Ethnic German in Russia: Cultural Heritage and Intercultural Dialogue in National Education


This work is devoted to the public education issue examination, which is the most important component of spiritual culture in any modern society. The authors have studied the issue of the Russian Germans’ national schools formation and presented a broader understanding of these schools as part of a common vision for Russian state education. The basic stages of national education formation in Kamyshin district of Saratov province are studied from the perspective of cultural dialogue of the peoples in great Russia. In this context national education is classified as the foundation of ethnic groups’ self-design and continuity on one hand and as an important component of cultural dialogue on the other. Little-known archival materials related to the Volga Germans’ national and cultural heritage are introduced into scientific circulation. The conducted study showed that German ethnic groups’ moral and spiritual potential was due in large part to the traditionally high level of education, coming from religious and ethical attitudes, but it was not used to the benefit of the state and for the German national and cultural community in the Volga region. Further study of the German national school history as the foundation for preservation of the German language, religion and spiritual community in Russia, as well as the starting point of intercultural interaction will help us better understand a contradictory process of cultural interaction of a multi-ethnic power people.

Keywords: National educationintercultural dialoguemulti-ethnic state


Spiritual culture is the most important cultural sphere of any modern society. Public education plays a far from negligible role in its formation and development. The study of Russian Germans’ national schools formation and functioning and gaining a thorough understanding of them as part of a common vision of Russian state education is relevant in this regard. The German national school history as the foundation for preservation of the German language, religion and spiritual community in Russia, as well as the starting point of intercultural interaction can help to describe a complex and contradictory process of cultural interaction of a multi-ethnic power people.

Problem Statement

Study of the history of Russia’s peoples was restricted by economic and political relations until the end of the last century. Culture was not thought to be either a system or a social development determinant in these studies (Mezhuev, 1997, p. 9). This approach did not take into account the interaction of bearers of various values, when some values become available to the representatives of a different culture.

Besides it was often left unsaid that a bearer of certain cultural values was usually a person who grew up in the system of these values. Moreover, intercultural interaction can occur at different levels, using different tools.

A wide range of topical interdisciplinary issues of humanitarian knowledge (philology, linguistics, language education, literary studies, translation studies) related to the study of intercultural communication, cultural dialogue, dialogue culture from the perspective of the modern scientific paradigm are raised in publications of the last decades (Tareva & Vikulova, 2016).

Nevertheless, researchers do not sufficiently cover natural national-cultural interaction and mutual enrichment within the boundaries of a multinational, multicultural community.

Migration processes study has a special place in scientific research works. This kind of research focuses on various types of migration, its subjects (ethnic minorities and marginalized communities) and their hierarchic relations with the national majority. As a rule, such works are devoted exclusively to the study of migration. However, new approaches to the study of migration processes are aimed at expanding the outlook and changing the direction of the view on cultural dynamics and cultural dialogue going beyond ethnic and national borders (Frolova et al., 2019a; 2019b; Bessudnov & Shcherbak, 2020; Roemhild, 2017).

Research Questions

A different research approach to the above problem is the interest in the relationship between language and surrounding reality. Growing concern about the fate of national minorities living in multinational states territories and their languages became the reason why this interest has increased significantly. Cultural and linguistic diversity of the national minority and disappearance of some languages became the research subject at the turn of the 20th and 21st centuries (Roemhild, 2017, p. 69).

In a foreign country a national identity manifestation in extreme conditions of survival differs from the life in the situation of political, economic and religious stability in the state. The individual's consciousness is in constant motion towards a more prestigious culture and language. When two cultures and two national languages begin to come into contact in a person’s consciousness, this might well mean that there appear to be two different conflict views of the world (Frolova et al., 2019a; 2019b).

In this work we will build on the assumption that education is the most important tool that helps to preserve national culture and pass it on to the next generation, since people or nation are basically traditional, evolutionary in terms of development and self-protecting against assimilation to national majority (Rosenberg & Weydt, 2018). Socio-cultural community members support each other, tend to be competitive in relation to “others”. In addition, the school is one of the main institutions of national culture, the main way of familiarizing with it. Everyone assimilates national culture in the process of special training called education. To educate means to develop in people cultural identity in a specific national form with the help of education and school (Leont'eva, 2017).

Purpose of the Study

In Soviet times, national minorities’ socio-cultural status study was overshadowed, unduly politicized or simply concealed in great Russia. A serious historical diverse study of these groups has been revived since the time when previously closed archives were opened. Little-known archival materials related to the Volga Germans national and cultural heritage are introduced into scientific circulation in this paper. In the context of modern historiography, many researchers investigate history of large ethnic groups in Russia – the Jews, Germans and Poles, pay great attention to the examination of legal, social and economic regulations established by the imperial national policy in the 19th and in the early 20th centuries (Kats & Storella, 2018; Leont'eva, 2017).

The purpose of the study is to consider the main stages of the national education formation in Kamyshin district of Saratov province from the perspective of the peoples’ cultural dialogue in great Russia. In this context we will examine national education as the foundation of ethnic groups’ self-design and continuity on one hand and as an important component of cultural dialogue on the other (Frolova et al., 2019a, p. 7), which determines the presented work relevance and its scientific novelty.

Research Methods

The principle of historicism and objectivity, scientific analysis consistency, problem-chronological principle have become the fundamental principles in the presented study.

The principle of historicism involves inquiry into the diversity of objects and phenomena in specific historical conditions of their emergence and development. It allowed a better consideration of public policy on education of German colonists over time in close connection with changes in the country by an example from any particular region.

The principle of scientific objectivity gave an opportunity to analyze problems taking into account socio-political concepts, which naturally influenced the spiritual sphere. Guided by this principle, the authors sought to overcome stereotypes of German colonies and settlements forcible russification throughout the history of their existence.

The principle of scientific analysis consistency permitted us to study the state and municipal administration’s decisions on educational issues of various periods, contents and direction.

The problem-chronological principle helped to examine all aspects of educational process consistently, its influence on spiritual culture preservation and forms of interaction between colonial settlers and the surrounding majority.

The first group of general scientific methods (analysis, synthesis, analogy, comparison, etc.) let the authors provide an integrated approach to the study of the points raised.

Special historical research methods (comparative-historical, work in archives, historical-biographical, etc.) enabled us to trace events in comparison with a specific historical situation, to determine quantitative and qualitative changes in the processes under study.

Statistical and mathematical methods were also used for comparative analysis. These methods helped to reveal patterns and qualitative assessments of different stages in the German national school development through generalization of quantitative indicators used to characterize the subject of study.

All this provided an opportunity to use the most optimal approach to the history of German ethnic groups’ spiritual culture, relationship between Russians and Germans in the general context of societal development during the 19th-20th centuries.


Study of speech behavior of German ethnic minority living in various regions of Russia, countries of Eastern Europe and Latin America showed interesting outcomes. From this perspective the conducted studies reflect the features manifested in a foreign language environment under social and demographic factors influence. The authors of the articles have used field methods for collecting linguistic materials; methods of continuous recording of dialect materials with subsequent text transcription; methods of sociolinguistic questionnaires and interviews, etc. Using sociolinguistic and cultural techniques to analyze the above materials, the authors provided a high degree of objectivity and reliability of the study. According to their conclusions, various extralinguistic factors, in particular social and demographic ones (age, education, marital status and gender), determine distribution of the national minority and surrounding majority language, as well as the choice of one of them as a priority in the national-cultural paradigm of the German language (Baykova et al., 2016; Rosenberg & Weydt, 2018).

Our previous studies have revealed that contacting languages vocabulary exhibits greater sensitivity and mobility in the process of different cultures dialogue (Frolova et al., 2019a; 2019b). Thus the mutual influence of the spoken Russian and German is manifested in direct borrowings:‘pirog’, ‘stolar’, ‘samovar’, ‘konfety’, ‘gostinzy’, etc. (these words were borrowed by the Germans from Russian); ‘kuha’ (ger. Kuchen), ‘knedel’ki’ or ‘kletski’ (ger. Knödel or Klößchen), popular children’s game ‘shtander’ (ger. Standhier!), the appeal to a German clergyman ‘batyushka pastor’ (ger. Pastor), etc. (borrowed by Russians from German).

About four hundred thousand ethnic Germans currently live in this state (Federal State Statistics Service, n.d.). Their ancestors started a massive wave of migration to new territories in the middle of the eighteenth century. Having lost their direct links to their historical homeland partially or completely, Europeans, mainly Germans, created a new unique linguistic and cultural social formation in new places of isolated, compact residence. We can observe the results of established contacts between German ethnic groups and the indigenous population of Russia at all levels of socio-cultural and linguistic systems of European colonial settlers (Frolova et al., 2019a; 2019b). The qualitative and quantitative characteristic of such contact consequences largely depends on the foreign influence intensity and historical conditionality of the change processes.

Russian Germans’ ethnic identity was always focused not only on such objective features as language, religion, territory, material culture, but also on their attitude to education, study of a national language (Salimova, 2017). However, Russian Germans should not be considered as a whole, as an indivisible national community, since each of the specific territorial groups had their own background in Germany, their own specificities of life and economy, as well as specificities in relation to the language and customs. German colonists of the Volga region are not a type of the German nation, they are completely new people.

The first German settlements in the Lower Volga region were founded during the period from 1764 to 1766 in Kamyshin district of Saratov province. There were 51 German settlements. The Germans accounted for 24.6% of the residents in 1795, 39.7% in 1834, 40.6% in 1858 and 40.3% in 1897. The number of Germans reached 153.5 thousand in 1897 (Frolova et al., 2019a; 2019b).

German peasantry had traditionally a thirst for knowledge. The colonists would evaluate cultural and moral level of certain settlements by the state of their educational institutions, especially primary schools (Vashkau, 1996; Leont'eva, 2017).

It was the primary parochial school that was the main tool for transferring religious, social and cultural experience from generation to generation in a different foreign ethnic environment, on the one hand, and a bridge to intercultural interaction with the national majority, on the other hand.

Thus, according to the census in 1886, there were 68% literate people in Kamyshin district as a whole. Among them there were 42% of men and 26% of women of all ages. This district was the most advanced in comparison with all other districts in Saratov province. For example, the percentage of literate population was 71.5% only in a single village of Goebel. A church school existed in the village since the colony was founded and a church community was organized. A Russian-German parochial comradely school began its work later in 1880. The report “On the State of Zemstvo Schools of Kamyshin District for 1903” shows that on January 1, 1903 there were 211 primary schools in the district, including 57 Zemstvo Russian ones, 52 German former parish schools, 6 German comradely schools. Besides there were schools of Diocese departments such as 46 literacy schools, 44 (4 of them in Kamyshin) parish schools, 4 ministerial educational institutions, 2 German city elementary schools, the first one was Lutheran and the other one was Catholic. In 1903 a Zemstvo school was opened in the village of Russian Shcherbakovka and a Ministerial two-class school in the village of VerkhniyBuerak. There were 3344 boys and 752 girls (a total of 4096 people) in 57 Russian zemstvo schools on January 1, 1903 and 7608 boys and 7157 girls (a total of 14765 people) were enrolled in 58 schools (52 German former parochial schools, 6 comradely schools). Such a high number of students resulted from universal literacy introduction for children in German villages. On average, there were 307 students for every German school in the district (schools operated on a double-shift basis). The most numerous schools were Linevo-Ozerskaya (766 students), Splavnusheskaya (832 students). The percentage of those students who completed the course is not large; 145 boys and 58 girls (203 in total) finished school of 14,765 students. A small percentage of school leavers can be explained by teacher shortages at schools, where the students-teacher ratio was 100:1. In addition, many children left school because of the need to help their parents with the household work. Universal education was introduced in the district since 1909. Thus, the number of literate people continued to increase (Report of the Board to the next 1909 Zemstvo Assembly, 1909).

The inclusion of primary German schools and central schools in the Ministry of Public Education system in 1881 did not result in explicit Russification either. Adoption of 1897 legislative act on teaching all subjects except the German language and religious disciplines in Russian at the German national school did not contribute to the beginning of the German population Russification process. On the contrary, the objective processes of German colonies entry into the common economic and cultural Russian space since the mid-19th century strengthened requirements for the state language learning. The policy of the so-called state’s pragmatic loyalty was a deterrent to mass assimilation of the Volga Germans with the Russian-speaking majority.

Besides the Lutheran and Catholic churches continued to maintain their positions in the field of education and spiritual condition of the Volga colonies. The colonists’ loyalty to the state power allowed them to retain their former economic and legal privileges, which gave the German population a special position in relation to Russian peasantry (Rosenberg & Weydt, 2018).

The outbreak of World War I did not affect the number of enrolled students at the Lower Volga region national schools. For example, 105 boys, 63 girls studied in Kamyshin Primary Lutheran School on January 1, 1913; 101 boys and 78 girls were on January 1, 1914; 110 boys and 82 girls studied there on January 1, 1915 (Report of the Board to the next 1909 Zemstvo Assembly, 1909).

The Soviet government did not ignore the national question in education. According to the decree of the RSFSR Council of People's Commissars on October 19, 1918 “On the formation of the Volga Germans region”, Clause 7 provided for guarantees of the German colonists’ cultural development, “their native language use at schools, in the local administration, in court and in public life is not subject to any constraint, according to the Soviet Constitution. At national schools, especially in nationally formed territorial entities, the ways and methods of making it a valid source of knowledge, transfer of people’s traditions and spiritual experience were developed. In the case of the German school, these were primarily the old formation teachers, who continued to think their place to be apolitical and did much to organize education in their native language (Rosenberg & Weydt, 2018).

According to the document “Report of the district executive committee for 1923”, on November 1, 1923, there were 4 first-level national schools in the city and 95 in the district; 4 seven-year schools in the city and 1in the district; 1 second-level school in the city and 1in the district; 1 teenage school in the city and 8 in the district. 9000 people studied at the above schools, and there were 1/3 as many girls (Report of the Board to the next 1909 Zemstvo Assembly, 1909).

A thin layer of German intelligentsia began to form in Kamyshin district colonies by the beginning of the 20th century. First of all, they were teachers, medical assistants, pharmacists, clergy who received special education. After November 1917 seven-year schools operated in almost all German villages. On completion basic education, German peasantry had the opportunity of study in technical schools and higher educational institutions of the Autonomous Soviet Socialist Republic of the Volga Germans (ASSRVG). Teachers for German schools were trained at the Teachers’ College in Marxstadt, a nine-year school in Saratov, a ten-year school in Balzer and pedagogical colleges in Zelman and Leningrad. Specialists with higher education were taught by Romano-German department of Saratov University.

The period from 1928 to 1941 is characterized for the Volga German schools by the fact that, on one hand, cultural policy in the field of education yielded positive results. This resulted in the population educational level increase and the growth of the number of schools (primary, incomplete secondary, secondary), secondary pedagogical institutions network and a pedagogical institute organization, as well as professional education, cultural and educational institutions growth, and development of literature and art. On the other hand, there was strengthening of control and pressure on spiritual life of the entire people, many workers of education, science and culture were repressed. The struggle for power led to the rapid reduction in the number of national spiritual culture bearers. They were instead replaced by the poorest segments of population who, by the will of fate, came to power.

In 1941 German population deportation and liquidation of the republic destroyed the national schools, teaching of the mother tongue was transferred to the category of a foreign one. According to the census in 1989, only 52% of the Germans in the USSR indicated Russian as their native language.

The history of Kamyshin Evangelical-Lutheran primary school is a clear example of formation, development and decline of national education in the Lower Volga region. The school was opened in August 1863 in the building of the Lutheran church and worked in accordance with the rules of foreign schools.

Initially, a small number of study books, especially in Russian and very few visual teaching aids were related to weaknesses of the educational institution (Report of the Board to the next 1909 Zemstvo Assembly, 1909, SAVR, 1902-1932). The school had three departments: junior, secondary and senior. 114 people studied there on December 1, 1902. Children mainly from German families (93%) were the students. In this educational institution, such subject as the God’s Law was taught by U. Golst’s textbook “Holy History” and by M. Luther’s “Catechism”; Russian Reading by Volper’s textbooks "Primer" and "Russian Language"; Orthography by Tmekshirov’s textbook "Alphabet of orthography" and by N. Krasnogorsky’s textbook "Tasks in Russian orthography"; Arithmetic by Vishnevsky's taskbooks; History, Geography were taught by Volper’s “Russian Language” because there were no special literature or textbooks on these subjects; Singing by Richet’s collection of spiritual and secular songs; German by Wagner’s “Primer” and Yaskovsky's “Reading Book”. The teachers at this school were Lutherans, mainly former graduates of Kamyshin real school, who later received certificates for a teaching title after their taking a test (Report of the Board to the next 1909 Zemstvo Assembly, 1909). Kamyshin Evangelic Lutheran primary school existed to 1920. The documents of this educational institution for the period from 1921 to 1923 were not found. Therefore, there is no exact information when the school was transformed into the "School of National Minorities, seven-year school No. 3" (SAVR, 1902-1932).

In 1925 an agreement was drawn up and a tariff agreement was concluded between a Facilitation Committee of Kamyshin National Minority School, Seven-Year School No. 3 and the teaching staff of this school. According to these documents the teaching staff undertook to educate students, teach German in all groups using the methods that would allow German children to learn the native German along with Russian (SAVR, 1902-1932).

A semi-annual report on December 31, 1926, showed that there were 284 students (150 boys and 134 girls) at the school, 146 of them were Germans, 129 were Great Russians, 5 were Ukrainians, 1 was a Pole, 3 were Jews (Report of the Board to the next 1909 Zemstvo Assembly, 1909). In 1932 the school was transformed into a factory seven-year school on the basis of “Decisions of the Central Committee of the All-Union Communist Party of Bolsheviks on September 5, 1931 on Polytechnic Schools”. The new program established the connection between theory and training with productive labor and socially useful work. According to the seals on the school certificates, the full name of this educational institution was “Kamyshin School of National Minorities, Factory seven-year school No. 3” since 1932 (SAVR, 1902-1932, 20). The fate of this national educational institution is unknown.


The conducted study showed that German ethnic groups’ moral and spiritual potential was due in large part to the traditionally high level of education, coming from religious and ethical attitudes but it was not used to the benefit of the state and for German national and cultural community in the Volga region. Having examined national education formation and development in the region, we were able to identify three main stages: 1) creation of primary schools during the resettlement period; 2) self-governance liquidation and cultural life Russification period; 3) legislative guarantees of political and cultural development period. It was also confirmed that both cessation of all social institutions activities where the national language functions, and restriction or complete cessation of national education, undermines the native language and culture prestige, that results in the threat of the entire ethnic group extinction.

Two trends as conservation of public life and openness, social and cultural interaction with neighboring peoples could be observed among the Germans of Russia since the 19th century. Intensive goods exchange development between German settlements and Russian Empire adjacent regions made colonists keep in touch with the surrounding population. German colonists began to un-derstand the need for more education. They found a way out in private education and their children learning in Russian educational institutions. It was Russian educational system that formed national German intelligentsia, educated merchants, industrialists with a colonial background who became well-known people in the field of Great Russia’s economics and culture. Moreover, ethnic Germans have always felt themselves to be part of a single Russian people, open to a dialogue with other nations and nationalities of a multi-ethnic state.


  1. Baykova, O. V., Obukhova, O. N., Berezina, Y. V., Banin, V. A., & Kazakov, A. V. (2016). Ethnic identity and language variations of the Russian Germans in Kirov region, International Journal of Applied Linguistics and English Literature, 5(6), 152–157.
  2. Bessudnov, A., & Shcherbak, A. (2020). Ethnic discrimination in multi-ethnic societies: Evidence from Russia. European Sociological Review, 36(1), 104-120.
  3. Tareva, E. G., & Vikulova, L. G. (Ed.) (2016). Dialog kul'tur. Kul'tura dialoga: v poiskah peredovyh sotsiogumanitarnyh praktik [Dialogue of cultures. Culture of dialogue: in search of advanced social and humanitarian practices]. World Languages Worldwide Limited Liability Company.
  4. Frolova, N., Aleshchanova, I., & Zheltukhina, M. (2019a). The current state of the German island dialects in the Lower Volga region. SHS Web Conf., 69,
  5. Frolova, N. A., Aleschanova, I. V., & Zheltukhina, M. R. (2019b). Spetsifika razvitiya yazyka natsional'nogo men'shinstva v geopoliticheskom prostranstve Nizhnevolzhskogo regiona. [The specifics of the national minority language development in the Lower Volga region geopolitical space]. Aktual'nye problemy filologii i pedagogicheskoj lingvistiki [Actual problems of philology and pedagogical linguistics], 4, 45-54.
  6. Federal State Statistics Service. (n.d.). On the results of the 2010 All-Russian Population Census Retrieved 18 February, 2019, from perepis_itogi1612.htm
  7. Kamyshinskaya shkola natsional'nyh men'shinstv (natsmen). Fabrichno-zavodskaya semiletka №3 [Kamyshin school of national minority. Factory seven-year school №3]. (1902-1932). Государственный архив Волгоградской области [State Archive of Volgograd Region]. F-75. D-1. LL-4.5, D-1. LL-7.9, D-1. LL-11.12, D-5. L-1, D-16. L-5, D-46. L-2, D-150. L-11.
  8. Kats, N. G., & Storella, C. J. (2018). Evrei, nemtsy i polyaki v Sibiri: Novoe v izuchenii sibirskogo narodonaseleniya XIX – nachala XX vekov [Jews, Germans, and Poles in Siberia: new Research in the Study of the Siberian population in the 19th – early 20th centuries] Novyi istoricheskij vestnik [The New Historical Bulletin], 55, 181-194.
  9. Leont'eva, E. (2017). Russkie nemtsy v poiskah identichnosti: chuzhie sredi svoih, svoi sredi chuzhih [Russian Germans in Search of their Identity – Doomed to Be Strangers]. Mir Rossii. 26(1), 198-202.
  10. Mezhuev, V. M. (1997). Kul'tura, kul'turologiya i obrazovanie (materialy "kruglogo stola" [Culture, cultural studies and education (materials of the “round table”]. Questions of Philosophy, 9-10.
  11. Otchet Kamyshinskogo uezdnogo ispolnitel'nogo komiteta sovetov rabochih i krasnoarmejskih deputatov XI sozyva i Kamyshinskogo gorodskogo soveta V sozyva za 1923 g. [Report of Kamyshin district executive committee of workers and Red Army deputies’ councils of the 11th convocation and Kamyshin city council of the 5th convocation 1923]. (1923). Kamyshin.
  12. Doklad Upravy ocherednomu zemskomu sobraniyu 1909 g. O vvedenii v uezde vseobshchego obucheniya. Shkol'naya set' i plan ee vypolneniya [Report of the Board to the next 1909 Zemstvo Assembly. On the introduction of universal education in the district. School network and a plan for its implementation]. (1909). Kamyshin.
  13. Roemhild, R. (2017). Beyond the bounds of the ethnic: for postmigrant cultural and social research. Journal of Aesthetics & Culture, 2, 69-75.
  14. Rosenberg, P., & Weydt, H. (2018). Sprache und Identität. Neues zur Sprachentwicklung der Deutschen in der Sowjetunion [Language and identity. News on thelanguagedevelopmentofthe Germans in theSoviet Union]. Sonderdruck. Die Russlanddeutschen Gestern und heute (pp. 217-238). Markus Verlagsgesellschaft GmbH.
  15. Salimova, D. A. (2017). Interes k rodnomu yazyku i sohranenie etnicheskoj samoidentifikatsii u rossijskih nemtsev [Interest in the native language and preservation of Russian Germans’ ethnic self-identification]. RUDN Journal of Language Education and Translingual Practices, 14(3), 375-383.
  16. Vashkau, N. E. (1996). Gosudarstvennaya politika v oblasti natsional'nogo obrazovaniya i kul'tury v 20-30 gody v nemetskom Povolzh'e [State policy in the field of national education and culture in the 1920-30s in the German Lower Volga region]. Abstracts of the materials of the scientific conference “Colony of Sarept and the Volga Germans in the history of Russia”, 15.

Copyright information

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.

About this article

Publication Date

20 November 2020

eBook ISBN



European Publisher



Print ISBN (optional)


Edition Number

1st Edition




Sociolinguistics, discourse analysis, bilingualism, multilingualism

Cite this article as:

Frolova, N. A., Alenchanova, I. V., Zheltukhina, M. R., & Magomadova, T. D. (2020). Ethnic German in Russia: Cultural Heritage and Intercultural Dialogue in National Education. In Е. Tareva, & T. N. Bokova (Eds.), Dialogue of Cultures - Culture of Dialogue: from Conflicting to Understanding, vol 95. European Proceedings of Social and Behavioural Sciences (pp. 1061-1069). European Publisher.