Ethnic Germans in Kyrgyzstan 1882-1992
Asian Studies in Africa: Challenges and Prospects of a New Axis of Intellectual Interactions
Association of Asian Studies in Africa Inaugural Conference
University of Ghana, Legon 24-26 September 2015
J. Otto Pohl
University of Ghana, Legon
The first ethnic Germans to settle in Kyrgyzstan were Mennonites in 1882 from colonies further west in the Russian Empire in Tavrida along the Black Sea Coast and Samara in the Volga region. Further settlement of Mennonites in Kyrgyzstan from other areas of the Russian Empire took place in 1907-1909. By 1912 their population had increased to almost 1,600. The German speaking population of the territory became both larger and more diverse as Lutherans arrived from the Volga and Kazakhstan during the Soviet era. The 1926 Soviet census showed 4,291 Germans in Kyrgyzstan. By 1939 the population had increased to 11,741. During the 1940s the Soviet government subjected part of this population, about 3,300 people to forced labor. After the end of the Second World War in 1945 until the end of 1955, the Soviet government imposed a special regime upon the population subjecting them to severe restrictions on their freedom of movement and placing them under police surveillance. Even after the removal of these legal restrictions in December 1955, ethnic Germans in Kyrgyzstan and other regions of the USSR continued to suffer from various forms of discrimination, particularly with regards to admission to institutions of higher education. During the next couple of decades migration from Kazakhstan and Siberia greatly increased the ethnic German population of Kyrgyzstan. The 1979 Soviet census counted 101,057 ethnic Germans in Kyrgyzstan or 2.9% of the total population up from 39,915 in 1959. After the collapse of the USSR, the vast majority of ethnic Germans in Kyrgyzstan emigrated to Germany. This paper will examine the historical change in the status of the ethnic Germans in Kyrgystan under Soviet rule from one of several diaspora nationalities with guaranteed equal rights to second class citizens with restricted civil rights and finally their subsequent partial rehabilitation. It will make use of archives both from Moscow and Bishkek as well as interviews conducted with ethnic Germans and their family members in Kant and Ivanovka, Kyrgyzstan.