German Volga Republic, former autonomous republic of the USSR, c.18,000 sq mi (46,600 sq km), along the lower Volga of SW Russia. Its largely German population was descended from the German colonists whom Catherine II had invited to settle there in 1762. The autonomous republic was formed in 1924. As a result of the German invasion of the USSR, the republic was dissolved (1941), and the entire German population (about 440,000) was deported to Siberia and Kazakhstan. The Volga Germans were then stripped of their citizenship and did not regain their civil rights until after Stalin's death. Most of Russia's ethnic Germans (some 2 million) emigrated after the breakup of the Soviet Union in 1991, largely to Germany.