Russia Emigration and Immigration

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Online Records[edit | edit source]

Germans from Russia[edit | edit source]

  • 1750-1943 Namenskartei von Siedlern in Russland und Rücksiedler nach Deutschland, 1750-1943 Index cards, arranged alphabetically by governmental jurisdiction, village, and then surname, of German immigrants residing in Russia. Many cards provide birth and death dates, marriage dates, names of spouses, the number of children, when and from where they emigrated, and other genealogical information. A separate set, arranged alphabetically by former Russian town of residence, indicates those who moved back to Germany, but gives no information on where they eventually settled in Germany. Some cards are out of order, and include localities in Hungary, Rumania, Poland, and other countries outside of the Russian Empire and Soviet Union.
  • 1750-1943 Bestandskartei der Rußlanddeutschen, 1750-1943 Index cards of ethnic Germans in Russia, arranged alphabetically by surname. While not all the cards contain the same amount of information, many of them supply the given name, present address, birth place and date, place and date of death, earlier and present citizenship; place of origin, year of emigration, and names of ancestors who first emigrated from Germany; places of residence in Russia; year of emigration from Russia; earlier occupation and later activities; religion, whether pedigrees exist; name, places and dates of birth, marriage, and death, occupation for spouse; names, birthplaces and dates for children; and documentary sources.
  • 1807-1810 Kartei der Auswanderer aus Elsaß und Baden nach Rußland, 1807-1810 Index cards, arranged alphabetically by surname, for German emigrants from Baden and Elsaß-Lothringen (the latter now Moselle in France) to Russia. Includes ages for spouses and children, year and place of emigration, where family settled, children's ages, and documentary references.
  • 1870-1945 Auswandererkartei von Rußlanddeutschen nach China und Nordamerika : 1870-1945 Index cards, arranged alphabetically by surname, for German-speaking emigrants from Russia to China, North America, Argentina, elsewhere. Includes birthplaces and dates for both spouses and children, date of emigration and destination, place and date of marriage, children's names and documentary references.
  • 1870-1940 Auswandererkartei der Rußlanddeutschen nach Paraguay und Uruguay, 1870-1940 Index cards, arranged alphabetically by surname, for German-speaking emigrants from Russia to Paraguay and Uruguay. Includes information on places and dates of birth and death for both spouses and children, ancestral home, state of allegiance, religion, occupation, date of emigration, place of settlement, place and date of marriage, maiden name of wife, names of children, and documentary sources.
  • 1870-1940 Auswandererkartei der Rußlanddeutschen nach Brasilien, 1870-1940 Index cards, arranged alphabetically by surname, for German-speaking emigrants from Russia to Brazil. Includes information about dates and places of birth and death (or age) for both spouses and children, place and date of marriage, religion, homeland, date of emigration, profession, and documentary sources. Though most destinations were for Brazil, a few settled in Argentina, Canada, and the U. S. A.
  • 1870-1940 Auswandererkartei von Rußlanddeutschen nach Kanada, 1870-1940 Index cards, arranged alphabetically by surname, for German-speaking emigrants from Russia to Canada. Includes information on places and dates of birth and death for both spouses and children, homeland, state of allegiance, religion, date of emigration, place of settlement, occupation, place and date of marriage, wife's full name.
  • 1899-2012 United States, Obituaries, American Historical Society of Germans from Russia, 1899-2012, index.
  • Odessa Digital Library
  • 1929-1930 Auswandererkartei der Rußlanddeutschen, 1929-1930 Index cards, arranged alphabetically by surname, for German-speaking emigrants from Russia to Germany, Canada, Brazil, Paraguay, etc.

Finding the Town of Origin in Russia[edit | edit source]

If you are using emigration/immigration records to find the name of your ancestors' town in Russia, see Russia Finding Town of Origin for additional research strategies.

Russia Emigration and Immigration[edit | edit source]

"Emigration" means moving out of a country. "Immigration" means moving into a country.
Emigration and immigration sources list the names of people leaving (emigrating) or arriving (immigrating) in the country. These sources may be passenger lists, permissions to emigrate, or records of passports issued. The information in these records may include the emigrants’ names, ages, occupations, destinations, and places of origin or birthplaces. Sometimes they also show family groups.== Emigration and Immigration Records == Emigration records list the names of people leaving and immigration records list those coming into Russia. These records may include an emigrant’s name, age, occupation, destination, and sometimes the place of origin or birth.

Immigration into Russia[edit | edit source]

  • According to the first census of the Russian Empire in 1897, about 1.8 million respondents reported German as their mother tongue.
  • In 1941, Joseph Stalin ordered all inhabitants with a German father to be deported, mostly to Siberia or Kazakhstan.

Germans in the Russian Empire[1][edit | edit source]

The earliest German settlement in Moscow dates to 1505-1533. A handful of German and Dutch craftsmen and traders were allowed to settle in Moscow's German Quarter, as they provided essential technical skills in the capital. Gradually, this policy extended to a few other major cities. In 1682, Moscow had about 200,000 citizens; some 18,000 were classified as Nemtsy, which means either "German" or "western foreigner".

Vistula Germans (Russian Poland)[edit | edit source]

  • Through wars and the partitions of Poland, Prussia acquired an increasing amount of northern, western, and central Polish territory. Eventually, Prussia acquired most of the Vistula River's watershed, and the central portion of then-Poland became South Prussia. Its existence was brief - 1793 to 1806, but by its end, many German settlers had established Protestant agricultural settlements within its earlier borders.
  • After Napoleon's defeat in 1815, what is now central Poland became the Russian client-state known as Congress Poland. Many Germans continued to live in this central region.
  • During World Wars I and II, the eastern front was fought over in this area. During the last year and after World War II, many ethnic Germans fled or were forcibly expelled by the Russians and the Poles from Eastern Europe. The Russians and Poles blamed them for being allies of the Nazis and the reason that Nazi Germany had invaded the East. The Germans were also held to have abused the native populations in internal warfare, allied with the Germans during their occupation. Under the Potsdam Agreement, major population transfers were agreed to by the allies. The deportees generally lost all their property and were often attacked during their deportations. Those who survived joined millions of other displaced peoples on the road after the war.

Volga Germans (Russia)[edit | edit source]

  • Czarina Catherine II was German, born in Stettin in Pomerania (now Szczecin in Poland). After gaining her power, she proclaimed open immigration for foreigners wishing to live in the Russian Empire in 1763, marking the beginning of a wave of German migration to the Empire. She wanted German farmers to redevelop farmland that had been fallow after conflict with the Ottomans. German colonies were founded in the lower Volga River area almost immediately afterward.
  • German immigration was motivated in part by religious intolerance and warfare in central Europe, as well as by frequently difficult economic conditions. Catherine II's declaration freed German immigrants from requirements for military service and from most taxes. Moving to Russia gave German immigrants political rights that they would not have possessed in their own lands. Religious minorities found these terms very agreeable, particularly Mennonites from the Vistula River valley. Nearly all of the Prussian Mennonites emigrated to Russia over the following century, leaving no more than a handful in Prussia.
  • German colonization was most intense in the Lower Volga, but other areas also received immigrants. Many settled in the area around the Black Sea, and the Mennonites favoured the lower Dnieper river area, around Ekaterinoslav (now Dnipro) and Aleksandrovsk (now Zaporizhia).
  • In 1803, Tsar Alexander I, reissued Catherine's proclamation. In the chaos of the Napoleonic wars, Germans responded in great number, fleeing their wartorn land.
  • The abolition of serfdom in the Russian Empire in 1863 created a shortage of labour in agriculture. The need for workers attracted new German immigration, particularly from the increasingly crowded central European states. There was no longer enough fertile land there for full employment in agriculture.

Black Sea Germans (Moldova and Ukraine)[edit | edit source]

  • The Black Sea Germans - including the Bessarabian Germans and the Dobrujan Germans - settled the territories of the northern bank of the Black Sea in present-day Ukraine in the late 18th and the 19th century.
  • The first German settlers arrived in 1787, first from West Prussia, followed by immigrants from Western and Southwestern Germany (including Roman Catholics), and from the Warsaw area. Also many Germans, beginning in 1803, immigrated from the northeastern area of Alsace west of the Rhine River. They settled roughly 30 miles northeast of Odessa (city) in Ukraine.

Crimea[edit | edit source]

  • From 1783 onward the Crown initiated a systematic settlement of Russians, Ukrainians, and Germans in the Crimean Peninsula (in what was then the Crimean Khanate) in order to dilute the native population of the Crimean Tatars.
  • In 1939, around 60,000 of the 1.1 million inhabitants of Crimea were ethnic German. Two years later, following the end of the alliance and the Nazi German invasion of the Soviet Union, the government deported ethnic Germans from the Crimea to Central Asia in the Soviet Union's program of population transfers. Conditions were harsh and many of the deportees died. It was not until the period of Perestroika in the late 1980s that the government granted surviving ethnic Germans and their descendants the right to return from Central Asia to the peninsula.

Volhynian Germans (Poland and Ukraine)[edit | edit source]

  • By the end of the 19th century, Volhynia had more than 200,000 German settlers. Their migration began as encouraged by local noblemen, often Polish landlords, who wanted to develop their significant land-holdings in the area for agricultural use. Probably 75% or more of the Germans came from Congress Poland (Russian Poland), with the balance coming directly from other regions such as East and West Prussia, Pomerania, Posen, Württemberg, and Galicia, among others.
  • Shortly after 1800, the first German families started moving into the area. A surge occurred in 1831 but by 1850, Germans still numbered only about 5000. The largest migration came after the second Polish rebellion of 1863, and Germans began to flood into the area by the thousands. By 1900 they numbered about 200,000. The vast majority of these Germans were Protestant Lutherans (in Europe they were referred to as Evangelicals).
  • Limited numbers of Mennonites from the lower Vistula River region settled in the south part of Volhynia.
  • Baptists and Moravian Brethren settled mostly northwest of Zhitomir.
  • The Germans in Volhynia were scattered about in over 1400 villages. Though the population peaked in 1900, many Germans had already begun leaving Volhynia in the late 1880s for North and South America.

Siberia[edit | edit source]

  • Between 1911 and 1915, a small group of Volhynian German farmers chose to move to Eastern Siberia. They settled in Pikhtinsk, Sredne-Pikhtinsk, and Dagnik in what is today Zalarinsky District of Irkutsk Oblast, where they became known as the "Bug Hollanders". They apparently were not using the German language any more, but rather spoke Ukrainian and Polish. They used Lutheran Bibles that had been printed in East Prussia, in the Polish form known as fraktur. Their descendants, many with German surnames, continue to live in the district into the 21st century.

Caucasus Germans[edit | edit source]

  • Germans settled in the Caucasus area from the beginning of the 19th century. A German minority of about 100,000 people existed in the Caucasus region, in areas such as the North Caucasus, Georgia, and Azerbaijan.

Emigration from Russia[edit | edit source]

  • The earliest significant wave of ethnic Russian emigration took place in the wake of the Old Believer schism in the 17th century.
  • A sizable "wave" of ethnic Russians emigrated during a short time period in the wake of the October Revolution and Russian Civil War, known collectively as the White emigres.
  • A smaller group of Russians had also left during World War II, many were refugees or eastern workers.
  • During the Soviet period, ethnic Russians migrated throughout the area of former Russian Empire and Soviet Union, and after the collapse of the Soviet Union found themselves living outside Russia.[2]
  • The largest overseas community is found in the United States, estimated at some 3.1 million people.
  • The next largest communities of Russian speakers outside the former Soviet Union are found in Germany and in Israel, both of unknown size but estimated at around 1.2 million people in Germany and around one million in Israel.
  • In addition, in Canada, Australia, Argentina, Brazil, The United Kingdom, New Zealand, Uruguay and Venezuela, several hundred thousand citizens each identify as being of at least partial Russian descent.[3]
  • Countries with the largest Russian populations are discussed here. For statistical information on Russian populations in over 50 countries see the article, Russian diaspora in Wikipedia.

White Russian Diaspora[edit | edit source]

  • The White Russian diaspora, named for the Russians and Belarusians who left Russia (the USSR 1918–91) in the wake of the 1917 October Revolution and Russian Civil War, seeking to preserve pre-Soviet Russian culture, the Orthodox Christian faith. It includes exiled former Communist party members, such as Leon Trotsky.
  • The millions of Russian émigré and refugees found live in North America (the U.S. and Canada), Latin America with a sect of Pryguny or Molokans settled in Guadalupe Valley, Baja California in Mexico.
  • Most émigrés initially fled from Southern Russia and Ukraine to Turkey and then moved to other Slavic countries in Europe (the Kingdom of Yugoslavia, Bulgaria, Czechoslovakia, and Poland).
  • A large number also fled to Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Finland, Iran, Germany and France. Some émigrés also fled to Portugal, Spain, Romania, Belgium, France, Sweden, Switzerland, and Italy. Berlin and Paris developed thriving émigré communities.
  • Many military and civil officers living, stationed, or fighting the Red Army across Siberia and the Russian Far East moved together with their families to Harbin (see Harbin Russians), to Shanghai (see Shanghai Russians) and to other cities of China, Central Asia, and Western China. After the withdrawal of US and Japanese troops from Siberia, some émigrés traveled to Japan.
  • During and after World War II, many Russian émigrés moved to the United Kingdom, the United States, Canada, Peru, Brazil, Mexico, Argentina, Chile, Colombia, South Africa and Australia, south Asia (India and Iran) and the Middle East (Egypt and Turkey) – where many of their communities still exist in the 21st century.[4]

Russian Americans[5][edit | edit source]

Russian Colonization of America (1733-1867)[edit | edit source]
  • The territory that today is the U.S. state of Alaska was settled by Russians and controlled by the Russian Empire. Russian settlers include ethnic Russians but also Russified Ukrainians, Russified Romanians (from Bessarabia), and native Siberians, including Yupik, Mongolic peoples, Chukchi, Koryaks, Itelmens, and Ainu.
  • In Hawaii there were three forts at Kauai.
  • The southernmost such post of the Russian American Company was Fort Ross, established in 1812 some 50 miles north of San Francisco, as an agricultural supply base for Russian America. It was part of the Russian-America Company, and consisted of four outposts, including Bodega Bay, the Russian River, and the Farallon Islands.
  • Russian America was not a profitable colony because of high transportation costs and the declining animal population. *After it was purchased by the United States in 1867, most Russian settlers went back to Russia, but some resettled in southern Alaska and California. Most Russians in Alaska today are descendants of Russian settlers who came just before, during, and/or after Soviet era.
Russian American Immigration[edit | edit source]
  • Between 1820 and 1870 only 7,550 Russians immigrated to the United States, but starting with 1881, immigration rate exceeded 10,000 a year: 593,700 in 1891–1900, 1.6 million in 1901–1910, 868,000 in 1911–1914, and 43,000 in 1915–1917. Millions traveled to the new world in the last decade of the 19th century, some for political reasons, some for economic reasons, and some for a combination of both.
  • The most prominent Russian groups that immigrated in this period were groups from Imperial Russia seeking freedom from religious persecution:
  • Russian Jews, escaping the 1881–1882 pogroms by Alexander III, who moved to New York City and other coastal cities;
  • Spiritual Christians, who settled largely in the cities of Los Angeles, San Francisco, and Portland, Oregon;
  • Shtundists who moved to Virginia and the Dakotas;
  • and mostly between 1874 and 1880 German-speaking Anabaptists, Russian Mennonites and Hutterites, who settled mainly in Kansas (Mennonites), the Dakota Territory, and Montana (Hutterites);
  • 1908–1910, the Old Believers settled in small groups in California, Oregon (particularly the Willamette Valley region), Pennsylvania, and New York.[5]
  • World War I uprooted half a million Russian Jews. After the war, hundreds of thousands of Jews began leaving Europe and Russia again for the U.S., Israel and other countries where they hoped to start a new life.
  • A large wave of Russians immigrated in the short time period of 1917–1922, in the wake of October Revolution and Russian Civil War. This group is known collectively as the White émigrés. The U.S. was the third largest destination for those immigrants, after France and Serbia.
  • During the Soviet era, emigration was prohibited, and limited to very few defectors and dissidents who immigrated to the United States of America and other Western Bloc countries for political reasons.
  • Roughly 20,000 Russian citizens immigrated to the United States immediately following the conclusion of World War II.
  • The U.S.S.R. placed an immigration ban on its citizens in 1952. In 1970, the Soviet Union temporarily loosened emigration restrictions for Jewish emigrants, which allowed nearly 250,000 people leave the country. By the 1970s, relations between the U.S.S.R. and the United States began to improve and the U.S.S.R. relaxed its immigration ban. The U.S.S.R. saw hundreds of thousands of its citizens immigrate to the United States during the 70s.
  • The Jason-Vanik agreement kept immigration from the U.S.S.R. to the United States open and as a result, from 1980 to 2008 some 1 million peoples immigrated from the former Soviet Union to the United States.
  • The majority of the Soviet Jews that emigrated to the United States went to Cleveland. Here, chain migration began to unfold as more Soviet Jews emigrated after the 1970s, concentrating in the eastern suburbs of Cleveland.[5]

Russians in France[edit | edit source]

Of an approximate figure of 1.5 million exiles during the Russian Civil War, about 400,000 have taken up residence in France. [6]

Russians in Israel[edit | edit source]

  • The Russians in Israel are Russian citizens who are immigrants to Israel from Russian communities of the Soviet Union and post-Soviet states, and their descendants. Some of them are non-Jewish members of Jewish households living in Israel. A few are descended from Russian Subbotnik families, who have migrated to Israel over the past century. (The Subbotniks is a common name for Russian religious movements of Christian origin.)
  • Subbotnik communities were among early supporters of Zionism. During the First Aliyah at the end of the 19th century, thousands of Subbotniks settled in Ottoman Palestine to escape religious persecution due to their differences with the Russian Orthodox Church. Some Subbotniks had immigrated to Ottoman Palestine even prior to the First Aliyah.
  • People of full or partial non-Jewish ethnic Russian ancestry number around 300,000 of the Israeli population and the number of Russian passport holders living in Israel is in the hundreds of thousands.[7] [8]

Russians in Canada[edit | edit source]

According to the 2016 Census, there were 622,445 Canadians who claimed full or partial Russian ancestry. The areas of Canada with the highest percentage population of Russian Canadians are the Prairie Provinces.[9]

Russians in Germany[edit | edit source]

  • German population data from 2012 records 1,213,000 Russian migrants residing in Germany—this includes current and former citizens of the Russian Federation as well as former citizens of the Soviet Union. The Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs reports that about 3,500,000 speakers of Russian live in Germany.,[5] split largely into three ethnic groups: ethnic Russians; Russians descended from German migrants to the East (known as Aussiedler, Spätaussiedler and Russlanddeutsche (Russian Germans, Germans from Russia)); and Russian Jews.
  • Immigration to Germany surged in the late 1980s and early 1990s. Between 1992 and 2000 ,Germany purportedly received 550,000 emigrants from Russia.
  • Earlier in history, particularly during the 17th century, a number of Germans migrated to Russia. German law provides individuals of German heritage with the right of return to Germany and the means to acquire German citizenship if they suffered persecution after the Second World War as a result of their German heritage.As a result, roughly 3.6 million ethnic Germans moved to West Germany between 1950 and 1996. Between 1992 and 2007, a total of 1,797,084 ethnic Germans from the former USSR emigrated to Germany. Of this total number 923,902 were from Kazakhstan, 693,348 were from Russia, 73,460 were from Kyrgyzstan, 40,560 from Ukraine, 27,035 from Uzbekistan, and 14,578 from Tajikistan. many retained housing in the Former Soviet Union—some are presumed to have returned to their residences in Former Soviet Republics.
  • The Berman Jewish DataBank estimates that over 225,000 Jews from the Former Soviet Union (Russia and various republics) immigrated to Germany between 1989 and 2012.
  • Other Russian speakers in Germany fall into a few different categories. The German Federal Statistical Office reported the following figures for Russian speakers from the year 2000: legal aliens (365,415), political asylees (20,000), students (7,431), family members of German citizens (10,000-15,000), special workers in fields of science and culture (5,000-10,000), and diplomatic corps (5,000).[10]

Records of Russian Emigrants in Their Destination Nations[edit | edit source]

Dark thin font green pin Version 4.png One option is to look for records about the ancestor in the country of destination, the country they immigrated into. See links to Wiki articles about immigration records for major destination countries below. Additional Wiki articles for other destinations can be found at Category:Emigration and Immigration Records.

For Further Reading[edit | edit source]

There are additional sources listed in the FamilySearch Catalog:

References[edit | edit source]

  1. "History of Germans in Russia, Ukraine and the Soviet Union", in Wikipedia,,_Ukraine_and_the_Soviet_Union, accessed 10 June 2021,
  2. "List of Diasporas", in Wikipedia,, accessed 10 June 2021.
  3. "Russian diaspora", in Wikipedia,, accessed 10 June 2021.
  4. "White émigrés", in Wikipedia,, accessed 10 June 2021.
  5. 5.0 5.1 5.2 "Russian Americans", in Wikipedia,, accessed 11 June 2021.
  6. "Russians in France", in Wikipedia,, accessed 11 June 2021.
  7. "Subbotniks", in Wikipedia,, accessed 11 June 2021.
  8. "Russians in Israel", in Wikipedia,, accessed 11 June 2021.
  9. "Russian Canadians", in Wikipedia,, accessed 11 June 2021.
  10. "Russians in Germany", in Wikipedia,, accessed 11 June 2021.