"The situation of Aussiedler youths from the former
republics of the Soviet Union in the Federal Republic of Germany"
By Peter Hilkes, Ukrainian Free University, Munich
1. The situation of youth Aussiedler always points to the situation
in the countries of origin. It is coined especially by the history
and the status of the Russian Germans in the Soviet Union and its
former states and the improved chance for emigration to the Federal
Republic since the end of the `80s. They are now torn between their
homeland in Kazakhstan or Russia and are in Germany searching for
their own identity. This confusion between the fundamentally different
worlds in the country of origin and Germany reflects the process
of integration in the Federal Republic. The causes of problems in
Germany are thus frequently tied to the country of origin.
2. Young Russian Germans immigrated mostly involuntarily to the
Federal Republic; as a rule they were taken along by their parents
and grandparents. In an important phase of their personal development
they had to give up their ties and lost their stronghold in their
milieu (e.g. friends and acquaintances). The attitude of their parents
to emigrate as Russian Germans to the fatherland, the homeland of
their ancestors, is often strange to them. Especially youth who
grew up in a Streusiedlung (?) see it this way. They view the German
Russian culture of their parents and grandparents often indifferently
and perceive the emphasis on the German culture and the orientation
towards life in Germany as a burden. However, it is not to be forgotten
that Russian Germans, contrary to their neighbors in the countries
of origin, have the chance to immigrate to the Federal Republic.
To be German i.e. to have a German spouse has become more attractive.
Many reasons for the emigration of Russian Germans can be given
such as the bringing together of families, ethnic tensions especially
in Kazakhstan and Central Asia, the bad economic situation in the
country of origin and the skepticism toward an improvement of the
3. Conflicts between Aussiedler parents and their children are
pre-destined with the emigration to Germany. A new part of life
in which they have to orient themselves accordingly begins for both.
Frequently parents are overburdened to give their children the necessary
stronghold. They have enough problems of their own (looking for
an apartment, looking for work, language courses, going to the authorities).
Thus it is not surprising that young Aussiedler are increasingly
looking for ties to other Aussiedler youths. This group will become
even larger through increasing immigration to Germany. Their increase
in numbers provides for an increase in self esteem which expresses
itself in the formation of groups or gangs. Deviations from the
traditional Russian German norm stemming from the traditions of
the Soviet era provide often conflicts within families. The adaptation
to the west by the children is rejected by parents and grandparents
(Aussiedler families often come as a traditional family to Germany).
Thus the system with strong ties in the country of origin (?) becomes
4. The emigration movement of Russian Germans has led to deep
separations of families. In increasing numbers part of the family
lives in Germany and the rest in the countries of origin. Ties grown
for a long period of time are cut also from the view of the youths.
The uncertainty of the social situation in the country of origin
and the situation of relatives, friends and acquaintances adds to
the geographic distance. This is perceived as a special burden having
an effect on all generations.
5. Aussiedler youths discover new freedoms after emigration. The
open society of the Federal Republic sanctions less strict than
the former Soviet Union deviations from ethics and moral. Significant
improvements, from the view point of the youths, have been created
there; however, this applies first of all to cities and less to
the situation in the country. Life in Germany appears `free' because
the educational system still presents old values by means of outdated
methods. It is difficult for the youths to learn the handling of
the freedoms because welfare is lacking in the Federal Republic
because of deep cuts in funding. Remedies are urgently needed based
on increasing conflicts.
6. By mastering the German language a, perhaps the most important,
prerequisite for a successful integration in the Federal Republic
is met. However, most youths Aussiedler don't know German. Exceptions
are sometimes youths from compact Russian German settlements who
understand either High German or a dialect or even master it. Normally
Aussiedler youths come into the country without knowing the language
and lose their `deafness' only through communication with others
when speaking Russian. Those youths who do no longer attend school
have special difficulties. They don't have the opportunity to learn
German systematically like others because of a lack of offers i.e.
due to a lack of funding. Altogether, many Aussiedler youths are
too little motivated to learn German. The reason lie with the parents
and grandparents. They strived very little to learn the language
before their emigration i.e. to pass it on to their children. Instead
they relied too much on the language courses in the Federal Republic.
Language tests in the countries of origin since 1996 may bring about
7. Aussiedler youths are not uniform but very different according
to the country of origin of their parents or grandparents, according
to language, denomination and level of education. Prerequisites
and their willingness for integration differ. Many can handle the
difference in social relationships in the Federal Republic where
the individual depends on itself; however, at the same time they
miss the close social ties of the country of origin where many deficits
were compensated through contact to others. In the last few years
there is a trend whereby a chance for a successful integration diminishes
with the deterioration of conditions for integration in Germany.
Based on the continual immigration life in ghettos will increase
in spite of providing apartments, [a measure] in effect since 1996.
More are moving in already existing centers for Aussiedler. Ties
to the world of native youths outside of school and language courses
become difficult. Finally, there is the competition for places in
training and at work.
8. Alcoholism and violence are an increasing problem with Aussiedler
youths in Germany. The causes are many but are traced back to a
lack of success in integration. Often pedagogues and social workers
dealing with the welfare of youths face helplessly this problem
just stated. Alcoholism and the willingness towards violence can
be found increasingly also with native youths but the special quality
of a willingness towards violence and its use appear to be a surprise
with Aussiedler youths. Overcoming conflicts was often synonymous
with use of violence in the countries of origin. Thus the Aussiedler
youths are a mirror of Russias or Kazakhstans conditions in society.
9. Education and training in Germany differ widely from that of
the Soviet Union and its former states. Even though innovations
in schools and colleges or universities have taken place there,
they are quite different from region to region. Ideology and traditions
play a part also after the collapse of the USSR. Teachers still
hold on to outdated instructional models and innovations remain
wishful thinking. With this background Aussiedler youths in Germany
first have to learn how to learn. Although many bring with them
adequate school records insufficient knowledge of German, however,
prevent the access to appropriately successful completion. The abilities
of complex thinking and critical analysis are overlapping goals
in the Federal Republic and are new to Aussiedler youths. After
all, this and appropriate special scientific knowledge are crucial
for the access to professional qualification. Cuts in funding in
Germany create here an uneven balance. Frequently an especially
strict criterion is applied to the question of access to continuous
completion in the Federal Republic with Aussiedler youths. The impression
arises that is in part intentionally tolerated with fatal results
10. The portrait of Germany does not correspond in many aspects
to that painted by relatives, friends and acquaintances. That's
the reason why for many Aussiedler youths the different characteristics
of the Federal Republic form a fundamental problem from which other
difficulties emerge. Knowledge of the GDR are hardly useful in a
place of residence in the old Federal Republic. Moreover, there
was often only incomplete information, if any. Deficits can be reduced
by the educational system i.e. the offers of education and welfare.
Projects for integration in which natives and Aussiedler youths
are equally participating lead the way. These long term measures
require necessary support. Thus a reversal to cut the financial
means is urgently called for.
German to English translation by Brigitte von Budde, Germans from
Russia Heritage Collection, NDSU Libraries, Fargo.
Reprinted with permission of Peter Hilkes, East European
Institute, Munich, Germany.