DW has this "slide" in one of their YouTube reportages:

enter image description here

It shows German exports to Kyrgyzstan increasing by 773% in in Q1 2023, and to a lesser extent a similar pattern happens in Armenia and Georgia.

However, while there's clearly some sanction-busting going on there, it's not clear given how the data is presented (percentage-wise for each country) if the German exports to Russia's neighbors come even close to making up the losses in Russia itself, in absolute terms. So, is that the case?

  • 3
    "in absolute terms" That might be unfair. Better in relative terms relative to total German exports back then and now. Also this seems like a simple look it up question. Where is the political angle? Is the idea that boycotting Russia can be advantageous for somebody? Commented Sep 27, 2023 at 21:14
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    @NoDataDumpNoContribution: most Qs here are "look it up" in some fashion. The Q is politically relevant as to the extent that sanctions are failing as claimed in the DW docu title. Commented Sep 27, 2023 at 21:17
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    It is NOT clear to me that there is sanction busting going on here-- given this data, that is pure conjecture. Just consider: Imports for those countries from Russia might have decreased because of war and sanctions also, and compensating for small losses there with imports from Germany would lead to big relative increases (because total trade volume with Germany is much lower)
    – radioflash
    Commented Sep 28, 2023 at 15:57
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    If I form a new cult, then when I first recruit someone, my cult grew by 100% in less then a second! This is why that +773% growth needs context!
    – vsz
    Commented Sep 29, 2023 at 4:36

2 Answers 2


Not even close

I used the Genesis database of the Federal Office of Statistics to search for exports to Russia, Armenia, Georgia and Kyrgyzstan in January and February of 2022 and 2023.

I limited the data to January and February instead of the entire first quarter to remove effects the invasion of February 24th might have had on later months.

Here's the data (all values in thousands of Euros):


Country January February Total
Russia 2,133,014 2,093,002 4,226,016
Armenia 11,033 16,474 27,507
Georgia 27,430 32,513 59,943
Kyrgyzstan 4,054 5,160 9,214
--- --- --- ---
Combined 2,175,531 2,147,149 4,322,680


Country January February Total Difference to 2022 Difference in Percent
Russia 896,631 833,273 1,729,904 -2,496,112 -59%
Armenia 37,584 51,894 89,478 +61,971 +225%
Georgia 50,406 60,993 111,399 +51,456 +86%
Kyrgyzstan 42,408 58,764 101,172 +91,958 +998%
--- --- --- ---
Combined 1,027,029 1,004,924 2,031,953 -2,290,727 -53%

As you can see, the percentage increases get even more extreme by limiting the data to the first 2 months but those are relative to the pre-war export figures which were quite low. Additionally, there were a lot of exports to Russia, which means relative changes there amount to larger absolute changes.

In fact, exports to Russia in 2023 were still significantly higher than exports to the other 3 countries, despite sanctions.

In total exports to these 4 countries decreased by 53%. If all additional exports to Armenia, Georgia and Kyrgyzstan went directly to Russia that would mitigate ~8% of the decrease in direct exports.

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    +1 but it would be even clearer with another row in the 2nd table, totalling the 4 countries (making the assumption that any other intermediary countries are small in comparison to these. That shows a 47% reduction overall and the reduction in sales to Russia itself is down by 59%. So these intermediaries are offsetting about 1/5 of the reduced sales to Russia (at most - it's also possible that in some cases goods were sold to end users in these countries via Russia and are now sold directly)
    – Chris H
    Commented Sep 28, 2023 at 8:18

It is plausible that the growth presented is due to sanctions-dodging, but it is very unlikely that it fully makes up for the exports to Russia proper, for the following reasons:

  1. Since, excluding a small number of sectors, the Russian economy is likely contracting slightly, the exports would naturally fall even if no sanctions were in place at all.

  2. A lot of Germany's exports are cars and car parts, and there is a massive shift towards Chinese cars on the Russian market. Volkswagen, Škoda and Mercedes's assembly plants are either shut down or sold, and, therefore, aren't importing car parts.

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