History of the Russian Germans

Short timeline

Already at the time of the "Kievan Rus", the medieval empire with territorial extension over large parts of the present states Russia, Ukraine and Belarus, Germans lived in these areas. Settlements were then organized in an organized form later on, especially among the German-born Catharine II, who ruled from 1762 to 1796. Like Frederick II in    Prussia and Maria Theresia and Joseph II in Austria, it represented a comparatively enlightened absolutism. The aim of their settlement policy was in particular to accelerate population and economic growth through the colonization of domestic, less populated areas.

First wave of immigration


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

Katharina the great

The settlers are guaranteed privileges (eg free land allocation, religious freedom, exemption from military service, etc.).

Invitation manifest (When viewed large view)

1764 - 1773

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

Katharinenstadt the largest German city in the Volga region

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

Endless farmland

Second wave of immigration


Tsar Alexander I invites Germans to settle in the Black Sea area in another manifesto.

Farm in Strasbourg at Odessa

1816 - 1861

West Prussia, Rhinelanders, Palatine and Swabians immigrate to Volhynia.


Termination of state support for the settlers.

Evangelical Lutheran Church of St. Pauli in Odessa

1853 - 1856

Crimean War; German colonists render material assistance to Russia in the war against Turkey.

All in all, the Germans from Russia are valued as loyal subjects of the Tsar during this period.

Harvesting in the Crimea

They make a significant contribution to the economic development of Russia.

German steam mill in Nikopol, Odessa

Graphical representation of:
German emigration to Russia
in the 18th and 19th centuries
(Source: Ingenieurbüro für Kartographie, J. Zwick, Gießen)

Deutsche Auswanderung nach Russland im 18. und 19. Jahrhundert (Bei Aktivierung große Ansicht)

The turn


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


Introduction of compulsory military service for the Germans of Russia.


Thousands of German Mennonites emigrate to Canada and the USA.


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 compulsory subject in German schools in the Tsarist 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 Russian Germans emigrate to America.


At Slavgorod in Western Siberia a closed German settlement area is created.

The First World War


Beginning of the First World War: The German Reich becomes an enemy of Russia.
Approximately 1.7 million Germans live in the Russian Empire, 300,000 Germans serve as paramedics or forestry workers in the Tsarist army.


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


Bolshevik October Revolution.


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

Between the world wars


Founding of the Autonomous Soviet Republic of the Volga Germans (ASSR), in which there was a German infrastructure with its own school system, theater, a publishing house and a number of newspapers.
Regierungsgebäude der Wolgadeutschen Republik in der Hauptstadt Engels, 1938


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


Closure of the last German churches.


High point of the Stalinist terror:
In quick procedures alleged enemies of the people, spies, clerics and peasants, including many Germans, are tried by the so-called Troikas and subsequently shot or deported to forced labor camps.

Die Verurteilung von der Trojka von Jakob Wedel

The second World War


Beginning of the Second World War.


The German-Soviet non-aggression pact lets the Russian Germans hope for a short time to improve their situation.


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 generally accused of collaboration with Germany and the preparation of attacks and therefore deported to Siberia and the Asian Soviet republics.
In the exile areas, the deportees are accommodated in so-called special settlements, which they are not allowed to leave on pain of severe penalties. In addition, they are subject to the supervision of commanders (Kommandanturaufsicht).

Deportationserlass vom 28.08.1941, Quelle: Dr. A. Eisfeld, Nordost-Institut Göttingen (Bei Aktivierung große Ansicht)


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


With the withdrawal of the German Wehrmacht from Ukraine after the defeat of Stalingrad about 350,000 Germans are relocated to the Warthegau (today's Poland) and naturalized there.
Treck von 1943/44 zum Wartheland


End of the Second World War.
Beginning of the so-called "repatriation": about 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 1911 abducted Volga Germans.

From the postwar period to the present

Oct. 1946

In the special settlements of the Soviet secret service (NKVD), about 2.5 million people were detained even after the war, most of them Germans.

Deutsche Floesser auf der Wytschegda (Komi ASSR 1948)                               Deutsche Frauen bei der Waldarbeit im Verbannungsgebiet (Udmurtische ASSR, 1952)


Due to the visit of Chancellor Adenauer in Moscow (September 1955), the decree of the Presidium of the Supreme Soviet repeals the regime of special settlements. Their inmates may leave their detention centers as of January 1956, but are still denied their return to their original settlement areas. They do not receive any compensation for the 1941 seized property.
Erlass vom 13. Dezember 1955 (Bei Aktivierung große Ansicht)

Due to the Soviet coercive measures, hundreds of thousands of Russian Germans died during the period 1941-1956.


Decree of the Supreme Soviet concerning the partial rehabilitation of the Russian Germans.
Dekret vom 29. August 1964 (Bei Aktivierung große Ansicht)

After 1964

Growing autonomy movement of the Germans of Russia, accompanied by massive leave to travel, which can be realized only after the seizure of power Gorbachev 1985.

From 1987

The influx of German Aussiedler from the USSR is growing continuously.

Ehemalige und heutige Siedlungsgebiete der Deutschen im Bereich der früheren UdSSR (Bei Aktivierung große Ansicht)
Graphical representation of:

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

(Source: Ingenieurbüro für Kartographie, J. Zwick, Gießen)
This survey was made using material of 
the Landsmannschaft der Deutschen aus Russland e. V. , Stuttgart.

Source: http://www.lum.nrw.de/zuwanderung/Aufnahmeverfahren_Spaetaussiedler/Geschichte_Russlanddeutsche/index.php