The Holodomor and Torgsin System. Totally Secret


In 1931, a network of special stores appeared in the USSR. They were selling goods for foreign currency or exchanging them for precious metals. These shops (so-called “torgsins”) did not accept ordinary Soviet money. Initially, the target audience of torgsins was exclusively foreigners who had foreign currency. Subsequently, Soviet citizens were also allowed to visit these stores. The population brought household gold (crosses, earrings, wedding rings) to the torgsins and exchanged it for special stamps (cards), for which they could buy basic goods at speculative prices. People bought mostly flour, cereals, sugar. Queues were an integral attribute of any torgsin.

During the Holodomor, the torgsins were used to pump out jewelry from the population, as it was easier to hide the precious things than food. The population was sold what was confiscated from it, and at speculative prices.

At the same time, many families suffered psychological trauma because they were had to get rid of family valuables and relics, which had for them not material, but spiritual value. During the Holodomor, the network of torgsins expanded considerably—by the end of 1933, there were already about 300 such shops in Soviet Ukraine.

Soviet citizens could also buy goods in these shops through foreign exchange transfers from abroad. OGPU authorities often arrested people who visited shops or received currency transfers. The system of torgsins was actually intended to pump out gold and valuables from the population, which still remained after numerous expropriations. With the help of this system, the Soviet government bought gold from the population at a price much lower than it was on world markets. In 1933, the population brought 45 tons of pure gold to torsgins. The network existed until 1936.