Author`s name Olga Savka

Soviet People's Bank Deposits Gone for Good

The state will never be able to pay the debt to depositors

The controversy about Soviet people's money that was devalued in the beginning of the 1990s has gone into the background. Probably, depositors got used to the idea of losing their savings for good. It is not ruled out, though, that some naive people still hope that their money is going to be compensated.

The issue connected with devalued Soviet deposits may become very actual again owing to a humble librarian from the Belgorod region. In January of 1991, Anna Ryabykh had 11,674 rubles deposited in Sberbank. The woman spent six years, trying to do something to make the authorities compensate her losses, but her efforts were wasted. After that, the librarian decided to sue Sberbank and the state. Four years of juridical red tape brought no results. Anna Ryabykh addressed to the European Court for Human Rights. In ten months, Strasbourg-based judges ruled: the Russian Federation Treasury is obliged to pay the claimed sum to the claimant. The authorities had nothing to do, but to obey the court order. About 330,000 rubles were enough for the woman to buy a two-room apartment in the regional center.

There was the only one incident in Russia so far, when a common person legally made the state pay for its actions. However, the woman had to address to the international court to succeed. The Russian legal system will never venture to "offend" its government.

Seventy-three million offended depositors may file lawsuits at the Strasbourg-based court. They have a right to do it: Russian government's promises of meager compensations instead of paying the full debt violate the Convention for the Protection of Human Rights. What is going to happen, if just a hundredth part of 73 million offended depositors will submit complaints to the international court? It would cause a disastrous damage to the country's prestige.

Governmental officials say, Russia should pay the foreign debt on time. For some reason, they scarcely mention something about the domestic debt. The government pays billions to foreign banks, cutting Russian people's social guarantees. In 1993 the Russian Constitutional Court pointed out, the government should not delay compensations for population's deposits. A lot of prime ministers have been changed during the decade, but no one of them was responsible for violating the law.

One may surely understand the government - it is very hard to obtain such huge sum of money. Academician Nikolay Petrakov said, the debt is about eight or nine trillion rubles worth. In other words, the debt is three times the country's annual budget. Economists calculated, if the government decided to return the debt to the people, it would be necessary to spend one-third of the national GDP during 40 years. Russian people's deposits are gone for good as a result of Yegor Gaidar's economic reforms. His close companion Yevgeny Yasin does not conceal it from reporters: "The state will never be able to return those savings. This problem cannot be solved." However, Sberbank builds fashionable offices nationwide - those offices are built on  depositors' money.

Two draft laws have been submitted to the Russian State Duma. One of them was developed by the government and the other one was submitted by United Russia party. They have certain differences, but the point is virtually the same: to nullify the law about protecting Russian people's deposits. That would put an end to the question of protecting people's property rights. Officials simply offer to pay the four-percent compensation of the original deposit. To crown it all, the compensation is not to be paid at once - it is to take 20 years. The majority of offended depositors are elderly people. However, their heirs will have to take a lot of efforts to receive the compensations. It is not excluded that Russian laws will simply make it impossible: the state does not want to bid goodbye to its money.

Compensations are currently being paid at the very least. The bank is now working with the depositors born in 1942 - they will be paid a thousand rubles. The compensation has not changed since 1996, although the ruble was shaken a lot as a result of the default.

There are a lot of questions about the issue, but Sberbank clerks do not want to answer them. There is a lot of information about the correlation of the dollar, the ruble and the euro. However, there is nothing to find about the correlation of the Soviet and the Russian ruble.

Boris Vaulin