History of Germans in Russia and the Soviet Union

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The German minority in Russia and the Soviet Union was created from several sources and in several waves. The 1914 census puts the number of Germans living in Russian Empire at 2,416,290.[1] In 1989, the German population of the Soviet Union was roughly 2 million.[2] In the 2002 Russian census, 597,212 Germans were enumerated, making Germans the fifth largest ethnic group in Russia. In 1999, there were 353,441 Germans in Kazakhstan and 21,472 in Kyrgyzstan.[3] According to the 2001 census, 33,300 Germans lived in Ukraine.[4]

In the Russian Empire, ethnic Germans were strongly represented among royalty, aristocracy, large land owners, military officers and the upper echelons of the imperial service, engineers, scientists, artists, physicians and the bourgeoisie in general. The Germans of Russia didn't necessarily speak Russian; they spoke German, while French was often the language of the high aristocracy.


Germans in Russia and Ukraine

The earliest German settlement in Russia dates back to the reign of Vasili III in the 16th century. A handful of German and Dutch craftsmen and traders were allowed to establish themselves in Moscow's German Quarter (Немецкая слобода, or Nemetskaya sloboda), providing essential technical skills in the capital. Gradually, this policy extended to a few other major cities. In 1682, Moscow had about 200,000 citizens, 18,000 of them were Nemtsy, which means either German or western foreigner.

Peter the Great was greatly influenced by the international community located in the German Quarter, and his efforts to transform Russia into a more modern European state are believed to have derived in large part from his experiences among Russia's established Germans.[citation needed] By the late 17th century, foreigners were no longer so rare in Russian cities, and the German Quarter had lost its ethnic character by the end of that century.

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