Germans - Economy



Subsistence and Commercial Activities. Prior to 1917 most Germans in Russia were employed in agriculture, particularly in cereal growing and animal breeding. The chief source of income in the Crimea and Transcaucasia was viniculture. The social and employment structures were significantly affected, however, by the dispossession of property and the deportations that took place between 1941 and 1945. In 1989, 53 percent of the Germans living in Russia were urbanized (on a national average), whereas the other 47 percent lived in the country. The statistics vary according to republic and region. In Uzbekistan, for example, 88 percent of the German population is urban; the comparable figures are 71 percent in the Ukraine and 54 percent in the former Soviet Union. In the primarily agrarian provinces of Kazakhstan and Kirgizia, the corresponding data are 49 percent and 42 percent respectively.

Industrial Arts. The handicrafts and decorative arts that had flourished before 1917 lost much of their importance following the abolition of private ownership of the means of production and continue to play a significant role only in rural areas.

Trade. During the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries streets lined exclusively with German stores were to be found in Moscow, St. Petersburg, Saratov, Odessa, and other cities. Regular street markets were held in the settlements and a number of German-owned trading firms distributed industrial and farming products throughout Russia. Today farming is the only industry in which Germans pursue private production. Surplus dairy products, meat, eggs, fruit, and vegetables are sold at the kolkhoz markets or purchased by state distribution agencies.

Division of Labor. Within the sphere of agriculture, German men in Russia tend to work the machinery (as elsewhere in the former Soviet Union), whereas women tend to be employed in the fields and in animal care. Within the sphere of industry, the occupations chosen depend on jobs available.

Land Tenure. The ownership and utilization of land have always differed from region to region. In the Volga Lands approximately 30 to 35 hectares would be allocated to individual German colonists at the time the settlements were founded, whereas in southern Russia and Bessarabia 60 to 65 hectares were more usual. Land allocations (for viniculture) were significantly smaller in the Crimea and Transcaucasia. In Volhynia, land was not allocated but leased. In other regions of Russia, economic success and the increase in the population led to the foundation of secondary settlements (daughter colonies) and increased ownership of land. In the pre-Revolutionary period, 5 to 9 percent of the population in southern Russia consisted of German settlers who owned up to 38 percent of the land. In 1917, however, all Russian land was nationalized and between 1928 and 1932 was transformed into collectives (kolkhoz) or state property (sovkhoz).


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