Insecure Belongings: A Family of Ethnic Germans from the Former Soviet Union in Germany

  • Jana Ballenthien Georg-August-Universität Göttingen
  • Corinne Büching Universität Bremen
Keywords: biographies of migration, construction of collective belonging, biographical work, former Soviet Union


This article takes a look at the transformation of constructions of belonging during the course of life, and how they are embedded in family and collective history. Based on a case study of three women belonging to one family, who as ethnic Germans migrated in the early 1990's from the Soviet Union to Germany, we were able to demonstrate how questions of belonging were initiated by the migration process and the attributes ascribed to them in their country of arrival. Different family members were seen to perform different strategies of biographical work. This was due to their unique autobiographical experience and their belonging to different historical generations. Thus, the grandmother's experience of deportation from the Volga Republic to Siberia during the course of the Second World War was reactivated during her emigration to Germany. This reconfirmed her construction of belonging as a Volga German. Whereas after migration her daughter in law conceptualizes her belonging as a question of membership of a religious we-group. Her granddaughter, however, before and after emigration successfully searched a connection of the sense of belonging to her family of origin and her peer groups, first in Soviet society which was influenced by the predominantly Russian culture, and later in German society. URN: urn:nbn:de:0114-fqs0903218


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Author Biographies

Jana Ballenthien, Georg-August-Universität Göttingen
Jana BALLENTHIEN, born in 1979, studies sociology, social politics and gender studies in Goettingen (Germany), with a focus on quantitative and qualitative methods, biographical research and sociology of knowledge. A graduate carrying out qualitative work on ethnic constructions of belonging in the course of biography, using the example of a young Russian German woman. Student research assistant at the Institute of Education of the Georg-August-Universitaet Goettingen. Longtime work as a research assistant, tutor, and within the qualitative methods consultancy at the Methodology Center of the Faculty of Social Sciences of the Georg-August-Universitaet Goettingen. Since March 2009 research assistant for the project "Ethnic Germans from the former Soviet Union in Germany" which is sponsored by the German Research Foundation (DFG).
Corinne Büching, Universität Bremen
Corinne BÜCHING, born in 1982, studies social sciences in Goettingen (Germany) and Leiden (Netherlands), with a focus on qualitative methods, sociology and media- and communicational sciences. A graduate who has carried out qualitative research about the biographical works of deportation and migration processes within the biography of a Soviet German woman. Research assistant for the professorship of Dr. Prof. Gabriele ROSENTHAL at the Faculty of Social Sciences of the Georg-August-Universitaet Goettingen. Currently, research assistant in the task group "digital media in education" at the University of Bremen.
How to Cite
Ballenthien, J., & Büching, C. (2009). Insecure Belongings: A Family of Ethnic Germans from the Former Soviet Union in Germany. Forum Qualitative Sozialforschung / Forum: Qualitative Social Research, 10(3).