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Reviewed by:
  • Die Deutschen in der Moskauer Gesellschaft: Symbiose und Konflikte (1494–1941)
  • Eric Lohr
Victor Dönninghaus , Die Deutschen in der Moskauer Gesellschaft: Symbiose und Konflikte (1494–1941) [The Germans in Moscow Society: Symbiosis and Conflict (1494–1941)]. 576 pp. Munich: R. Oldenbourg, 2002. ISBN 3486566385. €44.80.

Victor Dönninghaus has made a major contribution to the historiography of minorities in the Russian empire with the publication of this thoroughly researched volume on the Germans of Moscow from their origins to Stalin's deportation of the entire remaining population to Karaganda in 1941. Making thorough use of the remarkable number of articles, books, and conference proceedings on the history of the Russian-Germans that have been published since perestroika,1 as well as extensive research in the Moscow city archives, Dönninghaus provides us with a tremendously detailed and nuanced account of the variety of communities, individuals, and groups composing the "Moscow German" population. The study joins a handful of excellent recent monographs on the history of Russian-Germans in other regions (including Dönninghaus's own study of the Volga Germans, also published in 2002) that together have made a quantum leap in our knowledge of the history of the German minority in Russian history.2 In its structure, thoroughness, and stress on symbiosis of the Germans with the broader urban population, the book complements Margarete Busch's recent study of Germans in St. Petersburg particularly well. [End Page 425]

All these recent contributions make extensive use of Russian archival and periodical literature. This gives each author the ability to delve into individual case studies, exploring the religious, social, institutional, and cultural particularities of the German communities in each region. Neutatz in particular stresses Alltagsgeschichte (history of daily life) methodology and strives to provide as much detail as possible on how the German settler (colonist) communities of southern Russia went about their daily lives and interacted with local Russians. There are hints of a similar approach in Dönninghaus's study of the Moscow Germans. At one point he gives the reader an entertaining walking tour of the areas where most Germans lived in old Moscow and provides a great deal of information on the individuals, groups, and legends that made up their history (207). But neither author puts Alltagsgeschichte methodology at the center of his concerns, and in fact the methods employed are primarily from the stock and trade of social history.

The studies of Brandes, Neutatz, Busch, and Dönninghaus are all distinguished by the exhaustive research and presentation of statistical information about the populations under examination. In each case, these statistical portraits prove to be quite significant and important to understanding the origins of the violent 20th-century actions of the Russian and Soviet authorities toward these communities. Brandes and Neutatz provide the most authoritative and exhaustive accounts to date of the tremendous differences between the German settlers and local Slavic populations in terms of economic success and land acquisition. They both show how the German systems of landownership and inheritance, together with far more extensive communal savings and loan associations and other differences, helped create a juggernaut of rapidly expanding communal landholding at the same time as Slavic peasant land plot sizes were declining rapidly due to population growth and partible inheritance. As a result, the share of arable land held by the German communities increased rapidly in several southern Ukrainian provinces and in Bessarabia. The two authors argue strongly that these trends underlay the increasingly strident flood of articles and memos from nationalistic Russians condemning the Germans and making the case that radical methods needed to be used to solve the "German question" in these regions and in the empire as a whole.

Dönninghaus also provides an exhaustive statistical overview of the German communities he is studying—by far the most detailed published account to date. Germans appeared in Moscow in significant numbers as early as the 16th century, but the population was very small and generally quite isolated from the Russian population of the city (with some prominent exceptions) until the 19th century, when modernization and industrialization brought a rapid influx of Germans from the Baltics, from abroad, and from...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1538-5000
Print ISSN
1531-023x
Pages
pp. 425-430
Launched on MUSE
2005-06-16
Open Access
No
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