Thursday, March 29, 2007

The Russian-Germans in Tajikistan

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 16 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.


Bekirova, Gul’nara, Krymskotatarskaia problema v SSSR (1944-1991) found at downloaded on 2 January 2005.

Berdinskikh, Viktor, Spetsposelentsy: Politicheskaia ssylka narodov sovetskoi rossii (Moscow: Novoe Literaturnoe Obozrenie, 2005).

Bugai, N.F., ed., Iosif Stalin – Lavrentiiu Berii. “Ikh nado deportirovat’,” Dokumenty, fakty, kommentarii (Moscow: Druzhba narodov, 1992).

Daes, Nelly, Gone Without a Trace: German-Russian Women in Exile translated by Holland, Nancy (Lincoln, NE: American Historical Society of Germans from Russia, 2001)

Eisfeld, Alfred and Herdt, Viktor, eds., Deportation, Sondersiedlung, Arbeitsarmee: Deutsche in der Sowjetunion 1941 bis 1956 (Koln: Verlag Wissenschaft und Politik, 1996).

Krieger, Viktor, Rein, Volga, Irtysh: Iz istorii nemtsev tsentralnoi azii (Almaty: “Daik-Press,” 2006).

Milova, O.L., ed., Deportatsii narodov SSSR (1930-1950-e gody). Chast’ 2. Deportatsiia nemtsev (Sentiabr’ 1941-Fevral’ 1942 gg.)

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

More Progress on the Book Manuscript

This morning I got up and wrote another two pages on Catherine's Grandchildren: A Short History of the Russian-Germans under Soviet Rule. The manuscript is now up to 160 pages. I am still filling in material on the more than 75,000 Russian-Germans (about 25,000 of them Mennonites) living in Siberia prior to 1941. Today I wrote about their role in the Russian Civil War. I should finish adding all the material on the Siberian Russian-Germans to the book manuscript before the end of this week.

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Recent Progress on the Book Manuscript

Right now I am working on finishing up the second draft of Catherine's Grandchildren: A Short History of the Russian-Germans under Soviet Rule. Yesterday I started revising the manuscript. Since then I have written another six pages of text bringing the total up to 158. I have mostly been adding material on the Russian-German communities in Siberia prior to World War II, particularly those in the regions of Slavgorod and Omsk. The history of these settlements during the first four decades of the 20th Century is quite fascinating.

Arivaca Film Exposition

Saturday I went to the Second Annual Arivaca Film Exposition. Like last year, I could only stay and watch the day program since getting home in the dark is a problem on unlit and unpaved roads. Unlike last year, dramas rather than documentaries dominated the schedule. There was only one documentary out of four films in the day program this year. It was on the music scene in Tucson during the 1980s and 1990s. This was a subject I knew nothing about. Now I should be able to correctly answer any trivia question on the topic. I liked last year's program better. It had an emphasis on documentaries dealing with important local political issues such as immigration and water resources. But, my tastes are probably in the minority.

Saturday, March 24, 2007

63 Years Since the Deportation of the Kalmyks from Rostov Oblast

The Stalin regime deported over 90,000 Kalmyks from the Kalmyk ASSR to Siberia on 28-29 December 1943. Significant Kalmyk communities, however, remained in Rostov and Stalingrad oblasts. In the spring and summer of 1944, the NKVD conducted a series of deportation operations to forcibly resettle these Kalmyks to Omsk Oblast and Sverdlovsk Oblast. The removal of those Kalmyks that had migrated west of the Kalmyk Steppe to live in Rostov Oblast took place first. On 11 March 1944, the SNK passed resolution no. 5475rs ordering that all the Kalmyks living in Rostov Oblast be deported to Omsk Oblast. Three days later on 14 March 1944, Beria issued NKVD decree no. 00276 providing instructions for the implementation of this operation. Eleven days later the Soviet security organs ruthlessly executed these orders. On 25 March 1944, the NKVD and NKGB rounded up and deported a recorded total of 2,684 Kalmyks from Rostov Oblast to Omsk Oblast. Hence they joined the vast majority of the Kalmyk population in Siberian exile. In early June a similar operation would remove the Kalmyks living in Stalingrad Oblast to Sverdlovsk Oblast in the Urals. The Soviet deportations unlike many other cases of ethnic cleansing sought the total removal of ethnically defined populations from their homelands.


N.F. Bugai, ed., Iosif Stalin – Lavrentiiu Berii. “Ikh nado deportirovat’,” Dokumenty, fakty, kommentarii (Moscow: Druzhba narodov, 1992), doc. 2 , p. 85, doc., 4, p. 86, doc. 8, p. 89 and doc. 15, pp. 93-95.

Friday, March 23, 2007

I think I could do more with this blog

I do not think this blog is living up to its full potential. I believe its primary deficiency is its small number of readers. It would be a great platform if I could up my readership from the current six people who occasionally read it to about a dozen regular readers. Does anybody have any ideas about how to do this?

Thursday, March 22, 2007

I had a job interview this morning

I had my first job interview in over a year this morning. I think it went better than the other three interviews I have had since I got my Ph.D. Out of over 100 jobs I have applied to since earning my doctorate I estimate only about half of them have even bothered to send me rejection letters. I am too lazy to go and count the exact number. So I am pretty happy to have actually gotten an interview this year. If they offer me the job I will take it.

Current Big Project

My current big project is to finish editing and revising Catherine's Grandchildren: A Short History of the Russian-Germans under Soviet Rule by June. I have put off working on the manuscript for a while due to other obligations. I intend to get back to getting it into publishable form in the next couple of days.

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

New Links

I have added two new links. The first is in accordance with my policy of reciprocity. I recently discovered that TOL/neweurasia now has a link to this blog. The second link is a favor to a friend. Cassandra Clifford runs the Children's Blog and I encourage anybody interested in issues relating to the human rights of children to go visit it.

Sunday, March 18, 2007

St. Patrick's Day in Town

There were a lot of events in town today. I went and listened to Chris O'Byrne play guitar and fiddle accompanied by Ari Ellis and Cliff Hope on percussion. Most of his stuff is bluegrass, but he had a few Irish tunes. Then I partook in sampling the various chilies prepared for the Arivaca Volunteer Fire Department chili cook off . I liked the Hawaiian one the best. Finally, I saw a presentation sponsored by the local library and the Arizona Humanities Council on Teresa Urrea. It was a lot less stressful than last Saturday.

Saturday, March 17, 2007

New Personal Record: Six Miles in 90 Minutes

This morning before it got too hot I walked to town in a mere 90 minutes. That is an average speed of 4 miles an hour or one mile every fifteen minutes over unpaved roads. My usual time is about 120 minutes or only 3 miles an hour. For somebody whose health was an absolute wreck five years ago I think today's walk was a pretty good accomplishment.

Thursday, March 15, 2007

Chinese-Jewish Fusion Food or Kosher Szechwan

Last night I cooked up a new dish which combined kosher egg noodles with Chinese spices. First boil the water to cook the noodles. Then add the package of noodles and cook according to the instructions on the package. At the same time chop up and fry in a wok one medium onion, one large clove of garlic, one inch of fresh ginger root, one Serrano chili pepper and five miniature carrots. Cook these ingredients over medium heat. In a small bowl combine three tablespoons of hosein sauce with three tablespoons of ketchup and two teaspoons of chili oil. After boiling the noodles add them to the wok and pour the sauce over them. Then cook while stirring until the sauce is evenly distributed over the surface of the noodles. This dish turned out to be surprisingly tasty.

Update: I have corrected the spelling of "poor" to "pour." Normally, I would not note this correction. But, it was pointed out to me by Kristin in the comments and since English is not her native language I think she deserves some credit for this. I am pretty sure that there will never be a day when I am correcting errors in Estonian language posts. So I am pretty impressed.

Ethnic Cleansing in Central Europe 1945-1946

During 1945 and 1946 some 14 million Germans from Central Europe and the Balkans permanently lost their traditional homelands due to a ruthless campaign of ethnic cleansing. Estimates of the number of ethnic German refugees and expellees to perish as a result of this forced migration range up to two million people, most of them women and children. At the International Conference on International Borders and Migration I hosted on Saturday, Rudolf Pueschel spoke about the forced expulsion of the Sudeten Germans from what is now the Czech Republic. After the defeat of Germany in the spring of 1945, the new authorities in Czechoslovakia forcibly expelled over three million ethnic Germans from Bohemia. More than 200,000 of them died in the process of this ethnic erasure. Soviet and Polish forces expelled millions more Germans from lands that are now part of Poland into the current borders of Germany. My friend Abed left a link in a recent comment on my blog to this article dealing with this colossal crime.

New Link

In the spirit of reciprocity I am adding a link to ClioWeb. I did not have time to do this Friday when I first noticed that Jeremy Boggs, a Ph.D. student at George Mason University had a link to my blog. As always my standard linking rules are in effect. If you link to my blog I will link to yours. If you delink to me I will likewise remove my link to you. I believe that this is the only fair way to manage my blogroll.

The Conference Went Very Well

There was a time not too long ago when I fully expected that all the outside participants would drop out leaving me without any presenters other than myself. This did not happen and all the presentations and question sessions went very well. The people of Arivaca have given me very positive feedback on the conference. They have all said that they found it both an informative and an enjoyable experience. Since I had prepared myself for the possibility of a complete disaster I think the conference turned out to be an overall success. In retrospect organizing and hosting a conference without any institutional backing was a pretty crazy idea. But, it turned out much better than I had any reason to expect.

Friday, March 09, 2007

The final day before the conference

Greta Uehling is definitely coming to the conference. Chris and I will be picking her up at the airport this evening. I have keys to the hall. My paper is finished and ready to go. All that is left regarding preparation is to set up the screen and pick up the final items for the two coffee breaks. Also I have a little bit of good news not related to the conference. I got short listed for an academic post today.

Thursday, March 08, 2007

Last minute conference organizing

I am making last minute arrangements now. I am picking up the keys to the hall today. Then during the next two days I need to take care of such mundane things as making sure people get here from the airport. I also need to finish preparing my own talk. But, that is almost done. I am hoping that everything goes smoothly. I would hate for my first experience as a conference organizer to be a disaster.

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

Conference Update

Well the conference preparation is moving right along. It looks like Greta Uehling may very well be able to make it to the conference. She is currently negotiating with the airlines to try and get a ticket. I really hope she can make it.

Saturday, March 03, 2007

Conference Organizing

To my half dozen readers, sorry for the lack of posts recently. I have been quite busy making the final preparations for the International Conference on International Borders and Migration. I originally referred to this event as the Big Idea, but now I think the World's Smallest Academic Conference might be more accurate. Initially 18 people expressed interest in the conference. I then had an 80% drop out rate including four in the last two months. I am particularly dismayed that everybody from the University of Arizona in Tucson dropped out in January. Fortunately, the remaining four participants including myself cannot drop out at this point. I have rented the hall and publicly committed myself to the conference. The other three people have all made their travel and lodging arrangements. So next week there will be a conference.