775 Years of Berlin » City of Diversity

Immigration from Eastern Europe

Russian Berlin
Anniversary of the Soviet Defender of the Fatherland Day
The sixtieth anniversary of the Soviet Defender of the Fatherland Day – Russians at the Soviet Memorial in Berlin at a wreath-laying ceremony for the sixtieth anniversary of the Defender of the Fatherland Day. © dpa

As the hub between East and West, Berlin was a destination in all phases of its history for migrants from the eastern half of Europe. It has had and remains especially a link to Russia, and also Poland.

After the end of the nineteenth century, Berlin was a way station for America-bound emigrants from East Europe who made stopovers at the departing train station of Ruhleben, before embarking from Hamburg or Bremerhaven. Jewish immigrants formed a large component of this. Many of these “Ostjuden” came rather directly to Berlin and settled the area of Scheunenviertel in Berlin-Mitte.

After the Russian Revolution of 1917, a great number of Russians fleeing the revolution came to Berlin (and Paris), including the writer Vladimir Nabokov, who lived in the city from 1922 to 1937.

A new and other Russian Berlin arose both after the Second World War and after the end of the Cold War. The occupation and division of Germany after 1945 brought soldiers of the Red Army as victors to East Berlin, the Soviet Occupation Zone, and the German Democratic Republic. They stayed, barracked and shielded from the population, until 1994.

While the Russian soldiers withdrew, immigration gave, above all, privileged entry into Germany to Germans in Russia and Russian Jews who were discriminated against as minorities in the Soviet Union. Many of these immigrants had Russian spouses and children that too came to Berlin as accompanying family members. The heart of this new Russian Berlin is strong today in Marzahn, Hellersdorf, and further in parts of Charlottenburg.

The new revival of Jewish life in Berlin is a direct result of this recent immigration. There are new voices to hear in the city through immigration from Russia, for example that of the writer Wladimir Kaminer.

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