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Doctorante à l’ENS-ED 540

Dernière modification : 14 mars 2017

Associée à l’UMR 8546 AOrOc École normale supérieure, 45 rue d’Ulm, 75230 PARIS Cedex 05.

Équipe : Économie(s) prémoderne(s)
Dépôts dans HAL-SHS


Doctorat sous la direction de Georges Depeyrot
Titre : « French investments, monetary transformation and monetization »

Everybody in France and in Russia knows the question of the French investments in Russia and the question of the cancellation of their refunding after the Revolution.
Nothing important can be added after the major publication of René Girault (Emprunts russes et investissements français en Russie, 1887-1914, Paris 1999). He analysed in details the development of the French investments and the role of the French banks in this affair. He also analysed the shift from an economic relation between two countries into a political alliance.
Between 1888 and 1914 more than 16 billion of gold francs were invested in Russia, the equivalent of about 5200 tons of gold coins…
The French investments were directed toward 5 main zones :
• St Petersburg : banks, metallurgy, textiles, harbour.
• Moscow : banks, textiles.
• Western Ukraine (Krivoi-Rog, Odessa) : iron mines, metallurgy.
• Eastern Ukraine (Donets, Rostov) : coal mines.
• Transcaucasia (Novorossiysk, Grozny, Baku) : iron mines, copper mines, manganese mines, petrol.
• Ural (Perm, Ural) : iron mines, metallurgy.
Our aim is not to study the aspects of French investments or any other foreign investment in Russia but to analyse the consequences of these investments in Russia. In fact, up to now, the study has been mainly done by Western economic historians, with archives from banks and economic documents, mainly from Western sources. There is no study on the reaction to the changes introduces after these investments.
The French debt was repudiated by the decree dated December 29, 1917, and all the French debts were cancelled by a decree dated January 23, 1918. After this date, as the French government refused to guaranty the debt, the question of the French debts stayed a hot topic between Russia and 1 million and a half French debt holders. The agreement signed between France and Russia on May 27, 1997 settled the problem in according an amount of 400 million USD (in fact 1 % of the estimation proposed by French debt holders). This agreement also, ipso facto, transformed the question of French investments, and moved the question from a diplomatic disagreement to a purely historical question. It gives to historians more freedom to analyse the facts.

Context of the French investments
We must, at this point, remind the context of the French investments in Russia. The first French loan was organised after the French defeat of 1870. The politicians wanted to develop an alliance against Germany in surrounding the country by a kind of large alliance. However, it was clear that, despite a very important population, Russia was not developed on an industrial point of view. It was clear that the only way to develop the Russian industry was to attract foreign investments. The first really important loan was launched in 1888.
Since this moment, and up to the First World War, France continued to invest in Russia, despite the defeat in the Russo-Japanese war in February 1904 – September 1905, the revolts of the population in St Petersburg (revolution of October 1905).
These investments favoured the industrial development of the country, but also contributed to the development of a new class of urban poor workers coming from the countryside. This evolution is not specifically Russian, but is typical of all the major economic transformations linked to the first industrial revolution.

The monetary changes and its consequences
If the main changes did not reach the population in Russia, the monetization of exchanges and trade, the development of salaries were a major transformation in the economic and social relations.
It affected deeply the society. In example, the construction of railways created a mass of daily workers for the construction of the tracks, but also favoured the emergence of local markets for the alimentation of the workers and their families. Around the stations, also, markets were created and the railway favoured the development of specific cultures to be send and sold in the major cities.
In other words, a part of the society moved from a poorly monetized economy to a modern monetized economy where currency plays an important role. But with currency arrived inflation, crises and for a part of the population there was a relation between the increasing wealth of bankers and the increasing poverty of the people.
We can consider that more the society was monetized, more the proportion of wage earners was increasing, more the risk of urban riots was important in case of economic crisis. The simple analyse of the zones where the French invested, of the development of industry and the development of the revolutionary centres underlines that the degree of monetisation of society may be one of the indicators of the revolutionary risk in Russia. More the society was monetized, more the numbers of employees (even daily) increased, more the revolutionary risk was important.

Our first axis will be to collect and analyse the point of view of the promotors of the gold standard and those who promote the monetization of the economy : bankers, politicians, writers, etc. We will analyse the production of coins and note and the ways to disseminate them in the country.
The second one will be to collect information on the reality of this monetization. These information will be tiny details, such as prices, local markets, demonstrations, letters to the editors, etc. We hope to find also details in the registers of the priests concerning the various forms of gifts to the churches. But also, prices of all commodities, taxes paid to the state in currency, etc. We hope to be able to draw a kind of map of monetization taking care of the development of networks but also the slow integration of regions far from the main centers into an economy of exchanges.
They will give us information on the reaction against the banks that are in general associated to the development of monetary economy.
This corpus will also analyse the reactions. One is a general opposition to the banks, perceived as the representative of the international capitalism. The second one is the development of anti-Semitism. We can analyse and compare the Russian situation with the similar situation in Austria where the opponents protested against gold standard that was described as the result of a Jewish complot organised by the Jewish banks against the Austro-Hungarian tradition. The “Great Depression” following the Black Friday, May 9, 1873, had brought out several conspiracy theories which criticized the behavior of the bankers and the high finance. Jewish bankers and businessmen where stigmatized as sharks and bloodsuckers. In Russia, after the crises of the end of 19th century, but mainly after the crisis of 1901-1903, there was an upsurge of anti-Semitic publications and the most famous one was the The Protocols of the Elders of Zion Протоколы сионских мудрецов ou Сионские протоколы published in 1903 (extracts) and 1905. The anti-Semitic reaction was transformed by the soviets into an anti-capitalist and revolutionary approach. But the mentalities survived : the main massacres during the WWII took place in region where industrialisation was the most important (the most important massacre was the Бабин Яр Babi Yar one near Kiev with 34000 persons killed in 2 days).

Our research will take place within the framework of the continuation of the DAMIN Silver monetary depreciation and international relations under the supervision of Georges Depeyrot.