Intergenerational Transmission and Integration of Repatriate Families from the Former Soviet Union in Germany

Article excerpt

Anja Steinbach (*)


The main objective of this empirical research is the analysis of intergenerational transmission and integration of repatriate families from the former Soviet Union in Germany. The subject of intergenerational transmission in the integration process of repatriate-families from the former Soviet Union in Germany is especially meaningful in two aspects. (1) The analysis of intergenerational transmission in migrant families concerns the actual influence of the parent-generation on the children-generation. The basis of this research of generational relationships are not age-cohorts, which are usually investigated in integration research, but data of parent-child dyads. Using dyads made it possible to enlarge the cohort-analytic design of the integration research and to measure exactly how both generations differ concerning their integrational behavior. This analysis allows more accurate statements about what is transferred from one generation to the other and how this innerfamilial transmission influences -- espec ially the children's -- integrational behavior (Nauck, 1997; Nauck et al., 1997). (2) The investigated group of migrants -- German repatriates from the former Soviet Union -- enjoys a special status in Germany since they are of German origin. They consist of Germans, who emigrated from Germany about 250 years ago, returning now to their native country of origin. This group differs from other migrants as they share a certain cultural bond with the host society. In addition their civil status in Germany further differentiate them from other migrant groups. After their admission the status of repatriates is equal to the native population, as they receive the German citizenship. Other migrants have much more limited opportunities for permanent residence or potential citizenship. To look at the integration process of repatriates into the German society is therefore especially interesting. Hence, the focus of this research is on the situation of repatriate families from the former Soviet Union in Germany and their ability to transmit cultural as well as social capital from the parent generation to the children generation in the integration process.


The situation of repatriates is quite different from other migrants (e.g. immigrant workers) in Germany. Repatriates are of German origin from Eastern Europe (e.g. Poland, former Jugoslavia, Rumania, the former Soviet Union), who are accepted as citizens in the Federal Republic of Germany when they are able to prove their German nationality (Haberland, 1994). Because Russian-Germans from areas of the former Soviet Union have the highest immigration rate of repatriates to Germany the focus of this study will lie on them. Their ancestors immigrated to the east beginning in 1763, being called by Catherina II, into the areas of the former Soviet Union. They received land, which they could cultivate and manage autonomously. This led to the development of independent German areas. Later in the following decades the Germans were given less and less autonomy. The climax of these repressions were extensive protractions and expulsions during World War II. The disintegration of the German areas persisted despite efforts to rebuild German districts. Therefore, Russian-Germans preferred to go back to the homeland of their ancestors, as they could not see any prospects for themselves and their families as Germans in Russia or other areas of the former Soviet Union (Kotzian, 1990; Baumeister, 1991; Dietz and Hilkes, 1994; Silbereisen et al., 1999).

Because of the transformation processes in Eastern Europe during the last 10 years the number of migrants from these countries increased dramatically. The biggest group is made up by the repatriates from the former Soviet Union (see Figure 1). Between 1950 and 1998 about 1,800,000 Russian-Germans were received into the Federal Republic (Welt, 1999a: 6). …


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