German minority in the Russian empire - who are they and what are their origin?

(Source: Ingeborg Fleischhauer and Benjamin Pinkus: The Soviet Germans – Past and Present edited with an introduction by Edith Rogovin Frankel, St. Martin’s Press, New York in association with the Marjorie Mayrock Center for Soviet and East European Research ant the Hebrew University, Jerusalem 1986)

In the Russian empire, the German national group numbering over 2 million had been a powerful factor making a considerable contribution to the social and political stability while at the same time promoting steady, upward economic development.

There were three distinct historical and sector of German subjects of the tsars – the Baltic Germans, city and court circles, and colonists. Distinct though they were in their specific functioning and achievements, all three proved themselves pioneers of a dynamic economic and, in part, social outlook that bore the stamp of the West. In the epoch of modernization, they served as one of the fulcra by means of which the spirit of reform and liberalization was slowly but progressively implemented in Russian society and its institutions. (p. 13)

In the mid-nineteenth century, when Russian German influence was at its height, the ennobled German urban population and the Baltic German nobility were especially well represented in the leading institutions of the Russian empire. They became the pillar of the Russian military establishment, diplomacy, higher administration and the court. Even in the 1880s, when Russian German influence was checked in reaction to the establishment of the German empire and the rise of the pan-Slavic current in Russian society, the percentage of Russian Germans in the leading state positions was still fairly high, amounting to some 40 per cent of the army High Command, 62 per cent of the higher ranks in the Ministry of Post and Commerce, 57 per cent in the Foreign Ministry and 46 per cent in the War Ministry. Generally up to one-third of the high-ranking officers in the army and navy as well as civil servants or officials in the state institutions, including the ruling bodies of the Senate and Imperial Council, had German (or similar) names and in many cases were Protestants – this at a time when the German comprised hardly more than 1 per cent of the population of the Russian empire. (pp. 17-18)

Read more about the Baltic Germans in Russian empire
Read more about the Russian Germans