Black Sea Germans

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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) or Ukrainian Germans are 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] Included in the category of Black Sea Germans are the following groups from the Black Sea area: the Bessarabia Germans, Crimea Germans, Dobrujan Germans, and the Russian Mennonites.

The Black Sea Germans are distinct from the Volga Germans, who were separate both geographically and culturally, although both groups moved to the Russian Empire at about the same time and for the same reasons and both groups are referred to as Germans from Russia.


Germans began settling in southern Ukraine and the Crimean Peninsula around 1800. At the time, southern Ukraine was part of the Russian Empire. 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); Empress Catherine herself sent them a personal invitation to immigrate to the Russian Empire.

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

Black Sea Germans, prior to World War II, were subjected to forced starvation, closure of German-language churches and schools were forced 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 in forced labor camps.[1] Black Sea Germans began to resettle in Greater Germany in 1940 as a part of Hitler's Heim ins Reich policy.[citation needed] Remaining Germans fled to Germany and Poland as the Red Army advanced in 1944.

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  1. ^ a b "Germans from Russia Heritage". North Dakota State University. Retrieved 18 March 2014.