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Russians in Germany

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Title: Russians in Germany  
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Subject: History of Germans in Russia, Ukraine and the Soviet Union, Culture of Germany, German cuisine, Immigration to Germany, Germany–Russia relations
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Russians in Germany

There is a significant Russian population in Germany. The collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991 triggered mass immigration to the West, with Germany being the top destination, mostly for economic and ethnic reasons. Russians are the biggest migrant group in Germany, together with Turks.[1]

Soviet and post-Soviet emigration from Russia

German population data from 2012 records 1,213,000 Russian migrants residing in Germany—this includes current and former citizens of the Russian Federation as well as former citizens of the Soviet Union.[2] The Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs reports that about 3,500,000 speakers of Russian live in Germany,[3] split largely into three ethnic groups:

  1. ethnic Russians
  2. Russians descended from German migrants to the East
  3. Russian Jews

Immigration to Germany surged in the late 1980s and early 1990s. According to Global Commission on International Migration research, "In the 1990s ethnic Germans and Jews comprised the largest components of emigration, and the most attractive destinations were Germany, Israel and the United States."[4] Between 1992 and 2000 Germany purportedly received 550,000 emigrants from Russia, 60% of the total amount emigrating to the three main destinations.[5]

Ethnic background

Aussiedler from Russia

Earlier in history, particularly during the 17th century, a number of Germans migrated to Russia and modern-day Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan. Article 116 of Germany's Basic Law, approved in 1949, provides individuals of German heritage with the right of return to Germany and the means to acquire German citizenship if they suffered persecution after the Second World War as a result of their German heritage.[6] As a result, roughly 3.6 million ethnic Germans moved to West Germany between 1950 and 1996.[6] These German decedents increasingly petitioned to return to Germany under First Secretary of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union Nikita Khrushchev. According to historian John Glad, by 1957 the petitioners, commonly known as "Aussiedlers" or transferred settlers, filed over 100,000 applications a year to migrate to West Germany—several thousands returned in the 1970s.[7] The flow of Aussiedlers increased with the break up of the Soviet Union.[7] For instance, between 1992 and 2007, a total of 1,797,084 ethnic Germans from the former USSR emigrated to Germany. Of this total number 923,902 were from Kazakhstan, 693,348 were from Russia, 73,460 were from Kyrgyzstan, 40,560 from Ukraine, 27,035 from Uzbekistan, and 14,578 from Tajikistan.[8] Numbers peaked in 1994–213,214 Aussiedlers—and then gradually began to decline.[9] The number of non-German relatives who emigrated along with them is not known, but many if not most are presumably members of Germany's ethnic Russian community (see below). The number of emigrated Aussiedlers fluctuates as many retained housing in the Former Soviet Union—some are presumed to have returned to their residences in Former Soviet Republics.[7]

Soviet Jews

After the Second World War Germany's Jewish population was 15,000, a small percentage of the country's pre-war Jewish population of 500,000.[10] That number grew to 30,000 by the late 1980s. Then between 1991 and 2005, more than 200,000 Jews from the former Soviet Union moved to Germany.[11] In total, the Berman Jewish DataBank estimates that over 225,000 Jews from the Former Soviet Union (Russia and various republics) immigrated to Germany between 1989 and 2012.[12] Many, speaking Yiddish as well as Russian, picked up the German language easily. The Berman Jewish DataBank estimates "Germany's core Jewish population at 118,000 in 2013," of which all but about 5,000-6,000 are post-Soviet immigrants; the community numbers about 250,000 if non-Jewish relatives are included."[12] Growth began to diminish in 2005 when the German government replaced the special quota immigration law (Kontingentsflüchtlingsgesetz) with more restrictive rules (Zuwanderungsgesetz).[12]

Other Russian Speakers

Other Russian speakers in Germany fall into a few different categories. The German Statistisches Bundesamt (Federal Statistical Office) reported the following figures for Russian speakers from the year 2000: legal aliens (365,415), political asylees (20,000), students (7,431), family members of German citizens (10,000-15,000), special workers in fields of science and culture (5,000-10,000), and diplomatic corps (5,000).[13] The largest percentage comes from the "legal alien" category. The vast majority of the legal aliens are family members of returnees (Aussiedlers and Soviet Jews), but who have yet to receive German citizenship.[13]

Integration into German society

Most Russian-Germans have assimilated and integrated well into German society.[14] As with most other immigrant groups, there remain some contemporary issues. German authorities have been concerned that the high number of Russian immigrants self-segregating in certain neighborhoods hinders social integration. This has led to restrictions on immigration from Russia and the former Soviet Union. Other issues have included crime, drugs, poverty and unemployment.[15]

The Aussiedler have raised many issues. Although they were expected to assimilate rapidly into German society, Aussiedler and their descendants are struggling with their identity, and most consider themselves Russian.[16] In Russia, due to outside pressure, they had become assimilated into Russian society, in most cases speaking Russian as their first or only language, and this has made their return difficult[17] Native Germans typically consider them Russian, just as they consider German-Americans visiting Germany to be American, despite their German surnames.

A 2006 study by the German Youth Institute revealed that Russian-Germans face high levels of prejudice and intolerance in Germany, ranging from low job opportunities, to problems in the real estate market.[18] The same report also found out that most Russian-Germans still identify as Russian, rather than German.[16]

See also


  1. ^ Bondar; Machleidt (March 2007). "Addiction among Russian and Turkish migrants in Germany: developing prevention strategies". European Psychiatry. Elsevier. Retrieved 22 June 2012. The largest populations of migrants in Germany are Turks and Russians.  (subscription required)
  2. ^ Persons with a migrant background. Population, 2012, by migrant status and citizenship. De Statis: Statistisches Bundesamt [Federal Statistical Office (Germany)]. Accessed 24 June 2014.
  3. ^ Kamynin, Mikhail (28 May 2007). "Russian MFA Spokesman Mikhail Kamynin Interview with RIA Novosti Regarding Upcoming Conference on Status of Russian Language Abroad". Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation. Retrieved 24 June 2014. 
  4. ^ Valery Tishkov, Zhanna Zayinchkovskaya, and Galina Vitkovskaya, "Migration in the countries of the former Soviet Union", Global Commission on International Migration, September 2005, 15.
  5. ^ Irina Ivakhnyuk, "The Russian Migration Policy and Its Impact on Human Development: The Historical Perspective," Human Development Reports: Research Paper 2009/14 (United Nations Development Programme, April 2009), 19.
  6. ^ a b Martin, Philip L. (1998). "Germany: Reluctant Land of Immigration". German Issues (21): 24. Retrieved 25 June 2014. 
  7. ^ a b c John Glad, Russia Abroad: Writers, History, Politics (Tenafly, NJ: Hermitage Publishers, 1999), 415-416.
  8. ^ Stefan Wolff, "German and German minorities in Europe," in Divided Nations and European Integration, edited by Tristan James Mabry (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2013). Also available at
  9. ^ Anlage 4 zum Integrationsbericht LK-GF 2008-06-09 Aussiedlerstatistik seit 1950 - Bundesverwaltungsamt [German], accessed 25 June 2014,
  10. ^ Ludmila Isurin, Russian Diaspora: Culture, Identity, and Language Change (Berlin: De Gruyter Mouton, 2011), 17.
  11. ^ "Latkes and vodka: Immigrants from the former Soviet Union are transforming Jewish life in Germany". The Economist. Jan 3, 2008. Retrieved 24 June 2014. 
  12. ^ a b c Sergio DellaPergola. “World Jewish Population, 2013,” in Arnold Dashefsky and Ira M. Sheskin. (Editors) The American Jewish Year Book, 2013, Volume 113(2013) (Dordrecht: Springer) pp. 279-358. Available at
  13. ^ a b Polian, Pavel (20 December 2004-9 January 2005). "Russkogovoriashchie v Germanii [Russian]". Demoskop Weekly (183-184). Retrieved 25 June 2014. 
  14. ^ Heiner Schäfer (2 October 2006). "The challenges of immigrant descendants´ integration in Europe". 11th Metropolis Conference, 2006. Center of Geographic Studies, University of Lisbon. Retrieved 22 June 2012. Russian boys have the reputation of being violent and brutal – although this applies only for a very small group of them. Predominantly they are integrating into the German society. 
  15. ^ Ray Furlong (8 December 2004). "Ghetto woes afflict Russian-Germans". BBC. Retrieved 22 June 2012. But Germany wants to stop the influx, concerned that the new arrivals are living in self-created ghettoes. The kids here have typical immigration problems, arrival in a new country where everything is strange: the language, the laws, everything. There is a whole generation of kids uprooted from their homes as teenagers, alienated in Germany. 
  16. ^ a b Schäfer. "During the last 15 years far more than half a million children and youth have come from the countries of former Soviet Union to Germany. Lots of them got immediately German passports by descent but still feel as Russians."
  17. ^ Furlong.
  18. ^ Schäfer. "Although Germany has become an immigration country educational or pedagogical support for young migrants is not very developed. They have low knowledge and information about the background and the needs of young migrants. They are expected to assimilate with the German society and to feel and behave like Germans do."
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