Russian explorers find 'swamp' of Soviet money

By News from Elsewhere... found by BBC Monitoring

Image source, YouTube/Abandoned Country
Image caption,
Just some of the worthless banknotes found at an old mine near Moscow

A group of explorers in Russia have found around a billion roubles in old Soviet money at an abandoned mine, but it's all completely worthless.

The group from Saint Petersburg, who publish a blog on abandoned sites across Russia, came across the money after following rumours that large quantities of cash had been dumped in old missile silos near Moscow after the collapse of the Soviet Union, the Komsomolskaya Pravda news website reports. After travelling for several hours across rough terrain in Russia's Vladimir region, they found the mine overflowing with cash.

The site contains an estimated one billion roubles ($18m; £13.5m at current exchange rates, or $33.3m at the "official" Soviet rate in 1991) in Soviet Union banknotes of various denominations issued between 1961 and 1991, all no longer legal tender in the Russian Federation. The mine had been flooded in recent years, leaving what was essentially a swamp of banknotes bearing the face of Vladimir Lenin, the explorers' YouTube channel shows.

According to their account of events, elderly locals told the team about the mine, but said that nobody dared go near the place because it was linked to the Soviet Union's ballistic missile programme, and contaminated with radiation. However, Geiger counters showed that this was not the case.

More still to be found?

Team member Olga Bogdanova said that the sight of such "riches" was difficult to convey in words. "There's delight and some sadness, because you realise that this is a bygone era which will never return, that all this money would have been more than enough for anybody," she said. Just 100 roubles would have been a very good salary back in Soviet times.

Fellow explorers Anton Alekseev and Sergey Volkov were subsequently interviewed on Rossiya1 television, where the presenter noted that the cash was dumped following a government decision at the end of the Soviet Union, and that this might be one of at least three such sites across Russia.

The video has caught the imagination of social media users, many of whom wish that the cash was still legal tender. "I would dive in there like Scrooge McDuck," says one user, while another exclaimed, "I wish I could have a time machine, return with a pack of those banknotes and buy myself a controlling stake in Google, Gazprom, Rosneft, and never work again."

Image source, YouTube/Abandoned Country
Image caption,
Blogger Anton Alekseev stands on a sodden pile of old Soviet banknotes

Reporting by Maria Kiseleva, Alistair Coleman

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