The Volga German Autonomous Soviet Socialist Republic (German: Autonome Sozialistische Sowjetrepublik der Wolgadeutschen, abbreviated A.S.S.R.W.D.; Russian:Автономная Советская Социалистическая Республика Немцев Поволжья) was anautonomous republic established in Soviet Russia, with its capital at the Volga port ofEngels (until 1931 known as Pokrovsk) in 1918 following the Russian Revolution, by October 29 Decree of the Soviet government. It occupied the area of compact settlement of the largeVolga German minority in Russia, 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 cantons: 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-religiousBolshevik revolutionaries.
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 1/3rd 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 (known in the former U.S.S.R. as the Great Patriotic War, 1941-1945) marked the end of the Volga German A.S.S.R. The Soviet government declared all Germans to be enemies of the state, which increased the persecution and fear of the Volga Germans among the general Russian populace. OnAugust 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. Many were interned in labor camps merely due to their heritage.
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'sguilt 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 culturalexpansion". In 1965 the Decree of Banishment was officially made null and void, though the Volga German A.S.S.R. was never reestablished. The land area is now part ofSaratov Oblast.
Beginning in the early 1980s and accelerating after the fall of the Soviet Union many Volga Germans have emigrated to Germany 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.
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%)|