The San Bernardino County Sun from San Bernardino, California on November 13, 1938 · Page 27
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November 13, 1938

The San Bernardino County Sun from San Bernardino, California · Page 27

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San Bernardino, California
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Sunday, November 13, 1938
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Page 27
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All gold mining is under strict Soviet supervision,, although prospectors may work independently. Above, a dredge at work in the Yakutia district. jp-..--..A.v......... .- s........ ......... ...Vi.,..teMt.M a...-.. . vw...wM-...v......,, ................ , , . ...... ........... -A A.. .-. a .......... ..-.n. ........ 1 i , 1 1i i l i. i WfOt.nOtr L week m of a mrn um mnfifiA 7 111 f7 U u vJ w v upu 'fc vi.:l; . ,,vfi j, y. iiv WHAT does a rich man do witli his money in Soviet Russia? That may sound like a foolish question. Russia is the land of Communism, where all are supposed to fare alike, the capitalist has been outlawed, and pri-yate wealth is anathema. But there are rich men in Russia, just the ame Russian citizens who started from scratch and got rich under Communism. They aren't very rich by American standards, but they are rich as Croesus compared with the gieat mass pf present-day Russians. And they're in a very queer spot because there isn't much they can do with their money. In most respects they arc little bettter off than their fellow citizens. Being an economic royalist in the land of the Communists is, in fact, about tin wihappy a role as any rich man was ever called on to fill. , A striking insight into this queer feature of present-day Russian life' is provided by John D. Littlepage, veteran American mining engineer, in a new book, "In Search of Soviet Gold," written in collaboration with Demarec Bess and published recently by Harcourt, Brace and Co. Mr. Littlepage was retained by the Russian government in 1928 to take charge of the development and exploitation of Russia's immense gold fields. He spent ten years in the country, returning to America only a short time ago. And in his book he tells among other things of the strange plight of a rich man in Russia. "WHO are these rich men, and how did they " get rich? Well, some of them made their stake just as they might have in America by prospecting for gold. For although the mines are state-owned in Russia, there are private prospectors there the same as in Alaska or any other gold country. Furthermore, Russia has even had a gold rush in the last few years! Prospectors, explains Mr. Littlepage, had long ago been abolished by the Communists. But early in the 1930's the government! was making every effort to increase its stock of gold, both in order to pay for imports from capitalistic lands and to build up a gold reserve for use in case of war. It became obvious that the system of trusting solely to government geologists for the discovery of new gold deposits was not working out well. So Stalin decided to have a gold rush, led as all such rushes are led by regular, old-time prospectors. So the word went out that all Soviet citizens Simple luxuries such as perfumes and cosmetics are beyond the pocketbook of most Russians. The rich may buy those made in the Soviet. It's still possible to make a fortune in the land of the Communists. But spending it is quite another matter were eligible to become prospectors, and that those who did so would be richly rewarded. The Russian's were slow to rise to the bait; they had seen, too often, what happens to Russians who get too prosperous. But eventually the lure of private profit had its usual effect, and several hundred thousand prospectors were in the field. These people were grub-staked by the government. They worked under government supervision, and the gold they found became the property of the government. But a prospector making a "strike" was rewarded in cash up to a maximum of 30,000 gold rubles, with the additional right to work the outcroppings of his claim for at least a year. Thus, although the Russian prospector cannot make the fabulous wealth he might make in another country, he can become immensely rich in comparison with his fellow citizens. As Mr. Littlepage says, one lucky strike can bring a prospector more money than he would receive in 100 years of hard labor in a factory, farm or mine. So the prospector can get rich. There are a few other ways in which a Russian can get rich. Writers and musicians, for instance, get rewards occasionally far beyond those which (Copyright, 1938, by Every Week XIaga2ine) Wide-open, boom camps, such as the American gold rushes fostered, are banned by the Soviet. This Pioneers camp in the Tommot area 'is typical of Russian mining towns. the ordinary worker can ever hope to obtain. But what good does it do them? They can't spend their money (not very easily, anyway) they can't leave the country, they can't send their money out. They've got it and they're stuck with it. "A friend of mine," writes Mr. Littlepage, "devoted an entire evening in Moscow to questioning a Russian jazz band leader, who was supposed to have the largest income in the country, about how he spent his money. "The band leader admitted it was a lot easier to earn the money than to spend it. At the time he was traveling around Moscow in a battered American low-priced automobile several years old. He said he had been trying to buy a better automobile for a long time, but couldn't manage it. "He had bales of government paper money, but the authorities wouldn't put him on the preferred list so that he could buy one of the few Soviet new cars, and wouldn't arrange any means by which he could get foreign currency to import a foreign automobile. "It was impossible for him to buy such things as electric refrigerators or a good radio-phonograph, because Soviet stores don't stock foreign-made goods and Soviet factories seldom make first-class products and never make enough of anything to supply the demand. His wife had to stand in line like other women to get a chance at such clothes as were for sale." Most of the accommodations of the famous resorts of the Crimea or the Cau-casus are reserved for rpHE prospectors, says Mr. Littlepage, fare a little better, since the prospectors for the moment are a specially favored group. They are allowed to buy from the special stores which import foreign goods. '"' ,L" - :. 'e get fairly quick del , wcr . ..-:r:e " '.ho Russian factories d( . radios, and so on. But if they really come into a lot of money, they are almost as badly off as the band leader was. It isn't long before they have bought all the luxuries they can use; then they have to scratch their heads to think of ways to spend. (Few of them care to save their money, for they have no confidence that monetary values are going to remain permanent.) Does a rich prospector want to move to some big city, such as Moscow? He has to have a police permit to do so, and the police don't give out such permits unless they can be shown compelling reasons why the move should be made. Does the rich man want to go to one of the famous resorts in the Crimea or the Caucasus?. He may be able to do that; but most of the accommodations there are reserved for favored workers, or for government officials. In the end, the man who has "struck it rich" is only a little better off than the ordinary worker. Indeed, he often is persuaded by a social worker to spend his money for the good of the community. A decade and more ago, when prospectors still existed under the old system and operated without government supervision, there occasionally were scenes reminiscent of boom days in the American mining camps. Mr. Littlepage tells of one such which he observed just after reaching Russia. It happened in a remote town in the interior; three prospectors who had just struck it rich had come to town to celebrate. "They went straight to the government liqjor shop and bought out the entire stock on hand," writes Mr. Littlepage. "They loaded up w.t'i bottles of vodka and went out into the shla village street, solemnly setting down bottle of vodka a foot or so apart up and down the iiJc of the street, while the inhabitants loc.ed yit without understanding what was happeri'n. Finally, after they had set out all their bot'-es. , they shouted: 'Come one, come alll Dru.k with us as much and as long as you can 1 ,' willl' Before long the village was drunk." But such things do not happen any more. The government checks up constantly on all hands in the gold fields, and those who misbehave speedily get into trouble. Gambler are barred, and while liquor is sold it is under strict supervision. Prospectors, a 3 result, are on their best behavior. So; says Mr. Littlepage: "The Soviet gold rush is cert' dignified gold rush in history, i '. men and women engaged in 1 any better than those who ous rushes, but because . . the agent for the Soviet lute control not only of . . the ore below the grour , ing machinery and mil .: . and restaurants, but t a

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