OGPU, Economic Department, Petition to the Secretariat of the Chairman of the ACEC for Permission to Remove the Gold from the Cupolas of the Cathedral of Christ the Savior. February 24, 1930
Original Source: GARF, f. 1235, op. 2, d. 779, p. 1. Also OGPU. Khodataistvo khoz. otdela PGPU v sekretariat presedatelia VTsIK o razreshenii sniat’ pozolotu s kupolov Khrama Khrista spasitelia. February 24, 1930. Neizvestnaia Rossiia, XX vek (Moscow: Istoricheskoe nasled)
In accordance with the decree of the Soviet of Labor and Defense of 5 July 1929 our metal working factory No. 1 has been assigned the exclusive right to process gold objects which cannot be used for civilian purposes and lack historical artistic worth.
By agreement between the Narkomfin RSFSR and the Econ. Dept of the OGPU the latter acquires all gilded objects from closed prayer houses (icon screens, icon-cases, icons, bronze utensils and cupolas) for processing.
The gold removed by chemical process from the given objects is refined until it is pure and is handed to the Hard Currency Directorate at a fixed sum through the ‘All Non-Ferrous metal and Gold’ [organization], and the Spec. Section of the State Fund of the Econ. Dept of the OGPU is paid 10 per cent of the sum received for the gold.
On average the Econ. Dept of the OGPU produces up to 30 kg of pure gold per month, proposing in the very near future, in connection with the expansion in the volume of work and the technical improvements undertaken in the factory, to increase significantly this quantity.
The richest in terms of the presence of gold are the cupolas of churches, and the Econ. Dept of the OGPU, having concentrated all its attention on them, will in the spring commence their mass stripping, both on location and in the factory.
In particular, some of the best cupolas are the cupolas of the Cathedral of Christ the Savior, for the gilding of which more than 20 poods of gold was used at the time. Information on this is completely trustworthy and has been technically verified, and our metal working factory, having great experience of completing the proposed removal of the gold and its purification, maintains that one could purify up to 18 poods of gold from these cupolas, all the more as the gilding was undertaken comparatively recently, is of excellent quality and is in a good state of preservation.
After the purification of the gold the Econ. Dept of the OGPU will take on at its expense the painting over of the cupola or even, in case of necessity, to re-gild it by cheaper means.
Even the latter would completely justify itself economically as the re-gilding would use up between 1.5 and 2 poods of gold; in relation to their external appearance (the brilliance) the re-gilded cupolas will be better than the old, as the present gilding is heavily covered with dirt and they have lost their initial brilliance.
The durability of the new gilding and its external brilliance will be guaranteed by the Econ. Dept of the OGPU for more than one decade.
At present in connection with the proposed closure of the church the task is made easier as one can get away even without the outlay of this minimal quantity of gold.
If the question of the liquidation of the church is decided positively, we consider it economically desirable to remove the cupolas completely, for which the Econ. Dept of the OGPU will cover the costs of re-roofing the building in accordance with the technical requirements of the organizations to whom the building will be handed and in accordance with the requirements of preserving the style of the building.
Considering that to leave on the cupolas at present up to 20 poods of gold (half a million valutas) is an unnecessary luxury for the USSR, while the realization of the gold will be a great contribution to the cause of the industrialization of the country, we ask for an urgent decision on the question of the church and the cupolas so that, having commenced at once with the preparatory works, the Econ. Dept of the OGPU could get on with the stripping or removal of the cupolas by the beginning of spring.
Head of the Econ. Dept of the OGPU [signature] Head of the Material Procurement Dept [signature] Secretary [signature]
Source: Felix Corley, ed., Religion in the Soviet Union: an Archival Reader (New York: New York University Press, 1996), Doc. 49.