Table of contents:
Soviet underground entrepreneurs quickly grew rich in the production of scarce goods. Both the bandits and the OBKhSS were interested in their money.
Workshop workers as an economic phenomenon
There is still no single, let's say, "official" opinion about the shop workers. Some of them are perceived as parasites on the body of the Soviet economy, which, with their underground activities, led to the collapse of the USSR. For others, they are a completely logical phenomenon, which became possible due to the "favorable environment". The deficit prevailing in many areas, sooner or later should have led to the emergence of "shadow business". Accordingly, shop workers are just a “child” of a problematic planned economy.
But the fact remains: the craft workers became a full-fledged economic phenomenon that significantly influenced the Soviet state. Over the years, the lives of underground entrepreneurs have been covered with a layer of various myths and legends, which usually have nothing to do with reality. In fact, in Soviet times, it was almost impossible to identify the underground millionaire. They diligently concealed their activities and income.
True, there were exceptions. For example, Siegfried Gazenfranz and Isaac Singer, who launched a stormy activity in Frunze (now Bishkek), eventually lost their sense of reality. Having become the kings of the city, they did not take care of their own safety at all. And one day the avenging sword of Soviet justice fell on their heads.
Yet they are an exception. The bulk of their “colleagues” preferred to lead a much more modest lifestyle. Guild workers organized clandestine production directly at state enterprises, and most ordinary workers in factories and plants did not suspect that they were involved in illegal activities.
The shop workers were engaged in the most scarce goods, the production of which in a short time could bring a solid income. For example, clothes or shoes. So, in the 1960s. entrepreneurs realized that you can make a fortune on ordinary … galoshes. They were required in huge quantities, and state-owned enterprises, honoring the law, carried out the plan, regardless of reality. And then shop workers with small household factories joined the production of galoshes. Most often, these enterprises produced hoses and some kind of trifle from rubber.
Suddenly it turned out that the hoses and galoshes require approximately the same amount of rubber. Only the hoses were much cheaper. And the enterprises set up production in two directions at the same time. Rubber for hoses has been written off under a variety of pretexts. And at night the galoshes were loaded into cars and sent to the "lured" shops. This scheme worked with almost any product, even technical suede.
Enterprising people who worked at factories that produced optics realized that the valuable velvety leather was clearly not being used for its intended purpose. Why wrap lenses in it, if you can send them to sewing jackets? The suede was written off (for example, due to "improper storage") and cut as needed. And all the surplus received was used to make clothes.
Huge money and constant fear
The shop workers had enough problems. They often didn't know what to do with wealth. Spending millions in Soviet times was very problematic. For example, it was impossible to purchase several apartments or cars by registering them for yourself. Therefore, millionaires were limited to living space, dachas and cars, registered for family members. But they could waste money in resorts and restaurants.
But there was still a lot of money. And it was impossible to put a million on a savings account. More precisely, it is possible, but the relevant authorities would definitely be interested in this. And therefore, many preferred to store wealth in three-liter jars, buried in their summer cottages.
For many underground entrepreneurs, fear was an integral part of life. They had to be afraid of both bandits of various stripes and harsh representatives of the OBKHSS. It was especially difficult for the shop workers under Nikita Khrushchev, who ordered to toughen the punishment for economic crimes. Now they could easily be shot for the shadow business. I had to twirl around, namely, "feed" the maximum number of the right people. The most successful shop assistants created corruption networks that entangled not only district and ordinary police officers, but also representatives of the OBKHSS.
Another problem is bandits. The cunning comrades quickly realized that the shop assistants were a "cash cow." It was only important to find out who was protecting the underground entrepreneur. If there were no serious people behind him, then the criminals went to work. The shop assistants paid off and did not complain to anyone. They searched for victims using complex schemes. Often the leaders of organized crime groups hired "burglars" who collected information about underground millionaires. But in the same 1960s. the bandits acted carefully, no one wanted to light up again. The situation changed dramatically in the next decade, when the Mongol gang appeared in Moscow. His people no longer disdained abductions and torture, and racketeering became commonplace.
Despite corruption, there were high-profile cases every now and then. For example, "wine", "bread", "musical". The most significant case was the case of the "fur mafia". It has already been dealt with by the KGB officers under the personal control of Yuri Andropov, since the shop workers were covered by the representatives of the Ministry of Internal Affairs.
The shop workers suddenly disappeared from the economic arena of the USSR. This happened in the late 1980s, when Mikhail Gorbachev lifted restrictions on non-state entrepreneurial activities. Yesterday's underground workers turned into legal businessmen.