Tuesday, March 5, 2024

Ethnic Germans Step Up Efforts to Leave Russia Because of War in Ukraine But Find It Almost Impossible to Emigrate to Germany

Paul Goble

            Staunton, Feb. 29 – Putin’s war in Ukraine has had a negative impact on most of the nations of the Russian Federation. Much has been written about this. But one ethnic group that the war has affected especially profoundly are the ethnic Germans who remain in the Russian Federation.

            Many of them do not support Moscow’s war and would like to emigrate lest they be held among those responsible for the carnage there. But unfortunately, few of them now qualify to be admitted to Germany as returnees, leaving them at risk of the further destruction of their community.

            Under German law, those born before 1992 can be admitted as returnees if they speak German and practice German culture, something ever fewer do because they live dispersed among Russians. And those born after that time do not qualify as ethnic returnees to Germany at all.

            The German government and European rights organizations have been unwilling to change Berlin’s approach, and so an initiative group led by Vyacheslav Bodrov, one of the so-called “Russian Germans,” is appealing to religious groups found among the Germans still in Russia, including the Mennonites who are headquartered in the US.

            Below is the text of the open letter Bodrov’s group has sent which describes the current impasse and the ways in which the war in Ukraine is leading ever more ethnic Germans to fear for their future if they remain in Russia:


Dear brothers and sisters,


We ask you to pay attention to the situation of the German minority in the Russian

Federation and the republics of the former USSR. Eighty-three years ago, in the fall of 1941,

more than 900,000 Germans of the USSR were deported from the European part of the

country to Siberia, the Far North, and Kazakhstan on unjustified charges of collaboration with

Hitler's Germany.


They were disenfranchised and deprived of all property gained over many

generations. Many of them were Mennonites who were forbidden to practise their religion.

Volga German Autonomous Republic was illegally liquidated.


Unfortunately, not much has changed in the fate of those Russian Germans who were

unable to emigrate to the FRG even today - they remain in the places of Stalin's deportation,

often in the territories of the former Gulag concentration camps of the NKVD of the USSR.


The Russian Germans, who had nothing to do with either National Socialism or World

War II, turned out to be guilty without guilt, and to this day, they are the only ones responsible

for World War II.


The German minority has never received full rehabilitation in the Russian Federation.

They do not have compact settlements to maintain and develop their language and culture.

The only exceptions are those who managed to leave for Germany.


Under the law on exiles,  Germany accepts Germans of the former Soviet

Union as collective victims of World War II. However, they must prove the preservation of

their national identity, as required by law.


But more than 80 years of living in deportation areas without compact settlements and

national schools have their results: the majority of Russian Germans cannot prove the

complete preservation of their German identity, which is grounds for refusal of admission to



Although the FRG government constantly states that "the gates to Germany for

Germans from Russia remain open," this is not true. A law that was created to open the gates

to Germany for deported Germans has long been turned into a law that keeps Germans in

Stalinist deportation sites.


In addition, anyone born after 12/31/1992 (these people are in their 30s today) is not

eligible to take advantage of this law.


Today, more than 100,000 German families are trying to leave their places of exile and

have applied for admission to the FRG, but the German government has already refused

most of them.


It is beneficial for the German government to keep Germans in places of exile, in the

Urals and Siberia; this allows economic cooperation and business projects with these regions

as part of programs to help the German minority. The German minority remains hostage to

this relationship.


In Russia, the German minority cannot preserve its national culture and language. The

forced assimilation that began in Stalin's USSR continues today. Statistics confirm it: In 2010,

394,138 people in the Russian Federation called themselves Germans; in 2021 – 195,256

people. The number of Germans has halved in 10 years, with emigration to the FRG during

this period being small compared to these numbers.


Today, the Germans of Russia face a new threat: they are in danger of becoming

involuntary accomplices in crimes against humanity. Although many of them, like their

ancestors, oppose the war.


After the outbreak of war against Ukraine and the announcement of mobilization, thousands of young Germans from the Ural and Siberian regions were mobilized for the war against Ukraine. Hundreds of them have already been killed. Today, there is every reason to expect that a new wave of mobilization will begin after the "elections" in March 2024.


We cannot agree that the German minority, which lost its homeland, its autonomous

republic, survived deportation, repression, Gulag camps, and to this day remains in places of

Stalinist deportation, should today give their sons to the war against Ukraine to deprive

Ukrainians of their state independence and freedom at the will of the Kremlin.


Mass mobilization could be the final death blow to the German diaspora in Russia.

We are against our fellow citizens becoming a tool in the hands of the Kremlin, which

is directed against Ukraine and, in the future, perhaps, against Europe and the entire

democratic world.


All our appeals to the German government, to members of the European Parliament,

with a request to help those of our fellow citizens who do not want to participate in this war

against Ukraine and to provide them with asylum in Germany remain unanswered.


Given all of the above, we appeal to you and ask for your assistance in enabling

young families of Russian Germans to leave the Russian Federation and obtain asylum with

the right to integrate into Western democracies.


We hope for your understanding and cooperation.


            Despite the fact that Vladimir Putin is sometimes referred to as “a German Russian,” his treatment of nearly 200,000 Germans living in the Russian Federation has been anything but good. He has refused to restore their autonomous republic or otherwise compensate for their deportations. And now he is quite prepared to use ethnic Germans as cannon fodder in Ukraine.

            For background on Putin and this oft-ignored nation, see windowoneurasia2.blogspot.com/2015/08/russian-germans-call-on-putin-to.html, windowoneurasia2.blogspot.com/2017/07/there-is-no-such-thing-as-russian.html and windowoneurasia2.blogspot.com/2016/02/putin-modifies-1992-yeltsin-decree.html.

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