In this article, the author and leader of "The Great Fatherland Party" Nikolai Starikov, claims one of the causes of the Holodomor may have been that the USSR was unable to export anything other than their grain due to a western embargo.

Is there evidence to support the statement that the "Gold Embargo" existed, and if so whether it extended to 1932?

Is there evidence to suggest grain was the primary or "only" exportable good of the Soviet Union in 1932?


2 Answers 2


This document from 1926 indeed mentions the gold embargo as detrimental to Soviet-British trade, thus the embargo did exist, at least for some states. On the other hand, it also mentions that in the years its authors investigated (1917 -1925) Britain imported over 6 million pounds of gold and silver from USSR (while exporting about 7 million), so we can safely assume that by 1925 the embargo was nonexistant.

But by 1928 the gold reserve of USSR was at a historical low - while the exact amount was undisclosed, it is estimated that in 1918 it amounted to ~1000 tons of gold, and by 1928 it was down to ~150 tons. Stalin's government took radical steps towards increasing the production, started actively confiscating gold and foreign currency, and cut down on imports (until 1941 Stalin was very reluctant to spend any gold from the reserves at all), but the reserve only started growing again around 1934 - for example in 1932 Soviet mining efforts yielded only 32 tons of gold. (Source: Л.В. Сапоговская, "Золотопромышленность Республики Советов - СССР - РФ: эволюция отрасли в альтернативных системах хозяйствования", "Экономическая история. Ежегодник. 2003" (М.: РОССПЭН, 2004. С. 266-308))

So, while USSR was not prohibited to export gold, there was not much of it that it actually could or wanted to sell, and while grain was not the only export, it was the main source of income in Soviet international trade.

  • To clarify the authors of the first document studied the years 1917- 1925, if an embargo was placed in late 1925 it would still be existent? Also would you happen to know if theirs any evidence as to when such an embargo was lifted Oct 11, 2017 at 21:28
  • Your first link, which reads like an argument for continuing free trade and against introducing protectionism, written from a Soviet position, shows that trade grew rapidly after the Anglo-Soviet trade agreement of 1921. The reason it had to be written was that the 1924-29 Conservative government had large Protectionist/Tariff Reform/Imperial Preference elements: this were party policy in 1923 and 1929 but only introduced in 1931. Gold was not the issue but other goods were
    – Henry
    Oct 11, 2017 at 21:29

As about everything written by Starikov, this is either a gross misrepresentation, woeful incomprehension, or just a figment of his wild imagination.

In this case we have no less a witness than Anastas Mikoyan to refute Starikov:

Согласно воспоминаниям А. Микояна, у руководителя советского государства в отношении золота и еще трех-четырех стратегических материалов (например, мазута) развилось совершенно нездоровое скопидомство или, как говорит мемуарист, “особый фетишизм”22. Иррационально большие запасы этих ресурсов копились на протяжении всех лет сталинского правления. Лишь в середине хрущевской эпохи часть золота была продана за границу с целью приобретения новых промышленных технологий23.


The translation and emphasis are mine:

According to Mikoyan's memoir, the ruler of the Soviet state [Stalin] has developed a completely unhealthy stinginess about gold and 3-4 other strategic materials. In Mikoyan's words, it was a "special fetishism". Irrationally large stashes of these resources were stockpiled during the entire duration of Stalin's rule. Only in the middle of Khruschev's era part of the gold was sold abroad to finance the purchase of new industrial technologies.

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