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John G. Wright

Stalin Moves Against the ‘Volga Germans’

The Masses of the Volga German Republic Who Defended the USSR
in Civil War Days Are Now Attacked by the Kremlin

(September 1941)

From The Militant, Vol. V No. 38, 20 September 1941, p. 6.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

On September 8, the Kremlin finally made public the text of the ukase which exiles Soviet citizens en masse to Siberia because of their racial origin! This monstrous ukase reads:


During the first world war, bloody Czar Nicholas resorted to repressive measures against his subjects of German birth. Toward the end of 1916, the Czarist regime, fanning racial hatreds, began preparations to exile all Volga Germans to Siberia. The date set for this mass expulsion was April 1917. Here is how Stalin’s official Soviet Encyclopedia, summed up the fate of the Czarist ukase:

“The overthrow of the autocracy prevented the execution of this barbaric measure. When the colonists appealed to the Provisional Government to repeal this law, Kerensky agreed only to ‘suspend the execution of this ukase.’ This ukase was repealed only by the Great October Socialist Revolution which put an end to national oppression and which opened up the broad highway for the development of national culture, socialist in content and national in form” (Bolshaya Sovetskaya Entsiklopedia, vol. 41, p. 595, Moscow 1939).

These lines were printed two years ago in 1939 – the year of the Stalin-Hitler pact. Now Stalin reminds the Volga Germans that the Czar has found an emulator.

Background of the Volga Germans

The German settlements on the Volga date back to the middle of the Eighteenth Century when Catherine the Great invited foreigners to settle there. Deep in the interior of the country, this territory of 28,000 square kilometers, now bordered by Saratov and Stalingrad oblasts (areas), is even further removed today from the arena of military operations than it was in the days of Czar Nicholas. The original settlers predominantly came – between 1764 and 1864 – from Westphalia, Bavaria, Saxony, Swabia, Alsace-Lorraine and Switzerland. The privileges originally granted them were gradually pared away. At the outbreak of the first imperialist slaughter their status was that of another oppressed nationality in what Lenin called “the Czarist prison of nations.” The October revolution emancipated them.

The Volga Germans were among the first to be granted autonomy in the federation of the Soviet republics. On October 19, 1918, Lenin signed a decree establishing the autonomous oblast (area) of the Volga Germans. Stalin was then the Commissar for Nationalities. The above-quoted article in the Soviet Encyclopedia does not fail to underscore that:

“Comrade Stalin paid from the very beginning great attention to the question of self-determination of the Volga Germans.”

These descendants of the original colonists fought staunchly against the White Guards. The extent of their participation in the Civil War may be gauged by the fact that in the last year of the Civil War, the population of this area dropped from 453,000 in 1920 to less than 350,000 in 1921, i.e., a loss of more than 20 per cent. In 1926 the Autonomous Volga German Socialist Republic was formally established.

According to official 1936 figures, the population of this territory numbered about 500,000 of whom a little less than two-thirds (66.4 per cent) were of German origin; 20.4 per cent, Russians and 12 per cent Ukrainians. Today, there are not more than 300,000 German-born inhabitants in this region whose advancement constituted one of the boasts of Stalin’s regime.

What the Stalinists Said Yesterday

The German-born Volga peasants were only yesterday hailed as models of collective farming. The Stalinist tales of successes of mechanized agriculture in this area would fill a whole library. Suffice it to quote the stereotyped panegyrics with which the article in the Soviet Encyclopedia concludes:

“The further development of the national economy and culture of Volga German Autonomous Socialist Republic and her rapid progress to a better and a still happier life are guaranteed by the Stalinist Constitution, by the firm Stalinist leadership of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union and by the boundless devotion of the toilers of the Autonomous Volga German Socialist Republic to the cause of communism.”

In 1941, this Autonomous Republic is abolished as a danger to the state. What an admission of bankruptcy!

Today Stalin violates Article 13 of his own “Constitution” which “guarantees” the rights of national minorities. Why? The official explanation reads:

“According to reliable information received by the military authorities, thousands and tens of thousands of diversionists and spies among the German population of the Volga are prepared to cause explosions in these regions at a signal from Germany.” (N.Y. Times, September 8)

Let us grant for the moment that the Kremlin, contrary to its custom, is this time telling the truth. Could there be a greater condemnation of Stalin’s regime than this admission that after all the “successes” there remain thousands, nay, tens of thousands who await only a signal from the Nazis to rise against the Soviet power? Why should the loyalty of these thousands be swayed so easily? What better material for propaganda could Hitler expect than that now supplied him by the Kremlin?

And this ukase comes on the heels of assurances on the part of all of Stalin’s pen prostitutes that his blood purges and his frameups have “rooted out the enemies of the people.”

A GPU Confession

The Times dispatch relating to the ukase against the Volga Germans contains the following comment, passed by the Kremlin censors:

“No Germans from the Volga have reported the existence of purportedly large numbers of dissidents who have been uncovered.”

This terse statement is as revealing as the tell-tale formulas of the Kremlin concerning “diversionists” and “spies.”

Here we have an official admission that the G.P.U. is uncovering “dissidents” in large numbers. In the language of the Kremlin every dissident, everyone critical of Stalin is a “diversionist and a spy.” Today they are being discovered in the Volga region. And tomorrow?

The ukase of August 28 constitutes a “warning” to all dissidents that they will suffer the fate of the Volga Germans. Henceforth, every dissident wherever “discovered” will be officially linked with “diversionists and spies.” By the mass expulsion to Siberia of these German-born Volga scape-goats, Stalin seeks to stir up racial hatred and with this as a cover to prepare the ground for similar mass purges in other areas.

But at the same time, the latest ukase of the Kremlin reveals that the opposition to the bureaucratic regime is growing among the population. The Soviet masses areheroically defending the Soviet Union. They are not fighting for the perpetuation of the bureaucrats.

Last updated: 28 May 2016