The Crimean Ethnographic Museum hosted presentation of publishing project The Crimean Germans – History in Postcards. The collection of postcards includes original photos of German colonies in the Crimea taken in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, now arranged as a gift set.
This is the first publication of the Ethnographic Museum of the Crimea and the German community organizations’ joint publishing program celebrating the 210th anniversary of the first German colonies on the peninsula, to be marked in 2014.
The set includes 21 postcards depicting everyday life of the Crimean German colonies in Sudak, Neusatz, Hellbrunn, Herzenberg, Zurichthal, Friedenthal, Rosenthal, and Kronenthal. The authors of the new project say their intent was to show the significant contribution made by the German immigrants from Europe to the history of Ukraine, and promote knowledge of the Crimea’s history through the little-studied collection of the museum.
At many points in the region’s history, Germans made a huge contribution to its social and economic development. The German immigration to the peninsula began in the late 18th and early 19th centuries, but the first officially recognized colonies appeared only in 1804 and 1805. Immigrants came from different regions of Germany as well as Switzerland and Austria. By 1860, the peninsula had 45 German-populated settlements founded. Some areas in several provinces of the mid-19th century Ukraine, including the Tauric one which comprised the Crimea, were designated as the colonial districts with mostly German colonist population. These districts enjoyed a measure of self-government and legal autonomy, had German as the official language, maintained German schools, meeting-houses, and ecclesiastical hierarchy.
With the Bolshevik takeover, most German farmers were deprived of voting rights due to their previous prosperity, while some of them together with their families were deported from the Crimean peninsula. The apogee of repression and farmer dispossession came in the 1930s. Around 50,000 Germans, and as much as 61,200 people in total when adding non-German family members, were deported from the Crimea mostly to Kazakhstan in August and September 1941 on orders of Stalin’s government. The second wave of deportations followed in the summer of 1944, exiling the remnants of the Crimean Germans, Greeks, Armenians, Bulgarians, who were born and raised in the Crimea, as well as the remnants of other ethnic groups seen as undesirable by the Communist regime.
Many deported Germans were able to return to their Crimean homeland in the 1980s and 1990s. The German culture has seen a revival, with new cultural centers and Deutschklubs appearing. Over 30,000 schoolchildren are studying German in 182 schools of the autonomous republic, while four German Sunday schools and six schools with advanced study of German language are functioning in the Crimea. All this gives reason for hope that the industrious and talented German community of the peninsula will survive indefinitely.