A bit of a call-back to an earlier Wikipediaphile entry, this – ten years ago my interest was piqued by mention of the ‘Jewish Autonomous Oblast’; this time round it’s the ‘Volga German Autonomous Soviet Socialist Republic’.
The Volga German Autonomous Soviet Socialist Republic (Russian: Автономная Советская Социалистическая Республика Немцев Поволжья; German: Autonome Sozialistische Sowjetrepublik der Wolgadeutschen), abbreviated as Volga German ASSR (Russian: АССР Немцев Поволжья; German: ASSR der Wolgadeutschen) or VGASSR (Russian: АССРНП; German: ASSRWD), was an autonomous republic established in Soviet Russia. Its capital was the Volga River port of Engels (known as “Pokrovsk” or “Kosakenstadt” before 1931).
Apparently it all harks bark to Catherine the Great and an eighteenth century Windrush-style plea for immigrants: she “published manifestos in 1762 and 1763 inviting Europeans (except Jews) [plus ça change] to immigrate and become Russian citizens and farm Russian lands while maintaining their language and culture…The settlers came mainly from Bavaria, Baden, Hesse, the Palatinate, and the Rhineland, over the years 1763 to 1767. They indeed helped modernize the backward agricultural sector by introducing numerous innovations regarding wheat production and flour milling, tobacco culture, sheep raising, and small-scale manufacturing [and] helped to populate Russia’s South adding a buffer against possible incursions by the Ottoman Empire.”
By the time of the Russian Revolution the Volga German minority was substantial and concentrated around the Volga river; and so it was that they secured in October 1918 first a ‘Volga German Workers’ Commune’, which subsequently earned an upgrade to an ASSR. Fast forward a couple of decades and yer man Jughashvili is in the saddle, Europe is once more ablaze, and before you know it the Schicklgruber fella is giving it large with the Napoleon complex, haring across the steppe Barborossa-style.
Not good news for the Volga Germans, whom His Steelness considered definitely suspect; and so orders were given, the ASSR was dissolved in September 1941 and practically the entire population of more than half a million was sent into ‘internal exile’, with 438,000 sent to Siberia and Kazakhstan.