My guest was social activists, media editors of Russian Germans, businessmen, cultural figures, many of whom are of German nationality themselves.
Tatiana Ilarionova, Ph.D., professor of the Russian Academy of State Service under the President of the Russian Federation, general director of the Energy Knowledge Institute, began her career in the late 1970s as a journalist for the newspaper of Soviet Germans Neues Leben. In a radio program from the German Volga series, she recalls her work in the era of perestroika, business trips to the compact settlement sites of Russian Germans, as well as letters received by the editorial office of the newspaper Neues Leben. Tatiana Ilarionova selected about a hundred of thousands of letters that were included in her book The Fate of Russian Germans: Collective Confession in Letters. Excerpts from them also sound in a radio program.
What was the post-war Germany policy towards the Russian Germans?
The policy of the Federal Republic of Germany was aimed at solving the problem of the Russian Germans. When in 1955, Chancellor Konrad Adenauer arrived in Moscow, he first of all at the talks with Khrushchev and Bulganin asked to release the Germans, who were forcibly detained in Russia.
Was it about prisoners of war?
No, it is not. He never spoke of prisoners of war. He spoke only of the Germans who were forcibly held in the Soviet Union. And Khrushchev says to him: “You mean prisoners of war? We have only 9 thousand prisoners of war. Not more. And these are not just prisoners of war. These are convicted war criminals. ” And Adenauer says that he received over a hundred thousand letters from Germans who want to move to Germany. Allow these people to go to Germany. This will mean, I practically quote, that the war is over. As a result, in 1958, an agreement was signed in Bonn, and an oral agreement was reached on family reunification. It was a deal of two governments.
The Germans were able to leave then?
The part of the Germans, not very big, who confirmed their German citizenship, received such an opportunity. For example, some Germans retained their passports, confirming that they were German citizens before the revolution. There was a group of so-called Ukrainian Germans, who during the war years were resettled in the Reich as Folskdeutsche. They received citizenship, but were later repatriated. There were Baltic Germans who lived earlier in independent Estonia or Latvia. They also were not very many. And there were Volga Germans who never had German passports. They were real Soviet citizens. However, Article 116 of the Basic Law of the Federal Republic of Germany states that all Germans, even if they have never been to Germany, can be recognized as citizens of the country. And for the Volga Germans, it was a chance to move to Germany.
But Soviet Germans did not have families in Germany. Who was they to be reunited with?
Some of the repatriated in Germany remained relatives, who fell into the American zone. And they wrote to the German Embassy and asked for permission to move. Konrad Adenauer prepared for the trip to Moscow and began by writing to one mother, whose son remained in Soviet captivity. There were words that could not touch him, and he delved into the whole story.
This is all post-war history. I understand that there were people who happily left. But I remain unconvinced: emigration has become a tragedy for the Russian Germans - the people of a multinational state. What motivates the Germans to stay here?
Much has not been learned. In the 1960s, not only in the Soviet Union, but also in many other countries, there was a trend: intermarriage. And many Russian Germans are also starting to enter into mixed marriages. There were many assimilated Germans who came to the cities from collective farms and villages that received education. They took root in Soviet society, and these social contacts became an obstacle to resettlement. First of all, such people recognized here remained in Russia. When the resettlement began, those Germans who lived compactly moved first. For example, the compact settlements of the Germans in the Orenburg region, in the Perevolotsk or Aleksandrovsk districts, were huge: 3-5 thousand people each. One family moved - after three years the village was empty. Migration is not a solution for individuals. This is a social psychology, a disease. If we look at the map from where people started to move, we will see that it is from places of compact residence. One neighbor says to another: my son was lucky, he found a good job, he has a car, a house. Everything! The village is empty.
Those who lived on their own, or later moved, or did not move at all. And there were other reasons that prompted to move?
Of course, this desire to live better. Recall the economic conditions in the early 1990s. It is just a disaster. And of course, the economic reasons for hundreds of thousands of Germans played a huge role.