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Descendants of ex-Soviet Germans saying they would like to return to Crimea

May 16, 2014, 19:24 UTC+3 Alexandrova Lyudmila
© ITAR-TASS/Valery Sharifulin

MOSCOW, May 16. /ITAR-TASS/. Descendants of ex-Soviet Germans, who were deported from Crimea to remote parts of the USSR at the beginning of World War II battles on the Soviet front, would like to return to the Crimean Peninsula, their historical homeland. Their hopes for this have been sparked by the Russian President’s decree on honoring the rights of deported ethnic groups.

More than 2,500 people have already asked the Republican Society of Crimean Germans to help them resettle to Crimea. Before the 1940’s, the German townships were mostly located on the territory of today’s Krasnogvardeisky and Sovietsky districts and even all the paperwork at official agencies there was done in German then.

“Descendants of the Germans whose parents lived and worked in Crimea before the outbreak of combat operations on the Soviet territory are now asking to let them come back,” Alexei Nusbaum, a deputy chairman of the Crimean Germans Society told the Komsomolskaya Pravda daily.

“Just everyone was deported from the peninsula in the summer of 1941 - the elderly, women, and children. All in all, about 64,000 Germans were sent to Kyrgyzstan, Kazakhstan and southern Urals from Crimea then.”

“We’ve already made arrangements under which the Simferopol district will allot plots of land,” Nusbaum said. “Now we’re trying to secure the Crimean government’s assistance in building water building water supply, electric power supply, gas, and sewerage lines there.”

To date, Crimean authorities are unable to provide free prefabricated housing but it is prepared to extend soft or discounted loans for the construction of houses and purchasing of apartments to valuable specialists.

Work for the returnees will also be provided, as the region needs building industry specialists, engineers, and workers of fish-breeding farms.

April 21, President Vladimir Putin signed a decree on political exoneration and reinstitution of rights of the Crimean Tatar population of Russia’s new constituent republic and granted the same reinstitution to members of other ethnic groups that had been subjected to repressions during Stalin’s rules.

“The decree stipulates measures for social and economic development of certain territories that were practically neglected in the past several years or, actually, decades and had no legal status,” Putin said. “They didn’t develop at all on the social plane and only degraded.”

Under provisions of the decree, a special program for economic development of Crimea in the period through to 2020 will be developed. It will spell out steps toward ethnic, cultural and spiritual rejuvenation of Armenian, Bulgarian, Greek, Crimean Tatar and German ethnic communities in the new region.

Society of United Soviet Germans was set up in Crimea in December 1990. Three years later, it was re-registered as Wiedergeburt Republican Society of Crimean Germans. It focused its efforts on reviving the culture of local Germans.

New cultural centers and deutscheclubs were set up. A public Volksparlament (People’s Council) appeared. Hoffnung (Hope) newspaper is published in Russian and German versions.

More than 30,000 school students are studying German at 182 schools. Four Sunday schools provide classes of German and six schools offering advanced courses of the language have opened. Also, 5 German Lutheran churches have been built.

And yet a return home of deported Germans and furnishing them with normal living conditions remains a major guideline for the Society’s work.

“Our ethnic community has always been positioning itself as Russian Germans,” Yuri Hempel, the president of Crimean Germans Society. “I previously had lots of arguments over the issue in Kiev and I told people there that we are Russian Germans, while officials would rush to tell me, no, you’re Ukrainian Germans.”

“This was an erroneous claim, however, because our ancestors had come to the Russian Empire, to Novorossia, pursuant to a manifesto issued by Emperor Alexander I, who urged the Germans to resettle to Taurida,” Hempel said.

He said ethnic Germans in Crimea had not received any assistance from Kiev after 1991 and only the government of the Crimean Autonomy had been helping them.

Official data from the 2001 census says the Crimean German community numbered 2,500 people, which stood in a marked contrast to more the 60,000 Germans who lived there before the August 1941 deportation, Hempel said.

He said that the Germans living in Kyrgyzstan had filed a request before the March 2014 referendum on Crimea’s reunification with Russia to assist in setting up conditions for their resettlement to Crimea. After the referendum, they reaffirmed their willingness to resettle.

Hempel said, however, the problem was that the Germans would need to form compactly populated localities in Crimea so that they could keep up their ethnicity. “We hope that as soon as we get included into Russia’s legislative domain, the Crimean government will pass a positive decision on the issue,” he said.

Yuri Hempel believes that the referendum, which the Crimeans held in March, would have taken place sooner or later all the same.

“The Crimeans have opted for self-determination but they need help now and this help, if take the ethnic Germans, might come from the historic homeland of our ancestors, among other places,” he said. “I’m sure the West, and Germany in the first place, will begin to revise its attitude towards the Russian Crimea already in the short term.”

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