Petersburg

It will be useful here, especially for American readers, to understand why such large numbers of Germans came to be in Russia during the last two and one-half centuries. Without going too deep into the turmoil of German history in this section, suffice it to say that the conditions of life for the average man and woman inside Germany, first made intolerable by the devastation of the Thirty Years War, and then exacerbated by the Seven Years War, caused a feeling and desire to "escape" among many German people. It was in this climate that Catherine the Great, Empress of Russia, invited Germans to migrate to Russia.

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Painting by R.M. Lisiewska; Catherine II (Catherine the Great), and Czar Peter III (standing).

Czar Peter I ("Peter the Great") who ruled from 1682 to 1725 believed that bringing foreign settlers from Europe into Russia would vitalize the country. When Catherine II ("Catherine the Great") ascended the Russian Imperial throne in 1762 she continued Peter's efforts, issuing a decree inviting foreign colonists to resettle in Russia. Catherine was herself of German birth and had a special affinity for the German settlers.

Catherine issued another decree in 1763, giving foreign settlers the right to free exercise of religion, and the right to build churches and schools. They were allowed to have their own priests, pastors and teachers. Perhaps the most enticing part of this deal was that the foreign settlers would be free of taxes for thirty years, and were exempt from compulsory military duty for an indefinite period. The intent and purpose of such immigration policies, also being offered by the rulers of other kingdoms such as Hungary, Austria and Prussia, was to bolster the labor forces that had been depleted by so many years of war in Central Europe.

According to Pavel Yegoroff, a descendant of the Bohnstedts in Russia, he was told by older family members that when the Bohnstedts first came to Russia, they were allowed to continue in their own religious practices and remained in the Lutheran Church, apart and distinct from the predominant religion, the Russian Orthodox Church.

In was in this climate, welcoming to German immigrants and foreigners of German ancestry, that Ludvig Bohnstedt relocated to St. Petersburg, Russia.


Ludvig Bohnstedt

There was nearly twenty years difference between Carl Fredrik Bohnstedt (the progenitor of the Swedish Bohnstedt line) and his younger half-brother, Ludvig Bohnstedt. Therefore it is not unexpected that it was nearly twenty years after Carl Fredrik had moved to Stockholm that Carl's younger half-brother Ludvig moved to St. Petersburg.

Ludvig was a trader and businessman. This might be the 1800's equivalent of a modern-day stock trader or investor. Ludvig was married to Wilhelmina von Marc. The Marc / von Marc family played an important role in this generation of the Bohnstedt family and the next, for Ludvig's second son, Edvard, also married into the von Marc Family.


The von Marc Family

Wilhelmina von Marc, the wife of Ludvig Bohnstedt, was the daughter of Phillip von Marc, who was a consul-general in Bamberg, Germany. Edvard Bohnstedt, Ludvig's son, married Franziska von Marc who was the daughter of Moritz Marc, a government official in Germany, and Baroness Pauline Felkhoven. Moritz von Marc was himself also a son of Philipp and Franziska von Marc, thus Edvard Bohnstedt and Franziska von Marc were first cousins. Marriage between first cousins within the aristocracy and upper classes was not unheard of, and a similar incident occurred in the Bohnstedt family in Pomerania. This was done mainly as a means of keeping wealth and power within the same family.

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1. The connections between the Bohnstedt family and the Marc / von Marc family
2. Franz Marc

According to Anita Weise, her father, Rudolf Maximilian Bohnstedt, had said that he was a cousin of Franz Marc, a German impressionistic artist, and his brother Paul. She also said that Paul Marc and his wife, Helene were good friends with her parents. According to Rudolf, he and Franz had the same ancestor on the Marc side, either grandfather or great-grandfather.

We know that Rudolf's grandmother, Franziska von Marc was born in 1835. We also know that Franz Marc's father, Wilhelm Marc (also a gifted painter) was born in 1839. It stands to reason therefore that Wilhelm was probably Franziska's younger brother, born four years apart. This also means that Franz Marc's grandfather, Moritz von Marc was the great-grandfather of Rudolf Bohnstedt. The fact that Franz Marc's full name was Franz Moritz Wilhelm Marc may also give some indication of his ancestry; his father, Wilhelm, and his grandfather, Moritz.

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1. Franz Marc, the Complete Works, Volume 1: The Oil Paintings, by Annegret Hoberg and Isabelle Jansen, mentions the Bohnstedt family in St. Petersburg and Moscow, and their relationship to artist Franz Marc

2. From Franz Marc, the Complete Works; 'Der Hund 'Schlick' in zwei Stellungen' (The Dog 'Schlick' in two positions), painted by Franz Marc in 1904. Schlick may have been a family pet. The entry for this work gives it's current position as "unknown", and it's Provenance (last known ownership) as "Formerly M. Bohnstedt, St. Petersburg"

The conclusions reached above were borne out by Franz Marc, the Complete Works, Volume 1: The Oil Paintings, published in 2004, and makes mention of the Bohnstedt Family and their relationship to Franz Marc. This book says of Franz Marc's father, Wilhelm;

Wilhelm Marc met his future wife on one of his visits to his cousin and brother-in-law Eduard Bohnstedt in St. Petersburg where Sophie Maurice was employed as a governess.

In discussing the whereabouts of some of Franz Marc's painting the book again mentions the Bohnstedt family:

In addition, there are a number of paintings formerly in private hands whose whereabouts were unknown to Lankheit, or even to Schardt. Once again, these were mainly early paintings of the period up to 1909 / 10, some of them photographically undocumented, including four works which belonged to the Bohnstedt family from Moscow and St. Petersburg who were related to Franz Marc on his father's side.

Two of the Bohnstedts said to have possessed some of these works were "M. Bohnstedt, St. Petersburg", and "W. Bohnstedt, Moskau" (Moskva / Moscow). M. Bohnstedt and W. Bohnstedt were most likely Maximilian Bohnstedt of St. Petersburg, and Maximilian's brother Vilhelm (Wilhelm) Eduardovitch Bohnstedt who relocated to Moscow.

Franz Marc was a friend of Vasili Kadinski, August Macke and other expressionistic artists of his time. During the First World War Franz volunteered for German military service and was killed in action 1916 near Verdun, France, at the age of 36.

Ludvig and Wilhelmina had only two children that are known of; both sons. The eldest, Ludvig Franz Karl Bohnstedt was born in 1822 in St. Petersburg, Russia. He became renowned as an architect throughout Europe, and although he later relocated to Germany with his family, he is still widely known as a Russian Architect. His story is told in Architect and Artist, Ludvig Franz Karl Bohnstedt.

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Ludvig Franz Karl Bohnstedt, from Architektur im 19.Jahrhundert / Ludvig Bohnstedt, Leben und Werk, opposite the title page

The younger of the two boys, Edvard Ludvig Bohnstedt, was born in 1829 according to the Ny Svensk Släktbok, also in St. Petersburg. It is from this man, Edvard, that the Bohnstedt line in Russia descended. The story of this family line is told in The Bohnstedt Line in Russia and The Descendants of Edvard Louis Bohnstedt....


Book References:
- Hoberg, Annegret and Jansen, Isabelle. Franz Marc, the Complete Works, Volume 1: The Oil Paintings. London, Philip Wilson Publishers. 2004 (ISBN 0856675830)

See Also:
1-13 /
Architect and Artist, Ludvig Franz Karl Bohnstedt
1-15 /
The Bohnstedt Line in Russia and The Descendants of Edvard Ludvig Bohnstedt
1-40 /
Genealogy 1-4: Russia
5-4 /
Appendix D: Ny Svensk Släktbok


Geography (Google Maps):
Moscow (Moskva), Russia
Stockholm, Sweden
St. Petersburg, Russia


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