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The Volga German Autonomous Soviet Socialist Republic ( ; ) was an autonomous republic established in Soviet Russia, with its capital at the Volga port of Engelsmarker (until 1931 known as Pokrovsk).

History

It was created following the Russian Revolution, by October 29 Decree of the Soviet government, Volga German Workers' Commune, giving Soviet Germans a special status among the non-Russians in the USSR.. It was upgraded to the status of Autonomous Soviet Socialist Republic in February 20 1924,, becoming the first national autonomous unit in the USSR. It occupied the area of compact settlement of the large Volga German minority in Russiamarker, which numbered almost 1.8 million by 1897. The republic was declared on January 6, 1924.

The A.S.S.R. was divided into fourteen canton: Fjodorowka, Krasny-Kut, Tonkoschurowka, Krasnojar, Pokrowsk, Kukkus, Staraja Poltawka, Pallasowka, Kamenka, Solotoje, Marxstadt, Frank, Seelmann, and Balzer.

After the Russian Revolution the deeply religious Volga Germans, 76% of whom were Christians of the Lutheran faith, immediately came into conflict with the anti-religious Bolshevik revolutionaries.

As of 1919, pastors were labelled counterrevolutionary propagandists and sent to gulags in Siberiamarker.

During the Russian Civil War some Volga Germans enlisted with the White Army and, as a result, fierce attacks by the Red Army on Volga German communities took place. In the aftermath of the war, the famine that swept the U.S.S.R. took the lives of one third of the Volga German population.

To the moment of declaration of the autonomy an amnesty was announced. However it eventually was applied to a small number of people. According to the politics of korenizatsiya, carried out in 1920s in the Soviet Union, usage of German language was promoted in official documents and Germans were encouraged to occupy management positions. According to the 1939 census, there were 605,500 Germans in the autonomy.

The German invasion of the Soviet Union in 1941 marked the end of the Volga German A.S.S.R. On August 28, 1941, Joseph Stalin issued a formal Decree of Banishment, which abolished the A.S.S.R. and exiled all Volga Germans to the Kazakh S.S.R. and Siberia, fearing they could act as German spies. Many were interned in labor camps merely due to their heritage. The Republic was formally extinguished in September 7 1941.

After the war, they were forced to sign contracts that promised they would never return to the Volga area.

Following the death of Stalin in 1953, the situation for Volga Germans improved dramatically, and in 1964 a second decree was issued. It openly admitted the government's guilt in pressing charges against innocent people, and urged the Soviet citizens to give the Volga Germans every assistance possible in support of their "economic and cultural expansion". With the existence of a socialist German state in East Germanymarker now a reality of the post-war world, the Volga German Autonomous Soviet Socialist Republic was never reestablished. The land area is now part of Saratov Oblastmarker.

Beginning in the early 1980s and accelerating after the fall of the Soviet Union many Volga Germans have emigrated to Germanymarker by taking advantage of the German Law of return, a policy which grants citizenship to all those who can prove to be a refugee or expellee of German ethnic origin or as the spouse or descendant of such a person. This exodus has occurred despite the fact that many Volga Germans either do not speak German or have a poor grasp of the language. However, especially the older Volga German population can usually still speak the Volga German dialect, which is closely related to the German language. In the late 1990s, however, Germany made it more difficult for Russians of German descent to settle in Germany, especially for those who do not speak some of the Volga dialect of German.

Population

The following table shows population of the ethnic groups of the Volga German A.S.S.R.:
1926 census 1939 census
Germans 379,630 (66.4%) 366,685 (60.5%)
Russians 116,561 (20.4%) 156,027 (25.7%)
Ukrainians 68,561 (12.0%) 58,248 (9.6%)
Kazakhs 1,353 (0.2%) 8,988 (1.5%)
Tatars 2,225 (0.4%) 4,074 (0.7%)
Mordvins 1,429 (0.3%) 3,048 (0.5%)
Belarusians 159 (0.0%) 1,636 (0.3%)
Chinese 5 (0.0%) 1,284 (0.2%)
Jews 152 (0.0%) 1,216 (0.2%)
Poles 216 (0.0%) 756 (0.1%)
Estonians 753 (0.1%) 521 (0.1%)
Others 710 (0.1%) 3,869 (0.6%)
Total 571,754 606,352


Head of Government

Central Executive Committee
Supreme Council


Notes

  1. Barbara Dietz, "German and Jewish migration from the former Soviet Union to Germany: Background, Trends and Implications," Journal of Ethnic and Migration Studies 26, No. 4(October 2000): 635-652.


See also



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