Assessment for Germans in Kazakhstan
|Publisher||Minorities at Risk Project|
|Publication Date||31 December 2003|
|Cite as||Minorities at Risk Project, Assessment for Germans in Kazakhstan, 31 December 2003, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/469f3aa21e.html [accessed 25 May 2013]|
|Disclaimer||This is not a UNHCR publication. UNHCR is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse, its content. Any views expressed are solely those of the author or publisher and do not necessarily reflect those of UNHCR, the United Nations or its Member States.|
The future of Germans in Kazakhstan appears relatively stable, with a low risk of serious protest or rebellion. The significant outlflows of ethnic Germans during the 1990s (approximately 600,000) have decreased, and many reasons now encourage them to stay, including a booming Kazakh economy, tighter immigration regulations in Germany, and greater efforts by the German government to support those ethnic Germans remaining in Kazakhstan. While autonomy has not been permitted by the Kazakh government, German money has helped to build community centers, hospitals and other infrastructure projects in German areas. Nevertheless, the group has a strong sense of communal identity, is concentrated in two areas of the country (GROUPCON = 3), and real or perceived discrimination in favor of ethnic Kazakhs remains an issue of contention for many, leaving open the risk of future protest.
Today's Germans of the former Soviet Union are descendants of settlers who accepted Tzarina Catherine the Great's 1763 offer of land along the lower Volga River as part of her campaign to introduce more efficient agricultural methods to the area. Most Germans emigrated from Swabia, an area in southern Germany. They were mostly Lutherans and Mennonites, and a smaller number were Roman Catholics (BELIEF = 3). Granted freedom of religion and local self-government, the Germans formed a prosperous community whose language and culture remained largely intact (LANG = 1, CUSTOM = 1).
German settlement of the region of modern Kazakhstan took place in three stages, with the first Germans arriving in 1871. By the beginning of the 20th century, over 110 German settlements had been established in the northwestern territories. After the Bolshevik Revolution (1917), the Russian Germans were allowed to establish a Volga German Autonomous Republic in 1924. However, during Stalin's collectivization program in the early 1930s, many German owners of large farms from the Volga region were forced to settle in Kazakhstan (AUTLOST = 2). After the 1941 German invasion of the Soviet Union, Stalin ordered thousands of Volga Germans to be relocated to Siberia and Central Asia. For about a decade after the war, the Germans remained "special residents," forbidden to resettle and ordered to report regularly to the authorities. Their plight began to improve after the 1956 meeting between Konrad Adenauer, the West German Chancellor, and Nikita Khrushchev, the Soviet leader. Their formal rehabilitation was made official in 1964, when the Supreme Soviet cleared ethnic Germans of accusations of collaboration with the Nazi invaders.
After the easing of restrictions, many Germans chose to settle in Central Asia. The "Virgin Lands" campaign initiated by Khrushchev in the early 1960s was an incentive for Germans to settle in Kazakhstan. As a result of these developments, in the 1980s more than half of the more than two million Soviet Germans were concentrated in Kazakhstan. Today they live mostly in the northeast of the country between Tselinograd and Ust-Kamenogorsk (GROUPCON = 3). A minority also live along the Kazakh-Kyrgyz border.
Despite a strong sense of communal identity (COHESX80, COHESX9 = 5), accented by linguistic and religious distinctiveness, Kazakhstan's Germans are not highly mobilized or organized politically. They are represented primarily by cultural organizations which also act as political mouthpieces to advocate for German cultural and political rights (GOJPA03 = 2). German protest since Kazakh independence has been low to non-existent (PROT90X = 1; PROT98X, PROT99-03 = 0). Primary grievances are cultural, in particular regarding German-language education and religious freedom (CULGR203 = 1; CULGR303 = 1; CULGR03 = 2). These grievances are also the basis for political grievances in terms of seeking greater political rights (POLGR203 = 2).
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