1917: German-Russians Between the First Congress
in Moscow and the October Revolution
1917: Russlanddeutsche Zwischen dem 1. Kongress in Moskau
und der Oktoberrevolution
Schein, Nina. "1917: German-Russian Between the First Congress in Moscow and the October Revolution." Volk auf dem Weg, April 2007, 46.
This translation from the original German text to American
English is provided by Alex Herzog, Boulder, Colorado
The German-Russians welcomed the February Revolution
of 1917 and hoped that the Provisional Government, among other things,
repeal the liquidation laws (enacted in 1915, which had as its goal
the liquidation of land ownership by the Germans) that had expanded
to the whole Empire and, thus, to the Volga-Germans and Siberia-Germans
|Viktor Roemmich, b. in
1934 in Worms in the Odessa area, sent us this photo, which
was taken in 1929 at the collective farm "Red Front"and
shows, among others, his father and two uncles. Some readers
will certainly be pleased to find a relative or acquaintance
in this picture.
Between April 20 and 22, 1917, the First Congress of German-Russians
was held in Moscow. Eighty-six representatives from nearly all of
the largest German settlement regions (15 Gouvernements) attended,
among them delegates from the Volga region and Ukraine, from Crimea,
from Volhynia and the Trans-Caucasus, as well as from the German
urban centers of Moscow and Petersburg.
"For the first time in their history, all the leaders of [this
country's] Germans, of all of Russia, were assembled here for a
conference" wrote Pastor Johannes Schleunig, who was one of
the delegates and wrote down his impressions in the book "Mein
Leben hat ein Ziel [My Life has a Goal]." All tiers of the
German population were represented, from entrepreneurs to intellectuals
to churchmen (Catholics, Lutherans and Mennonites). The Congress
was officially opened by Dr. Karl Lindemann (1847 - 1928), professor
at the Moscow Agricultural Academy, noted scientist and foremost
representative of German-Russian interests. He was engaged politically
and was esteemed as a competent agrarian expert, under the Tsarist
regime and during Soviet times.
The Congress charged a committee of German delegates to the Duma,
led by Karl Lindemann, to represent to the government the interests
of all German-Russians. The conference demanded the repeal of the
liquidation laws and defended the right to private land ownership.
Only feudal estates and cloister properties should be dispossessed,
and divided among those farmers who have little or no land. German
should once again be the official language and the language of instruction
(an edict of August 18, 1914, had banned the speaking of German
in public). As further tasks, the merging of all of German-Russians
into a nationwide organization, the economic reconstruction of individual
settlement areas, and the political contributions by Germans under
a variety of new conditions were also discussed.
Earlier, after the expansion of the liquidation laws to the entire
Empire, the Volga-Germans in Saratov had formed a committee which
protested against the planned dispossessions and, by the end of
March, was reorganized into a "Temporary German Committee"
under the chairmanship of the entrepreneur Friedrich Schmidt. This
group demanded that the Provisional Government repeal the liquidation
laws, it encouraged the population to support the new government
and asked them to put their trust in the Constituent Assembly. Immediately
following the Moscow Congress the Temporary German Committee invoked
a conference for April 25 - 27, to be attended by 364 delegates
entitled to vote. The Congress established a "Central Committee
of Volga-Germans" and agreed on the following basic declaration:
The Volga-Germans "support the Provisional Government, if and
for as long as it maintains given and promised freedoms..."
The assembly demanded the right to use the German language in administrative
matters and in the schools, and it charged the Central committee
to mediate between general administrations in the colonies, also
to establish a "Republican Colonist Party" and to prepare
On May 12, 1917 the Lindemann group founded the Moscow "Association
of Russian Citizens of German Nationality" and elected a two-member
organizational commission. For the mid-September timeframe Lindemann
called for a "Second Congress of Russian Citizens of German
Naitonality" in Moscow, which was attended by 50 delegates,
who decided to support only German candidates during elections for
the Constituent Assembly.
The events of the October revolution, however, would soon throw
most of these visions, initiatives and plans of activists between
the two Russian revolutions completely overboard. At the time, no
one could imagine the brutal extent the systematic destruction of
the German-Russians ethnic group would assume within only a few
Sources: - Gerd Stricker, Deutsche Geschichte im Osten Europas,
Russland [German History in the European East and Russia] (pp. 135
- 136); - Robert Korn, Kalender 2007. Die Deutschen in Russland
im schicksalhaften Jahr 1917 [The Germans in Russia during the Fateful
Year of 1917]; - Brochure of the Landsmannschaft der Deutschen aus
Russland entitled "Deutsche aus Russland gestern und heute
[Germans from Russia, Yesterday and Today]" (2006).
Our appreciation is extended to Alex Herzog for translation
of this article.