Black Sea Germans

A German grave (early 19th century) in the village of Pshonyanove, Kominternivskyi Raion, Odessa Oblast, Ukraine

The Black Sea Germans (German: Schwarzmeerdeutsche; Russian: Черноморские немцы; Ukrainian: Чорноморські німці) were ethnic Germans who left their homelands in the 18th and 19th centuries, and settled in territories off the north coast of the Black Sea, mostly in the territories of the southern Russian Empire (including modern-day Ukraine).[1]

They were distinct from similar group of German settlers (the Bessarabia Germans, Crimea Germans, Dobrujan Germans, the Russian Mennonites, and the Volga Germans), who were separate both geographically and culturally, although all moved to the Russian Empire at about the same time and for the same reasons.


Germans began settling in southern Ukraine and the Crimean Peninsula in the late 18th century, but the bulk of immigration and settlement occurred during the Napoleonic period, from 1800 onward, with a concentration in the years 1803 to 1805.[2] At the time, southern Ukraine was part of the Russian Empire. Designated New Russia, and often colloquially South Russia (or Südrussland by its German-speaking inhabitants), these lands had been annexed by the Russian Empire during the reign of Catherine the Great after successful wars against the Ottoman Empire (1768–1774) and the Crimean Khanate (1783). The area of settlement was not as compact as that of the Volga territory; rather it was home to a chain of colonies. The first German settlers arrived in 1787, first from West Prussia, then later from Western and Southwestern Germany and Alsace, France; as well as from the Warsaw area. Catholics, Lutherans, and Mennonites were all known as capable farmers (see Molotschna for Mennonite settlements in the Melitopol area); the Empress Catherine, herself an ethnic German, sent them a personal invitation to immigrate to the Russian Empire, as she felt they would make useful subjects and enrich her realm. She granted them certain privileges such as the free exercise of their religion and language within their largely closed communities.

After the Bolshevik Revolution and the formation of the Soviet Union, Black Sea Germans, prior to World War II, were subjected to the forced starvation of man-made famines, the closure of German-language churches, schools, and community organisations, and were summarily required to change their language of instruction from German to Russian or Ukrainian. The 45,000 Germans in Crimea (along with other Black Sea Germans) were forced into exile in Siberia and Kazakhstan, many into forced labour camps.[1]

Many were deported as a result of the collectivization of all Soviet agricultural land in 1930/1931 by Stalin's first five-year plan. The German farmers were labelled kulaks (rich peasants) by the Communist regime, and those who did not voluntarily agree to give up their land to the Soviet farming collectives were expelled to Siberia and Central Asia. Although the mass deportation of the kulaks was based on social and not ethnic criteria, the German Russian settlements probably suffered more than any other communities. About 1.2 percent of the Soviet population was classified as kulak and deported to the Gulag (slave labour camps), based on a total Soviet population of 147 million, according to the 1926 census. The number of ethnic Germans sent to the camps as kulaks was about 50,000 out of a German population in the Soviet Union at the time of the same census of 1.239 million, that is, about 4 percent of the German population. The Germans were not the only ethnic group deported in large numbers during the collectivization drive, as many ethnic Poles also suffered the same fate. Germans, however, comprised the single largest foreign-origin minority sent into to internal exile in the Soviet Union. There appeared to have been a deep prejudice against German communities because many Soviet officials considered all German farmers kulaks, no doubt because they appeared better off and more enterprising and thus naturally counterrevolutionary than ordinary ethnic Russian or Ukrainian peasants.

After Hitler's invasion of the Soviet Union on 22 June 1941, the Soviet leadership decided to evacuate all ethnic Germans from the western regions of the Soviet Union. The Supreme Soviet decreed the first evacuations, which were really expulsions, as the inhabitants were never allowed to return. Action to deport every ethnic German from the Crimea began on 15 August 1941. Although the decree stated that old people would not have to leave, everyone was expelled, first to Stavropol, and then to Rostov in southeastern Ukraine, near the Crimea, but then all were sent on to camps and special settlements in Kazakhstan. Given only three or four hours to pack, the deportees were not told where they were going, how long they would stay there, or how much food to take. The result was starvation for many and, due to the confusion, the separation of many families. In all, perhaps as many as 60,000 ethnic Germans were expelled from the Crimean peninsula alone at this time. Other parts of Southern Russian were also affected.

Although the majority of the Black Sea Germans avoided deportation due to the rapid advance of the German Army, Stalin, nevertheless, had sufficient time to arrest and exile those living east of the Dnieper River. Between 25 September 1941 and 10 October 1941, approximately 105,000 ethnic Germans were exiled from this region and forcibly deported to more secure Soviet-held area far to the east beyond the Ural mountains. In terms of total numbers deported to Siberia and Central Asia, between 15 August and 25 December 1941, the Soviet authorities expelled and exiled 856,000 German Russians. Included in this figure were many members of the Communist Party and the Komsomol (the student organization for Communist Party candidates).

Because of the Axis quick conquest of Soviet territory in the early months of their invasion, the Soviet regime was not able to deport the majority of the ethnic Germans from the western part of the Soviet Union, that is, the area west of the Dnieper river. The German towns and villages in the Western Ukraine, in Volhynia, and the Black Sea region all came under Nazi German rule, first under a military government and then under that of the Nazi Party or the SS, as Reichskommisariat Ukraine.

A refugee trek of Black Sea Germans during the Second World War in Hungary, July 1944

With the defeat of the German Army at Stalingrad in the winter of 1942–1943, the Soviet Red Army began its offensive, recapturing more and more German-occupied territory. SS Head Heinrich Himmler made a decision to evacuate all ethnic Germans and bring them to the Reich. Evacuations began in scattered German communities in the North Caucasus, where in February 1943, 11,000 people were transferred. Shortly thereafter, 40,000 German Russians were sent westward from the area between the Don and Dnieper Rivers. When the Soviet troops neared the Dnieper River in October 1943, the Chortitza Mennonite communities, totaling about 35,000 people, had to flee. In October, 45,000 ethnic Germans from Volhynia (Western Ukraine) were also forced to leave, and, by February 1944, it became clear to the Germans in Southern Ukraine that the Red Army could not be stopped; thus, they began their hurried evacuation. About 135,000 fled to the West. Approximately 280,000 ethnic Germans were successfully brought out of the occupied Soviet Union, which represented almost 90 percent of the registered German population, according to the 1943 Reich census.

On the basis of the articles pertaining to the repatriation of nationals in the Yalta Agreement, the United States and the Soviet Union agreed to return each other's nationals at the end of the war. Of the almost 300,000 ethnic Germans who were evacuated by the Germans from the Soviet Union, about 200,000 were caught and sent to the Gulag by the Red Army, either as they fled from the Warthegau in Western Poland, previously incorporated into the German state, (about 120,000), or elsewhere in Eastern Europe or when they were forcibly repatriated from occupied Germany to the Soviet Union.[3]


Schwedengebiet (Swedish District[4])

This small enclave of Russian imperial government-endorsed German settlement lies on the west bank of the Dnieper river in the Beryslav district (Ukrainian, Beryslavs'kyi raion) of Kherson province (Ukrainian, Khersons'ka oblast), Ukraine, some 12 kilometers (or 7 Versts under the old Tsarist system of measurement) east-north-east (16.6 km by car,[5] and 16.4 km by approved footpaths [6]) of the town of Beryslav on the same side of the river.

Originally settled in 1782 by manumitted ethnic Swedish serfs from the Baltic island of Dagö in present-day Estonia who were freed by Catherine the Great and invited to settle here also, the district took its German name from these earlier settlers, despite the fact that once the Germans began arrive as official settlers during the Napoleonic period to replenish the population of the district, they soon outnumbered their Swedish precursors.

Due to attrition, Swedish numbers had fallen sharply within a few years of their leaving their Baltic homeland. To make up for this shortfall, new settlers, mostly ethnic Germans originating in the lands of the Holy Roman Empire of the German Nation, such as Württemberg, and the Austrian Habsburg hereditary lands, as well as Poland, were invited to settle in the area from the turn of the 19th century. Both the arrival of the Swedes and the later advent of the Germans formed two stages of the same official Russian imperial policy designed to secure what was then a relatively new part of the Russian Empire which had only been in Russia's sway since they had defeated of the Ottoman Empire in 1774 and won these vast southern territories.

The oldest village, first established in 1782, was the Swedish Lutheran village of Gammalsvenskby. In the period 1802-1806, after a generation alone, during which their numbers had been supplemented on occasion by Swedes captured in war and other mostly temporary sojourners from Danzig, the local Baltic Swedish community was faced with the unwelcome arrival of German speakers. This not only meant that they no longer had this area to themselves, but the Swedes had to share their original wooden church with some permanent incomers, ethnic German Lutherans. As it happened, the Germanophones also included Roman Catholics, which was another source of sectarian tension. The Germans of either denomination called the village Alt-Schwedendorf (literally, old Swedes' village) after the existing Swedes settlers. Basing themselves in Alt-Schwedendorf for a time, the Germans established several entirely German colony villages (Kolonien). In addition, some Germans also remained in Alt-Schwedendorf. In all, there were the following four initial settlements. They were initially established along confessional lines[7] first in 1782, with the latter ones created in the period 1802 to 1806, viz.:

Later, as the original villages' population burgeoned, there were Tochterkolonien, i.e. daughter colonies formed, such as, the following, viz.:

During the Second World War, after the German invasion of the Soviet Union on 22 June 1941, the district was occupied by the Wehrmacht, and, in 1942, the inhabitants, both Swedes and Germans whom the Nazis considered together as ethnic Germans (Volksdeutsche, in German)[17] and others (such as Ukrainians), were assessed and inventoried by officers of the Reichssippenamt operating under the direction of Kommando Karl Stumpp, the former historian of the area.[18] It should be noted, however, that, as a result of the impending German onslaught, the Soviet authorities had already exiled many of the adult males among the ethnic German population of the district to areas of refuge and captivity east of the Ural mountains. During the German occupation, the area was officially under the Nazi civil administration of the Reichskommissariat Ukraine until the Soviet Red Army's successful counteroffensive drove the occupation forces, both military and civil, from the region in 1944.

In addition, from 1891 onward, some of the Germans of these villages emigrated from Russia to North America, notably Canada's province of Saskatchewan, where they left descendants.[19]

Dr Karl Stumpp and Dr Adam Giesinger both published materials on the settlement and history of the Swedish District and its villages. The historical part of this overview is drawn primarily from Stumpp's seminal work, The Emigration from Germany to Russia in the Years 1763 to 1862 (English translation from the original German, American Historical Society of Germans from Russia, 1973),[20] and Giesinger's From Catherine to Khrushchev : The Story of Russia's Germans (1974).[21]


  • Hoffnungstal (today Tsebrykove/Цебрикове – Ukraine)
  • Hoffnungsfeld (today Lenine/Леніне – Ukraine)
  • Klein Neudorf (today Nowoseliwka/Новоселівка – Ukraine)
  • Neu-Beresina (today Malosymenowe/Малозименове – Ukraine)
  • Neu-Glückstal (today Zybuliwka/Цибулівка – Ukraine)
  • Neu-Berlin (today Worobjowe/Воробйове – Ukraine)
  • Neu-Kassel (today Sofijiwka/Софіївка – Ukraine)
  • Rosenfeld (today Konopljane/Конопляне – Ukraine)
  • Gnadenfeld (today Nejkowe/Нейкове – Ukraine)
  • Kleinbergdorf (today Crasnoe, Russian Krasnoje/Красное – Moldova/Transnistria)
  • Friedenstal (today Tryhrady/Тригради – Ukraine)
  • Krontal (destroyed – east of Grigoriopol located in – Moldova/Transnistria)
  • Neu-Glückstal (today Wowtsche/Вовче as part of Rymariwka/Римарівка – Ukraine)
  • Koscharka (today Koscharka/Кошарка – Ukraine)
  • Saratow (destroyed, northeast of Koscharka) [22]


  • Ambrose Khutor
  • Balmas, Bessarabia
  • Bezilajweka
  • Bischofsfeld (today Yeremiivka/Єреміївка)
  • Bogunskoje
  • Brilowa
  • Brinnowka
  • Dikowa
  • Diminski
  • Fischer Khutor
  • Fischer-Franz Khutor
  • Georgental (today Sekretarivka/Секретарівка)
  • Jeremejewka
  • Johannestal
  • Kamenka
  • Kaschary
  • Kellersheim (destroyed)
  • Kosenka
  • Koslowka
  • Kutschurgan Khutor
  • Langenberg
  • Larga, Bessarabia
  • Linejewka
  • Mandrowo
  • Marjanowka
  • Matischowka
  • Miller Khutor
  • Milliardowka
  • Miroljubowka
  • Neu-Baden
  • Neu-Elsass
  • Neu-Kandel (today Bohunove/Богунове)
  • Neu-Mannheim (today Novostepanivka/Новостепанівка)
  • Neu-Schlossel Khutor
  • Neu-Selz
  • Neu-Strassburg
  • Nowo-Andreaschewka
  • Ponjatowka
  • Rosaljewka
  • Sachalski
  • Schatzen Khutor
  • Schemiott
  • Schwowe Khutor
  • Severinovka (today Severynivka/Северинівка)
  • Stepanowka
  • Sturpelz
  • Susanowka
  • Tschebanka
  • Wasiljewka
  • Welter Khutor
  • Wolkowo


(1803 founded by Lutherans from Württemberg)
(1803 founded by Catholics from Alsace)
(1803 founded by Catholics from Alsace)
(1803 founded by Catholics from Alsace)
(1805 founded by Württemberger)
(1805/06 founded by Württemberger)
(1806 founded by Württemberger)
  • Friedensfeld (today Syliwka/Силівка)
  • Neu-Freudental (today Marynowe/Маринове)


  • Alexanderfeld (today Berezivka/Березівка)
  • Felsenburg (today Welidariwka/Велідарівка)
  • Gnadenfeld (today Nejkowe/Нейкове)
  • Halbstadt (today Nowoseliwka/Новоселівка)
  • Neu Karlsruhe (today Tscherwona Sirka/Червона Зірка)
  • Neu Rastadt (today part of Poritschtschja)
  • Friedrichstal (destroyed)
  • Stuttgart (destroyed)


1912 Molotschna Colony map
(1822 founded by Lutherans from Baden)
(already in 1833 disbanded)
  • Darmstadt (today Romaschky/Ромашки)
  • Kaisertal (today Solota Dolyna/Золота Долина)

Colonies in Ekaterinoslav

Planer colonies in Mariupol

Swabia colonies in Berdyansk

More colonies

Colonies in Maximovich South of Donetsk:

Notable people

See also


  1. 1 2 "Germans from Russia Heritage". North Dakota State University. Retrieved 18 March 2014.
  2. see preface and historical background in Dr Karl Stumpp's, The Emigration from Germany to Russia in the Years 1763 to 1862 (translated from the German original and published by the American Historical Society of Germans from Russia, Lincoln, Nebraska, U.S.A., 1973)
  3. Ulrich Merten, "Voices from the Gulag: the Oppression of the German Minority in the Soviet Union", (American Historical Society of Germans from Russia, Lincoln, Nebraska, 2015) ISBN 978-0-692-60337-6, pages 121,159,163,245,246,253.
  4. This is the English version of the German name of the area, though the literal German translation is Swedes' district
  9. see Jörgen Hedman's 1994 compilation containing genealogical tables illustrative of this point, viz.: Svenskbysläkter : släktförteckningar över familjerna från Gammalsvenskby i Ukraina
  10. see Gammalsvenskby (Ukraina) (Ut) 8 (1920-1921) Image 160 / page 64 (AID: v99903.b160.s64, NAD: SE/ViLA/23094) Link.
  11. The German Colonies in South Russia, 1804-1904, by the Rev. Conrad Keller
  13. ТАУБЕРГЕР Иоганн Лаврентьевич - 249, per catholicmartyrs - Книга памяти - указатель личных имен 743-748,
  14. p. 172, article by Bradley L. Schaffner, entitled No Free Lunch: Grand Adventures in the Digital Frontier in Virtual Slavica: Digital Libraries, Digital Archives (2013) edited by Michael Neubert; link
  17. Swedes of Ukraina as ’Volksdeutsche’: the experiennce of World War II, Gaunt, David, Södertörn University College, School of Gender, Culture and History, History. 2007 (English) In: Voprosy germanskoj istorii: sbornik naučnych trudov / [ed] S.I. Bobyleva, Dnipropetrovsʹk: Porogi , 2007, 239-250 p. which is available at https://Pni_2007_2007(2)__28.pdf&usg=AFQjCNHWkhAvos7_XpXI9i5B-JPu_lGNgQ&sig2=1eXGUudMuwziHLZm-YMxyQ
  19. Amy Jo Ehman, Canadian food writer, commentator, and wheat historian, discusses her trip back to the Ehmann ancestral village of Klosterdorf,; see also her small video documentary of her visit, viz.:
  20. p. 91: The first settlers (Swedes)... "Departed 20 August 1780 and arrived 1 May 1781 (1,200 souls). They spent the winter of 1780/81 in Rostshitilovka near Poltava. In 1795, at Potemkin's order 30 more prisoner of war came from Theodosia; then 2 families from Italy. 318 persons died of dysentery the first year, 116 persons in the following year. Only 30 families remained. Later, other colonists were settled here from Taurida and the districts of Josephstal and Mariupol. In 1855/56 many people died from typhus brought in by the military. The Swedes came from the island of Dagö."
  21. p. 107, viz.: "The Schwedengebiet was a tract of land of about 11,000 dessiatine lying along the Dnieper, beginning about 9 versts east of Berislav. Originally the whole area was given as a land grant to some 200 families of Swedes freed from serfdom on the island of Dago. In August 1780 these left their old home to travel southward to their promised land, wintering on the way in a Russian village near Poltava. This journey was a disastrous one: during the course of it, two-thirds of the people died or deserted. In 1781, the remnant of 70 families arrived in Berislav. More than half of these died during the first two years, leaving only 30 families, 135 people, in the new Swedish village. In 1794 Potemkin settled 30 Swedish prisoners-of-war among them."
  22. Beresan, Cherson, South Russia Map

External links

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