German Russians on the Front Page of the New York Times

"German Russians on the Front Page of the New York Times." California District Council Report, Spring 2002.


Soviet Takes Sweeping Step to Forestall a Fifth Column


Action Impelled by Failure of District to Report Any Dissident Activity

By Cyrus I. Sulzberger, wireless to the New York Times

MOSCOW, Monday, September 8 — In a sweeping move designed to obviate permanently any danger of a fifth-column movement in the Volga German Republic, which has housed hundreds of thousands of Germans since the latter part of the Eighteenth Century when Catherine the Great invited in settlers from South Germany, the Soviet Supreme Council has signed a decree ordering the resettlement of that population in Siberia.

This predominately farming folk will be moved eastward as soon as possible. A decree signed by President Mikhail I. Kalinin on August 28 indicates its obvious purpose by stating:

“According to reliable information received by the military authorities, thousands and tens of thousands of diversionists and spies among the German population of the Volga are prepared to cause explosions in these regions at a signal from Germany.”

Easternmost German Colony

The Volga settlement is the easternmost colony of Germans. The accent of the Volga settlers, however, is markedly differently from that of the present Reich.

When this war started there was considerable speculation as to how extensively the Nazis were seeking secretly to organize dissent among this racial element. President Kalinin’s decree now indicates that the government is taking no chances.

Russia watched with interest the uprisings of German settlers in the Yugoslav Banat during the Nazi invasion last April. Although the German Army’s drive toward the Volga is a tremendous distance from its possible eventual objectives, it is clear that steps toward preventing present or future troubles are already being taken.

The decree, whose existence was made public today, is based on the theory that possible German efforts to muddy the waters in the Volga Republic might necessitate a Soviet action against the entire population in that region and that therefore to avoid such a predicament, it is more advisable to resettle that population on Siberian land. This area is not only far from any danger of such interference but needs development.

It is stated that no Germans from the Volga have reported the existence of the purportedly large numbers of dissidents who have been uncovered.

“If diversionist acts took place,” the decree said, “under orders from Germany by German dissidents or spies in the Volga German Republic or in neighboring regions, and bloodshed resulted, the soviet government would be forced under martial law to adopt reprisal measures against the entire Volga German population.

“In order to avoid such an undesirable occurrence and to forestall serious bloodshed, the Presidium of the Supreme Council of the U.S.S.R. has found it necessary to resettle the entire German population of the Volga regions to other districts under the condition that the resettled peoples be allotted land and given State aid to settle in the new regions. The resettled Germans will be given land in the Novosibirsk and Omsk districts, in the Altai region of the Kazakhstan
Republic and neighboring localities rich in land.

“In connection with this, the National Defense Council is instructed to resettle as soon as possible all Volga Germans who will be given land estates in new regions.” Nothing has been said about whether the regions evacuated by these Germans will be settled by new inhabitants, but because of the great industrial and agricultural importance of the Volga settlement, it is most likely that this will take place. Hundreds of thousands of persons have been removed successfully from White Russia and the Western Ukraine and it is not impossible that some of them will be deposited in the Volga strip.

German-Derived Group

MOSCOW, Monday, September 8 (AP) — A mass movement into exile in Siberia was ordered today for the heavily German-derived population of the Volga area, because of its alleged readiness to sabotage Russia’s war effort.

The German Volga territory is an autonomous Soviet Republic in European Russia, north of the Caspian Sea.

Of its population of 571,089 in 1926, about 67 percent were Germans. The republic covers some 10,329 square miles, about three-fourths lying on the left bank of the Volga River and the remainder on the right bank.

The German population grew from 27,000 colonists settled there in 1760-61 [sic] at the invitation of Catherine the Great by special manifesto when the population was so much less than today that the government was concerned about the development of the uncultivated territory.

Reprinted with permission of California District Council Report.

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