Russian-Germans in Tajikistan
Pohl, J. Otto. "Russian-Germans in Tajikistan." Neweurasia, 29 March 2007.
By 1999 almost all of the 30,000 Russian-Germans that had been recorded
as living in Tajikistan in 1989 had left. Although large scale German
settlement in the Russian Empire dates back to 1764, the migration
to Tajikistan took place much later. It is almost entirely a product
of events that took place near the end of World War II.
Tajikistan unlike other eastern areas of the USSR such as Kazakhstan,
Kyrgyzstan, Altai Krai and Omsk Oblast did not receive any appreciable
voluntary settlement by ethnic Germans from the Volga, Ukraine
and northern Caucasus in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.
Nor did Tajikistan serve as a destination for Russian-Germans
deported to special settlements during the collectivization of
agriculture or the cleansing of the Soviet border regions during
the 1930s. The 1939 Soviet census lists only 2,022 ethnic Germans
in Tajikistan, the smallest concentration of any Soviet republic
except Armenia with only 433 Germans.
The growth of the Russian-German population in Tajikistan prior
to this date is difficult to track. The 1937 census did not count
Russian-Germans in the four Central Asian republics of Uzbekistan,
Kyrgyzstan, Turkmenistan and Tajikistan. The 1926 census gives
a combined figure of 4,646 for both Uzbekistan and Tajikistan.
The separation of the Tajik ASSR from the Uzbek SSR and the upgrading
of this territory to the Tajik SSR only occurred in 1929.
The vast majority of the Russian-German population, however,
must have been in Uzbekistan proper. This larger republic had
a Russian-German population of 10,049 in 1939. The Russian-German
population of Tajikistan thus remained quite small until the events
of World War II. (For comparative census data on Russian-Germans
from 1926, 1937 and 1939 see Krieger, table 1, p. 133).
Tajikistan also did not serve as a major destination for the
Russian-Germans deported from the European areas of the USSR during
the fall of 1941. The NKVD initially sent almost all of these
deportees to Kazakhstan and Siberia. The official report from
25 December 1941 lists a total of 856,168 Russian-Germans deported
to Kazakhstan and Siberia by rail. On 1 January 1942, the NKVD
officials in these regions reported that 799,459 Russian-Germans
had arrived in these regions.
The vast majority of the missing 56,709 deportees presumably
died during transit to their new destinations from typhus, gastro-intestinal
diseases and other illnesses. The poor sanitary conditions in
the train wagons used to relocate the Russian-Germans made this
massive mortality inevitable. Out of the nearly 800,000 Russian-Germans
deported east of the Urals in 1941, the NKVD authorities reported
that 385,785 had arrived in Kazakhstan by 1 January 1942.
Already by 25 November 1941, their counterparts in Altai Krai,
Krasnoiarsk Krai, Novosibirsk Oblast and Omsk Oblast had recorded
the arrival of 396,093 Russian-German deportees. Thus nearly all
the surviving Russian-Germans deported in 1941 ended up in either
Kazakhstan or Siberia. (For statistical information on the 1941
deportations see Bugai, docs. 43 and 44, pp. 74-75 and Milova,
doc. 9, pp. 63-69 and doc. 47, pp. 147-148).
The Russian-Germans in Tajikistan did not arrive in this impoverished
corner of Asia until 1945-1946. During 1941, the rapid advance
of the Wehrmacht into the USSR saved some 350,000 Russian-Germans
from deportation to Kazakhstan and Siberia. The vast majority
of these people spared from Stalin’s ethnic cleansing in
1941 lived in Ukraine. During 1942-1944, the German military evacuated
most of these Russian-Germans westward.
At the end of the Second World War the Soviet Union rounded up
those Russian-Germans that had escaped deportation in 1941 and
sent them to work under special settlement restrictions in the
Urals, Siberia, Soviet Far East and Tajikistan. In total the Soviet
Union received 203,796 Russian-Germans including 69,782 minors
under 17 repatriated from areas formerly under Nazi rule. Soviet
forces apprehended 195,191 of these men women and children in
American and British soldiers forcibly turned over many of these
displaced Russian-Germans to Soviet forces in accordance with
the Yalta Accords. Only about 100,000 Russian-Germans in Germany
avoided repatriation to the USSR. Tajikistan for the first time
became a center for the exile of Russian-German special settlers
due to the forced repatriations. (For the number of Russian-German
repatriates see Bugai, doc. 45, pp. 75 and 76 and Berdinskikh,
doc. 8, pp. 339-343.)
The Stalin regime sent the repatriated Russian-Germans judged
physically incapable of heavy labor to cotton kolkhozes in Tajikistan.
Here they suffered from a lack of proper housing, food, sanitation
and medical care. A report from Peoples Commissar of Health Miterev
to Malenkov on 24 January 1946 noted that extremely poor material
conditions for special settlers in Kurgan-Tiubin Oblast Tajikistan
had led to excessive mortality.
They lived in appalling sanitary conditions and suffered from
famine like food shortages. Each person received only 200 grams
of wheat or barley a day, their accommodations lacked floor coverings
and roofs and they completely lacked soap and linen. The unhealthy
conditions of work in the cotton fields also contributed to the
health problems of the Russian-Germans in Tajikistan.
The dust and pollen caused numerous infections of the lungs,
eyes and cuts and scrapes especially among children. Trachoma,
a debilitating eye disease that can cause blindness, became especially
wide spread among the Russian-Germans assigned to cotton farms
in Tajikistan. These miserable conditions afflicted tens of thousands
By 1948 the number of Russian-Germans special settlers in Tajikistan
had reached 18,184 people. This number had grown to 27,879 of
which 17,770 consisted of repatriates by the summer of 1950. Thus
a little less than ten percent of the Russian-Germans forcibly
repatriated back to the USSR ended up in Tajikistan. (For a reproduction
of the report from Miterev to Malenkov see Bekirova, chapter 2,
p. 3, for a personal account from a Russian-German repatriated
from Germany to Tajikistan see Daes, pp. 141-150, for statistical
data on the number of Russian-Germans in Tajikistan see Eisfeld
and Herdt, doc. 312, p.319 and doc. 341, p. 361).
During 1954 to 1956, the Soviet government dismantled the special
settlement regime, officially releasing deported and repatriated
Russian-German adults from this legal disability on 13 December
1955. The Russian-German population in Tajikistan grew slowly
after this date reaching a high of 38,853 in 1979. It then shrunk
down to 32,678 from 1979 to 1989 and completely collapsed due
to emigration from 1989 to 1999. A significant Russian-German
population only lived in Tajikistan for about a half a century.
The Russian-German population in Tajikistan consisted mostly
of people forcibly repatriated back to the USSR after being evacuated
to Germany from Ukraine by the German military during World War
II. Their initial years of life in Tajikistan involved great physical
hardship and persecution. They lived as special settlers on cotton
kolkhozes and lacked both material necessities and human rights.
In the 1990s the survivors of the repatriations and their descendents
almost all left Tajikistan due to that country’s civil war.