MIGRATION INTENTIONS OF THE GERMANS OF KAZAKHSTAN AND POSSIBLE REPERCUSSIONS
Oleg Sidorov, Ph.D. (Political Science), director, Public Organization “Peacekeeping” (Almaty, Kazakhstan)
The Present Situation
According to the last Soviet population census of 1989 there were 2,038m Germans living in the U.S.S.R. (about 0.7 percent of the total population).1 They mainly lived in Kazakhstan, Central Asian republics and Siberia. When the Soviet Union disintegrated many of the Soviet Germans left all their possessions behind and resettled to their historical homeland. This process was gaining momentum—more and more people became involved. Kazakhstan as a sovereign state keenly feels this outflow.
Depopulation and emigration reduced the numerical strength of European population in Kazakhstan by 2m while Oriental groups increased their numbers by 1.6m. The number of Kazakhs increased by 1,488,100 (22.9 percent) and their share in total population increased from 40.1 to 53.4 percent; the number of Russians decreased by 1,582,400 people (26.1 percent); Germans, by 593,500 (62.7 percent); Ukrainians, by 328,600 (37.5 percent); Tartars, by 71,700 (22.4 percent); Belorussians, by 66,000 (37.1 percent).2 The very fact that more people leave the country than come in testifies that the Kazakhstani society is plagued by serious social, political, and economic problems. In fact, socioeconomic and political tension in Kazakhstan and Central Asian states remains tense, which is confirmed by the population census of February 1999. The results showed that the number of Germans in the republic dropped to 350 thou.
The quasi-prosperity in the social and political sphere incessantly proclaimed by the official structures may dupe international organizations and foreign countries yet the fact of emigration remains. People go away to the Far and Near Abroad. The Strategic Planning and Reforms Agency Committee for Statistics and Analysis says that about 80 percent go to the Near Abroad: 72.4 percent went to Russia; 2 percent, to Uzbekistan and Ukraine each; 1.8 percent, to Belarus. Among the countries of the Far Abroad Germany received 18.4 percent of the emigrants; Israel, 0.6 percent; the United States, 0.3 percent. Many people go away from the industrially developed areas such as the North Kazakhstan Region that lost 51.3 thou; the Kostanay Region, 39.5 thou; the Akmolinsk Region, 34.4 thou.3 We should bear in mind that these figures reflect the visible part of the problem and the never-ending outflow of people the majority of whom are skilled workers. Today, the republic is facing a deficit of specialists.
Germany repeatedly expressed its readiness to support the Germans of Kazakhstan. Nearly every year members of the government and the parliament come to the republic together with all sorts of delegations. During one of such trips Johann Welt, the representative of the German government for settlers’ affairs, expressed his country’s gratitude for the attention the German minority received in Kazakhstan. He said that his country intended to establish economic cooperation with the Germans of Kazakhstan. This meant, that Germany wanted them to stay where they were and was prepared to support them.4 Can this support be real and effective? I believe people in Germany and Kazakhstan should ponder over the question.
Are the Doors to the Historical Homeland Open?
The sky over the historical homeland is clouded. The newcomers who acquire German citizenship are confronted with a psychological barrier that is growing higher every year. Today, the local Germans are very much displeased with the so-called Soviet compatriots (in Kazakhstan they were called Germans while in Germany they are known as Russians). The bureaucrats prefer to ignore the barrier; as a result society is moving toward a conflict that cannot be resolved through instructions and laws: it exists on the everyday and professional level; in fact, the newcomers are regarded as being much inferior than the local people.
Today, one can say that the locals will never accept the new generation of the German immigrants born in Germany despite the fact that it is a generation of German citizens, that they speak local dialects and think like local Germans. They will remain “Russians” forever. This is a paradox: having crossed the German frontier the Germans from Kazakhstan become “aliens among theirs.” If official structures do not interfere the situation will be preserved for many years to come. In fact, official position is baffling: the newcomers are left to cope with the problems single-handedly. Little attention is paid to psychological adjustment of the “Russians” that results in frequent stresses and psychological pressure of the locals. It should be said in all justice that people have little idea of their future in Germany when they decide to move. They hope for better life yet complete and systematized knowledge is lacking.
As a result those who moved to Germany from Kazakhstan and other republics find themselves in a dual situation: on the one hand, for many reasons (language being the main one) the local people look at them as foreigners; on the other, the state looks at them as Germans (it is much easier for them to get German citizenship). At the same time, the newcomers feel the mounting official desire to cut short German immigration from the former Soviet Union. The local people blame unemployment, growing crime, and smaller social benefits on immigration. To illustrate: according to official statistics there are 7m foreigners per 75m German citizens; there are 700 thousands of them out of the total 3m who claim social benefits. In other words, while comprising 9 percent of the total population immigrants account for a quarter of those who receive social benefits. In 2002, this figure increased by 7 percent. In the western part the number of those who lived on social benefits increased by 170 percent during the rule of Kohl’s coalition.
Legal Support of Immigrants from the Former Soviet Union
According to the German Ministry of the Interior in 1997 the country received 131,895 ethnic Germans from the former Soviet republics. The largest number came from Kazakhstan (74 thou); 47 thou came from Russia, 4 thou from Kyrgyzstan, 3,153 from Ukraine, and 20 people from Azerbaijan. Taken together, the number is much lower than the official annual quota of 220 thou. Experts say that the flow is controlled by the German language exam that the settlers have to pass before they are allowed to enter the country.5
This cannot but cause questions. According to Art 116 of the Constitution of Germany a settler is regarded as a German if “he is accepted as an ethnic German refugee or a displaced person or as a spouse or descendant of such person who lived in the German Empire before 31 December, 1937.” The majority of Germans from the former Soviet Union can easily prove that they are “genuine Germans.” This is also confirmed by the hard life and incessant repressions under Soviet power: until the 1950s their tongue and traditions were banned. This explains why many of them were registered as Russians,6 which is one of the stumbling blocks Germans encounter on the road toward German citizenship.
When the Law of the FRG on Regulating the War-inflicted Damage of 1 January, 1993 came into force the country limited immigration to 220 thou (plus-minus 10 percent). From that day on German citizenship cannot be inherited which means that those born after 1 January, 1993 cannot come to the country as settlers. In addition, starting with 1990 all wishing to settle in Germany should wait while their questionnaires are being processed.
In 1992, the Law on Liquidating the Repercussions of World War II came into force. It specified certain clauses of the law on the deported. It made the German language one of the key criteria of being a German. I have already written that in the Soviet Union many Germans had to limit the sphere of their native tongue under the threat of repressions: without daily use it is impossible to keep the language alive in the community.
One wonders what prompted the Federal Administrative Court to emphasize in 1996 the importance of the German language test.7 Recently Germany introduced other limiting measures: the repatriates should not only demonstrate their knowledge of German, folk traditions or be a victim of repressions. Those who filled high posts in one of the CIS countries (down to school or state farm directors, officers of power structures in the rank of captain and higher) can be refused the right to immigrate into Germany. All those who resettle to their historical homeland are deprived of pensions earned by honest toil in the countries where they were born and educated.8
On the one hand, this approach is a constructive one: all citizens of Germany should know German; on the other, this approach is destructive: while saying that it welcomes all compatriots in their historical homeland the German government creates problems for them.
The document under which all settlers irrespective of age and nationality of the spouse should pass a language test directly infringe on their rights because after a failed test the family should wait at least three years for an invitation to another test. This shows that those who moved to Germany do not become “true Germans”—their historical homeland is not as welcoming as one may think.
Everybody knows that people move to a foreign country (for a short or long period or for ever) because they have to under pressing circumstances. Freedom of movement, family reunification, and the right to return to the historical homeland are registered by the laws of Kazakhstan. This should not be taken to mean that the interests of the state and the individual are identical. One should take into account that those who leave the country are the best and most skilled workers, they are the country’s intellectual potential. This means that the republic is experiencing a “brain drain.” (It is common knowledge that bad workers and asocial elements prefer to stay where they are.) In any country immigration is caused by social, economic, political, national, religious, and other factors: the situation in Kazakhstan is not favorable.
The Program of State Support of the German Diaspora, Study-Case of the Russian Federation
In an effort to integrate the members of the German diaspora into the Kazakhstani society the republic should turn to the experience of its neighbors, Russia in particular. One of the first efforts to improve the living conditions of the German diaspora in the RF was the Program of Creating a Compact Settlement for the Germans of Russia in the village of Strel’na. It is realized by an intergovernmental Russian-German commission; there is a chance to revive the national-cultural ethnos of Russian Germans as part of the population living at St. Petersburg, to develop the engineering and social infrastructure there, to extend industrial production and to create more jobs for the newcomers and the local people. When the first stage is complete Noidorf-Strel’na will have 28 cottages with landed plots and adequate engineering networks for 50 families. Enterprises of different forms of ownership will be set up to create not fewer than 250 jobs. The project is realized by a joint stock Noidorf-Strel’na Territorial Development Agency with the total capital at the first stage of 13.6m DM. The Russian state contributed 3.4m DM, while Germany gave 10.2m DM out of its federal budget. The settlers will be selected by a joint Russian-German commission.9
This is a tiny part of what is needed to raise the diaspora’s living standard and preserve and revive its historical traditions. One can say that living far away from their historical homeland people of any nationality lose their traditions, culture, and tongue. Those among them who are aware of this prepare themselves for the preservation of ethnic experience, folk traditions, and culture. In many cases diasporas are coping much better with the task than those who live in the historical homeland.
The government of Kazakhstan could have followed this example—today, the republic does nothing but registers the number of Germans leaving the country. At the same time, while stating its desire to help the Kazakhstani Germans the German government is steadily contracting the subsidies to the local German organizations. Speaking at one of the press conferences Chairman of the Association of Germans of Kazakhstan Alexander Dederer admitted that it was becoming increasingly harder to convince the federal government to maintain the old level of funding even though the number of Germans in Kazakhstan had greatly declined.10
Present and Future
In 1997, Germany gave a fairly large sum of 6m DM to the Germans of Kazakhstan. Today, there are 300 thou Germans left in the country; emigration to the historical homeland continues though the pace has slowed down. Mr. Dederer is convinced that there will be not less than 150 thou Germans in Kazakhstan in the future and they will still need help.11
No wonder German emigration to Germany that had started as a trickle in the 1970s became a flood in the early 1990s. Kazakhstan was deprived of an able-bodied and creative part of its population. Those who stayed behind are supported by Germany that tries to convince them to stay behind. At the same time, their emigration urge is not dictated by economic considerations.
One should say that the Germans are an aging nation: few places have more old people than Germany. With the young Germans children are not a priority therefore the settlers are an answer to the problem. In 1995, 38 percent of them were below 20; the share of the young among the locals was 21 percent; the settlers comprise 41 percent in the 20-45 age group. One out of five of newcomers was above 45 (among the locals they comprise 42 percent). In fact, the settlers are twice as young as the locals, therefore they do not burden the social security funds.12
If we take into account that statistics reflects the official position on emigration one can say that in future society will lose more skilled specialists and that its numerical strength will decline.
In Germany the inflow of people seeking self-realization will be of dual importance. On the one hand, the German gene pool will receive new elements and the number of the middle-aged in the ageing country will drop; on the other, the locals do not want to accept and recognize the newcomers that may cause everyday conflicts at first and more conflicts at higher levels of social relations later.
Those who stay behind in Kazakhstan may lose contacts with the historical homeland, become completely assimilated, deprived of their high professional skills. They should expect to encounter problems when claiming high posts at all levels of civil services. This is what prompts emigration. If the Germans of Kazakhstan decide to move out of the country Russia will probably be their choice: its laws and legal acts are more attractive from the point of view of promotion at work, higher living standards, and a well-oiled pension system.
1 See: “5-y punkt kak on est,” Sovetskaia torgovlia, 30 January, 1990.
2 See: “Ugroza depopuliatsii,” Almaty Times, No. 1, 2000.
3 See: A.V. Kolossov, Proshloe i nastoiashchee nemetskoy diaspory v Kazakhstane, Part 2, Almaty, 1998.
4 See: “Germania budet podderzhivat’ kazakhstanskikh nemtsev,” Industrial’naia Karaganda, 5 April, 2000.
6 See: A.V. Kolossov, op. cit.
7 See: Pozdnie pereselentsy Sprachtest. Johann Welt: “Ekzamen otmenit’ nel’zia, no ‘ochelovechit’ protseduru ego provedenia mozhno” [http://recht.germany.ru].
8 See: E. Latypova, “V Kazakhstane ostalos’ 300 tysiach nemtsev,” Panorama, No. 33, 28 August, 1998.
9 Noidorf-Strel’na. Etnicheskie nemtsy vozvrashchaiutsia na rodinu svoikh predkov [http://runnet.dux.ru].
10 See: E. Latypova, op. cit.
12 See: A.V. Kolossov, Pereezzhat v Germaniu? [http://prostor.samal.kz/texts/num0601/kol0601.htm].