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Phenomenon Russian children

"We need to learn that intellectual honesty is fundamental to everything we value." Karl Popper


Table of contents

1. Introduction

2. Definition of terms

3. The origin of the fathers

4. To the war in the east 1941 - 1945 and its consequences

5. The end of the war

6. Territorial developments

7. The story of the Russian children

8. East Germany/GDR

9. Opening of Russian archives

10. A comment on the Russian children in the countries of the former Soviet Union

11. Summary

12. Closing remarks

13. Sources

14. Literature

15. opinions of others 

1. Introduction

In the work of the Russenkinder e.V., the focus is on encouraging those affected to search for their fathers and families, advice and help. The central point of contact for this is our website
The searches can be carried out independently by providing the necessary information. You can also contact us and get our help. Although we cannot say how high the success rate is, we are happy every time we hear about successful searches.
Up until the end of the Soviet Union, there were some reports from Russian children that referred to speeches and information from those involved, but were hardly or not verifiable. There was no point of contact or a place where information was collected.
After 1991, the archives of the army and the secret services were opened and more and more Russian children started looking for their fathers.
Not that something like this hadn't happened before, the author himself tried unsuccessfully twice in the Soviet embassy in Berlin during the GDR era. We also know of mothers who went to the barracks of the Soviet army and wanted to know from the commanders what happened to the fathers of their children, in at least one case successfully.
With the exception of the first post-war period, when there was violence, relationships of various types developed between Soviet soldiers, officers, members of the secret services and other Soviet people. The mothers could find out names and addresses. They could go to the Soviet Union and meet their families. And they have and could have been married and led a life together since the early 1950s.
The subject was not touched on in either of the German states. Only after the collapse of the USSR did Russian children begin to perform in public. Some reports and résumés appeared in the media that were more emotionally focused.
It took some time for historians and social scientists to take control of the topic, especially in the West. They all had little information and few Russian children who made themselves available for their purposes.
In the process, two tendencies emerged, one in the direction of the preservation of the Western Cold War ideology, the other towards scientific knowledge.
After the founding of the Russian Children's Association, more and more people came forward to seek help. Of course, we learned many fates in the process. They wanted to talk about it once, from Russian child to Russian child, as it were. Some were talking about it for the first time.
And so we are the ones who got a realistic picture of the subject and made it public. Of course, old ideas had to be cleaned up because they did not come true.
The text “The phenomenon of Russian children” is based on our knowledge and information gained through contact with over 800 Russian children, their mothers, relatives and other people involved.

2. Definition of terms

Russian children are a special part of the occupation children. They are those who were conceived after the Second World War by the members of the Red Army, later the Soviet Army with native women in Germany, Austria, Denmark and in the countries of the Eastern Bloc.
From 1945 in the countries mentioned, in the Soviet occupied zone and from the founding of the GDR in 1949 until the beginning of the 1990s. On September 1, 1994, the then Russian President Yeltsin and Chancellor Kohl celebrated the farewell to the troops from Germany in the Berlin theater.
The name Russenkind is derived from the fascist racial terminology. By Russians, the Nazis, in a simplistic way, understood all residents of the Soviet Union. We kept this term because it is short and to the point. In this context, the Nazi ideology only plays a role in the minds of old people.

3. The origin of the fathers

In fact, the composition of the Soviet population was as follows. Before the invasion of Germany and the start of the war, the Soviet Union consisted of 16 republics in 1941:
Russian Republic (RSFSR), Ukrainian SSR, Belarusian SSR, Uzbek SSR, Kazakh SSR, Georgian SSR, Azerbaijani SSR, Lithuanian SSR, Moldovan SSR, Latvian SSR, Kyrgyz SSR, Tajik SSR, Armenian SSR, Turkmen SSR, Estonian SSR
From 1940 to 1956 still the Karelo-Finnish SSR, which was incorporated into the RSFSR.
In addition, there are over 100 peoples such as Abazines, Abkhazians, Assyrians, Buryats, Khakass, Dungans, Eskimos, Gagauz, Ingush, Jews, Kalmyks, Karelians, Nenets, Ossetians, Saamen, Tatars, Circassians, Chechens, Uighurs, Gypsies etc.
In addition, smaller communities from other nations live in the country, for example Koreans, Iranians, Germans, etc.
These various nationalities and races served in the Red Army and various other services during the war.
In addition, there are emigrants from Germany, the occupied countries such as Czechoslovakia, Poland, Hungary, Bulgarians, and a French unit, two Polish armies, a Czechoslovak army, a Bulgarian army and others fought on the front against the German and allied aggressors.
The fathers of the Russian children come from these nations and peoples.

4. The war in the east 1941-1945 and its consequences

The War and the Experiences of the Soldiers and Officers of the Red Army The War of Conquest, a war of racial destruction that Germany began in June 1941, made the raided population prey [1].

Forced labour, including by kidnapping to Germany, arbitrary shootings, murder of Jews, party officials, as racially inferior populations such as Asians, the rape and exploitation of women for services and sexual purposes, hunger and hardship through undersupply, destruction of livelihoods

Regina Mühlhäuser writes in "Conquests" [2] on the sexual violence of the Wehrmacht and German departments in the Soviet Union during the war.  30 million Soviet civilians were planned from the outset as victims of hunger in plundering the country [3].

 5. The end of the war

At the end of the war there were over 14 million Soviet civilians dead.
The extent of the destruction on the territory of the Soviet Union [3]: "2,000 cities destroyed, tens of thousands of villages destroyed, some of which have not yet been rebuilt, infrastructure destroyed, every second house uninhabitable".
The soldiers and officers of the Red Army were under these impressions when they advanced into German territory.
The German leadership prevented the timely evacuation of the civilian population in the eastern areas. Therefore she got into the fighting.
There was chaos. On the one hand, there were orders to hold out on the German side. Those who withdrew had to fear execution, on the other hand the Red Army was steadily advancing. In such conditions, the Soviet soldiers encountered the German population.
The Nazi propaganda had worked well. Many Germans were afraid.
The historical mission of the Soviet troops went under - the liberation from an inhuman system, increasingly directed against its own population, which had brought great misery to the people.
There was looting, rape, theft and other violence. They were sporadic reactions from the soldiers in the combat units in the front lines. It was a smaller part that got involved. Victory frenzy, finally seeing Germany on the ground, alcohol, the knowledge of the violence of the German occupation in the homeland, the effect of the inhuman life of the soldiers were the cause.
The Soviet leadership was not prepared for these phenomena. They were not ordered, not systematically organized. They discharged spontaneously. Only a small number of the soldiers were involved.

The Soviet military leadership in Moscow soon learned of this. In order to prevent these developments, she issued the strictest orders that threatened punishment up to and including shooting.
After the outbreaks of violence in East Prussia became known, Marshal Rokossovsky gave the order on February 22, 1945, the command of the troop units was temporarily lost, "to stamp out these shameful apparitions ... to hold the guilty party accountable ... to the point of execution." [3]
In preparation for the Battle of Berlin there were again such orders, threatened with "court martial or immediate execution" [4]. Implementation could only take place gradually.
In February 1945 the Allies in Yalta had divided up Germany and there was no reason for the Soviet leadership to deal violently and brutally with the population they wanted to win over to their own ends.
The high command in Moscow therefore ordered “no attacks. A good treatment of the German population should facilitate the warfare and later the occupation ”[3].
In “Sexuelle_Gewalt_im_Zweit_Weltkrieg” [5], historians discuss the sexual violence of the Red Army in East Germany. What all the figures mentioned there have in common is that they cannot be substantiated and that they are estimates and projections.
An example: "Barbara Rohr estimates that around two million women and girls were victims of sexual violence, around 1.4 million in flight and expulsion from the German eastern regions, 600,000 in Berlin and the later Soviet occupation zone".
Another: “Ilko-Sascha Kowalczuk and Stefan Wolle assume 110,000 to 800,000 cases in Berlin in 1945. An estimated 40 percent of the victims were raped several times. "
In the course of 1945 to 1947 more and more soldiers were barracked.
At the end of the fighting in May 1945, the Red Army had 1.5 million soldiers and officers in the Soviet-occupied zone. In May 1945 troops began to be relocated back home. At the end of 1947 the group had been reduced to 350,000 men [6].

6. Territorial developments

In Yalta, in February 1945, Stalin, Roosevelt and Churchill divided up the German territories.
East Prussia was divided. The eastern part went to the Soviet Union, the rest to Poland. Silesia also became Polish. The Sudetenland was assigned to Czechoslovakia. Germany was divided into four zones.
Germans fled west from the eastern areas. Others were taken to camps and gradually released into German territory. Thus, Russian children came to the four occupation zones together with their families. Thus it can be said that in the western occupation zones only the Germans shaped and influenced the fate of the Russian children.
Since the occupation in 1945, the development took place only in the Soviet occupation zone and the later GDR. Anyone who wants to report fairly seriously about the Russian children has to deal with the Eastern witnesses and sources.
This development became more and more diverse until the troop withdrawal at the beginning of the 1990s.
In the Soviet occupation zone, the army was given the task of restoring order, arresting war criminals, organizing traffic and supplies for the population, and fighting crime. Furthermore, due to the destruction of entire cities such as Berlin, Dresden, Chemnitz and many others, the homeless population as well as the refugees from the German eastern regions had to be accommodated.
The task consisted of establishing a socialist order of the Soviet model at the same time. There were also Soviet and German officials from the Soviet Union who had been prepared for this task.
This had a direct impact on the coexistence of the military with the civilian population.
Military order was restored in the army. Relationships between military personnel and German women changed their character. Love relationships, they were viewed benevolently by the families who took part in the reconstruction and welcomed the Red Army as liberators, and protection, care and other relationships also developed.
These circumstances made it possible to exchange addresses and get to know the families.
In the early years, the fathers-to-be were usually transferred or demobilized. They disappeared, sometimes they could say goodbye or write farewell letters.

There were also fathers who viewed their relationships as an adventure, gave false information to the mothers and voluntarily evaded responsibility by transferring them.
From the case of the author it can be seen that the commanders generally tolerated relationships with German women.

Overall, it must be said that Stalinist conditions prevailed. The Red Army was needed during the war, so Stalin himself prevented the secret services from accessing them. After the war ended, however, the pressure increased again. In the East German occupation, these services had the task, among other things, of managing and supervising the reparations payments, i.e. the dismantling and transport of important factories and manufacturing plants to the Soviet Union, and they were also involved in the establishment and supervision of the new social order. And here there were conflicts with the military. The commanders felt compelled to react to reports of circumstances by Russian military and secret service members. Basically there were two possibilities, firstly the relocation of the person concerned to another location or, as in the case of the father of the writer of these lines, his demobilization.
There are also Russian children of members of the secret services.
If the women were given uncontrollable information such as prison camps, Siberia, shooting etc. for the missing fathers, it can be assumed that they should no longer inquire, they were waved off in order to avoid any inconvenience for themselves.
We became aware of one case that a victim was taken to a prison camp in Siberia. He had deserted. We are not aware of any executions.
Since the 1950s there has been the possibility of getting married and building a life together.

7. The hstory of the Russian children

Germany was essentially destroyed. The big cities were particularly hard hit by the bombing raids. The Allies began to reorganize life in their zones of occupation. The population suffered from housing shortages, hunger, inadequate medical care, to name the most important.

The first Russian children were born in late 1945 / early 1946. Women who became pregnant through violence had abortions where possible. Others took their own lives.

Many carried their children to term, raised them. Russian children were also given to families and given up for adoption. Some were taken to homes.

The Nazi ideology still dominated the minds of the German population. It was the main reason for all the misery that was done to some Russian children.

The ostracism of friends, neighbors and colleagues has plunged mothers, children and families into great problems.

There was very little overt discrimination in both parts of Germany. The state authorities have dealt with these processes in a bureaucratic manner.

The many relocations, psychological and physical injuries were done to the Russian children by their own families, relatives, friends, neighbors, colleagues, etc. The fathers were usually no longer there, could not save their children from it.

Cases have become known of the fathers paying maintenance to the mothers. It is unclear how long and how the amount was calculated.

The Nazi ideology had caused humanity and reason to be buried in the minds of Germans. The tragedy was that it took far too long for those affected to break it open.

In East Germany there were only hidden disadvantages. Open anti-Soviet actions and confessions were not possible.

Over time, the first Russian children came to school and developed according to their mental and physical abilities like all those born later. The topic of origin did not usually play a role. If it did, it took a back seat. Even today there are examples of these children being rejected. Nothing like this has happened to the author and many others.

In the West these children were treated differently by the state. We have now learned from West Berlin that if the mother confessed that she had had the child through rape, maintenance was possible.

8. East Germany/GDR

Something else about language communication in relationships. The Red Army soldiers were poorly linguistically prepared for this when they entered the German area. "Hands up!" And so on. So everything that was useful in combat and that contributed to shortening the fighting.

As the military stayed in the country for a longer period of time and was given its organizational and organizational tasks, the German language also became increasingly important.

As a rule, the mothers did not know a word of Russian. That only changed when the schools began teaching Russian in 1946. The mothers were not better off with it, but gradually they too learned vocabulary to be able to communicate with their Soviet partners. One can assume that it improved relationships, but that misunderstandings and problems arose from it.

In the GDR, which developed into a socialist society of the Soviet type, nothing was done on the issue of Russian children. This does not mean that the state has not taken note of it. The population knew about the Russian children. The author's name is Anatoly Nicolai. There were no questions, no discrimination, nothing negative.

This also affected other parts of the population. The many resettlers from the eastern areas were also not treated separately.

The structure of society offered all young people the same opportunities. Those who had the physical and mental prerequisites and were not opposed to socialist society could develop accordingly.

It should not be concealed that there were a few Russian children who got into the mill. It played a role here that the mothers could not cope with their fate, sometimes allowed themselves to be carried away into inciting hatred against the state or helped the Soviet fathers to flee to the West.

GDR refugees who had fled via West Berlin in the 1950s and early 1960s before the Wall was built were questioned by the Western secret services. Whenever women had a chance to investigate Soviet military personnel, they were sent back with this task - amateurs in military espionage. Another possibility of the origin of Russian children whose situation was difficult.

The GDR and the Soviet organs used the knowledge about the existence of Russian children.

For example, the author was able to attend the cadet school. Of course, excellent certificates and a very good athletic condition were necessary for this. At this school it was planned to train an elite of officers.

Applicants also had an advantage in the armed forces such as the police, customs, etc. The State Security selected its future employees and spoke to them. Russian children were also brought in there.

For the professional development of a GDR citizen, it could be an advantage not to have any relatives in the West. In the case of Russian children, this was not the case on the father's side.

The longer the time went, the more relaxed the coexistence of the population with the Soviet Army became.

In the garrison towns, mostly small provincial towns, for example, new buildings were built, some of which were used to house the Soviet officer corps with their families. Examples are, even if you take a closer look, Altenburg, Neustrelitz and Bad Freienwalde.

Coexistence grew in various forms. Common cultural and sporting contacts, work assignments by the Soviet army in the GDR economy, aid in disasters are all to be mentioned here. The barracks were supplied locally, water, electricity, garbage disposal and whatever else belonged to it. Construction and repair capacities were needed. Corresponding material balances had to be planned and coordinated with the GDR authorities, etc.

That required cooperation and contacts in the garrison towns.

In the Soviet army there were relatives fleeing. The relevant government agencies of the GDR were also included in the search.

In the GDR there was a Society for German-Soviet Friendship, whose task it was to familiarize the population with the Russian and Soviet way of life and culture. Meetings were organized with Soviet people, tourists and members of the army.

Equally important: the military alliance of the socialist states. The defense system was established and expanded under the leadership of the Soviet Army. Joint exercises took place. NVA units (GDR army) drove to the Soviet Union to practice shooting with rockets, officers studied at the Soviet military schools and academies, and huge joint maneuvers took place in the socialist countries.

Women were also employed in the NVA. They also got to know Soviet military personnel through joint work. We have now become aware of two cases in which children emerged.

Private trade relationships were also used. The GDR population had the highest standard of living in the socialist camp; barter deals were offered. For example, no oil radiators (radiators that work with electricity) were built and sold because the GDR's energy supply did not allow them to be used on a large scale. They were obtained from the Soviet Union through such channels, among other things. Order submission at the barracks gate.

Relations between Soviet military personnel and local women became possible as long as the military conditions of the fathers were observed. If the father evaded his responsibility, the women were able to visit the father or his family because of the freedom to travel to the socialist countries.

Inquiries from Russian children to government agencies were not answered. The author asked about his father twice at the Soviet embassy in Berlin. Without answer.

There were brave mothers of Russian children. They went to the barracks, wanted to know the name and address of the father when he had evaded his responsibility. There, too, there is at least one case of a courageous mother who actually succeeded in persuading the commanding officer to give her this information.

9. The opening of the Russian archives

After the fall of the Berlin Wall, the now Russian archives opened. The most important archive for Russian children, that of the Defense Ministry in the city of Podolsk near Moscow, has been providing the relevant information since at least 1993.

The name of the father is necessary for this. On request you can get the information about your father, which the archive has available. The author got the résumé, a photo and the address when the father was released from the reserve. From there you can start the search.

In the meantime, the secret services and other institutions have also opened their archives for such inquiries.

You can find out which search options are available on the website of the German Russian Children's Association.

There it is described which other options are still available. The association also provides help with the search.

10. A remark on the Russian children in the countries of the former Soviet Union

Russian children were also left behind when the later successor states of the Soviet Union withdrew. Here you have to point out that all those involved had a citizenship - namely Soviet - and a lingua franca - Russian.

The tsarist army had applied the territorial principle when drafting conscripts. That means that all young men in a city or region were drawn into one unit together. If it came to a dangerous situation, the other soldiers rushed to help. It was her neighbors and friends.

This was rejected in the Red Army in the early 1920s. The disadvantages predominated. If such a unit was wiped out in combat, the area in question suddenly lost all young men.

And so those who deal with the problem of Russian children in the successor states should remember that it affected all Soviet republics. My Kazakh relatives served in Latvia and Ukraine, for example. Just as Latvians and Ukrainians did their military service in other republics or even abroad, for example in the GDR.

11. Summary

Here follows a summary of events, attitudes, intentions, etc. The entries in a list can be read as possible alternatives, all of which were probably there. And since life is diverse, there will have been more.

The fathers were
from all Soviet republics
from foreign troops fighting alongside the Red Army
Soldiers, men, officers
Secret service staff
single, with and without a family in the garrisons
with and without children
with a Russian child from a woman
with several Russian children from several women
paid alimony, paid no alimony
They made towards the women
Name and address details
made false statements
did not provide any information
Relationships - Relationships
Love relationships with serious intentions
Supply relationships (let's not forget that we live in an affluent and consumer society, that back then there was little or nothing to buy.)
Protective relationships
Adventure - from both sides
the young people wanted to try out their youth
to pass the time
because the opportunity arose
both of them didn't always want that

The women
hoped for serious relationships
the German contemporaries were prisoners of war, were traumatized by the war, were involved in war crimes (a war veteran once said in the early 1950s: "If the Russians would do to us what we did to them, God help us!" ) and here were young, strong men who had self-confidence, were bursting with strength, and could make life easier
raised their children without discrimination
loved their children and cared for them
disadvantaged the children
passed them on to the family
put her up for adoption
raised their children alone
got married
married again

Russian children
were born innocent
were sometimes born under difficult conditions
were especially loved in families
should have it better
were rejected, given away
were abused
were teased and insulted
The disadvantaged
Like all disadvantaged people
they resisted
let go of everything
their self-confidence was strengthened by the circumstances
the fearful ducked

Russian children became
normal people like everyone else, brave, optimistic, happy people
just as cowardly, fearful, suspicious people
They processed their fates
active or suppressed them
fled from the cramped conditions
They became mothers and fathers themselves
raised their children to be independent people
if their problems were not dealt with, they passed them on to their children

12. Closing remarks

With this text we hope to make a contribution that enables a realistic view of our topic. Of course, being human, there is an emotional component as well. This always resonates with individual stories and fates.

This is about a factual picture of our development and our existence.

Please help qualify this article further! Write a comment. Important aspects, not all, have been considered here.

 13. Sources

[1] German Historical Museum Berlin -

• [2] Regina Muehlhäuser “Eroberungen. Sexual Violence and Intimate Relationships between German Soldiers in the Soviet Union 1941-1945 “Hamburger Edition; Edition: 1st edition (April 6, 2010) ISBN-13: 978-3868542202

• [3] German-Russian Museum Berlin-Karlshorst

• [4]

• [5]

• [6] Soviet troops in Germany and their headquarters in Wünsdorf 1945-1994: history, facts, background (Forum Modern Military History) Paperback - July 1, 2017 Köster by Hans-Albert Hoffmann (author), Siegfried Stoof (author) page 28, 33

14. Literature

Wladimir Gelfand “Germany Diary 1945-1946: Notes of a Red Army Soldier Pocket Book”, Aufbau-Verlag; Edition: 1 (2005) ISBN-13: 978-3351025960


15. opinions of others

Comment on the phenomenon of "Russian children

It is difficult to judge whether a person affected, a "Russian child", can make a comprehensive and reasonably neutral assessment of how to deal with this phenomenon. In very many cases, the psychological wounds are quite considerable and accompany a "Russian child" well into adulthood. Especially those born in the 1940s and 1950s often have painful experiences because they were ostracised or marginalised by their parents' generation. Their German mothers were often despised because they got involved with a man from a "lower" culture.
Indeed, there are countless examples of how Soviet soldiers found it difficult to cope with the reality of life in Germany after the war. It is hard to deny that the standard of living in the Soviet Union was considerably lower. Added to this are factors such as the geographical origins of many of these young soldiers and officers and the politically intended proletarianisation of large sections of the population through the long-standing work of the Stalinist system in their homeland.
This is the only way to understand and classify the fact that we Russian children were often ashamed of the simplicity, often also the coarseness, of the mass of Soviet soldiers. Most of the "Russian children" of my generation did not get to know their fathers, but our mothers - as far as they were willing to talk about our fathers - conveyed a completely different image of their own fathers, one that did not fit at all into the usual stereotypical image of the local
"Russians", who ran around in stained uniforms, smelled strongly of garlic and went shopping in the city with cheap cardboard suitcases. But this public image of "the Russians" was only countered by my first (student) trip to the Soviet Union in the 1960s.
These people were quite different from the soldiers present at home, often grim-faced in our hometown garrisons. One might think that the Soviet military as occupiers have spoiled their image themselves. A good part of their appearance may have been a victor's mentality,- or they simply couldn't and didn't know any other way.

As children, we were allowed to climb on the tanks of the "Russians" and could climb inside them. All this was so beautifully described by my playmate, the writer Jürgen Fuchs, but we also experienced how tanks going on manoeuvres robbed us of our night's rest and badly damaged roads and fields.

For a Russian child like me, it was always a tightrope walk and always ambivalent, as long as one had not been born as a result of rape: to be proud of the unknown, often handsome father or to shamefully hide oneself and one's feelings. Not all discrimination against a Russian child can be traced back to the Nazi racial mania and its long-term
The experience of rape, looting or deportation to Soviet camps has been burned deep into the brains of Germans for generations, even if today it is only known by tradition.

For us Russian children who have grown older and older, it could be a task to build a bridge between our world and the country of our fathers, so that we can better understand each other and interpret and explain the different mentality of the people in Russia.
The author of this commentary no longer actively experienced the 1970s and 1980s in dealing with "Russian children", as he had moved to the Federal Republic.

E. L. 22. 4. 2021