Alexander Wormsbecher, Omsk, Siberia, Russia, 1941
A Day Commemorating the Deportation of the Russian-Germans

Gedenktag an die Deportation der Russlanddeutschen

Fefyolova, T. "A Day Commemorating the Deportation of the Russian-Germans." Rundschau, 28 August 2001, no. 34: 431.

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


Translator's Note:

The August 22, 2001 issue of the Rundschau ("The only Russian-German Newspaper for all of Russia"), under the large heading:

presents two brief, front-page articles, one in contrast with the other, just as a heading over a picture on the same page indicates the contrasting phases of german presence in Russia: "Erst gerufen, dann verbannt," or "First [we were] invited, then banished." The first article, black print on white, may not be very new to folks familiar with Russian-german history, but it is a nice summary of how the invitation of Catherine II and the various privileges she promised to the settlers who followed her invitation gave strong impetus to a huge wave of immigration lasting over a hundred years. The second, white print on black, with an accompanying picture of Joseph Stalin, summarizes the infamous ukase/edict of 1941 ordering the deportation or, effectively, the banishment and death of many thousands of Volga Germans and others.

Alex Herzog

Accompanying a portrait of Catherine II is the following caption:

"Tsarina Katharina II (1762 - 1796), nee Princess Sophie Auguste Friederike von Anhalt-Zerbst. During her reign, the landmass of Russia was vastly expanded, at the expense of Ottoman Empire and of Poland. Her manifesto of invitation in the year 1763 set off the German farmers' colonization of Russia."

First article:

Then and now, there have been Germans in Russia. Early Russian Tsars demonstrated great interest in German technicians, scientists, military people, merchants, and so on. But the wave of settlers, well-planned and directed from the highest levels, did not take materialize until the reign of Katharina II (1762 - 1796). After her first manifesto of DEC. 4, 1762, by which she formally invited immigration to Russia, failed to elicit a real response -- it should be remembered that the Seven-Year War (1756 - 1763) was still raging in Germany -- she issued a second, detailed manifesto that met with great success. On March 19 further regulations were promulgated that dealt with ownership of land, named specific areas for settlement, and designated the amount of land to be allocated to each immigrant farmer. The most significant regulations read as follows:

1. The right to unrestricted exercise of religious freedom
2. Temporary exemption from taxes, set for 10 - 30 years in rural areas, for 30 years in the cities
3. Interest-free loans for any and all acquisitions
4. Exemption from military service "in perpetuity"
5. Self-government at the community and school level
6. 30 - 80 desyatins of land granted gratis by the Crown to every family

Under Katharina II, the hold of the Turks was finally broken as they were being driven out of the Black Sea region. In 1763 Russia acquired the Crimean Peninsula. In 1788 the fortress of Ochakov was captured, and in the 1792 the "Peace of Jassy" forced the Turks to cede to Russia the area stretching from Ochakov to the Dnyestr River. And via the "Peace Bucharest" in 1812, Russia was awarded Bessarabia.

This constituted the very onset of the development of the region, demonstrated especially in the actions of the the war's hero, Potyomkin. He founded the cities of Cherson, Mariupol, Sevastopol, Yekaterinoslav, Nikolayev, Tiraspol, and Odessa, the "Queen of all Black Sea Cities."

All of these cities would later be of great importance to the colonists, who played a substantial role in their development. Since the new areas were only sparsely populated, and the new lands were yet to be opened up, there was a great need for able and diligent workers, especially farmers.

Following the invitation by the Tsarina, around 8,000 families (or about 27,000 persons) emigrated to the Volga region between 1763 and 1767. On the mountainous as well as the grassy shore of the river, families such as the Kleins and the Bauers, the Heckmanns and the Eurichs began, from about 1764, established colonies such as Anton, Fischer, Schilling, Rosenhein or Hussaren, and also places that commemorated the names of the colonists' origins, such as Schaffhausen, Zurich, and Holstein. The first colonists had come from Hesse. In the Marian Church at Buedingen, about 400 new couples were registered in the period 1764/65 alone. At their weddings, they were already being called "Russian Colonists."

Rapidly, the Hessians were followed by families from Alsace, the Palatinate, Switzerland, Bavaria-Schwabia, Northern Germany, and Western Prussia.

The immensity of the geographical expansion of Russia that stemmed from lands taken from Turks and Crimean Tatars was equaled by the extensiveness of the wave of immigration to the East.

Lands that had been allocated to the colonist families would turn into untouchable and hereditary possessions in the colonist communities. Furthermore, the colonists had been granted the right to communal self-government without interference in their internal affairs from any Russian authorities. They were even allowed to acquire servants and subject any "member of Muslim peoples" to their service. Finally, also of great significance was the fact that the colonists were allowed to leave the Tsarist Empire at any time, without impediment.

These were the privileges that formed the impetus for a powerful wave of immigration that lasted around 100 years. They attracted German colonists not only to the Volga, but also to South Ukraine, to Crimea, to Bessarabia and even to the Caucasus.

Second article:

Note: Above this article, there is a replica of a painting by Alexander Wormsbecher of Omsk entitled "We, 1941" and picturing a multitude of people, and superimpsoed, the outlines of a document with the Russian title of "Ukas". Accompanying the article is a photo of Joseph Stalin with the caption, "Photo taken during the final years of his life; in the USSR, printing of his picture was prohibited during his lifetime." Translation of the article follows.

A decree [i.e, ukase of the Supreme Soviet of the USSR, tr.] issued on August 28, 1941 ordered the dissolution of the Volkga Republic and the deportation of its entire German population to Siberia and Central Asia. Between 1941 and 1946, as many as 1,200,000 Germans were deported, and at least 300,000 lost their lives as a result. To justify the dissolution of the Volga Republic, the decree cited the following claim: "According to accurate information received by military authorities, the German population residing in the Volga Rayon is harboring thousands upon thousands of subversives and spies who -- given only a signal from Germany -- will cause explosions to take place in the region inhabited by Volga-Germans. Yet, not a single German residing in the Volga Rayon has informed Soviet authorities of the presence among Volga-Germansof these subversives and spies [*] ... In order to prevent undesirable occurrences of this kind and to avoid bloodshed, the Presidium of the Supreme Soviet of the USSR has found it necessary to resettle the entire German population of the Volga region into other areas."

The absurdity of this claim becomes clear when one considers, among other facts, that actual deportation of Germans residing in the region had begun as early as July, 1941; and that, as of September/October of 1941 men who had been in active military service were being removed from front areas and dispersed into the hinterland.

[*] Translator's note: In another German text of the ukase the sentence ending here with the ellipsis (...) also includes the following italicized words where the asterisk is placed: " ... therefore concealing enemies of the Soviet people and of Soviet might. Also, in place of the phrase "thousands upon thousands" that particular printing reads "a large number."

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

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Catherine the Great:

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