Violence among Russian-Germans in the Context of the Subculture of Violence Theory

  • Elmar G. M. Weitekamp
  • Kerstin Reich


After the fall of the iron curtain a tremendous number of Russian immigrants with German ancestors came to Germany. Called Russian-Germans or the Aussiedler, they were granted German citizenship directly after their arrival. This process started in 1987 and reached a peak in 1990 with 400,000 immigrants from Romania, Poland, and the former Soviet Union. The total is now over 3 million and it is estimated that another 2 million people in those countries are still waiting to come to Germany. Recently, Germany enacted new laws to control and combat this massive immigration. All the welfare measures to help this group of immigrants were reduced in order to make it less attractive to emigrate. These reductions made it much more difficult for Russians of German descent to leave their respective countries. The most drastic measure is that persons who want to emigrate must take a language test in their country of origin to show that they have a German educational background and knowledge about the German culture. After introducing this measure one third of the people taking the language test failed and about 40 percent did not even dare to take it. In 1999 the German government enacted a law which allows only 100,000 Russian immigrants of German descent per year. In the past3 Germany had used substantial aid packages in order to integrate the Aussiedler into German society. Among other types of aid they received “integration aid”, a kind of unemployment payment, for 312 days and German language courses for 12 months. However, new laws enacted in 1993 reduced the amount of aid for the Aussiedler drastically. Integration aid is now paid for only 156 days and the language courses were reduced from 12 to 6 months. The “guarantee fund” which amounted to 450 million German marks in 1991 was reduced by 65 percent and is now 180 million marks per year. This reduction hurts young people the most, since this fund provided reeducation, job training programs, and social integration support programs (Reich et al. 1999). For young immigrants these measures led to severe social exclusion. Left in a “no man’s land” or “enemy country” where they are involved in an intergenerational conflict with their parents and where legitimate means to succeed are blocked, the young Russians often rely on peer groups and subcultures, something they know about from their time in the former Soviet Union. Violence in these subcultures is an important and potent vehicle to find self-identity and to succeed in an unfriendly new home country, and even more important to have a sense of control.


Home Country Youth Violence Youth Group Culture Conflict Street Gang 
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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2002

Authors and Affiliations

  • Elmar G. M. Weitekamp
    • 1
  • Kerstin Reich
    • 1
  1. 1.Institute of CriminologyUniversity of TuebingenGermany

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