Germans From Russia

Germans from Russia refers to the large numbers of ethnic Germans who emigrated from the Russian Empire, peaking in the late 19th century. The upper Great Plains in the United States and southern Manitoba and Saskatchewan have large areas populated primarily of descendants of Germans from Russia. Argentina, Brazil and other countries have smaller numbers of Germans from Russia.

Their mother tongue was High German and Low German, despite their having lived in Russia for multiple generations. The Germans in Russia frequently lived in ethnic German communities, where they maintained German-language schools and German churches. Many of the Germans lived in the lower Volga River valley (they were also called Volga Germans) and the Crimean Peninsula/Black Sea region. The smaller villages were often settled by colonists of a common religion, who had come from the same area, so one town might be all Catholic, or all Lutheran, for instance; the people often settled together from the same region of Germany and thus spoke the same German dialect. Also included were Germans of the Baptist and Mennonite faiths, seeking religious freedom.

Originally recruited and welcomed into Russia in the 18th century, when they were promised the practice of their own language and religions, and exemption from military service, the German people found increasing hardship. Along with political changes in Russia politics changed, the government took back some of the privileges granted, economic conditions grew poor, and there were a series of famines. These conditions led to German mass migrations from Russia.

After the 1917 Revolution and the rise of the Soviet Union, and particularly under the leadership of Joseph Stalin, conditions for the remaining Germans in Russia declined considerably. The rise of Nazi Germany, with its concern about ethnic Germans in other lands and proselytizing the German volk, led to suspicions of any German within Russia. In 1932-33, the Soviet authorities forced starvation among the Volga Germans, seized their food claiming famine in the rest of the Soviet Union and ordering the breakup of many German villages.

After the Nazi invasion of the Soviet Union, Stalin ordered the deportation of Russian Germans to labor camps in Siberia, as he was suspicious of potential collaboration with the Germans. In some areas, his forces attempted to bulldoze the German churches, and reused their tombstones for paving blocks. Many Germans in the Americas sent donations back to their communities, but others permanently lost contact with their relatives during the social disruption of the famine and Stalin's Great Purge, followed by World War II.

Read more about Germans From Russia:  Areas of Immigration, Peak Years of Immigration, Canada, Language, Notable Germans From Russia

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