1921 - 1941
At the outbreak of the First World War there were 2.4 million Germans living in the Tsarist Empire, the overwhelming number being Russian subjects of German origin. As a result of changes to borders, civil war and emigration, by 1926 there were 1,238,549 Soviet citizens of ethnic German nationality left in the country, of whom 25,327 lived in South Caucasia. The total number of citizens of German origin rose due to immigration because of famine in the Volga region and the Ukraine, along with industrialisation (Baku oilfields) in the 1920s and 1930s, but then stagnated among the colonists because of low birth rates, return migration and persecution. In 1928, 2,500 of the 3,000 Germans in Baku were from the Volga region. Although the implementation of the liquidation laws for the South Caucasus in 1915/1916 had until then had had little effect on the German settlements, there were now arrests and trials in 1926, 1930, 1933 and 1935, which affected about 15 per cent of the German inhabitants of the colonies. In 1935 alone 600 families from Annenfeld and Helenendorf were forcibly deported to East Karelia on a charge of espionage. Since the 1920s German pastors had already been persecuted and in December 1934 a renewed wave of arrests took place. In 1936/1937 the churches were eventually closed and in 1938 there followed an enforced reorganisation of school education in the colonies.
Since the 1920s the Soviet authorities and security services had already kept a close watch on the Germans and had compiled dossiers on them. From 1933 in Tbilisi and from 1937 in Baku lists were put together of the Germans living in the towns. From the beginning of 1935 questionnaires were distributed to all the German workers and employees, gathering information about relatives living in Germany. Dismissals and arrests, forced labour and shootings followed.
In Baku, almost all the German students born in the German colonies of Azerbaijan were arrested in October 1940. After completion of the investigations in March 1941 they were sentenced to death or to prison camps for five to ten years. Few survived.