Miller Will Speak on Germans From Russia

Jones, Sarah. "Miller Will Speak on Germans From Russia." Daily Journal, 24 June 1991, 1, 10.

Michael Miller
 Germans from Russia have been a “people on the move” since the days of 18th century Russian ruler Catherine the Great.

And while they enjoyed 100”good years” in Catherine’s day, those who followed soon made life difficult for the German immigrants.

So they emigrated again, many of them settling in North Dakota.

That will be the topic of Michael Miller’s “Historical Background of Germans from Russia lecture,” the first for Devils Lake’s, 1991, Chautauqua Series.

It starts at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday at UND-Lake Region.

And now, ironically, they are on the move again, according to Miller.

Recent relaxation of Soviet Union laws have resulted in the out-migration of about 500,000 Germans from Russia to Germany over the last four years.

“In 1990, about 170,000 moved back to Germany. Imagine that. That’s about a third the population of North Dakota,” Miller said.

Miller, a Strasburg native and of German-Russian extraction himself, is also pretty excited about a recent development.

A German writer visited Miller and wrote about the German from Russia Heritage Collection at the North Dakota State University.

The article was re-printed in a Soviet German newspaper and Russian letters are pouring into Miller.

“I can not believe the number of letters from people looking for relatives in America…And it’s only the beginning of what is to come.”

Miller has been busy, looking through telephone books, researching county historical books.

And so far, he has located four North Dakota families related to those who have written.

“I called up the relatives. They were really stunned. It’s quite a story… (But) it all takes time.”
For instance, some have lived so long in Russia that they are unable to write in German, so he first needs to translate the letters.

“I can read German and write it, but not Russian.”

One letter was in German. It was a Mennonite, and it offered a horrible insight into her life in the Soviet Union.

Miller is bringing the letter with him to UND-LR.

“She is not asking for anything,” he said. But he found the letter moving. For instance, she wrote a lack of food.

Miller said those remaining in the Soviet Union are not really German, according to the Russian authorities. And they’re not really Russian.

“They don’t know where they stand.”

The bad news for the people on the move is that they’re not finding Germany much better. “Those going back to Germany are finding there is not enough work. Not enough housing.”

But they’re not looking to immigrate to the United States. The U.S. government rules are too strict. But they are looking for relations.

And Miller hopes those attending the lecture Tuesday will sign there names and addresses, adding to his ability to reunite families, some who have been separated since the early 1880s.

“Who knows where it may lead.”

Reprinted with permission of the Daily Journal.

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