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The Creation and Re-Creation of National Armies in Post-Soviet and Post-Communist Countries - Articles (4)

Lost in Transition? Building Housing for Soviet Soldiers Returning from Germany, 1990-1996

Sophie Momzikoff

Abstract

At the beginning of the 1990s, the soldiers of the Group of Soviet Forces in Germany (GSFG) were gradually withdrawn from the former German Democratic Republic. At this time, the Russian Federation and the German State were negotiating two important issues related to the troops’ pullout. Firstly, on which territories would the 340,000 men of the GSFG be housed? And secondly, who would finance the construction of housing for these soldiers? Considering the financial challenge of its imperial withdrawal, the Russian Federation sought German assistance. This article explores the diplomatic and material aspects of the housing issue and how its settlement reveals the challenges of the post-Cold War balance of power in Europe.

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Introduction

  • 1 M. Blaive, « Le retrait des forces soviétiques d’Europe de l’Est », Guerres mondiales et conflits c (...)
  • 2 “Gruppa sovetskikh voisk v Germanii”, Forum GSVGshnikov i ZGBshnikov, accessed 2 October 2022, http (...)
  • 3 M. Kramer, B. C. Iacob, “The Demise of the Soviet Bloc”, in V. Tismaneanu, The End and the Beginnin (...)
  • 4 See for example M. Boltunow, ZGV. Gor’kaia Doroga Domoi, Chans, Sankt Petersburg, 2015.

1The Soviet Group of Forces in East Germany (renamed Western Group of Forces in 1990) was formed in 1945 by the famous Marshal Georgi Zhukov (1896-1974), who commanded the final Soviet assault on Berlin and represented the USSR at Germany’s surrender on May 8, 1945. It was the most powerful, prestigious Soviet Group of Forces outside the USSR that symbolized the Soviet victory over the Third Reich. In 1990, 337,800 men1 could be counted and in total, 8 million soldiers served in East Germany between 1945 and 1994. Today, most of them cherish the memory of those “happy days” when the USSR still existed and was a great empire. Indeed, the numerous forums for veterans devoted to the history of the Western Group of Forces (WGF) bear witness to this nostalgia2. The veterans can share photos and memories of their time spent in Germany. Yet, the WGF could not remain after the German reunification and were progressively dismantled between 1990 and 1994. Sometimes called the “Great Withdrawal”, it was the most important troop withdrawal in peacetime3. The reality, however, was less cheerful for many soldiers who returned home to a country that was no longer the Soviet Empire but a new and uncertain Russia4.

  • 5 S. Satjukow, Die Russe kommen! Erinnerungen an sowietische Soldaten, 1945-1992, Landeszentrale für (...)
  • 6 C. Lorke, “After the End of ’Little Moscow’: Memories, (Re) construction, and Appropriation of Spac (...)
  • 7 See for example the pioneering work of Christoph Meissner and Jürgen Morré: C. Meissner, J. Morré ( (...)

2Since the 1990’s, the Soviet WGF has been the focus of many studies, particularly in Germany. Historian Silke Satjukov5 has written a colorful history of the Soviet Group of Forces in GDR (German Democratic Republic) and its complex relationship with locals. Many monographs also focus their attention on local contexts and on the daily life of Soviet garrisons in GDR6. As far as the demobilization process is concerned, it is part of a new field of research for historians devoted to the withdrawal of Soviet forces from its former empire: from Germany but also from Poland, Hungary, or Czechoslovakia7.

  • 8 See for instance Kang, B. “Understanding the Ukrainian Conflict from the Perspective of Post-Soviet (...)
  • 9 S. Momzikoff, « Jalons pour une nouvelle histoire de la sortie de guerre froide », Histoire Politiq (...)
  • 10 See for instance Kiron K. Skinner (ed.), Turning Point in Ending the Cold War, Hoover Institution P (...)
  • 11 E. Sieca-Kozlowski, « L’armée russe : stratégies de survie et modalités d’action individuelle et co (...)

3This paper is a contribution to the history of the Soviet imperial legacy8. The social and political aspects of the Soviet troop’s withdrawal from East Germany are at the center of this article and summarize the findings of my current research project devoted to the post-Cold War military withdrawals from a Soviet perspective9. I focus on a peculiar aspect of this history: the soldiers’ housing conditions upon their return to Russia. This question is of particular interest because it gives us a concrete picture of the Cold War’s ending from both social and political levels10. After the 1990 decision to reunite Germany and to recall Soviet troops from the new German sovereign state, the soldiers returned home, only to face a significant shortage of housing. The Russian government had no place to accommodate these 337,800 men and their families as the Soviet Army faced financial difficulties and reduced its personnel strength11.

4Thus, the housing issue was both material and diplomatic. Where would the soldiers be resettled and who would pay for their housing? Foreign aid was urgent to solve this problem. On this matter, Moscow relied on Western Germany: financial support was a condition set by USSR in June 1990 for the reunification and was part of the 2+4 treaty of September 12, 1990. Chancellor Helmut Kohl promised 7,8 billion DM help to solve the housing issue. But how the Soviets would spend this money to build this accommodation as quickly as possible was another question.

  • 12 W. Odom, The Collapse of the Soviet Military, Yale University Press, New Haven, 1998.
  • 13 “Soviet” soldiers until May 7, 1992 and then “Russian” soldiers when Soviet Army passed under Russi (...)
  • 14 Zoltan Barany’s approach of the armed forces’ fate in the Changing State deeply inspired this contr (...)
  • 15 GARF (Gosudarstvennii Arkhiv Rossiiskoi Federatsii, National Archives of the Russian Federation).
  • 16 https://www.museum-karlshorst.de/en/, accessed 5 May 2022.
  • 17 I am deeply thankful to Doctor Christoph Meissner (Kalhorst Museum, Berlin) for his precious help a (...)

5This article focuses on the period of 1990-1996, from the decision to withdraw troops from Germany to when the last housing for soldiers were built in Russia. During this period soldiers experienced a shift from an imperial Soviet environment to a downgraded Russian Federation12. The method I employ is a crossing scale approach. First, I will show the international aspects of the Soviet-Russian13 soldiers’ housing issue and how its settlement reveals the challenges of the post-Cold War balance of power in Europe14. Then, I will demonstrate that this is also a local and a material question, underlining the Russian transition to a new capitalist environment, with new norms and new landscapes. This article is based on sources that include the German Federal Archives, US Department of State Archive, Russian private (Gorbachev Fond) and Russian Federal Archives,15 and documents from the Museum Berlin-Karlshorst16 that were particularly helpful shedding light on the economic and diplomatic aspects of the housing issue17. I also collected oral and written recollections of former soldiers that served the WGF during the 1990-1994 period to understand the social dimension of this topic.

Out of Germany: The housing issue as an international problem

6This section of the article explores the diplomatic side of the question. Indeed, Moscow first had to accept the idea of its troops’ withdrawal and then to negotiate favorable conditions. Then, the housing question became a broader international problem involving post-Soviet and post-Socialist states when the USSR collapsed in December 1991.

The Soviets must leave

7As the below map indicates, the Soviet military bases covered the East German territory before the fall of the Berlin Wall. Deployed on 1,100 sites, the WGF had its own telephonic network and its own road system.

Map 1: Closed areas and cities in East-Germany, 198818

Map 1: Closed areas and cities in East-Germany, 198818
  • 19 C. Lorke, op. cit., p. 25.

8Wünsdorf, the headquarters of the force, was also called the “forbidden city” or “little Moscow”. It was connected to Moscow by a direct train which left every day at 8pm19. The Soviet force in Germany, employing 337,800 soldiers and 546,200 civilians or family members, was at the time the most important outside Soviet borders.

  • 20 Maurice Blaive, « Le retrait des forces soviétiques d’Europe de l’Est », Guerres mondiales et confl (...)

Table 1 : Soviet Forces in Central and Eastern Europe (1990)20

Name

Localisation

Number of men

Western Group of Forces in Germany

Germany

337,800

Central Group of Forces

Czechoslovakia

73,500

Northern Group of Forces

Poland

56,000

Southern Group of Forces

Hungary

44,670

Total

-

511,970

9The large number of Soviet soldiers in East Germany can be explained by its proximity with the capitalist bloc and its shared frontier with West Germany. Indeed, the force was the military outpost of the Warsaw Pact. It was also a powerful tool to maintain the Soviet satellite states inside the Pact: for instance, the Soviet Group of Force in Germany was sent to repress the Prague Spring in 1968. However, the future of the Soviet force became uncertain after 1989.

  • 21 On the negotiation process see V. Zubok, “German Reunification from the Soviet (Russian) Perspectiv (...)
  • 22 Ibid.

10From the fall of the Berlin Wall in November 1989 to the summer of 1990, when Moscow, London and Paris accepted the reunification21, the fate of Germany remained unclear. Would it be reunited or not? Outside or inside NATO? The economic collapse of the German Democratic Republic and the Christian Democratic Union’s (CDU) victory of the March 1990 elections convinced Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev that the German reunification process was unstoppable22. But the Soviet troops were still present on the German soil and Moscow needed time and money to cope with the withdrawal.

  • 23 Mikhail Gorbachev was elected the Soviet Union's first president in March 1990.
  • 24 GAF (Gorbachev Fond Archive), Fond 1, opis 1, « Conversation between M. S. Gorbatchev and H. Kohl » (...)
  • 25 The “Treaty on the Final Settlement with Respect to Germany” was negotiated between the two Germany (...)
  • 26 Abkommen zwischen der Regierung der BRD und der Regierung der UdSSR über einige überleitende Maßnah (...)
  • 27 Mikhaïl Narinskiy, « Gorbatchev, Mitterrand et la réunification de l’Allemagne : la fin de la guerr (...)

11During their meeting in May 1990, President of the Soviet Union Mikhaïl Gorbachev23 and Secretary of State James Baker agreed on a transition period to withdraw the troops. But Gorbachev sought to ensure a condition for a proper withdrawal: financial aid. In July 1990, Gorbachev met Chancellor Helmut Kohl met in Arkhyz, on the north side of the Caucasus to design the future Germany. The two men agreed on German assistance to the Soviet Union and on a four-year period to pull the troops out24. These provisions were added to the “2 + 4” agreement on German reunification of September 199025 and a special agreement of October 9, 199026, synthesizes the provisions of the German assistance27.

12According to Article 3 of the October 9 agreement, the German side would provide financial support to build homes for soldiers. Under this 7,8 billion of DM program, 36,000 apartments - approximately half of what was needed to accommodate the WGF officers - were built on 2 million square meters across 35 sites in Western Soviet territories, 25 of which were in the Russian Soviet Socialist Republic. The Soviet Defense Ministry was the main client of this building program. The firms were chosen through competitive bidding and most of the contracts were given to German, Turkish and Finnish companies. Below is a map of the building site’s location:

  • 28 Deutsche Broschüre über das Wohnungsbauprogramm in der Russischen Föderation, Weißrussland und der (...)

Map 2 : Building sites location in Russia28

Map 2 : Building sites location in Russia28

1

Shaikovka

26

Kubinka

3

Vladikavkaz

27

Budionovsk

11

Volgograd

28

Marinovka

12

Durnoevo

29

Millerovo

14

Kassimovo

30

Andreapol

15

Alakurtti

31

Bogutchar

16

Krasnodar

32

Oreshkovo

17

Tchaikovsky

33

Sernograd

18

Tchernorechie

35

Zhelnia

19

Mulino

37

Rostov

21

Kamenka

38

Nashabino

22

Tver

39

Vsevlozhsk

23

Kostroma

40

Strugi Krasnie

24

Viazma/Brianskaia

41

Voronezh

25

Morozovsk

42

Tula

13According to this map, an important part of the housing would be built in the Ukrainian and Belorussian Soviet Socialist Republics, mainly for logistical reasons. Since these two republics were closer from the former East German territories than the Russian Soviet Socialist Republic, the withdrawal process would be faster and cheaper. However, the 1990 plan had to be quickly reorganized because of the collapse of the USSR in December 1991. Soon, a new question arose: would the initial plan be maintained? Because of the money and soldiers involved, two new sovereign states (Ukraine and Belorussia) sought to obtain their part of the German help and money.

A new plan for new times

  • 29 Interview with the spouse of a Soviet air force captain in Altes Lager (1985-1990) with the author, (...)

14The recollection of the widow of a Soviet officer assigned to Altes Lager (East Germany) from 1985 to 1990 shows the concrete consequences of the USSR’s collapse on the daily life of a Soviet officer. She recalled that her family first moved from Germany to Lithuania. When Lithuania became independent, the family had to move to Russia where they waited a few months for an apartment29.

  • 30 Iu. V. Dubinin, “Rossiia-Ukraina, peregovory ob obespechenii zhilem voennosluzhashchikh vozvrashcha (...)
  • 31 PAAA B 38 (2A) Bd, 174739, “Wohnungsprogramm GUS”, Bonn, 6.10.93.

15The housing plan had to be renegotiated in the former Soviet Union and Russia entered talks with Ukraine and Belorussia in January 1992. As Iuri Dubinin, the Russian chief negotiator with Ukraine on this issue recalled, Ukrainian President Leonid Kravchuk asked Helmut Kohl in Bonn for 52% of the housing program money. This claim was justified according to the initial plan, in which 17 of the 33 military “villages” (gorodki) should have been built in the Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic. But in March 1992, the WGF were placed under Russian command. Nevertheless, Ukraine and Belorussia asked for compensations. After nine months of negotiations, the two parts found a compromise: Ukraine obtained only 9.67% of the credits for the housing program, and a complete freedom to build the military villages where it desired. In December 1992, a new plan was set, and Germany accepted to grant an additional financial assistance of 550 million DM more for new building locations and construction material30. Below is table with data from the German archives31 showing the new housing repartition among Belorussia, Ukraine, and Russia.

  • 32 Deutsche Broschüre über das Wohnungsbauprogramm in der Russischen Föderation, Weißrussland und der (...)

Table 2 : Repartition of new housing construction program after the fall of the USSR, 199232

Country

Number of military towns

Number of flats

Russian Federation

29

33 610

Belorussia

7

5 935

Ukraine

4

5 168

  • 33 Large German port on the Baltic See, state of Mecklenburg-Vorpommern.
  • 34 Deepwater port in the north-east of Germany, one of the largest harbors along the Baltic coastline.
  • 35 A. Kastory, “International Aspects of the Withdrawal of Soviet Troops from Poland and Germany”, in (...)

16Despite the new compromise of 1992, the housing construction program had already been substantially delayed because of political tensions between the USSR and its former allies. In January 1991, Poland increased the price of transit through its territory for Soviet troops by 80%. As a result, an important part of the Western Group of Forces had to be redirected through Germany, via Rostock33 and Mukran34. Only after nine months of tensions were the troops allowed to transit through the Polish territory35.

  • 36 S. Satjukow, Die Russe kommen ! Erinnerungen an sowietische Soldaten, 1945-1992, Landeszentrale für (...)
  • 37 S. Momzikoff, “International Aspects of the Russian Troops’ Withdrawal from the Baltics. The Issue (...)

17The settlement of the withdrawal issue was possible thanks to the concerted efforts and compromise positions of both Germany and Russia. The Russian Federation’s political attitude towards its former allies and former enemies was not based on a “rapport de force”, nor on blackmail. The last troops left Germany during the summer of 1994, few months before the initial deadline. More generally, the participation of foreign companies in the Russian building program testifies to the country’s integration into the world market after years of communism. On the local level, however, the situation was often tense. Historians Silke Satjukov and Piotr Woloszyn point also to the conflicts between the German population and the Russian soldiers36: acts of vandalism and violence against military facilities are common occurrences. Moreover, many withdrawal processes were not as successful as the one from Germany. In the Baltics for instance, Moscow announced in 1992 that the troops’ departure would depend on the respect of the Russian speaking “minorities” rights in Estonia and Latvia37 and used this issue as a means of pressure on its neighbors to slow down the withdrawal process (finally achieved two years later).

18However, there is another side of this history involving men and their families. Their experience reflects the concrete and complex transition from one world to the other: from daily life in an East German socialist garrison to a Russian post-socialist world once the Soviet empire was no more.

From one World to the Other

19The building program introduced the Russian Federation’s insertion into the international economic system but also brought into light its weakness, its lack of competition and its relative ignorance of the market economy.

  • 38 I. S. Kowalczuk and S. Wolle, Rote Sterne über Deutschland, Ch. Links Verlag, Berlin, 2001, p. 225.
  • 39 Deutsche Broschüre über das Wohnungsbauprogramm in der Russischen Föderation, Weißrussland und der (...)
  • 40 R. Bollinger, Bauen im Ausland - neue Herausforderungen für die deutsche Bauindustrie, BBSR Bund, I (...)

20According to the initial plan, Germany offered financial support for the construction of only half of the housing needed to relocate the officers38. The builder was the Russian Ministry of Defense or, to be exact, the Fourth Division of the Central Administration for Housing of the Defense Ministry of the Russian Federation, created for the purpose39. This division was responsible for planning and supervising the construction program40 and decided where to build the new “military villages”. The Russian administration was helped by a Russian German planning office and by a German-Russian/Soviet consortium (Consulting Consortium Wohnungsbau USSR, or CWU), with five German consulting firms appointed by the German government and Russian representatives who controlled the spending. The CWU deployed experts paid by Bonn on every construction field to verify the proper use of German credits. This close cooperation with German authorities largely prevented corruption.

  • 41 ATsBRF (Central Bank of the Russian Federation Archives), “O faktah grubyh narushenii poriadka real (...)

21The main problem faced by the Russian Defense Ministry was a lack of money to finance nearly 35,000 apartments on its own. In 1993, according to the Russian archives, the Ministry sought to take advantage of the Russian presence in the former GDR to make money. For instance, in a letter from the Ministry of Finance to the Prime Minister an agreement signed with Deutsche Telekom, the German telecommunications company is mentioned. This accord stipulated the WGF would sell its telecommunication cable network for 40 billion DM and 15% of this amount should be used to accommodate soldiers in Russia41.

  • 42 Airbase located east of Altenburg, Thuringia.
  • 43 US Department of State Archive, “From US office in Berlin to the Secretary of the State in Washingt (...)
  • 44 Manfred Hamm, "Soviet Withdrawal from Germany", Perspective, vol. II, no. 5, May-June 1992.

22Additionally, members of the WGF did not hesitate to sell military equipment to the Germans, whether for their own personal benefit or to survive in a new capitalist context, where prices drastically increased, due to the introduction of the DM. Indeed, in July 1990 the DM became the only valid currency in East Germany. The US Department of State Archives shows the extent of this practice. For instance, the high commander of the WGF allowed Volkswagen factory to use the Altenburg airfield42 at a rate of 150 DM per landing and take-off. It was a clear violation of the “2+4 agreement” of 1990 which prohibited the use of military property by the private sector43. The sale of arms or military equipment was also common for soldiers; a Kalashnikov could sell for 1,000 DM)44 and allow soldiers to buy goods that they could take back home.

  • 45 US Department of State Archive, “From US office in Berlin to the Secretary of the State in Washingt (...)
  • 46 PAAA (Politisches Archiv des Auswärtigen Amtes), Bd 184739, «Wohnungsprogramm Gus. Kritik general B (...)
  • 47 PAAA Bd 184740, Itar Tass, Pavel Gratschow, Russischer Verteidigungsminister, 24. 11, 93.

23But according to the US documents, German officials “made a deliberated decision to permit this type of commercial activity: in so doing, they are providing a source of additional hard currency for the hard-pressed Soviets in Germany”45. These documents show that the Russian side depended on German money to build housing for its officers, since the Ministry of Defense was hardly able to carry on its own building project. Indeed, Russia’s construction industry plunged into a deep crisis. Rising inflation had a repercussion on the construction materials costs, which increased by 77%46. The military High Command recognized that the Russian firms could not respect the deadlines47. Yet, according to the initial plan, the German money would help revitalize the Russian building sector by financing housing construction combines (kombinati) under the control of the Ministry of Defense.

  • 48 Deutsche Broschüre …, op. cit., p. 59.60
  • 49 PAAA Bd 184740, Itar Tass, Pavel Gratschow, op. cit.
  • 50 Deutsche Broschüre …, op. cit., p. 59-61.
  • 51 C. Meissner, “The Withdrawal of the Western Group of Forces from Germany” in Withdrawal of Soviet T (...)

24The kombinati are industrial complexes combining different factories producing components for the building sector with production lines48. For example, in January 1994, Germany financed 20 production lines (for a total of 1, 4 million DM)49. Two plants were built: one in Sertolovo, that still exists, (its aim at the time was to become one of the most modern plants in Europe) and another in Volgodonsk50. But Russia renounced half of the four planned kombinati51 and kept money to finance construction of flats by other means: the need for housing was too urgent. Indeed, the Ministry of Defence (MoD) preferred to appeal to foreign firms to build new flats for soldiers as quickly as possible. Apart from the two kombinati for the Defense industry, knowledge transfer to Russia was very limited and the Russian construction industry did not benefit much from international partnerships. Moreover, foreign firms did not or could not take advantage of Russian local resources.

  • 52 Es sind Wunderbaren Wohnungen, Der Spiegel, 22. 03. 92.
  • 53 Ibid.

25Many contracts were awarded to foreign contractors, which did not build locally but shipped prefabricated buildings to Russia. Moreover, some companies chose to work with former East German sub-contractors. This practice was encouraged by the German government itself. For instance, the Viennese industrialist “Hofman and Maculan” named “Industriebau Magdeburg” (IM) from former East Germany its prime contractor. IM employed a Czech subcontractor for building materials or interior design and hired Czech workers52. Thus, Germany made a good return on investment in helping Russia and controlled important market shares. First, the initial 1990 accord stipulated that an import part of the contracts would go to former West German companies. Secondly, the partnership between former East-German sub-contractors and foreign firms helped to revitalize the depressed East German Ländern (regions)53.

26In theory, financing the housing through an international call for tenders was attractive for Russia because it lowered construction costs. For foreign companies, this process was also appealing because the Russian Federation had decided to exempt the works from tax54. But if this appeal to foreign firms had some advantages (low construction costs) it also had negative impacts, the first of which was the delay in construction. The main reason that could explain the delays was diplomatic; the disintegration of the USSR negatively affected the initial plan55. But other factors contributed to this delay.

  • 56 M. Boltunow, ZGV. Gorkaia Doroga Domoi, Chans, Sankt Petersburg, 2015.
  • 57 Ibid.

27First, foreign companies’ lack of preparation. Despite their decision to invest in a territory that had been closed to foreign investors for many years, few of them had initiated field studies, particularly geological ones. For example, in the region of Alakurtti (oblast’ of Murmansk), the ground was too soft to support the buildings. Stabilization work entailed additional costs. In Vladivostok, the company “Holzmann AG” had to build on marshy ground, in an earthquake zone. 2,000 pillars were driven into the ground to secure the buildings. This operation led to additional costs56. Moreover, the machines and the foreign workers did not always adapt to the climate and the building materials were brought from abroad to the construction sites. In this case, the climatic hazards could impact the deadlines: for example, a boat that carried transport materials from Istanbul to Novorossiisk was blocked for a long time because of a storm in the Black Sea57.

  • 58 Ibid.
  • 59 C. Wey, Christian, K. Zimmerman, Twenty Years of Economic Reconstruction in East Germany. Duncker (...)
  • 60 UPI ARCHIVES, Russia probes use of loans for army's housing, 9.02.2001: URL: https://www.upi.com/Ar (...)

28The other problem was the inability of foreign companies to meet the deadlines. For instance, the South Korean company Samsung considerably extended the duration of the work because the Russian experts on site did not have the power to impose fines for non-compliance with time limits58. As a result, foreign companies often took advantage of the Russian partner's lack of experience on this topic. Not surprisingly, Russia seemed to be vulnerable on the economic field, despite the presence of his German “protector”. In fact, the same thing happened on German-East German scale during the marketization operation59. Finally, there was the problem of corruption. German funds were tightly controlled. But as far as Russian funds are concerned, implementing control was more difficult. According to the Audit Chamber of the Russian Federation report that became public by the end of the 1990s, many apartments were assigned to people not related to the Russian Army60.

Living in “Samsung cities”

  • 61 P. Meuser, D. Zadorin, Towards a Typology of Soviet Mass Housing: Prefabrication in the USSR 1955–1 (...)

29The Russian MoD decided where the future accommodation for the repatriated soldiers would be and intended to build new districts (mikroraioni) in garrison towns to accommodate the soldiers. The districts were called voennye gorodki (“military little towns”) or voennie posiolki (“military villages”). These were mainly distributed in four regions (Leningrad, Moscow, Privolzhski and Severokavkazski districts) and many of them were located nearby military garrisons. Thus, the repatriated officers could be assigned to new units. The constructions had to respect the standards of the Soviet urbanism with buildings whose shape recalled the Khrushchevski - three to five-story low-cost residential housing blocks developed in the early 1960s61. These dwellings were associated with urban facilities (parks, swimming pools, gymnasiums), health facilities (polyclinics), schools and nurseries.

  • 62 ©️ Sophie Momzikoff. This map is the work of the author.

Map 3 : Poselok Holzmann, Vladikavkaz62

Map 3 : Poselok Holzmann, Vladikavkaz62

30Some districts had their own electric and water system. For instance, the Turkish group Enka built one of the largest residential settlements (2,004 apartments, with infrastructure and social and technical buildings) in Krasnodar with a 62 MW electricity and heating center63. At first sight, this urban environment seemed familiar for the returnees. But it stood out in the Russian landscape: the inhabitants of these brand-new urban blocks renamed their new neighborhoods after the companies that built them (“Enka village”, “Samsung village”, “Holzmann village”).

  • 64 “KfW Stories, Alia Begisheva, Wiedervereinigung. Neue Alte Heimat”, 2. 10. 2019, URL: https://www.k (...)
  • 65 Es sind Wunderbaren Wohnungen, Der Spiegel, 22. 03. 92.

31Take for example the testimony of Major Sergey N. Ascheptkin who served in Germany (in Parchim, Mecklenburg) and who was repatriated to Agalatovo in the early 1990s. The new district in Agalatovo included 1,500 housing units with a school and two nurseries. The buildings, of good quality, were built by a Finnish group and are still known today as “Finnish buildings”. Marina, his wife, was very pleasantly surprised when she discovered her new home and enjoyed the goods standards of her apartment64. Another officer, Lieutenant Konstantin Talakin, stressed that the housing was of better quality than conventional Soviet housing. In his 50 square meters apartment where he settled with his wife and child, the central heating was regulated, unlike Soviet accommodations65.

32Externally, these buildings often stood out from the classic Soviet urban forms that the district built for airmen. Built by the Turkish group Tekser nearby the military base of Morozovsk, they appear as solid and original, with colored walls. It should be noted that this perception of quality was in light of Soviet standards. The new “villages” were far from being perfect66. Firstly, these accommodations were dependent on the neighboring garrison. In Russia, the army faced a difficult situation because its budget and personal strength were drastically reduced. In May 1992 the Russian armed forces counted 2 million servicemen and 1,4 million in 199467. Consequently, many garrisons were closed, and former soldiers and their wives had trouble finding steady jobs in depressed or remote areas. Thus, they had a home but no work. General Matvei Burlakov who managed the withdrawal of troops from Germany mentions a military “village” located 30km from the nearest town68. In another case, the Turkish company Enka erected a mikroraion of 1,385 apartments in the village of Markovski, located in the Perm oblast’, for a tank regiment withdrawn from Germany. Part of the regiment was disbanded, and the military town gradually began to fall into disrepair. Many apartments were transferred to the local authorities and military personnel had to leave their homes69. The military villages located in the outskirts of big cities were less impacted by the reforms of the Russian Army and the economic transition. This was the case for another “Enka village” situated about two hours from Saint Petersburg, which prospered due to its proximity to a great metropolis70.

33To summarize, the construction plan was delayed for both diplomatic and practical reasons. Below is a table from the German archives showing the extent of delays.

  • 71 PA AA B 38 (2A), Bd, 18 47 41, 7. 03. 94.

Table 3. Construction delays. March 199471

Location

Number of apartments

Company / Country

Initial completion deadline

Delay (days)

1

Alakurtti

600

Züblin/ Germany

31.12.93

44

2

Andreapol

840

Strabag / Germany

31.03.94

94

3

Bogutshar

1753

You One / South Korea

30.09.94

54

4

Budionovsk

1003

Baytur/ Turkey

31.04.94

55

5

Durnoevo

1320

Baytur/ Turkey

31.12.93

106

6

Zhegorliskaia

400

unknown

08.03.94

0

7

Kamenka

819

Rosgrazhdanrekonstr. / Russia

31.05.94

54

8

Kassimovo

540

Züblin/ Germany

31.12.93

36

9

Kostroma

546

You One / South Korea

31.12.93

80

10

Krasnodar

2004

Gabeg/ Germany - Enka / Turkey

31.03.94

75

11

Kubinka

1035

Wayss and Frytag / germany

30.06.94

89

12

Marinovka

1322

Samsung / South Korea

31.07.94

84

13

Millerovo

780

Bilfinger and Berger / Germany

31.12.93

117

14

Morozovsk

775

Tekser / Turkey

30.06.94

105

15

Mulino

1008

Haka Oy / Finland

31.03.94

115

16

Nashabino

2000

Unknown

31.12.94

17

Novo Smolino

1075

Haka Oy / Finland

31.03.94

107

18

Oreshkovo

541

W und T/ Germany - Byggare/ Sweden

31.03.94

156

19

Rostov

1897

Hochtief/ Germany

31.12.94

26

20

Semograd

601

Larsen and Toubro / India

15.10.93

0

21

Sernograd

601

Unknown

30.06.94

23

Strugi Krasnie

600

Unknown

31.12.94

24

Tchaikovsky

1385

Gabeg/ Germany - Enka / Turkey

31.12.93

134

25

Tchernoretch’e

1910

HBM / Germany - Tekfen / Turkey

30.06.94

153

26

Tschaykovka

1056

PEM/ Finland

18.01.93

0

27

Tula

500

Unknown

01.06.94

0

28

Tver

2002

Industriebau Magdeburg / Germany

31.07.94

96

29

Viazma/Bryansaya

1004

Industriebau Magdeburg / Germany

31.03.94

140

30

Vladikavkaz

1156

Holzmann/Germany

14.01.93

0

31

Volgograd

1277

WTB/ Germany and Tekser/Turkey

31.12.93

0

32

Voronezh

1038

Arge OSW/ Germany

22.02.94

0

33

Vsevlozhsk

1000

Holzmann/Germany

31.12.94

34

Zhelnja

1000

Hochtief/ Germany

31.12.94

  • 72 M. Boltunow, ZGV. Gor’kaia Doroga Domoi, op. cit.
  • 73 PAA AA Bd 184740, Itar Tass, Pavel Gratschow, Russischer Verteidigungsminister, 24. 11, 93.
  • 74 C. Meissner, op. cit., p. 138.
  • 75 “The Long Road back from Berlin“, Moscow News, 16 September 1994.

34Indeed, despite the Russian Federation’s wish to change the terms of the 1990 agreement, the process of repatriating troops was not correlated with the housing construction. In this context, it was highly problematic since the rate of withdrawal was nine times faster than the rate of housing construction72. Many military officials attributed this a mistake made during the discussions with Germany in 1990. The Germans had preferred to make the troops departure conditional upon the payment of financial compensation to Russia. They did not link the withdrawal tempo to a precise number of square meters built to accommodate soldiers in Russia (likely subject to important delays). Therefore, the Russian troops had no choice but to leave Germany before the end of 1994 as stated in the 1990 agreement. Gorbachev had accepted the “non linking” option during his discussion with Kohl in 1990 but this provision was considered impracticable by the military. General Burlakov, the Commander-in-Chief of the WGF, tried unsuccessfully to renegotiate the accord and link the withdrawal to the construction of housing in Russia. The problem was bitterly underlined by Russian Defense Minister Pavel Grachev in November 199373. As a result, many soldiers and their families found themselves homeless. In the most extreme cases some of them had to sleep in tents or in the helicopters of their regiments74. And at the end of the withdrawal process, only 60% of housing had been built and many officers were still waiting for an apartment75.

35The housing issue for WGF officers returning from Germany reveals the concrete and material aspects of the Russian management of its imperial legacy. The negotiations were successful on the diplomatic level, allowing the Russian side to benefit from important credits and from its new international partners building an impressive amount of the housing needed to accommodate its troops.

  • 76 C. Wallender, Mortal Friends, Best Enemy: German-Russian Cooperation After the Cold War, Cornell Un (...)

36Nevertheless, the results were mixed. One can observe a significant hierarchy of ranks between the officers and the troops, with most of the new housing given to the former. Further, the “simple soldiers” were sacrificed for economic reasons because the Russian government could not bear the coast of a 3-million-soldier Army as it had during the Soviet period. Insofar as Germany supported career transition for those who wished to quit the Army (an assistance of 200 million DM76), Russia favored the more qualified officers over the troops.

37But for the “privileged” officers, the picture was also grim. They first experimented the new transition world while they were still stationed in the former East Germany where they could perceive the armed forces weakening. Despite the logistic success of the withdrawal operation from a military point of view, the Russian troops on the field had to cope to survive before being evacuated. While many officers could finally settle in new apartments where they could access Western comfort standards in an old Soviet environment, most of the soldiers had nowhere to go. But soon, even the former officers became disillusioned: they had a home but no job anymore in depressed regions.

  • 77 I. S. Kowalczuk, S. Wolle, Rote Sterne über Deutschland, Ch. Links Verlag, Berlin, 2001, p. 223.

38The expression “return by caravan” soon became used to describe the long return of Russian troops77. However, many of these caravans had no place to return to at home, reflecting the hard road of the lost soldiers in transition.

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Notes

1 M. Blaive, « Le retrait des forces soviétiques d’Europe de l’Est », Guerres mondiales et conflits contemporains, # 228, 2007/4, p. 135.

2 “Gruppa sovetskikh voisk v Germanii”, Forum GSVGshnikov i ZGBshnikov, accessed 2 October 2022, https://gsvgshniki.ru/viewtopic.php?id=193&p=4; “Pamiati vsekh kto sluzhil, rabotal i zhil v GSVG,” Nazad v GSVG, accessed 2 October 2022, https://nazadvgsvg.ru.

3 M. Kramer, B. C. Iacob, “The Demise of the Soviet Bloc”, in V. Tismaneanu, The End and the Beginning: The Revolutions of 1989 and the Resurgence of History, CEU Press, Budapest, 2012, p. 248.

4 See for example M. Boltunow, ZGV. Gor’kaia Doroga Domoi, Chans, Sankt Petersburg, 2015.

5 S. Satjukow, Die Russe kommen! Erinnerungen an sowietische Soldaten, 1945-1992, Landeszentrale für politische Bildung Thüringen, Erfurt, 2005.

6 C. Lorke, “After the End of ’Little Moscow’: Memories, (Re) construction, and Appropriation of Space in Wünsdorf”, Electronic Journal of Folklore, vol. 70, 2017; P. Woloszyn, Nebeneinander, Miteinander, Gegeneinander ? Das Stationierte sowitische Militär une die Zivilbevölkerung in der DDR und in Polen, Doctoral Thesis, European University of Viadrina, Frankfurt (Oder), 2015.

7 See for example the pioneering work of Christoph Meissner and Jürgen Morré: C. Meissner, J. Morré (Eds) Withdrawal of Soviet Troops from East Central Europe. National Perspective in Comparison, Vandenhoeck and Ruprecht, Göttingen, 2021.

8 See for instance Kang, B. “Understanding the Ukrainian Conflict from the Perspective of Post-Soviet Decolonization.” Region, 9, no. 2 (2020), Beissinger M, “Rethinking Empire in the Wake of Soviet Collapse.” In Z. Barany, R. Moser, Ethnic Politics after Communism, Cornell University Press, 2005, p. 14–45.

9 S. Momzikoff, « Jalons pour une nouvelle histoire de la sortie de guerre froide », Histoire Politique, # 40, 2020 ; S. Momzikoff, « Pour une histoire de la sortie de guerre froide : le cas du retrait des troupes soviétiques d’Allemagne (1990-1994) », Guerres mondiales et conflits contemporains, 1, 20211, # 281, p. 111-126 ; S. Momzikoff, “International Aspects of the Russian Troops’ Withdrawal from the Baltics. The Issue of the Russian Minorityas an European Question and Internal Matter, 1992-1994”, in Withdrawal of Soviet Troops from East Central Europe. National Perspective in Comparison, C. Meissner, J. Morré (Eds), op. cit., pp. 247-262.

10 See for instance Kiron K. Skinner (ed.), Turning Point in Ending the Cold War, Hoover Institution Press Publication, Stanford, 2007.

11 E. Sieca-Kozlowski, « L’armée russe : stratégies de survie et modalités d’action individuelle et collective en situation de chaos », in Cultures & Conflits, 1997/1-2 (# 24-25), https://journals.openedition.org/conflits/2170.

12 W. Odom, The Collapse of the Soviet Military, Yale University Press, New Haven, 1998.

13 “Soviet” soldiers until May 7, 1992 and then “Russian” soldiers when Soviet Army passed under Russian Federation jurisdiction. For more informations on that aspect see F. Daucé, « L'armée dans l'histoire de l'État russe contemporain », Hérodote, vol. 104, # 1, 2002, pp. 119-143.

14 Zoltan Barany’s approach of the armed forces’ fate in the Changing State deeply inspired this contribution. See: Z. Barany, The Soldier and the Changing State: Building Democratic Armies in Africa, Asia, Europe, and the Americas, Princeton University Press, Princeton, 2013.

15 GARF (Gosudarstvennii Arkhiv Rossiiskoi Federatsii, National Archives of the Russian Federation).

16 https://www.museum-karlshorst.de/en/, accessed 5 May 2022.

17 I am deeply thankful to Doctor Christoph Meissner (Kalhorst Museum, Berlin) for his precious help and the German archival documents he kindly sent me.

18 https://berlin.museum-digital.de/index.php?t=objekt&oges=72313, accessed 6 May 2022.

19 C. Lorke, op. cit., p. 25.

20 Maurice Blaive, « Le retrait des forces soviétiques d’Europe de l’Est », Guerres mondiales et conflits contemporains, 228, 2007/4, p. 135.

21 On the negotiation process see V. Zubok, “German Reunification from the Soviet (Russian) Perspective”, in Turning Point in Ending the Cold War, op. cit.

22 Ibid.

23 Mikhail Gorbachev was elected the Soviet Union's first president in March 1990.

24 GAF (Gorbachev Fond Archive), Fond 1, opis 1, « Conversation between M. S. Gorbatchev and H. Kohl », Arkhiv, 16. 07. 1990.

25 The “Treaty on the Final Settlement with Respect to Germany” was negotiated between the two Germany and the four powers that occupied the country after Hitler was defeated. The 2+4 treaty was signed in Moscow on 12 September 1990 and allowed the reunification of Germany on 3 October 1990.

26 Abkommen zwischen der Regierung der BRD und der Regierung der UdSSR über einige überleitende Maßnahmen, 9. Oktober 1990, URL: https://www.chronik-der-mauer.de/material/180428/abkommen-zwischen-der-regierung-der-brd-und-der-regierung-der-udssr-ueber-einige-ueberleitende-massnahmen-9-oktober-1990 , accessed 5 January 2022.

27 Mikhaïl Narinskiy, « Gorbatchev, Mitterrand et la réunification de l’Allemagne : la fin de la guerre froide », Guerres mondiales et conflits contemporains, vol. 258, # 2, 2015, pp. 27-56.

28 Deutsche Broschüre über das Wohnungsbauprogramm in der Russischen Föderation, Weißrussland und der Ukraine, 1994 (German booklet on the building program in the Russian Federation, Belorussia and Ukraine), URL: https://berlin.museum-digital.de/object/82974, (The Zhegorliskaia and Novo Smolino sites are not mentioned on this map), accessed 7 July 2021.

29 Interview with the spouse of a Soviet air force captain in Altes Lager (1985-1990) with the author, 11. 12. 2018.

30 Iu. V. Dubinin, “Rossiia-Ukraina, peregovory ob obespechenii zhilem voennosluzhashchikh vozvrashchavshikhsia iz Germanii, 1992 god”, Novaia i Noveishchaia Istoriia, 2004, # 2, p. 119-124.

31 PAAA B 38 (2A) Bd, 174739, “Wohnungsprogramm GUS”, Bonn, 6.10.93.

32 Deutsche Broschüre über das Wohnungsbauprogramm in der Russischen Föderation, Weißrussland und der Ukraine, 1994, URL: https://berlin.museum-digital.de/object/82974, accessed 8 Oktober 2021.

33 Large German port on the Baltic See, state of Mecklenburg-Vorpommern.

34 Deepwater port in the north-east of Germany, one of the largest harbors along the Baltic coastline.

35 A. Kastory, “International Aspects of the Withdrawal of Soviet Troops from Poland and Germany”, in C. Meissner, J. Morré (Eds), op. cit. pp. 229-243.

36 S. Satjukow, Die Russe kommen ! Erinnerungen an sowietische Soldaten, 1945-1992, Landeszentrale für politische Bildung Thüringen, Erfurt, 2005, P. Woloszyn, Nebeneinander, Miteinander, Gegeneinander ? Das Stationierte sowitische Militär une die Zivilbevölkerung in der DDR und in Polen, Doctoral Thesis, European University of Viadrina, Frankfurt (Oder), 2015.

37 S. Momzikoff, “International Aspects of the Russian Troops’ Withdrawal from the Baltics. The Issue of the Russian Minority as a European Question and Internal Matter, 1992-1994”, in Withdrawal of Soviet Troops from East Central Europe. National Perspective in Comparison, op. cit., pp. 247-262.

38 I. S. Kowalczuk and S. Wolle, Rote Sterne über Deutschland, Ch. Links Verlag, Berlin, 2001, p. 225.

39 Deutsche Broschüre über das Wohnungsbauprogramm in der Russischen Föderation, Weißrussland und der Ukraine, 1994, URL: https://berlin.museum-digital.de/object/82974, accessed 9 July 2021.

40 R. Bollinger, Bauen im Ausland - neue Herausforderungen für die deutsche Bauindustrie, BBSR Bund, Informationen zur Raumentwicklung, 4/5, 2001, p. 284, URL: https://www.bbsr.bund.de/BBSR/DE/veroeffentlichungen, accessed 9 July 2021.

41 ATsBRF (Central Bank of the Russian Federation Archives), “O faktah grubyh narushenii poriadka realizatsii i ispol’zovania voennogo imushestva”, 31. 03, 1993, f. 31, op. 3, d. 93.

42 Airbase located east of Altenburg, Thuringia.

43 US Department of State Archive, “From US office in Berlin to the Secretary of the State in Washington. Two Vacated Soviet Caserns: A Chance for Investors in the German State of Thuringia”, case F 2015-15815, doc. C06082291, January 1992.

44 Manfred Hamm, "Soviet Withdrawal from Germany", Perspective, vol. II, no. 5, May-June 1992.

45 US Department of State Archive, “From US office in Berlin to the Secretary of the State in Washington. Two Vacated Soviet Caserns: A Chance for Investors in the German State of Thuringia”, case F 2015-15815, doc. C06082291, January 1992.

46 PAAA (Politisches Archiv des Auswärtigen Amtes), Bd 184739, «Wohnungsprogramm Gus. Kritik general Burlakows am programmfortschritt», Bonn, 30. 8. 93.

47 PAAA Bd 184740, Itar Tass, Pavel Gratschow, Russischer Verteidigungsminister, 24. 11, 93.

48 Deutsche Broschüre …, op. cit., p. 59.60

49 PAAA Bd 184740, Itar Tass, Pavel Gratschow, op. cit.

50 Deutsche Broschüre …, op. cit., p. 59-61.

51 C. Meissner, “The Withdrawal of the Western Group of Forces from Germany” in Withdrawal of Soviet Troops from East Central Europe. National Perspective in Comparison, C. Meissner, J. Morré (Eds), op. cit., p. 139.

52 Es sind Wunderbaren Wohnungen, Der Spiegel, 22. 03. 92.

53 Ibid.

54 http://pravo.gov.ru/proxy/ips/?docbody=&prevDoc=102047244&backlink=1&&nd=102038024 accessed 9 July 2021.

55 “Offizierswohnungen im Tausch für die Abzug”, 10. 09. 2009, URL: https://www.mdr.de/geschichte/ddr/deutsche-einheit/mauerfall/heimkehrer-sowjetunion-ddr-100.html, accessed 9 May 2021.

56 M. Boltunow, ZGV. Gorkaia Doroga Domoi, Chans, Sankt Petersburg, 2015.

57 Ibid.

58 Ibid.

59 C. Wey, Christian, K. Zimmerman, Twenty Years of Economic Reconstruction in East Germany. Duncker & Humblot GmbH, 2009. 

60 UPI ARCHIVES, Russia probes use of loans for army's housing, 9.02.2001: URL: https://www.upi.com/Archives/2001/02/09/Russia-probes-use-of-loans-for-armys-housing/5617981694800/ accessed 27 October 2021.

61 P. Meuser, D. Zadorin, Towards a Typology of Soviet Mass Housing: Prefabrication in the USSR 1955–1991, DOM publishers, Berlin, 2016.

62 ©️ Sophie Momzikoff. This map is the work of the author.

63 Enka Group, “Krasnodar Military Housing”, URL: https://www.enka.com/portfolio-item/krasnodar-military-housing/ accessed 27 October 2021.

64 “KfW Stories, Alia Begisheva, Wiedervereinigung. Neue Alte Heimat”, 2. 10. 2019, URL: https://www.kfw.de/stories/gesellschaft/gesellschaftlicher-zusammenhalt/wohnsiedlung-agalatowo/, accessed 20 November 2021.

65 Es sind Wunderbaren Wohnungen, Der Spiegel, 22. 03. 92.

66 “Blesk I nesheta Morozovska: Tekser”, URL: https://bloknot-morozovsk.ru/news/blesk-i-nishcheta-morozovskogo-teksera-763775, accessed 20 November 2021.

67 World Bank Data, Armed forces personnel, total - Russian Federation, URL: https://donnees.banquemondiale.org/indicateur/MS.MIL.TOTL.P1?end=1994&locations=RU&start=1992&view=chart , accessed 25 November 2021.

68 Krasnaia Zvezda, 2.9.1992, p. 2.

69 Group Enka, URL: https://enka-krd.ru/novosti-enki/blizneczyi-bratya-skolko-«rodstvennikov»-u-krasnodarskoj-enki, accessed 20 November 2021.

70 “KfW Stories, Alia Begisheva, Wiedervereinigung. Neue Alte Heimat”, 2. 10. 2019 https://www.kfw.de/stories/gesellschaft/gesellschaftlicher-zusammenhalt/wohnsiedlung-agalatowo/ accessed 15 November 2021.

71 PA AA B 38 (2A), Bd, 18 47 41, 7. 03. 94.

72 M. Boltunow, ZGV. Gor’kaia Doroga Domoi, op. cit.

73 PAA AA Bd 184740, Itar Tass, Pavel Gratschow, Russischer Verteidigungsminister, 24. 11, 93.

74 C. Meissner, op. cit., p. 138.

75 “The Long Road back from Berlin“, Moscow News, 16 September 1994.

76 C. Wallender, Mortal Friends, Best Enemy: German-Russian Cooperation After the Cold War, Cornell University Press, London: Ithaca, 1999, pp. 72-74.

77 I. S. Kowalczuk, S. Wolle, Rote Sterne über Deutschland, Ch. Links Verlag, Berlin, 2001, p. 223.

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List of illustrations

Title Map 1: Closed areas and cities in East-Germany, 198818
URL http://journals.openedition.org/pipss/docannexe/image/6396/img-1.jpg
File image/jpeg, 328k
Title Map 2 : Building sites location in Russia28
URL http://journals.openedition.org/pipss/docannexe/image/6396/img-2.jpg
File image/jpeg, 1.7M
Title Map 3 : Poselok Holzmann, Vladikavkaz62
URL http://journals.openedition.org/pipss/docannexe/image/6396/img-3.jpg
File image/jpeg, 96k
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References

Electronic reference

Sophie Momzikoff, “Lost in Transition? Building Housing for Soviet Soldiers Returning from Germany, 1990-1996”The Journal of Power Institutions in Post-Soviet Societies [Online], Issue 23 | 2023, Online since 25 September 2023, connection on 24 February 2024. URL: http://journals.openedition.org/pipss/6396; DOI: https://doi.org/10.4000/pipss.6396

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About the author

Sophie Momzikoff

Sorbonne-Université

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The text only may be used under licence CC BY-NC-ND 4.0. All other elements (illustrations, imported files) are “All rights reserved”, unless otherwise stated.

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