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Volhynian German Migrations

Between Russian Empire, Poland, Canada and Germany
The History of Volhynian Germans as a Transnational History of Migration and Integration

In 2016, the movie “Volhynia” caused major controversies in Poland and Ukraine. It focuses on the massacre of Polish inhabitants of Volhynia by Ukrainian paramilitary units at the end of the Second World War. However, the violence displayed in the film blurs over the rich multiethnic and migratory past of the region, which is a significant historical example of transnational migration.

In the 1860s, some ten thousand German-speaking people settled in the Russian governorate of Volhynia. The newcomers established numerous villages in a Polish-Ukrainian-Czech-Jewish environment, where they benefited from both tax and military service exemption. However, as early as the 1880s and 1890s, the revocation of privileges led to a second migration for many of these people - this time to Siberia or Canada. The resettlement treaties between the Third Reich and the Soviet Union in 1940 brought an end to the Volhynian German colonies. National Socialist officials relocated these people to the Reichsgau Wartheland in German annexed Polish territory. After their expulsion in 1945, they had to build new lives in West as well as East Germany.

The project tracks these migratory movements in the longue durée from 1860 to 1960, taking into account first and foremost the transnational implications of integration at the changing places of settlement in the Russian Empire, Poland, Germany, and Canada.