Designated New Russia, and often colloquially South Russia (or Südrussland by its German-speaking inhabitants), these lands had been annexed by the Russian Empire during the reign of Catherine the Great after successful wars against the Ottoman Empire (1768–1774) and the Crimean Khanate (1783).
The German towns and villages in the Western Ukraine, in Volhynia, and the Black Sea region all came under Nazi German rule, first under a military government and then under that of the Nazi Party or the SS, as Reichskommissariat Ukraine.
With the defeat of the German Army at Stalingrad in the winter of 1942–1943, the Soviet Red Army began its offensive, recapturing more and more German-occupied territory.
The Supreme Soviet decreed the first evacuations, which were really expulsions, as the inhabitants were never allowed to return.
Action to deport every ethnic German from the Crimea began on 15 August 1941.
There appeared to have been a deep prejudice against German communities because many Soviet officials considered all German farmers kulaks, no doubt because they appeared better off and more enterprising and thus naturally counterrevolutionary than ordinary ethnic Russian or Ukrainian peasants.
After Hitler's invasion of the Soviet Union on 22 June 1941, the Soviet leadership decided to evacuate all ethnic Germans from the western regions of the Soviet Union.
In October, 45,000 ethnic Germans from Volhynia (Western Ukraine) were also forced to leave, and, by February 1944, it became clear to the Germans in Southern Ukraine that the Red Army could not be stopped; thus, they began their hurried evacuation. Approximately 280,000 ethnic Germans were successfully brought out of the occupied Soviet Union, which represented almost 90 percent of the registered German population, according to the 1943 Reich census.
On the basis of the articles pertaining to the repatriation of nationals in the Yalta Agreement, the United States and the Soviet Union agreed to return each other's nationals at the end of the war.
Shortly thereafter, 40,000 German Russians were sent westward from the area between the Don and Dnieper Rivers.
When the Soviet troops neared the Dnieper River in October 1943, the Chortitza Mennonite communities, totaling about 35,000 people, had to flee.
The German farmers were labelled kulaks (rich peasants) by the Communist regime, and those who did not voluntarily agree to give up their land to the Soviet farming collectives were expelled to Siberia and Central Asia.