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Russian-Germans in Tajikistan

Pohl, J. Otto. "Russian-Germans in Tajikistan." Neweurasia, 29 March 2007.


By 1999 almost all of the 30,000 Russian-Germans that had been recorded as living in Tajikistan in 1989 had left. Although large scale German settlement in the Russian Empire dates back to 1764, the migration to Tajikistan took place much later. It is almost entirely a product of events that took place near the end of World War II.

Tajikistan unlike other eastern areas of the USSR such as Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Altai Krai and Omsk Oblast did not receive any appreciable voluntary settlement by ethnic Germans from the Volga, Ukraine and northern Caucasus in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.

Nor did Tajikistan serve as a destination for Russian-Germans deported to special settlements during the collectivization of agriculture or the cleansing of the Soviet border regions during the 1930s. The 1939 Soviet census lists only 2,022 ethnic Germans in Tajikistan, the smallest concentration of any Soviet republic except Armenia with only 433 Germans.

The growth of the Russian-German population in Tajikistan prior to this date is difficult to track. The 1937 census did not count Russian-Germans in the four Central Asian republics of Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan, Turkmenistan and Tajikistan. The 1926 census gives a combined figure of 4,646 for both Uzbekistan and Tajikistan. The separation of the Tajik ASSR from the Uzbek SSR and the upgrading of this territory to the Tajik SSR only occurred in 1929.

The vast majority of the Russian-German population, however, must have been in Uzbekistan proper. This larger republic had a Russian-German population of 10,049 in 1939. The Russian-German population of Tajikistan thus remained quite small until the events of World War II. (For comparative census data on Russian-Germans from 1926, 1937 and 1939 see Krieger, table 1, p. 133).

Tajikistan also did not serve as a major destination for the Russian-Germans deported from the European areas of the USSR during the fall of 1941. The NKVD initially sent almost all of these deportees to Kazakhstan and Siberia. The official report from 25 December 1941 lists a total of 856,168 Russian-Germans deported to Kazakhstan and Siberia by rail. On 1 January 1942, the NKVD officials in these regions reported that 799,459 Russian-Germans had arrived in these regions.

The vast majority of the missing 56,709 deportees presumably died during transit to their new destinations from typhus, gastro-intestinal diseases and other illnesses. The poor sanitary conditions in the train wagons used to relocate the Russian-Germans made this massive mortality inevitable. Out of the nearly 800,000 Russian-Germans deported east of the Urals in 1941, the NKVD authorities reported that 385,785 had arrived in Kazakhstan by 1 January 1942.

Already by 25 November 1941, their counterparts in Altai Krai, Krasnoiarsk Krai, Novosibirsk Oblast and Omsk Oblast had recorded the arrival of 396,093 Russian-German deportees. Thus nearly all the surviving Russian-Germans deported in 1941 ended up in either Kazakhstan or Siberia. (For statistical information on the 1941 deportations see Bugai, docs. 43 and 44, pp. 74-75 and Milova, doc. 9, pp. 63-69 and doc. 47, pp. 147-148).

The Russian-Germans in Tajikistan did not arrive in this impoverished corner of Asia until 1945-1946. During 1941, the rapid advance of the Wehrmacht into the USSR saved some 350,000 Russian-Germans from deportation to Kazakhstan and Siberia. The vast majority of these people spared from Stalin’s ethnic cleansing in 1941 lived in Ukraine. During 1942-1944, the German military evacuated most of these Russian-Germans westward.

At the end of the Second World War the Soviet Union rounded up those Russian-Germans that had escaped deportation in 1941 and sent them to work under special settlement restrictions in the Urals, Siberia, Soviet Far East and Tajikistan. In total the Soviet Union received 203,796 Russian-Germans including 69,782 minors under 17 repatriated from areas formerly under Nazi rule. Soviet forces apprehended 195,191 of these men women and children in Germany.

American and British soldiers forcibly turned over many of these displaced Russian-Germans to Soviet forces in accordance with the Yalta Accords. Only about 100,000 Russian-Germans in Germany avoided repatriation to the USSR. Tajikistan for the first time became a center for the exile of Russian-German special settlers due to the forced repatriations. (For the number of Russian-German repatriates see Bugai, doc. 45, pp. 75 and 76 and Berdinskikh, doc. 8, pp. 339-343.)

The Stalin regime sent the repatriated Russian-Germans judged physically incapable of heavy labor to cotton kolkhozes in Tajikistan. Here they suffered from a lack of proper housing, food, sanitation and medical care. A report from Peoples Commissar of Health Miterev to Malenkov on 24 January 1946 noted that extremely poor material conditions for special settlers in Kurgan-Tiubin Oblast Tajikistan had led to excessive mortality.

They lived in appalling sanitary conditions and suffered from famine like food shortages. Each person received only 200 grams of wheat or barley a day, their accommodations lacked floor coverings and roofs and they completely lacked soap and linen. The unhealthy conditions of work in the cotton fields also contributed to the health problems of the Russian-Germans in Tajikistan.

The dust and pollen caused numerous infections of the lungs, eyes and cuts and scrapes especially among children. Trachoma, a debilitating eye disease that can cause blindness, became especially wide spread among the Russian-Germans assigned to cotton farms in Tajikistan. These miserable conditions afflicted tens of thousands of Russian-Germans.

By 1948 the number of Russian-Germans special settlers in Tajikistan had reached 18,184 people. This number had grown to 27,879 of which 17,770 consisted of repatriates by the summer of 1950. Thus a little less than ten percent of the Russian-Germans forcibly repatriated back to the USSR ended up in Tajikistan. (For a reproduction of the report from Miterev to Malenkov see Bekirova, chapter 2, p. 3, for a personal account from a Russian-German repatriated from Germany to Tajikistan see Daes, pp. 141-150, for statistical data on the number of Russian-Germans in Tajikistan see Eisfeld and Herdt, doc. 312, p.319 and doc. 341, p. 361).

During 1954 to 1956, the Soviet government dismantled the special settlement regime, officially releasing deported and repatriated Russian-German adults from this legal disability on 13 December 1955. The Russian-German population in Tajikistan grew slowly after this date reaching a high of 38,853 in 1979. It then shrunk down to 32,678 from 1979 to 1989 and completely collapsed due to emigration from 1989 to 1999. A significant Russian-German population only lived in Tajikistan for about a half a century.

The Russian-German population in Tajikistan consisted mostly of people forcibly repatriated back to the USSR after being evacuated to Germany from Ukraine by the German military during World War II. Their initial years of life in Tajikistan involved great physical hardship and persecution. They lived as special settlers on cotton kolkhozes and lacked both material necessities and human rights. In the 1990s the survivors of the repatriations and their descendents almost all left Tajikistan due to that country’s civil war.

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