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mazpuke3.GIF (425 bytes) Germans. Overview of migrations


At the beginning of the reference period (1800) relatively many Germans lived in the Baltic provinces of the Russia Empire. Rīga - the capital of Vidzeme [Livland] province was practically a German city. They were not majority there, however they were rulers. Not only the German nobility, but also the members of the Great Guild (merchants) and the Small Guild (organized craftsmen) took the main part in setting of the laws and rules in the city and in the provinces.

The Baltic Germans, especially the nobility, frequently also had high positions in Tzar's government, which is not surprising, because all the Tzars of the Russia Empire during the 19th century were ethnic Germans with an exception - Nikolaj II, who was a half Dane. Of course, it does not follow that the Tzars or the Germans in their governments ignored the interests of the Russia Empire or preferred interests of any German state to the interests of the Empire. For example, Tzar Nikolaj II was a son of a cousin of German Kaiser Wilhelm II, which did not hindered both of them to be opposite in the WW1, and the Commandeer-in-Chief of the Russia Army then was Paul Rennenkampff (1854-1918) - a Baltic German from Estland province.

The Tzarin Catharine II (she was also a German by ethnicity) organized some migrations of Germans to Russia in the 18th century and one of her projects was directly related to the region of Latvia. The Germans were invited to Vidzeme [Livland] province and settled in Hirschenhof manor. This was a State (Crown) owned manor. Hirschenhof in Latvian language was changed to Irši and the colony is usually mentioned in Latvian as Iršu kolonija. The map of the colony and the vicinities from the book of K. von Manteufel (in German) is available on this site. The first 321 person arrived in spring 1767, and in 1902 the number of their descendants was estimated at about 10,000 /KV, vol.2/, though many of them then lived in Riga and in other cities and towns of the Empire. Irši [Hirschenhof] as a German settlement disappeared after the German mass emigration in 1939 (see below).

In fact all the 19th century some immigration of Germans from the German states into the Baltic provinces went on. This process is discussed in a paper of W.Wachtsmuth available on this site (in German). According to this author, many German migrants considered the Baltic provinces as a temporary station before to migrate further eastward into Russia provinces, because there the situation in the labor market was better or seemed to be better. These migrants did not join the Germans settled by Catherine II in Volga and Volhynia regions of the Empire but mainly moved to St. Petersbourg, Moscow and to other central regions of Russia.

B.O.Unbegaun found /Unbegaun/ typical German names among the 100 most popular names in the address book of St. Petersbourg for 1910 (200,000 names). Schmidt was found in the book 178 times and was the 67th most popular name, Müller - 165 times (75th) and Schulz - 140 times (89th).

The most part of the Germans, who settled in the region of Latvia, were merchants, clergymen , artisans by estate. In spite of the fact that a lot of textbooks speak about "German Barons", the number of Barons and the nobility in general was very small among the Germans in the region of Latvia.

A rather great backward immigration project was set up before and especially after the Revolution of 1905. As Karl von Manteuffel Katzdangen claimed in his book /Manteufel/, at that time it became clear for Germans (or at least for him) that the hate of Latvians to Germans, that was so clearly demonstrated during the revolution and was the main reason and driving force of it (this is a K. v. Maneuffel's assertion), could not be overcome or changed. So he decided to start the immigration of German peasants from Volhynia region of Russia Empire to his manors in order to replace all Latvians to Germans as the working force in the farms.

He was not the only Baltic German landowner with similar ideas and totally this migration added some thousands of ethnic Germans to the population of the region of Latvia. The organizers of the process assert that about 15,000 of Germans were moved to Kurzeme [Kurland]. A Latvian investigator M.Skujenieks informs /Skujenieks/ that during the time interval 1907-1912 only 1028 German families migrated with total number of 5300 family members. The process of the migration is described in the book of K. von Manteuffel (in German, 232kB) that I have scanned and made available on this site. The settlers were to be registered in the pagasti so some information about them could be compiled, but I do not know any attempts of this kind.

I have not seen any printed information about Germans migrating from the Baltic provinces of the Russia Empire to the United States at the end of the 19th century or at the beginning of the 20th century. The mails in the Internet newsgroups and the inquiries of family history researchers demonstrate that such migration existed and even was considerable.

As soon as the WW1 started, serious problems arose for the Baltic Germans. On the one hand, they were expected or suspected to be supporters of Germany as ethnic Germans, on the other hand, they were Russia subjects and should have been conscripted into the Russia Army, and frequently they really felt themselves as Russia citizens and were ready to fight against the German Empire. The order to Kurzeme [Kurland] population to leave the province and to move eastward (April 1915) was rather important to those of them who lived in Kurzeme [Kurland].

Not all of them obeyed the order, many moved at the contrary westward to Germany, many remained in Kurzeme. In any case, it was possible to gather in 1919 about 5000 soldiers of German ethnicity in the Landeswehr - the troops that opposed a Bolshevik type government in Riga. The Landeswehr defeated Bolsheviks in Riga in spring 1919 and concluded the treaty with the government of the newly created Latvia state about taking part in the struggle of the new State with the Bolshevik forces. And the Landeswehr really was very active in the combat operations.

An important source of the information on German minority in Latvia is the personal lists of Landeswehr that are available in Zentralstelle für der Deutsche Genealogie in Leipzig (for more information about these lists see /Bestandverzeichnis/). As far as I know, the lists are also copied by the LDS Church and are available in their Family History Centers on a CD.

I have no information about the total losses of the Landeswehr in this warfare and about the number of German noblemen, clergymen, merchants a.o. killed as class enemies by Bolsheviks. Neither I have reliable data about the local civilians killed by the Landeswehr. Some information could be found in the page about Latvians on this Site.

The Germans also joined Bermont's army that was active in the fall 1919. It consisted of 42,000 men, but it is known that not all of the local Germans supported the Army. I do not know the number of Germans in Bermont's army, and have found in the literature only some information that after the defeat of this army several thousand of Germans, that supported the army, migrated to Germany. Simply stated, the Landeswehr was the Army that joined the newborn Latvia Army, but Bermont's Army was an enemy.

The land reform in Latvia was started soon after the military actions terminated, and the manors of big landowners were liquidated. The maximum amount of land that a manor was allowed to possess was 100 hectares. As the landowners were mainly Germans by ethnicity, some problems in the relationships between Germans and Latvians arose in spite of the fact that the landowners constituted a very small part of Germans in Latvia. I think, however, that these problems were primarily at the propaganda level that blamed the German nobility and the landowners, but maybe ordinary Germans and Latvians in their everyday life did not pay much attention to the problems of German landowners. Nevertheless, not many of Germans came back to Latvia from Germany after the war.

The most serious German migration occurred at the end of 1939 when the escalation of the WW2 was going on actively. On August 23, 1939 the Molotov-Ribbentrop Treaty and later additional agreements were signed by Germany and the USSR. The both parts agreed that the ethnic Germans should be evacuated to Germany before Soviet troops entered the Baltic countries including Latvia. And, of course, before the combat actions of the WW2 started here. The evacuation was completed by the end of December 1939, and about 52,000 persons were moved to Poland and mainly settled in Poznan [Posen] region. More details about the resettling are presented in another Page, and the appropriate agreement between Latvia and Germany governments (in German) is also presented on this Site.

From the propaganda point of view the migration was presented as the unifying of the German people in the new German Empire. This propaganda worked, and the main part of the German population in Latvia migrated without objections though without being very happy. Nevertheless, rather many Germans remained in Latvia. Some of them (not less than 500) migrated in 1940, and a large group of them (10 500) migrated to Germany one year later in the first months of 1941, when Latvia had already been incorporated in the USSR. An unknown number of Germans were arrested during the year of Soviet rule in 1940, 36 were deported on June 14, 1941.

This was the end of the German minority in Latvia.

Very important to genealogists is the fact that both groups of German emigrants to Germany (in 1939 and 1941) were carefully registered and the lists with the names were printed. The lists were confidential at the moment of publication, and they are rare in the old book shops. I have only the list of the first group /Izceļotāji/. It is a book of 1700 pages (52 589 names). The list is organized in the alphabetical order of the names and presents the name, the maiden name, the birth date and place, and the address of emigrants. It would be useful for family history research to have the complete list indexed, which provided additional possibilities, for example, to gather the persons who lived in the same flat.

The names of the persons deported from Latvia by Soviets in 1941 are also published and easily available. The names of the persons arrested during the Soviet period 1940-1941 are also available however they are not grouped by ethnicity.