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German-Russians on the Move

Schleicher, Josef. "German-Russians on the Move." Volk auf dem Weg, February 2009, 10.

This translation from the original German-language text to American English is provided by Alex Herzog, Boulder, Colorado


The Processes of Migration Between the CIS-States and Germany.

Migrations of Germans from Russia are the focus of a Special Report on the topic "Migration in Germany" that was dedicated at the sixty-year anniversary conference of the Goettinger Working Group. Topic the conference dealt with may be read in the GAK Publication # 519 "Die Russlanddeutschen in den Migrationsprozessen zwischen den GUS-Staaten und Deutschland [The Germans from Russia and the Processes of Migration Between the CIS-States and Germany]," published in 2008 by Otto Luchterhandt and Alfred Eisfeld. 

"As a part of migration processes in Germany and Europe, the Goettinger Working Group has, since the 1980s, increasingly been addressing the CIS-States and Ukraine, and, as a continuing main emphasis, the fate of the German-Russians," said Prof. Dr. Luchterhandt, President of GAK, in his anniversary address, which also has appears in the publication just mentioned.

Appearing likewise in that publication was the festive address of Dr. Christoph Bergner, Representative of the Federal Republic for Aussiedler and Nationalist Minority Matters. In his laudatory remarks concerning the GAK, Dr. Bergner emphasized the studies of the "Institute for Research on Germany and Eastern Europe," "for whose results we must express our gratitude, because they constitute an important contribution to political debate," he commented. Among other topics, the speaker analyzed the effects of the [Federal] Immigration Laws on the Germans from Russia.

Prof. Jochen Oltmer (Osnabrueck) spoke during the conference on "Migration and Integration in Germany During the Earlier and Later Twentieth Century."

He addressed three specific aspects: immigration of Polish worker migrants, Jewish immigration from Eastern Europe, and immigration of Germans from Russia. On the one hand, Oltmer showed, there never were any "historical migration models" that repeated themselves during that century, and on the other hand he spoke of the basic realization that German society by now can point to extensive experience in receiving immigrants. From our viewpoint this is very important not only for politics, but also for the gamut of historical authors, be it professional historians or private German-Russian family and homeland researchers. Without comprehension of the entirety of problems concerning the migration processes one can not fully understand the immigration and integration of Germans from Russia.

The history of the Germans from Russia is frequently considered to be the history of a "people on the move" [a passable translation of the title of the periodical Volk aud dem Weg - Tr.]. Many simply reduce this particular history to the original emigration to Russia and the return immigration to Germany. The fact that the migration of the German-Russians was a multi-faceted phenomenon is shown by Dr. Alfred Eisfeld in his report "Migration of the German-Russians from the Epoch of the Founding of the German Empire to the Breakdown of the Soviet Union." Following the revocation of special administrative privileges for the colonists in Russia (1871), there arose a great wave of immigration to points overseas, where one could find sufficient settlement land at favorable prices. This particular wave of emigration from the Black Sea area, for example, was initiated by prosperous farmers (the "Stundists") for religious reasons. In the Volga region, in addition to lack of sufficient arable land, a decisive role was played by agitation from already emigrated Volga-Germans in "the expansion of a striving for emigration," writes Dr. Eisfeld.

During  the last third of the 19th Century, economic and demographic aspects became the basis for emigration from the colonies of New Russia, Volhynia and the Volga region to the North Caucasus. As of 1885, the Mennonites laid the foundations of German settlements in the Asiatic parts of Russia. Additional motivation for emigration of Germans arose from the 1905 Revolution and the famine of 1907, and in 1915 an additional 80,000 Germans migrated to Western Siberia and Northern Kazakhstan. Even at that time, there was returning migration to Germany, when 16,000 Germans from Russia settled there mostly as workers in other people's estates.

Alfred Eisfeld writes in some detail about "forced migration" during the First World War. Just from the Governments of Volhynia, Podolia and Kiev, as many as 200,000 Germans were deported to the Governments of Samara, Saratov and Orenburg. And during the First World War, more than 500,000 German citizens of Russia were resettled forcibly .

The Civil War and the policies of the [new] Soviet government also affected the migration history of the Germans in Russia. They were impacted especially seriously during World War II. Eisfeld analyzes in great detail the deportation of as many as 890,000 Germans from the European portion of the Soviet Union to Siberia and Kazakhstan during the years 1941 - 1944, also the particular situation of the 350,000 "Volksdeutsche [ethnic Germans]" within the occupied parts of Ukraine and their [eventual] resettlement to Germany and their "repatriation" into the USSR after the war had ended. "An estimated 1000,000 Germans from Russia were able to avoid this 'repatriation' to the USSR writes the historian, "and about 25,000 to 30,000 of them succeeded in emigrating overseas [among them your translator - Tr.]," while 70,000 to 75,000 of them were able to stay in the Federal Republic [of Germany]."

According to information from the NKVD, a total of 1,209,430 Germans were resettled in the USSR between 1941 and 1945.

Eisfeld also analyzed the time from the "special resettlement" to the mid-1950s to subsequent internal migrations and, of course, the initially rather slow re-immigration to Germany.

Dr. Barbara Dietz of Regensburg described the immigration and integration of Aussiedler and Late Aussiedler in the context of German and European migration as a whole, and the Representative for Aussiedler of the Ev.-Lutheran Church of Westphalia, Edgar L. Born of Unna-Massen talked abut religious aspects of the integration process. Andrea Jonas and Katharina Vaitensberg-Schwertje then described the practical work of the German Association for Technical Collaboration with regard to the Germans from Russia.

All contributions that were included in GAK publication # 519 are characterized by well-founded knowledge and comprehensive analyses of the migration history of the Germans from Russia. That alone is a serious enough reason to look into the contents of the publication, which in addition lists over 500 publications of the Goettinger Work Group, among them numerous titles regarding our ethnic group.

Our appreciation is extended to Alex Herzog for translation of this article.

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