Russian Connection

Rudolf Hauri of Zofingen wrote an article in 1961 claiming that the Hauris are descendants of Hovri, a Russian merchant who settled in Switzerland in the 13th century (Rudolf Hauri, “Die Familie Hauri”, Zofinger Neujahrsblatt 1961, pp. 94-105):

“Zur Zeit der grossen Völkrwanderung im 13. Jahrhundert kamen auch Kaufleute mit Namen Hovri in unsere Gegend. Diese Leute stammten aus Russland. Es war ein strammer, arbeitsamer Volksschlag (J. Meier, Reinach).”

[During the great folk migrations of the 13th century merchants with the name Hovri came into our region. These people originated from Russia. They were a sturdy, industrious people (J. Meier, Reinach).]

The citation is to J. Meier, of Reinach, Etwelches über den Name Hauri. I have not been able to trace this source.

Historians agree that there was no known settlement by Russians in 13th century Switzerland. Apparently, this story draws on a local legend that the river Reuss takes its name from a settlement of Russians. Similarly, canton Schwyz in legend is said to take its name from a settlement of Swedes.

Later in the same article Rudolf Hauri says:

“Über die erste Ansiedlung gibt des Stifstarchiv Beromünster Auskunft. Am 17. Februar 1313 taucht der Name Houri erstmals in Beromünster auf. Die Familie war angeblich russisch-katholisch.”

[The Stifstarchiv of Beromünster gives information about the first settlement there. On 17 February 1313 the name Houri appears for the first time in Beromünster. The family was allegedly Russian Catholic.]

I read this to mean that the early Hauris were supposedly Russian Old Catholics (starokatoliki) rather than Russian Orthodox. Therefore, there would have been no conflict with them becoming parishioners, officials, priests and canons at the church of Beromünster. However, if Rudolf Hauri meant to imply there is some documentary evidence that they were Russian Catholics, he was surely mistaken.

Dr. P. R. Máthé of the Staatsarchiv des Kantons Aargau comments that a Russian settlement in Switzerland in the 13th century “must be a very hard misunderstanding.” (Personal Communication, 10 July 1990)

The misunderstanding comes into focus when we know there was a medieval legend the Reuss River in Switzerland took its name from a settlement of Russian merchants. Rudolf Hauri was following what he thought was good scholarship. I’m surprised the Staatsarchiv was not able to make the connection.

Alternatively, one history of Reinach says that the Hauri or Hovry family came from the Balkan states in the 10th century and settled at Sursee (H. Hauri, 1997). I find occasional mentions of a Balkan family surnamed Hovry or Hovri. Someone seems to have speculated about a connection.

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