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Karsten Roesler

Amidst the Jungle of a Survey

Im Dschungel Einer Umfrage

The Identity of German-Russians in the CIS and in Germany -- and its Relevance to Aide and Integration by and in the Federal Republic

Russlanddeutsche Identitaet in der GUS und Deutschland -- in Ihrer Relevanz Fuer die Foerderung und Integration des Bundes

Schleicher, Josef. "Amidst the Jungle of a Survey." Volk auf dem Weg, December 2002, 5.

Translation from German to English by Alex Herzog, Boulder, Colorado


An extensive study on the question of the Identity of German-Russians is currently being conducted by Karsten Roesler [picture of him appears in the original, with his name in the caption], Director of the Arbeitsstelle fuer Interdisziplinaere Deutschland- und Europaforschung (AIDE) [Department for Interdisciplinary Research on Germany and Europe] at the University of Muenster.

The project, under the supervision of Dr. Karl Hahn, was carried out in the German National Rayon of Asovo (Omsk region, Russia), in the Pavlodar region (Kazakhstan), and within Germany itself, specifically in the rural county of Cloppenburg in Niedesachsen. Detailed questions were drawn up, in the German language as well as in Russian, thus offering prospective respondents the opportunity to reply independently of their command of the German language. According to Roesler, the aim was to "allow the German-Russians to talk about themselves, [to] enable them to express their own opinions."

Both the Ministry of the Interior and the Foreign Ministry, even before the start of the project, indicated strong interest in the project, intending to use the results of the survey in their future political work.

About 3,000 questionnaires were distributed for this survey, and over 80 percent of them were returned. A particularly high rate of replies, over 90 percent, was recorded in the Rayon Asovo and the Pavlodar region. Clear proof, as Roesler comments, that the "German-Russians basically are not shy!"

The questionnaire contained questions about personal information, (especially detailed ones) about [national] identity, political questions related to development assistance within the CIS, and on the politics affecting integration in Germany. The questionnaires were analyzed by the researcher and presented in a summary report largely via tabular data and graphical illustrations. This evaluation, involving a substantial amount of material, makes possible the analysis of questions concerning identity, development assistance policies within the CIS, and integration politics inside Germany.

The German language and historical fate play an important role in forming the mentality of Germans from Russia. Thus, for example, the item "The German language is for me and my [national] identity ..." was completed with "... very important" by 46.25% [of the overall respondents] with "... important" by 41.65%, and as "not important" by only 1.3%. Among respondents in the CIS itself, the significance of the German language was considered "very important" by 43.72%, and in Germany by 56.77%; and as "important" by 43.31% and 39.39% in those respective regions. To 40.25% of respondents their historical fate relates "very importantly" to the identity of German-Russians, to 43.85% "importantly," and to only 1.2% "not importantly."

The nationality of the spouse as a condition for the continued existence of the German-Russian ethnic group within the CIS was considered by 20.65% as "very important," by 29.1% as "important, and "neither/nor" by 21.3% and as "unimportant" by 13.8%.

Faith and religion play an important role for most German-Russians. 23.4% of the respondents deem them as "very important" and 34.5% as "important" as relating to their own German identity. Only 8.45% designated them "unimportant." The passport of 62.5% of respondents in the USSR and in the CIS contained the notation "German."

The statement, "Our culture has important significance for our German-Russian culture" found full agreement among 42.75% and "agreement" among 39.25% of the respondents. Only 1.35% [overall] did not state agreement. In the latter response category, the rate was 0.62% in the CIS and 4.72% within Germany.

The question concerning the necessity of a German-Russian cultural autonomy was asked only in the CIS regions. 34.75% held it as "very important," 38.13% as "important," and 1.47% as "unimportant."

Germany as their original old home was "very important" to 21.45% of the respondents, 27.25% simply agreed, for 21.25% it was "more or less" so, and for 8.25% not at all.

The statement that German-Russians should act as a bridge between the CIS and Germany was fully agreed to by 22.05%, merely agreed with by 30.65%, and 22.35% did not know how to respond to it.

To the question "Does the former Volga-Republic have a great significance for our [ethnic/national] identity?" 13.2% responded in full agreement, 23.65% agreed, and 31% had no opinion on it.

Yet to be further evaluated are the responses concerning the German National Rayon (GNR) of Asovo and Halbstadt as to Germany's politics on aide and assistance, as well as concerning realization of one's own [national] identity in connection with earlier and current politics relating to integration.

The survey demonstrates that assistance measures are familiar to 50.63% of the respondents within the corresponding settlement areas; this rate of familiarity was especially high in the Kaliningrad region (58.3%) and even more so in the GNR Asovo (67.54%). On the average, a point rating from the respondents on these measures averaged 3.42 points (on a scale of from 5 = excellent to 1 = insufficient). These ratings [by respondents] within the CIS areas did not differ significantly from those in the County of Cloppenburg.

The survey does appear to lead to certain "discoveries" concerning politics regarding integration in Germany. 32.3% of respondents in the County of Cloppenburg found it difficult to answer the question "How well did the language instruction course prepare you for everyday life within Germany?" Only 7.6 & said "very well," 23.6% said "well," and 17.6% "so-so." One can assume that the limited-duration courses are not sufficient toward successful integration.

An astonishing result is the high level of willingness among the respondents within the County of Cloppenburg to participate financially in a solidarity fund called "German-Russians" for the benefit for their countrymen living in the CIS. Despite the fact that 29% have no opinion on it, there are 24.5% who are convinced of their participation, while 25% responded with "yes and no." 19.4% are "very satisfied" with their life situation in Germany, 52.6% are "satisfied," and only 1.2% are "not satisfied."

5.4% rate their personal integration as "very good," 49.2% as "good," 22.2% as "so-so," and only 0.6% as "bad."

Even if at first glance the extensive questionnaire and responses appears to have resulted in a jungle of percentage figures, their evaluation has made deep and multifaceted analysis possible. Initial results are already available. These caused Karsten Roesler to predict with confidence: "This investigation will exercise influence on politics."

Text and Photo by Josepf Schleicher

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

Permission to use any images from the GRHC website may be requested by contacting Michael M. Miller
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