Fachportal zur Geschichte und Kultur der Deutschen in Kaukasien

1956 until today


Since the 1950s there have been regular meetings of the Caucasus Germans in order to exchange memories and information. Source: Vohrer Family Archives

On 1 April 1949, there were over 2 million deported, repatriated or re-settled people under the supervision of the Soviet secret service, among them around one million Germans, 400,000 Chechens and Ingush, about 60,000 Karatchai, more than 30,000 Balkars, around 77,000 Kalmykians, about 200,000 Crimean Tatars, Greeks, Armenians and Bulgarians, around 80,000 Chemshins, Turks and Kurds. After Stalin’s death amnesties were gradually extended to individual groups. Despite the CSCE process and numerous protest campaigns, the Soviet leadership refused to grant exit applications for Germany right up to 1987. As a result, for over 50 years the Germans remained subordinated to the standards of education, work and living conditions in Central Asia and Siberia. Since 1941 it had no longer been possible to attend lessons in the German language except in special schools for foreign activists; the German language was banned from public spaces up to 1956; the traditional associations of German mother-tongue speakers were broken up; services of worship in the German language could only be held in secret. A »normalisation« of life from the 1960s meant above all the rediscovery of relatives and the reuniting of families within the USSR, but also being able to find education and work opportunities, and an improvement in living conditions. Urban employment and increasing inter-marriage with non-German partners favoured their integration into a Russian speaking environment. Whereas in 1926, 95 percent of all Germans in the USSR still gave German as their mother-tongue, the number in 1989 was only 48.7 percent.

Since the 1960s it had indeed been possible to travel abroad for visits in exceptional circumstances, but it was only with the passing of a new law on 1 January 1987 concerning travel into and out of the USSR that the right to a passport and free travel abroad was granted, including to the Soviet Germans. On 14 November 1989, the Supreme Soviet of the USSR acknowledged deportation to be unlawful and criminal. Between 1987 and 1990 the number of migrants leaving the USSR rose from 753 to 147,950. After the re-unification of Germany and the fall of the USSR, a rapid increase was recorded. In 2015 the number of Russian Germans in the Federal Republic was given as about 2.5 million. Up to and including 1987 it had been taken for granted that »late home-comers« would be able to move back into the places where their relatives were established residents, but with the huge increase in the numbers of settlers coming in, the willingness to accept them dropped. A number of changes to the Federal Law on Displaced Persons and numerous supplementary laws led to a drop in the number of settlers coming from CIS countries to below ten thousand per year.