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Kazakh Writer Receives German Award

Gerold (Herold) Belger in August 2009

Gerold (Herold) Belger in August 2009

ASTANA -- Prominent writer Gerold (Herold) Belger of Kazakhstan has received Germany's Order of Merit award, RFE/RL's Kazakh Service reports.

Belger, 75, is a Kazakh citizen of German origin who writes in Kazakh, German, and Russian. He gained his reputation as a writer for his books -- both nonfiction and novels -- about Kazakhstan's German minority.

Belger was presented with the prize at the German Embassy in Astana by Ambassador Reiner Eugen Schlageter.

The embassy said Belger was honored for his research work chronicling the deportation of the Volga Germans to Central Asia by Soviet leader Josef Stalin during World War II, the hardships they suffered as a result, and especially their integration into Kazakh society.

His latest novel, "Das Haus des Heimatlosen" (The House of the Exile), tells the story of a young ethnic German sent to a labor camp in Kazakhstan during the war. The novel was his first published in Germany, where he is known as Herold Belger.

Belger is a member of Kazakhstan's Volga German minority. The Volga Germans are the descendants of German immigrants invited to settle in the Russian Empire in the 18th century by Catherine II.

Before the collapse of the Soviet Union, the number of Volga Germans living in the Kazakh SSR was over 1 million, of a total population of some 18 million.

The majority of them took advantage of a repatriation program launched by the German federal government in the 1990s and left Kazakhstan for Germany. Some 300,000 Volga Germans remain in Kazakhstan.