Why is Russia an enemy of Canada

Competence center for integration

History of the Russian Germans

Germans lived in these areas as early as the times of the "Kievan Rus", the medieval empire with territorial expansion over large parts of today's states of Russia, Ukraine and Belarus. Later on, settlements took place in an organized manner, mainly under the German-born Katharina II, who ruled from 1762 to 1796, who - like Friedrich II in Prussia and Maria Theresia and Joseph II in Austria - stood for a comparatively enlightened absolutism. The aim of their settlement policy was in particular to force population and economic growth through the colonization of internal, sparsely populated areas.

First wave of immigration


Catherine II (1729 - 1796) invites foreigners to settle in Russia in a manifesto in order to promote the country's economic development and cultivation.

The settlers are guaranteed privileges (e.g. free land allocation, freedom of religion, exemption from military service, etc.).

1764 - 1773

Mass settlement in the Volga region near the city of Saratov: establishment of 104 German colonies.

By 1767, 8,000 families / 27,000 people emigrated, mainly from Germany (Hesse).

Second wave of immigration


In another manifesto, Tsar Alexander I invites Germans to settle in the Black Sea region.

1816 - 1861

West Prussia, Rhinelander, Palatinate and Swabian immigrate to Volhynia.


End of state funding for the settlers.

1853 - 1856

Crimean War; German colonists provide material aid to Russia in the war against Turkey.

Overall, the Germans from Russia were valued as loyal subjects of the Tsar during this period.

They make a significant contribution to Russia's economic development.

Graphic representation of:

German emigration to Russia
in the 18th and 19th centuries

(Source: Ingenieurbüro für Kartographie, J. Zwick, Gießen)

The turn


Beginning of Russification: Abolition of privileges after a movement against the further spread of Germanness in Russia had started.


Introduction of conscription for Germans from Russia.


Thousands of German Mennonites emigrate to Canada and the USA.

1887 /88

Volga Germans emigrate to South America, where they found numerous colonies, especially in Argentina.


Manifesto of Alexander III: "Russia must belong to the Russians".


The Russian language becomes a compulsory subject in German schools in the Russian Empire.


A census shows that 390,000 Germans live on the Volga, 342,000 in southern Russia, 237,000 in western Russia and 18,000 in Moscow.


Around 105,000 Germans from Russia emigrate to America.


A closed German settlement area is being created near Slavgorod in western Siberia.

The First World War


Beginning of the First World War: The German Empire becomes the enemy of Russia.
About 1.7 million Germans live in the Russian Empire, 300,000 Germans serve as paramedics or forest workers in the tsarist army.


Liquidation laws: the Germans living in a border strip of up to 150 kilometers are expropriated and deported to Siberia. 200,000 Volhynian Germans are affected.
Pogroms against Germans in Moscow.


Bolshevik October Revolution.


The peace of Brest-Litovsk ended the war between Germany and Russia.

Between the world wars


Foundation of the Autonomous Soviet Republic of the Volga Germans (ASSR), in which there was a German infrastructure with its own school system, theater, a publisher and several newspapers.


Forced collectivization in the USSR and deportation of the expropriated peasants to the far north and to Siberia (so-called deculakization).


Closure of the last German churches.

1937 /38

Peak of the Stalinist Terror:
Alleged enemies of the people, spies, clergy and peasants, including many Germans, are indiscriminately tried by the so-called troikas and then shot or deported to forced labor camps.

The second World War


Beginning of the Second World War.


The German-Soviet non-aggression pact gives the Germans from Russia hope for a short time that their situation will improve.


Beginning of the German-Soviet war.


Decree of the Presidium of the Supreme Soviet on the resettlement of Germans from the Volga Republic.
The German population is accused of collaborating with Germany and preparing attacks and is therefore deported to Siberia and the Asian Soviet republics.
In the exile areas, the deportees are housed in so-called special settlements, which they are not allowed to leave if they are threatened with severe punishment. In addition, they are placed under the supervision of commanders (commandant's supervision).


Mobilization of the Russian Germans into the so-called Trud Army ("Labor Army").
There they have to do heavy physical work in the construction of industrial plants, railway lines, roads, canals and in mining. The total number of German "Trudarmists" is estimated at 100,000 people.

1943 /44

With the withdrawal of the German armed forces from the Ukraine after the defeat of Stalingrad, approx. 350,000 Germans were resettled in the Warthegau (today's Poland) and naturalized there.


End of the Second World War.
Beginning of the so-called “repatriation”: approx. 200,000 Russian Germans from the Warthegau and all occupation zones are deported by the Red Army to Siberia and Central Asia and thus share the fate of the Volga Germans who were deported in 1941.

From the post-war period to the present

Oct. 1946

In the special settlements of the Soviet secret service (NKVD) around 2.5 million people were detained even after the end of the war, the majority of whom were Germans.


Due to the visit of Chancellor Adenauer to Moscow (September 1955), the regime of the special settlements was repealed by a decree of the Presidium of the Supreme Soviet. From January 1956, their inmates were allowed to leave their places of custody, but they were still not allowed to return to their original settlement areas. They received no compensation for the property confiscated in 1941.

Hundreds of thousands of Russian Germans perished between 1941 and 1956 as a result of the Soviet coercive measures.


Decree of the Supreme Soviet on the partial rehabilitation of Russian Germans.

After 1964

Growing autonomy movement of the Russian Germans, accompanied by massive requests to leave the country, which, however, can only be realized after Gorbachev came to power in 1985.

From 1987

The influx of German repatriates from the USSR is growing steadily.

In view of their historical responsibility, the Federal Republic of Germany has taken in large numbers of Germans from Russia as (late) repatriates - especially against the background that, as a relatively closed German ethnic group in Eastern Europe, they were particularly affected by the consequences of Nazi Germany's war of aggression against the Soviet Union had triggered.

In the course of the easing of Gorbachev's reform policy after 1985 and after the dissolution of the USSR in 1991, the number of ethnic German repatriates admitted to Germany rose again. In the period from 1987 to 2005 alone, around three million emigrants from the former Soviet Union and Eastern Europe came to Germany (total since 1950: over 4.5 million).

After this wave of immigration, the numbers were recently at a comparatively low level: 1,817 people came in 2012, for example.

Particularly with regard to the integration of ethnic repatriates into the labor market, their integration is rated today - with reference to the corresponding statistical data - as overall successful, and sometimes even referred to as a “success story”.

Graphic representation of:

Former and current settlement areas of the Germans in the area of ​​the former USSR

(Source: Ingenieurbüro für Kartographie, J. Zwick, Gießen)

This overview was made using material
the Country team of Germans from Russia e. V., Stuttgart created.