Autonomous Republic

The Volga German Autonomous Soviet Socialist Republic (German: Autonome Sozialistische Sowjetrepublik der Wolgadeutschen, abbreviated A.S.S.R.W.D.; Russian: Автономная Советская Социалистическая Республика Немцев Поволжья) was an autonomous republic established in Soviet Russia, with its capital at the Volga port of Engels (until 1931 known as Pokrovsk) in 1918 following the Russian Revolution, by October 29 Decree of the Soviet government. It occupied the area of compact settlement of the large Volga German minority in Russia, which numbered almost 1.8 million by 1897. The republic was declared on 6 January 1924.


Volga German Republic Flag
Flag of the Autonomous Volga German Republic. Source: Wikipedia.


During the Russian Civil War some Volga Germans enlisted with the White Army and, as a result, fierce attacks by the Red Army on Volga German communities took place. In the aftermath of the war, the famine that swept the U.S.S.R. took the lives of one third of the Volga German population. To the moment of declaration of the autonomy an amnesty was announced. However it eventually was applied to a small number of people. According to the politics of korenizatsiya, carried out in 1920s in the Soviet Union, usage of German language was promoted in official documents and Germans were encouraged to occupy management positions. According to the 1939 census, there were 366,685 ethnic Germans in the Republic.

The German invasion of the Soviet Union (known in the former U.S.S.R. as the Great Patriotic War, 1941-1945) marked the end of the Volga German A.S.S.R. The Soviet government declared all Germans to be enemies of the state, which increased the persecution and fear of the Volga Germans among the general Russian populace. On August 28, 1941, Joseph Stalin issued a formal Decree of Banishment, which abolished the Volga German A.S.S.R. and exiled all Volga Germans to the Kazakh S.S.R. and Siberia. 

On 1 September 1941, mass evacuation was announced for the Volga Germans. Ten days later they began their forced deportation to Kazakhstan and Siberia.


Coat of Arms of the Autonomous Volga German Republic. Source: Wikipedia.
Coat of Arms of the Autonomous Volga German Republic. Source: Wikipedia.



J. Otto Pohl, Ethnic Cleansing in the USSR, 1937-1949 (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1999): 19-37.