Altough the training courses of BUPNET are attended by different ethnic groups, the cultural diversity is not a matter which has to be tackled in particular. For this reason, the focus of the INTEGRATION project activities is on the collaboration with other social institutions having problems and conflicts which result from a heterogenous ethnic public. BUPNET contacted several social institutions and could interest them for the project. 3 organisations have a special interest in intercultural training for staff and in the improvement of the interaction with beneficiaries who are mostly repatriates or German Russians.

The late repatriates, the Russian Germans, or German Russians, are those who emigrated to Russia at one time or another. The history of migration began already in the Middle Ages, when Germans began to settle on the territories of almost all States in East Central, East and South-East Europe. They were called at that time as urgently needed workers into the countries. When Katharine II issued on 22 July 1763 a communist manifesto, in which all foreigners were invited to settle in Russia, mostly Germans followed her call. The country was given to the colonists as common property for an unlimited period of time. They were granted privileges, such as political autonomy, religious freedom and exemption from military service and taxes. The Germans felt usually deeply connected to their respective immigration countries, yet they continued to maintain their own culture and language.

In the 19th mid-century, nationalistic ideas arose and particularly in connection with the First World War the living conditions of the German minorities were limited to a large extent. Many Germans left therefore their homeland already at that time and evacuated to Germany. Before 1939 about 8,6 million Germans lived outside of the borders of the German Reich and at least 9 million Germans lived in the German east provinces at that time Silesia, East Brandenburg, Pomerania and East Prussia, which were awarded after the Second World War to Poland. They were all made responsibly for the policy of the National Socialism and had to bear in consequence banishment, resettlement or deportation, expropriation, forced labour, internment as well as disfranchisement and discrimination. Thus families were separated; German culture and educational facilities were closed.

Although the situation for the Germans in the respective states has been slowly improving since the 50’s, many decided to evacuate to Germany. This was possible, since according to the article 116 of the Basic Law evacuees are considered to be Germans and have therefore both the right to admission in the Federal Republic of Germany and to integration services.

The number of the immigrants in Germany increased explosively from approximately 74,000 in the year 1987 to over 397,000 in the year 1990 as a consequence from the simplified immigration procedures introduced in 1987. Since 1950, all in all about 2 million people have been immigrating to Germany for ethnical, economic, politic and personal reasons.

Actual Situation

With their immigration to the Federal Republic of Germany, their problems are not yet solved. They must overcome administrative, economic, and social obstacles. Immediately upon their arrival they are brought to an intermediate camp, from where they are assigned to the states emergency lodgings. After a certain provisional time, which can sometimes last years, the immigrants must search out an apartment themselves. For most very large families it is a problem to find a suitable apartment that is large enough. Next to the housing problem the language is a problem for most of the Russian Germans. Because they rarely had the opportunity to speak German or even to learn it in school, they have to learn it here. Also the world of work is completely new. Professional structure and training differ essentially from what they knew in the former Soviet Union. Craftsmen and industrial workers have the best prospects to find work. It is different for those immigrants who previously worked in the service sector. The completely different and automated style of work and the lack of language proficiency present the immigrants with particular obstacles.

The German Russians came to Germany in order to live as Germans among Germans. But they soon notice that the image that they had of Germany and which they perpetuated for generations is no longer accurate. The majority of Germans here, because of the experiences of the Second World War, are rather sceptical of a sense of German nationality. The deep religiousness characteristic of the Russian Germans is also foreign to the people of the Federal Republic of Germany. The assimilation process is for many a long and difficult path

Project Context

For some, Germans from the East are welcome guests, for others, they are foreigners, asylum-seekers, or simply economic refugees. Because they have not mastered the German language, because they have a different lifestyle than the Germans here, they are, in the eyes of many who have always lived in Germany, not proper Germans.

Ignorance is usually the reason for such a mistaken assessment. Those who know the history of the Russian Germans know that they have guarded German traditions throughout generations. Since the beginning of the Second World War, however, it has become increasingly more difficult to protect their national identity in Russia.

Principally, the project is aiming at contributing offensively to prevent xenophobia and intolerance by providing information on Russian Germans and their historical context in social organisations such as kindergartens and schools. On the one hand, staff members will be provided with respective information and with appropriated learning material which can be used in the work with children and pupils in order to improve also their knowledge about the historical context and to fight against discrimination resulting from ignorance. On the other hand, the Russian Germans who are often suffering from a loss of their identity shall be given active support to better face their new living conditions.

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