Journal of the Indiana Academy of the Social Sciences

Document Type



This article surveys the phenomenon of German colonization in Eastern Europe from a comparative perspective. On examination of the origins and outcomes of German settlement in the northern Balkans and southern Russia, a number of shared characteristics and circumstances appear. From beginnings in multinational empires to dissolution under the combined pressure of nationalism and communism, the German settler communities represent an interesting case study in the shift from an imperial to a national perspective in Eastern Europe. The Germans were successful in fulfilling the goals of the Russian and Habsburg imperial governments; they increased agricultural production and helped integrate the regions into the European sphere of influence. Despite appearing initially promising, the rise of nationalism and communism following World War I threatened the traditions of both communities. The rise of Nazism and the outbreak of World War II led to the persecution and eventual dispersal of most of the Germans of the northern Balkans and the Volga River basin. By the early twenty-first century, most of the Germans of the Balkans and former Soviet Union had migrated to Germany.