The Germans of Kazakhstan (German: Kasachstandeutsche) are a minority in Kazakhstan, and make up a small percentage of the population. Today they live mostly in the northeastern part of the country between the cities of Astana and Oskemen, the majority being urban dwellers. Numbering nearly a million at the time of the Soviet collapse, most have emigrated since then, usually to Germany or Russia.
Most of them are descendants of Volga Germans, who were deported to the Kazakh SSR (now the sovereign state of Kazakhstan) from the Volga German Autonomous Soviet Socialist Republic soon after the Nazi German Invasion during World War II. Large portions of the community were imprisoned in the Soviet labor camp system.
After the deportation, Volga Germans, as well as other deported minorities, were subject to imposed cultural assimilation into the Russian culture. The methods to achieve that goal included the prohibition of public use of the German language and education in German, the abolition of German ethnic holidays and a prohibition on their observance in public and a ban on relocation among others.
Those measures had been enacted by Joseph Stalin, even though the Volga German community as a whole was in no way affiliated with Nazi Germany, and Volga Germans had been loyal citizens of the Russian Empire and later the USSR for centuries. These restrictions ended, however, during the "Khruschev Thaw".
In 1972, over 3,500 German Russians sent a petition to Moscow again requesting an autonomous republic in the Volga regions. The government responded with an ad hoc committee to study this request. In 1976, the commission finally agreed to create an autonomous oblast (county) in Northern Kazakhstan, centered in Ermantau, 140 kilometers from Tselinograd (Virgin Land City and capital of the virgin lands district). The district would be partially located in the “virgin lands,” which had already put 41.8 million hectares into agricultural production, although this area had been one of the least developed in Kazakhstan. The success of Kruschev's agricultural focus was largely due to the labor of the ethnic Germans exiled there. This government proposal created much opposition in Kazakhstan from residents, including a public protest, a rarity in the Soviet Union; every effort was made to keep the demonstration secret. Local Communist Party leaders also strongly opposed the plan, as it would diminish their authority in the Kazakh SSR. Ultimately, nothing came of the idea, which lacked support from even the German Russians, who believed that reconstitution of the Volga Republic was the only way toward full rehabilitation and restoration of their rights.
According to a 1989 census, more citizens of ethnic German origin lived in Kazakhstan, numbering 957,518, or 5.8% of the total population, than in the whole of Russia including Siberia (841,295).
Due to the German right of return law that enables ethnic Germans abroad who had been forcibly deported to return to Germany, Volga Germans could immigrate to Germany after the dissolution of the Soviet Union., But due to widespread abuse of the system and the lack of interest from the part of newly arrived immigrants to assimilate the repatriation was stopped during the early 21st century. By 2009 Russia had replaced Germany as the major immigrant destination for German Kazakhstanis. In 1999, there were 353,441 Germans remaining in Kazakhstan.
A small number of Germans have returned to Kazakhstan from Germany during the last several years, unable to assimilate into the German cultural sphere. The Rebirth organization, founded in 1989, handles cultural and community affairs of the ethnic German community.
Most Germans of Kazakhstan speak only Russian. Most were historically followers of Protestantism, but as with Protestants elsewhere in the former Soviet bloc, few continue to practice the faith; most are now irreligious, while some are Russian Orthodox or Roman Catholic (see Germans in Russia for statistics on those in Russia). The heaviest concentrations of Germans in Kazakhstan can be found along the cities and villages in the Northern region, such as Wspen (11.19%), Taran (10.14%), and Borodwlïxа (11.40%).