Auslandsdeutsche in Eastern Europe and Central Asia
Despite great geopolitical interest in the existence of German settlements in Eastern Europe and Central Asia, Ross is silent on the question of Germans in the East.
Since the late nineteenth century, German populations abroad—most prominently in North America and Eastern Europe—were understood to be outposts of Germanness. And, after World War I, German settlements in Eastern Europe were used by territorial revisionists to legitimize German land claims. It is therefore significant that Ross neither visits any such communities nor mentions them in his writing on his travels through Eastern Europe and Central Asia, despite the fact that he travels through some of the most prominent German settlement areas. The map accompanying his book shows that he traveled through Stawropol (Stavropol), Grosnyi (Grozny), Tiflis (Tbilisi), and Elisabethpol (Elizabetpol), all sites of German settlement in the Caucasus.
Most surprising is his silence on Tiflis. He has just arrived from Armenia, where he spent weeks recovering from malaria. Ross had experienced Armenia as a space of filth, poverty, and pestilence. Tiflis, in great contrast, is “the Dorado of the Caucasus”, a space where everything is European and clean (“clean streets, well-maintained buildings, flawless facades”). In this “completely European-Russian city” he marvels at the abundance of cafés and bakeries, women wearing the latest Parisian fashion, the excellent ballet and theater, and the gorgeous panorama that one can see after taking the rack-and-pinion railway up the Davidsberg. Tiflis, in other words, offered Ross the perfect opportunity to draw strategic conclusions regarding the effects of German settlement. But he does not mention Germans at all in his writings on the Georgian Soviet Socialist Republic.
This chapter, written from Turkestan, is typical of the way in which Ross writes about the Germans he meets along the way. Recounting his fight with malaria, Ross mentions a German doctor he found in the German hospital in Tiflis, but does not comment further on the reason for the existence of such a “German” hospital. Other Germans make cameo appearances: the representative of the German Orient railroad from Baku and the representative of a large Hamburg export company. All of these Germans are residents of the region, but none of them are portrayed as being part of any larger German community.
Colin Ross. Doch nach Turkestan! In: Der Weg nach Osten: Reise durch Rußland, Ukraine, Transkaukasien, Persien, Buchara und Turkestan. 1. Aufl. Leipzig: F.A. Brockhaus, 1923; 229-234.