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Germans From Russia or Germans From Ukraine

Russlanddeutsche oder Ukrainedeutsche

Bosch, Anton. "Germans From Russia or Germans From Ukraine." Volk auf dem Weg, February 2001, 24.

German to English translation by Alex Herzog, Boulder, Colorado


Translator's Notes:

1. Translator's comments and/or explanatory notes are enclosed with brackets: [ ]. Parenthetical remarks by the author of the article remain that way.

2. Until its usage changed in recent times, the term Ukraine always appeared together with the article, [T]the Ukraine, especially in the German language [die Ukraine]. In Anton Bosch's text from Volk auf dem Weg, the author uses the latter, traditional term, together with the article, and that's the way it appears in the translated text.


My observations were triggered by the following letter to Michael M. Miller, apparently subject of serious discussion in certain groups of American researchers:

"I find your information on the Germans from Russia very instructive, but it disturbs me to see the Ukraine being called 'South Russia.' For the Ukraine and its people, the days of Russian imperialism are hopefully a thing of the past, and for that reason the continued use of the term Russlanddeutsche [Germans from Russia] is not only antiquated, but in a certain sense it is insulting to the Ukrainian people, who endured immeasurable suffering and mourn the loss of millions of lives at the hand of Russian imperialism. Isn't it high time that we begin to change our thinking in regards the Ukraine, a nation of more than fifty-million inhabitants?  The Ukraine is not, and never has been, Russia, although the Russians have always tried to make it appear that way.
--- Kye Parsons (of both English and Ukrainian descent)"

In my opinion, what we are dealing with here is a politically motivated attempt to transform our name Russlanddeutsche [Germans from Russia] into Ukrainedeutsche [Germans from Ukraine]."

The traditional definition of Russlanddeutsche is today being called into question in diverse publications, in public pronouncements, and in scientific conferences.  Viewed in that light, Kye Parsons' opinion does not really express anything new.  In fact, these kinds of attempts were put forth some years ago, even in our own newspaper in Germany, Volk auf dem Weg. However, they were rejected by our readers.

In making the discussion subject of academic dispute, some apparently are trying to force a new adjective upon the Germans from Russia, without even asking the opinion of this ethnic group.  In a manner of speaking, that's like a guest presenting the bill to the host, instead of the other way around.  The right thing to do would be to listen first to those who are affected by it, and only then to offer them any suggestions for improvement, such as proposing a new name for them.

With all due sympathy and understanding for the young Ukrainian State, as one who was born in 1934 in a purely German settlement near Odessa, who is therefore definitely affected by all this, I feel the provocative statements of Kye Parsons challenging me to provide my own position, together with historical arguments, in the following.

-- There existed, before 1654, a prototype of the "Free Cossack State of the Ukraine."  Following several and variously changing alliances with Sweden, Poland and Turkey, subsequent to the Perejaslavskaja Rada under Bogdan Cmelnicky, and together with a part of the Ukraine left of the Dnieper, this conglomerate state temporarily put itself under the Protectorate of Moscow.  This form of the state eventually ceased to exist altogether when, in 1708, at Poltava, Hetman Mazepa allied himself with Sweden's King Karl XII, together with him lost an important battle and, with it, the independence of his Ukraine.  Peter I, who by 1721 gave himself the title of Emperor and his country that of Empire, integrated into his Empire this part of the Ukraine between the Volga and the Dnieper rivers. This occurred prior to any appearance of Russlanddeutschen in Russian history.

In order to open up, for economic reasons, the uneasy, thinly settled, empty and steppe-like regions around the Volga, Katherine II called for 27,000 people to come to Russia, between 1763 and 1767, ordering them to settle to the South of Saratov.   It is only since that time that we have had the concept of Russlanddeutsche.   For the second phase, Katherine selected for settlement a similarly devoid region, near Tchernikov in today's Ukraine, founded there several scattered settlement, and promptly lost all interest in her immigration project.

-- Subsequent to the 1774 peace settlement of Kuucuk-Kajnarcu, Katherine II annexed into Russia the area north of the Black Sea coast reaching from the Caucasus to the mouth of the Danube. There, during the course of the Napoleonic War, and for similarly imperialistic reasons, Alexander I initiated the third wave of immigration, which ended only when Alexander II put a final stop to it in 1862. Immigrant Germans were allocated certain rugged and fallow acreage far away from Ukrainian settlements. In this context it should be mentioned that, in the Odessa region around 1825, there were more Germans (5 percent) than Ukrainians (0.5 percent).

-- During the German occupation of 1918, an attempt was made to establish an independent Ukrainian State, but Red Russia used its brutal power and weapons to take back the Ukraine, and by 1922 attached it formally to the USSR, but with Russia clearly in control.

-- During the Stalin reign of terror in the 1930s, millions of innocent Ukrainians were cruelly repressed, but we were treated even more brutally. The first full accounting of the genocide of Germans of [in] Russia was published in the spring of 2000 by the American historian, Dr. Samuel Sinner of Lincoln, Nebraska. He calculates that more than a million Germans in Russia (over 50 percent) were exterminated.

-- Following Hitler's assault on the Soviet Union and his march into the Ukraine in August of 1941, all Germans on the Ukraine's left-bank portion were deported to Siberia by Stalin, and in 1944 the remaining 350,000 Volksdeutsche [ethnic Germans] were forcibly removed to the West by Hitler. By the way, even then we rejected this concept of "ethnic Germans," which seemed quite derogatory to us. Rather, we felt that we were Germans in, or of, Russia. Without consulting those affected, the victorious powers, pursuant to their Potsdam agreements, rounded up a quarter million Germans from Russia, deported them, and forcefully scattered them all over Siberia. We were forced to bide our time there until the time of glasnost and perestroika. And even then it was not in the Ukraine, but in the Federal Republic of Germany, our "historical home country," that we claimed our final domicile.

-- Not until 1973 were individual families allowed to move to the Ukraine from Kazakhstan and Siberia. However, they were not allowed to return to their original settlements. Rather, they settled in the so-called neighboring areas or neighboring rayons. Between 1973 and 2000, their numbers amounted to about 10,000 to 20,000 persons, most of whom further relocated to Germany.

-- The demeaning term Aussiedler [emigrant resettlers] is the official designation given [by the government] to those Germans immigrating from the former USSR. The majority of these, arriving mainly from Russian Siberia and from Kazakstan, have come within the past twelve years. Rather than thinking of themselves as Ukrainerdeutsche [Germans from the Ukraine], they still identify as Russlanddeutsche [Germans from Russia].

-- Even from the onset of immigration to the multiple-peopled Russian State, our ancestors actually called themselves Russlaender [Russians, really], in contrast with [the dialect rendering of] Deitschlaen(d)nern [those in the German lands], i.e., inhabitants of the old German Reich before its dissolution in 1806.

-- I remind our readers of the fact that, in the mid-1980's, Moscow attempted to give us the designation Sovietdeutsche [Soviet-Germans] or Sovietuniondeutsche [Germans from the Soviet Union], a term which those concerned vehemently rejected. We now know that this intended designation vanished into thin air, not unlike a soap bubble, just prior to Christmas, 1991.

Given all that I have mentioned above, perhaps our overseas friends can now begin to understand, in summary, why we identify as and call ourselves Russlanddeutsche [Russia-Germans] (not as Russlandsdeutsche [Russia's Germans]) or, more correctly, Germans from Russia [translator's emphasis]. We wish thereby merely to underscore the special nature of our own history.

Our appreciation is extended to Alex Herzog for translation of this article.

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