Chronology of Anti-German Measures in Russia/USSR

Chronologie der Antideutschen Massnahmen in Russland bzw. der UdSSR

"Chronology of Anti-German Measures in Russia/USSR." Volk auf dem Weg, August/September 2007, 10-15.

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

Before addressing the problems due to persecution of the German minority in the Russian Empire and the USSR, respectively, I shall add some explanations:

Before 1914

Even before the First World War, there was in Soviet society an observable anti-German posture and a tendency toward restricting the rights of farmers of German descent. This is particularly true when one looks at nationalistic and populist Russian press reports. To be sure, these restrictions were mostly of a fairly selective nature, comparable with some restrictions against several ethnic (Jewish, Polish, Ukrainian, etc.) and denominational (Baptist, Catholic, Adventist, Old Faith, etc.) groups and organizations.

The War Years 1914 - 1918

Following the outbreak of the First World War and of military confrontations with the German Empire and its allies, the situation for the German colonists took a sharp and abrupt turn. There were forced auctions of properties of some living near the borders and, subsequently, deportations.

In the cultural arena, soon to appear were bans on German-language newspapers, on instruction in the mother tongue, with easily recognizable German names of localities receiving Russian names, such as when St. Petersburg became Petrograd as early as August of 1914.

Within Russian war society such things as spy mania, suspicion mongering and denunciations became rampant; many a pastor was sent to Siberia or into the Urals for alleged "German-friendly" positions. One must mention at this point the grave anti-German rioting in Moscow and in other cities in May and June of 1915, as well as the expansion of the Liquidation Laws enacted during early 1917. Forced dispossession of land properties of German-Russian farmers were intended for nearly the entire territory of the Empire (but they were rescinded following the citizens' February revolution).

One must not neglect to mention, however, that the properties of German-Baltics and those of city dwellers were by and large spared any forced dispossessions. There were no dismissals from gymnasia, soldiers and officers of German descent remained in the fighting army, even if some were transferred to the Turkish front. Furthermore, there is practically no evidence of court-imposed sentences for "espionage" or similar offenses.

As a whole, civil society in Russia remained largely intact, and there were stirrings among parliamentarians and influential politicians of a significant resistance, expressed in local administrative organs and, even on the part of a cultural icon such as Korolenko, who himself criticized the anti-German propaganda mongering and corresponding governmental measures.

The Inter-War Period, 1918 - 1941

The power grab by the Bolsheviks in the fall of 1917 plunged the country into the bloody civil war. In addition, Russia was visited by a catastrophic famine in the years 1921 -1922, a consequence of reckless food requisitioning by the Bolsheviks during the preceding years.

Because of their generally better economic situation, German settlements were affected significantly more strongly than Russian or Ukrainian farmers; for that reason, larger, graver numbers of deaths occurred among them. These peculiarities also explain the high number of victims during the enforced collectivization and banishments of prosperous farmers to Siberia and to the Far North, plus the conditions during the renewed famine period of 1932 - 1933.

The sudden turn toward Soviet patriotism, toward drawing inward and away from the outside, the creation of terms such as the so-called "enemy nationalities" that became prominent during the 1930s -- all these affected not only the Germans, but also Soviet citizens of Polish, Finnish, Latvian, Estonian, Greek, and other nationalities, namely, all those that had their "own" corresponding states outside the borders of the Soviet Union.

From about 1935 on, deportations of - among others - Finns, Poles, Germans, Iranians, Kurds and Koreans became common, primarily in the border regions of the country. Even during the Great Terror, these "diaspora" minorities were affected by penal actions considerably more strongly than - comparatively - Russians, Ukrainians, Uzbeks, Jews and other established ethnic peoples.

Even with all of this, it must be said that by 1941 there still had not been a complete and total dispossession of German-Russians. In the Volga Republic, they actually held important official economic and Soviet posts; in Ukraine, on Crimea, and in the Caucasus (except if they lived in a border area) they were allowed to remain in their place of residence; and everywhere in the old German settlements, collectives and other State-operated concerns were formed. In the cities of Leningrad, Saratov, Odessa or Moscow, thousands of German young adults continued to study at technical and other universities, even if only in the Russian language, the official language of instruction. Following abatement of the terror shortly before the war, life actually seemed to become normal again.

1941 - 1955: German-Soviet War to Stalin's Death

It was during this time frame that the most grievous violations of individual and collective rights of the German-Russian minority occurred. Nearly without exception they were degraded to persons with diminished rights, and they were deported from all cities and rural settlements in the European part of the USSR. Any of their still existing cultural installations and institutions, particularly within the Volga-German Republic, were mercilessly dissolved or "re-functioned."

Deprivation of rights of Soviet citizens of German descent had purposely not been spelled out legally, so that in public the appearance of an "unbreakable" friendship between the various Soviet peoples could continue to exist. Via internal party and governmental decisions, and also through the NKVD, or Narodny Komissariat Vnutrennikh Del instructions, a tight network of discriminating regulations took form soon after deportation:

Germans were now strictly forbidden to leave their newly-assigned rural localities in Siberia and Kazakhstan, and studies at the university level and other institutions of higher learning was expressly denied them. They were dismissed from holding important offices and from intellectual professional posts; and thus even the intellectuals among them, without exception, were henceforth forced to perform heavy field labor.

Immediately following the August ukase of the year 1941, soldiers and officers of German descent were comprehensively removed from their [Russian] military units and transferred to construction battalions or to work camps.

Even if they were released from work camps, Germans were forced until 1955 to remain under special military supervision and were not permitted to leave their places of residence without permission of the local commander. Party and Soviet authorities, as well as a broad spectrum of Russians, Kazakhs and members of other nationalities, considered the German minority as traitors of the fatherland (similarly with regard to other deported peoples such as Chechnyans, Kalmyks, etc.). The German-Russians were denied important rights that normal Soviet citizens had been given.

1956 - 1985: Post-Stalin Society up to perestroika

Early 1956, subsequent to their final release from the yoke of military supervision, Germans were legally, at least at a personal level, and formally equal to the rest of the population again. The times of arbitrary arrests and massive deportation were finally over.

However, at the same time, a series of additional, covert restrictions and discriminatory actions continued. German-Russians were not permitted to return to the localities they had lived in before 1941; further, they were not allowed to settle in a certain number of designated areas within border areas or within the Baltic region. Regarding Estonia, Lithuanian and Latvia, this ban was even more stringently enforced as of the 1970s because of massive resettlements there from the Asiatic parts of the Soviet Union with the intent of continuing from there to West Germany!

Furthermore, it is particularly important to take into account that within the USSR, political, language-cultural and socio-economic opportunities for development of individual nationalities were strictly tied to the existence of some sort of territorial autonomy. This related, for example, to unrestricted access to institutions of higher learning, opportunities for professional advancement, school instruction in one's mother tongue, research and preservation - even if only in the Soviet sense - of one's national history and culture (opening up and financing of institutions of higher learning, scientific research facilities, theaters, libraries, newspapers, magazines, publishing concerns, etc.).

Even worse was the effect on the German minority of Germano-phobic government policies and a comprehensively anti-German opinion of the majority of the Soviet population toward language-cultural development, political representation, and social upward mobility. Because of the imposed blockade of information regarding the history and culture of "Soviet citizens of German nationality," German-Russians were often arrested as "German Fascists" for factual or invented misdeeds of the Nazi regime itself. This carried with it a certain moral devaluation and led to extreme psychological strain.

From 1985 until Today

Despite undeniable progress toward a pluralistic society and a functional market economy, it is also a fact that within the Russian Federation (RF), the German minority continues to this day to be exposed to systematic discrimination - as compared to those minorities that have some territorial autonomy - in the area of language and culture.

An important example is the problem of consideration of legitimate national interests. Only territorial subjects have the right to send two representatives to the Federation Council (the second chamber of the parliament). That makes it possible to discuss, at the highest level of state, regional as well as the ethnic problem situations and to demand their resolution. Furthermore, Article 68, Paragraph 2 of the Constitution provides the national republics the right to declare, in addition to Russian, their own national language as an official language of State.

The language, hence the culture of peoples of such status therefore enjoys the encouragement and support of the Federation. This is also true regarding the operating in the respective people's mother tongue all national museums and theaters, all sorts of educational, press, radio, television, and historical and even ethnographic research institutions, including historical preservation organizations, just to name some cultural and identity-endowing examples. This is not even the least of reasons that territorial subjects thus have broad and important opportunities with regard to taking advantage of local mineral resources and enacting tax legislation.

Thus, for example, the Kalmyks, Yakutes and Ossets, given their status as "titular" nations with their very own territories (Republics of the Federation), enjoy considerably greater opportunities to gain a hearing for their legitimate economic, political, and linguistic-cultural demands - via their representatives and members of parliament in Moscow as well as on a regional level - than the numerically larger, but widely scattered [across the RF], "territory-less" German minority.

The extent of ethnic inequality in today's RF thus becomes clear. For example, in contrast with other nationalities, the German minority in Russia enjoys no secure finances, no national theater, no periodical for literature or culture, no radio or television programs in its own language, no national university, no scientific institute that would conduct durable research in the culture, the history, or the literature of the minority and secure its historical traditions.

Even the funding of an urgently needed new building for the former Central Archives of the Volga-German Republic in Engels had to be taken over for the most part (400,000 Euros in 2004, 80 percent of the total cost) by the German federal government, as if there were no funds available for it in Russia, as if the 597,000 Germans who, according to the 2002 census, are registered in the RF, were paying fewer taxes than other peoples of relatively small numbers.

Furthermore, the long-term effects of decades of anti-German propaganda must not be underestimated. A large majority of the Russian population and of the leadership echelons of the State, both in the former Soviet Union and in today's Russian Federation, to this day seems to have internalized a feeling that the restoration of territorial autonomy of this ethnic group contradicts their national sensibilities, and even that it might somehow diminish the triumph of the victory gained over the "Germans."

This explains the fact that to this day it is quite possible to rouse the local populations in the Volga area as well as a number of parliamentarians with overt and latent anti-German slogans that are reminiscent of the heroic war years and the images of the Cold War.

(1914 - 1972)

A: 1914 - 1917


Following the outbreak of the First World War, 2,450,000 Russian citizens of German origin are subjected to a number of restrictions even though 300,000 of them are serving in the Russian Army.

August 4: Demolition and pillaging of the German Embassy in St. Petersburg August 18. The capital city of St. Petersburg is renamed Petrograd. The Russian military leadership orders the dismissal of numerous "suspicious elements" and potential "traitors to the country," especially from Russian-Polish and Baltic Governments. During this year alone, this involves around 30,000 Russian citizens of German origin.


February 2: The "Liquidation Laws:" Land tracts within 150 kilometers of the border that are owned by Russian citizens of German, Austrian and Hungarian origin are to be taken away forcefully. The only exceptions are persons who acquired Russian citizenship prior to 1880. The military administration orders deportation of Germans into the interior from areas near war-front governments; most directly affected are Volhynia-Germans.

May 26-29: Mass riot directed against Germans (anti-German pogrom) in Moscow, with several deaths and wounded. During subsequent weeks, unrest and minor interference across the entire country.

June 2: Official orders by the military administration of deportation of German colonists and Jews from the Volhynia Government.

By July 20 around 70,000 Volhynia-Germans are hurriedly sent to the interior of the country; further deportations of groups and individuals follow, even if to a lesser extent, continuing until the middle of the subsequent year. Target localities are in Siberia, in the Volga-Governments, and even in Turkistan. By the end of the year, 20,000 more settlers must leave the Podolia Government and ca. 10,000 from the Kiev Government.

December 13: Tightening of the Liquidation Laws. Purchase of land properties of Russian citizens of "enemy-state origin" at fixed prices and only via the farmers land bank. At a later time, the dispossessed land tracts are to be distributed exclusively to Russian farmers via credit grants, primarily to soldiers serving at the front.


January 1: Official go-ahead by the Duma (Parliament) Commission for the "Struggle against the German Superpower," which is intended to coordinate and direct active measures against the "inner Germany," i.e., against some German-speaking or German-origin citizens, in the historical, literary, journalistic and juridical areas.

February: Around 11,500 persons of German origin must vacate the Tchernigov Government. During the course of the war a total of about 200,000 Russian citizens of German origin experience forced resettlement. It is impossible to estimate the number of those who failed to survive the arduous experiences of deportation, of the long journeys in crammed train cars, and of pervasive deprivation in their target locations. In any case, thousands of lives were surely lost.


February 6: Expansion of areas where the liquidation laws would apply to nearly all gouvenements and regions of the Empire. Among other matters, the intent is the forced dispossession of the entirety of landed properties in the Volga region.

February 27: Citizen-initiated democratic revolution puts a stop to further forced dispossession and deportations.

B: 1917 - 1941


October 25 (November 7 on the New Calendar): The "October Revolution" sees the Bolsheviks seizing power.


July - August: Armed uprising by the German farmers in Grossliebental (Odessa county) against the Bolshevik requisitioning of foodstuffs and mobilization.

October - December: Robberies, arson, thefts, wholesale destruction, rapes and several hundreds of murders are attributed to the gangs of the anarchist Machno, especially in the Mennonite settlements of South Ukraine.


Revolution and civil war are followed by a great famine affecting all of Russia, caused primarily by bad economic policy accompanied by reckless and merciless requisitioning of foodstuffs that impacted the German villages in the Volga region and in the South of the country.

March - April: Uprisings in the Volga region engendered by the famine are brutally beaten down.
March: In light of the countrywide unrest and farmer uprisings, the Soviet leadership decides to switch to the "New Economic Policy" (NEP, 1921 - 1928) .

1918 - 1922

The number of victims of famine and civil war, among Volga-Germans alone - as well as those living just inside and outside of the autonomous region, including those who attempted to escape the famine - is estimated at 108,000 persons. In the Black Sea area the number is around 50,000 - 60,000 people. If one includes the other settlements areas in Siberia, Central Asia, and Central Russia, the number of victims among this particular ethnic group rises to 180,000 - 200,000 persons.


A renewed famine visits the Volga-Republic, but to a far less terrible extent than the one two years prior, this one taking about 5,000 human victims.

1928 - 1932

Transition to forced collectivization of independent farms, including complete dispossession of prosperous farmers ("kulaks") and their deportation to Kazakhstan and the Far North. Kulak deportations affect around 50,000 Germans. Several thousands were arrested and sentenced by the GPU (secret police), with penalties ranging from three years imprisonment to execution by shooting.

1932 - 1933

Yet another famine in the Volga region, in Kazakhstan and in Ukraine, a consequence of hasty and involuntary collectivization. All in all, no fewer than 100,000 German-Russians die as a result of the Stalinist policies dubbed "Transformation of Agriculture."


Per government decree to deport 15,000 Polish and German households in Ukraine. In all, 69,283 persons are banished from border regions to Kazakhstan: at 75%, Poles constitute the larger majority of those who are forcibly resettled.

1937 - 1938

During these two years, Soviet political penal law justices condemns 1,245,000 persons, of whom 681,692 are shot. According to lists of victims currently available, and by estimate of the Russian human rights organization "Memorial," the "Great Terror" took the lives of around 55,000 Germans; and another 20,000 landed in penal camps (the GUlag).

C: 1941 - 1955


June 22: Nazi-Germany attacks the Soviet Union. A decree by the Presidium of the Supreme Soviet of the USSR issued that same day, "On the War Situation," permits administrative resettlements from areas near the borders, of any persons deemed to be suspicious or unreliable. State security forces effect numerous arrests, among them German emigrants and German-Russians, during the initial days and weeks of the war on the basis of this decree.

August 28: Enactment of the Decree by the concerning the resettlement of all Germans from the Volga region. Therewith, the Presidium of the Supreme Soviet of the USSR legalizes the deportation of its German citizens there, an action that is already fully underway. It means the dissolution and liquidation of all cultural institutions, including German museums libraries, theaters, newspapers, publishers, etc. It signals the closing or re-profiling of all educational institutions and a ban on instruction in the German language. By September 20, 438,715 Volga-Germans from the former [autonomous] Republic have been deported from the Saratov and Volgograd areas. The banishment of the remaining German "diaspora" groups who do not have "autonomy status," for example those in Ukraine, in the Trans- and North Caucasus, the cities of Moscow, Leningrad and Gorki, occurs during the next few weeks and months, based on secret decisions by the State's Defense Committee (GKO) and by the Council of the Peoples' Commissars, and on orders issued by the Peoples' Commissariate (ministry) of the Interior and the war councils on specific fronts. The entirety of the "German operation" proceeds under exclusion of the press and the public and is essentially completed by the end of 1941; by then, according to official information, a total of 794,059 persons will have been "resettled" from the European part of the Soviet Union to Kazakhstan and Siberia.

September 8: Stalin signs Directive # 35105 of the People's Commissariate for Defense, which orders the removal of all Germans from fighting units and from military schools as well as universities, among many other institutions. Officers are not transferred to the reserves. Instead, they are shoved off to the farthest hinterlands and soldiers from the frontare assigned to military or civilian construction troops. In 1942 they are, for the most part, put into forced labor camps. There are forced resettlements from the cities, industrial zones, rayon centers, and from Machine Tractor Stations (MTS) in the Eastern parts of the USSR of Germans who had lived there before 1941 and, often, for generations before.

October 16: Decision by the Central Committee of the Communist Party of Kazakhstan concerning the removal of Germans from urban centers of the republic.

October 30: An order by the Council of the People's Commissars "On the Resettlement of Persons of German Nationality from Industrial Centers of the Country" affecting primarily the areas of Molotov (Perm), Chelyabinsk, Sverdlovsk, and Tshkalov (Orenburg).


January 6: An order by the government "Concerning the Resettlement of Persons of German Nationality in the Uzbek SSR" causes thousands of Germans who have lived in Tashkent, Samrkand and other cities to be resettled in rural areas. According to secret decisions of the GKO dated January 10, February 14 and October 7, ca. 350,000 German-Russian youth, women and men are put into penal work camps during the course of the war. During that time, from 60,000 to 70,000 victims of camp life would be mourned.

1943 - 1944

About 340,000 people, primarily Black Sea Germans who had found themselves in areas controlled by the Nazi occupational powers, are resettled (via the so-called "Administrative Resettlement") to the Warthegau [Poland] during the Wehrmacht's retreat and there receive German citizenship [Note: your translator was one of these people - AH].


January 8: A government regulation concerning the rights of Germans and other deported peoples. Establishment of special military command structures intended for improved control of the "special settlers."
May 8 (9): Unconditional capitulation by the German Reich.

1945 -1946

"Repatriation" by force of ca. 210,000 [previously] "Administrative Resettled," who are taken to deportation regions in Central Asia and Siberia and are placed under special control of the Ministry of the Interior [by implication, under control of the NKVD - Tr.].

1941 - 1945

In the special settlement locations in Siberia and Kazakhstan, the miserable living conditions and lack of food account for 70,000 - 80,000 deaths among the deportees.


February 21: Order by the Council of Ministers "Concerning the Banishment, Resettlement and Special Settlements" ratchets up the strict conditions for the housing of exiled peoples.

November 26: Tightening of conditions for Germans and other special settlers via a decree that instates their exile "in perpetuity" and sets punishment at 20 years in penal camps for leaving their place of residence without express permission.

1941 - 1948

Thousands and thousands more - the minimum can easily be set between 15,000 and 20,000 cases - die prematurely in exile during post-war years, primarily from a famine (1946-1947). Adding the number of deaths in penal camps and in the special settlements, the total number of losses incurred by the German-Russian minority during these years can be estimated at between 150,000 and 160,000 persons.

1941 - 1953

Numerous involuntary transfers of German special settlers take place, for example, from their localities in Siberia to Tadjikistan, from Siberia to the coal mines of the Tula region near Moscow, and back again, etc.

1953 - 1955

Following Stalin's death (March 5, 1953), cautious liberalization of Soviet society, beginnings of rehabilitation of victims of political justice, and gradual improvement in the situation of deported peoples.


December 13: Decree regarding the lifting of restrictions on the rights of the German special settlers, and their release from supervision by military command. However, Germans who are newly [nominally] equal to other Soviet citizens, must renounce in writing any demand to return to their former homes and to all of their former property.

D: 1956 - 1972

1955 to the mid-1960s

During the course of Khrushchev's contradictory de-Stalinization policies, tens of thousands of German victims of Soviet justice during the 1930s and 1940s, and others, are juridically rehabilitated. But one may overturn a legal sentence by a normal court or other organs with juridical authority (special courts, troika and dual justice groups, etc.) by simply applying for it. Arbitrary shootings and arrests during the civil war, dispossession measures that were part of the collectivization of agriculture, deportation and exile during the 1930s and 1940s, the dissolution of the Volga-German Republic, assignment to forced labor camps, and all other similar acts of injustice can not be legally challenged, nor are they allowed to result in any suits for compensatory damages.


August 29: The Supreme Soviet of the USSR enacts a decree concerning the partial rehabilitation of Volga-Germans. However, this decree merely lifts the accusation of active collaboration with Hitler-Germany. The illegal exiling of Volga-Germans and other Germans are not discussed, not to speak of territorial rehabilitation or material compensation. In the mass media, in school books and popular scientific publications, this "rehabilitation" decree is not even allowed to be published or mentioned.


November 3: Another decree lifts the restrictions on choice of place of residence that had earlier been imposed on Germans, Greeks, and Bulgarians and Armenians of Crimea. The issuance of the decree, due to its surrounding secrecy, does not show a great deal of effect since most who were affected by it do not know about it.

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

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