First study about „Russian-Germans”: well-integrated

Since the end of the 1980s, 2.7 million people from countries of the former Soviet Union have migrated to Germany. With about 3.5 million, they form the largest immigrant group today. However, little is known about their situation. The migrant researcher Jannis Panagiotidis (University of Osnabrück, University of Wien since 1/8/2021) has recently published the first comprehensive study about this population group, which he calls “post-soviet migrants”. Incidentally, the current German tennis Olympia winner Alexander Zverev also belongs to that group.

The largest part of the post-soviet migrants is from Russia and Kazakhstan, but also from Ukraine. One part of the study is about Russian-German late repatriates. They received the German citizenship on the basis of their individually proven German descent as well as their collective “fate from the consequences of war”, since their ancestors were deported to Siberia and Kazakhstan during the Second World War. In addition, there are 220.000 so-called “Jewish quota refugees”. In Germany, they received protection from the increasing anti-Semitism in the collapsing Soviet Union and its successor states. The government also saw a kind of redemption for the elimination of Jews during the Holocaust.

Late repatriates as well as quota refugees are “privileged” compared to other migrant groups. They came to Germany through a controlled admission process and immediately received a secure residence status – in case of the late repatriates even the German citizenship.

The study shows that migrants from the former Soviet Union are well-integrated in the job market. Their unemployment is about as low as that of Germany without a migration background, their income situation has significantly increased in the last few years. However, many work below their qualification, especially women are often peripheral workers. Particularly Jewish quota refugees are often affected by old-age poverty.

Panagiotidis concludes: “About three decades after the end of the Soviet Union and the begin of the extensive migration of former Soviet citizens to Germany, they are a fixed part of this society. Their integration can be described as successful.”

However, the Russian-German group is often subject to particular prejudices in the German migrant society. In most cases, these people are considered “white”, and are “unobtrusive” or “invisible”. Nevertheless, they face discrimination, as traditionally, there are massive prejudices against “the East” and especially Russia. Jewish migrants also face anti-Semitisms. Overall, the assessment of the Germany majority is ambivalent: “If it went well, the concerned people were ‘hard-working Germans’ and ‘cultivated Jews’. If it went badly, they were criminal, drinking and violent ‘Russians’.”

A summary of the study can be found under MDI_Expertise_Postsowjetische_Migration.pdf (


Traditionelle russische Schachtelpuppe: die Matrjoschka. Foto: tünews INTERNATIONAL/Hanna Sannwald.

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