Before the Emigration Um Deutsche zu Bleiben (Whether to Remain German)
Issakow, Konstantin. "Before the Emigration Um Deutsch zu Bleiben (Whether to Remain German)." Volk auf dem Weg, 1991.
Translation from German to English by Alma M. Herman
Degradation and tooting during the departure from USSR
The Soviet authorities were always inclined to characterize emigration
of the Germans as flight for economic reasons so as not to designate
it as political protest. It is possible that there may be a kernel
of truth in that. The Germans themselves with clear consciences
confirm this by repeating to inspectors in OWIR (passport and visa
bureaus) and to journalists, studied theories about reuniting families
and searching for material wealth.
But behind the standard clarification hide still other reasons.
Most important is the fact that, in spite of their law abidance,
they could never resign themselves to the forced post war resettlement
in Siberia, Kasachstan and Middle Asia. They constantly persist
in waiting for a return to their pre-war homeland. The older people,
in general, have sometimes forgotten the destruction of their Volga
Republic, the labor armies and the forced emigration. The young
people have not forgotten being denied career training. They were
refused jobs and were not accepted in the high schools. And equally
degrading in the land of the Soviets was the need, for security
reasons, to conceal their nationality behind Russian or Ukrainian
names. In the last years of Perestroika the Germans have not let
it be felt that they could live equally among equals. The state
put forth no effort to abolish mass emigration.
The 77-year old Albert Krieger, in his excitement, could say nothing
about the situation. He wiped his eyes with a kerchief; saying,
"Thanks be to God that we have managed to emigrate. Why? In
order to flee from this, our “good” life. His 72-year
old wife, Martha Bierbacy: "All our lives we have dreamed that
tomorrow will be better-than today. We wanted to bear the disappointments
and degradation for the sake of truth and justice, but that has
led to nothing good."
Ludmilla Fischer, 35 years old, history teacher: "I tear at
the will of the children. In Germany they can learn the German language
and culture. All that is not possible to achieve through a single
theatre night and three newspapers."
Jakob Fischer, 35 years old: "I have dedicated many years
to the German movement. I depart in despair. During the nine years
of my work in the theatre I have traveled in nearly all areas inhabited
by Soviet Germans. Villages where we gave performances are forsaken.
The self-consciousness created by the theatre contributed to the
awareness of being German and the desire to emigrate to Germany.
The long years of disappointment could have been compensated for
through reestablishment of the Republic. But it didn't happen. There
is no justice; no trust in tomorrow."
In 1990, 146,000 Soviet Germans moved to the Federal Republic of
Germany. The applications for departure from Russia that have so
far been announced are judged to total one million. But emigration
itself represents a chain of degradation, derision, deprivation
and being robbed.
From the narration by Jakob Fischer: "In order to obtain a
traveling passport from OWIR, at least 1,000 rubles must be paid.
Since German families are large, at least 5,000 to 6,000 rubles
has to be paid in Schmierggeldern (hush money). Tariff is the same
for all emigrants -Greeks, Jews and Urguren (Hungarians). It is
not dependent on travel time. Sometimes the OWIR employees choose
to take more money from one or another family by doubling the tariff
charge. My brothers waited three months for their passports and
each paid 4500 rubles. Yet when the passports were ready, they were
asked to pay additional costs.
Large amounts of schmiergelder (bribe money) had to be paid in
order to send crated goods by railroad. Nailing a chest cost 400
rubles, according to the official price list and twice as much for
There was much deceit in money changing. For 900 rubles about 250
DM (German marks) are paid. Lack of understanding by the emigrants,
mainly farmers, was often taken advantage of by the money changers
who gave out 40 DM (German mark) instead of 250.
Dishonest tricks were practiced also in the sale of private property.
Houses inhabited by Germans were in great demand. They had been
kept solid and clean. But by an unwritten law, the Germans in Kirgisian
could sell only to Kirgisians. Those in Tadshikistan only to Tadshikistans.
My brothers lived in the district of Tschimkent and wanted to sell
the houses of Russians, Koseaners or Usbeken, but the village was
located in Kasachen territory, so it was bought by Kosachen. The
house, evaluated at 35,000 to 40,000 rubles, had by force to be
offered for 5,000 to 7,000 rubles. When my sister sold her house,
hand-to-hand fighting broke out among Koreans, Usbeken and Tadshiken.
This all happened in Usbekestan. The house was purchased by an Usbeker
who paid only half of what a Korean and a Tadshiken offered.
In Alma-Ata I was not able to have Jakob's story verified or denied.
The officer in OWIR, who would not give his name, assured me that
there was no special time or fluctuation and that "whoever
presents the documents today can pick up his passport tomorrow."
The honest cashiers at the Foreign Exchange Bank were surprised
when the multiple-transaction "snakes in the grass" were
not to be found. It was explained to me by a bank officer that because
of their effective systems, foreign exchanges could be issued within
two days. It was explained to me that 900 rubles in 92 German marks
and 100 traveler’s checks would be exchanged in U.S. dollars.
That would be handier and safer.
Also, in customs when the BRD containers were searched, everything
was in order. A search was made between the mattresses, pillows,
baby carriages, toys, dishes, pails and old bicycles. Smuggled goods
were suspected. Juri Tschuchrai had to admit "We seldom find
prohibited export goods."
Also in customs in Alma-Ata the artist performer Anwar, Madalijew
told me: “Representing our President Nazarbajew, I will let
the Germans take over a choice area in the Republic and they will
feed the Kasachstans as well as the whole Soviet Union.” Naturally
the artist had nothing to do with politics. It is possible that
economics is also not his strong point. But it is obvious that the
loss to the Republic in having the Germans leave affects the entire
country. No non-doers are leaving. Only the hardest workers, most
eager and ambitious-- those who lived well in the Soviet Union mean
to succeed in a foreign land by using their hands and their heads.
Is it normal then for Soviet citizens to at last have free choice
of their dwelling places? That is the practice in all civilized
The fact that many Germans still choose the Soviet Union delays
the advancement of trust in Moscow and puts my opinion about central
government in default through opposing efforts. Indeed, hardly anyone
believes in the ability to solve the German question. More new hopes
are allied with the Russian government. The government of the RSFSR
has provided 20,000 rubles for a rebuilding program for the German
villages in the Uljanowski. The Agri Industrial Union "Sojus"
is taking part. But the grant money is not being used. One cannot
buy either bricks, wood or cement. The Germans do not feel justified
in requesting funds for building materials from the area. They depend
on their own powers. Thousands of German families in Kasachstan,
Middle Asia and Siberia are prepared to come into the Uljanowschen
villages, but until now it has not been possible to live there.
In the village of Bogdaschkino, 40 km from the capital of the territory,
I met the first resettlers, the new colonists who slept in a row
on the ground. They work without days off and have not seen their
families for months. But these people believe they can build a sound
future there for themselves and their children and that they would
be living no worse than in flourishing Germany.
Foreign countries have promised to help. Dr. Eisfeld, member of
the Board of Directors of the Society for Germans in Foreign lands,
came to Uljanowsk with an offer to build a cheese and bread factory
there. A German school will be built in the village.
"As of now there are plans for 20 undertakings by German firms
in locations populated by a concentration of Soviet Germans. Our
one wish is to at least improve the material situation for the native
population and ease the tensions between the nationalities,"
says Dr. Eisfeld.
At the end of the past year he first national Rebirth Bank was
founded. In common with the scientific Production Union Temp in
Alma-Ata, the bank organized the Action Society Wiedergegurt (Rebirth).
The president of the bank, Alexander Schmidt, contends that half
of the various organization members, about 1.4 million Soviet Germans
are members of the AG. In the near future, the AG intends to own
name shares totaling several million, put the shares in circulation
and distribute the money among emigrating as well as USSR remaining
Germans. Schmidt hopes that with the success of the AG the program
of Wiedergeburt (Rebirth) of German culture and speech can be financed.
The rescue of the drowning in our state in reality becomes the
drowning itself. ??? With the accomplishment of owning commercial
businesses, the Germans are answering the ignorance of the government
with regard to having their basic rights returned to them.
The programs, plans and conceptions are remarkable. But how many
years will it be before they are realized? Only when the foreign
firms unite with them. And how many of our degraded and disappointed
countrymen will have gone abroad by that time?
From: “Nowoje Wremja” Neue Zeit (New Times)
Our appreciation is extended to Alma M. Herman for
translation of this article.