Tuesday, September 11, 2007

How to rob a nation

Safe, Profitable, Convenient! Deposit in savings-bank!
Unknown artist, late forties

In Soviet times there were no banks available for public except for the Sberkassa. Here is a quote from Wikipedia: Sberkassa in Soviet Union is a financial institution to store the savings of the population. The term is traditionally translated as "savings bank", however sberkassas in the Soviet Union were not banks in common sense.

A personal document for keeping track of person's savings is a kind of a bankbook (Russian: "savings booklet", usually translated as savings book or savings-bank book). The track of deposits, withdrawals and accrued interest is written into the bankbook by a sberkassa clerk.

The man on the poster is holding this savings-book in his hand. But why to promote the one and only banking institution if there is no alternative whatsoever?

The thing is that after the war the money stock in the country was huge due to the military expenses of the WW2. And the rationing system seriously limited the consumption ability of the soviet citizens resulting in possible hyperinflation, which could completely destroy the weak financial system of the recuperating Soviet Union. So in 1947 the rationing system was abolished and a currency reform took place. It implied the exchange of all the old banknotes at a rate of 10:1 and the bank deposits at a rate of 1:1 for accounts below 3 thousand of rubbles, and at a rate of 3:1 for accounts with 3 to 10 thousand of rubbles. The reform significantly decreased the amount of money in circulation and hit hard those who were keeping savings at home. The only way for the people to avoid such personal finance crises in future was to keep money in sberkassa, hence making them available for governmental investments in heavy industry projects and agriculture.