Spanish Gold in Moscow
In October 1936, the Republican government headed by the leader of the Spanish Socialist Workers' Party (PSOE) Francisco Largo Caballero, with Juan Negrín as Minister of Finance, agreed to transfer three-quarters of the gold reserves of the Bank of Spain to the Soviet Union. At the time, these were the fourth largest reserves in the world held by a central bank. Until the month before, they had been stored in the Bank’s vault in Madrid but, in the face of the threat posed by the advance of the rebel troops towards the capital, they had been moved to the Navy arsenal in Cartagena. From there, three quarters of this precious metal, a total of 510 tons, would travel to the USSR via Odessa on four Soviet ships: the Kim, Kursk, Neva, and Volgolese.
The gold, which the government had seized from the Bank of Spain, would be used to pay for purchases of weapons and supplies for the People's Army from the Soviet Union: combat planes, tanks, machine guns, artillery, rifles, cartridges, food and fuel. It would also be used to make purchases in other countries through the foreign banking network of the USSR. Spain maintained ownership of the gold while it was used in these purchases. When it ran out, during the summer of 1938, the Republic continued acquiring materiel on credit, leaving a significant amount owed as a result of its defeat in the war. Some of the material delivered by the Soviets, especially airplanes, tanks and automatic weapons, was of excellent quality, but the rest was obsolete. All of it was acquired at international market prices.
The Spanish gold was mostly coins, more than seventy percent of which were sterling and dollars, but there were more than a dozen other types of gold currency. The 194 tons belonging to the Bank of Spain that were not shipped to the USSR were sent to France, where it was also used to finance the Republican war effort.
The Franco regime created the myth of "Moscow gold", allegedly stolen" by "Russia" as part of an - also - alleged plan to take over Spain through a world revolution and to destroy it as a nation. This myth that was linked to another, that of a supposed Soviet plan to conquer the world that was widely disseminated among anti-communist groups in 1936. This use of the gold was also a controversial topic among Republican, and especially Socialist, exiles after the war. The issue has also been discussed among historians, who have debated whether it was the only possible option for the Republic if it wanted to win. One thing that is clear is that the Spanish gold was not "stolen" but rather was used to finance the Republican war effort. The expenditure, mostly made in the Soviet Union, has been estimated to have been about $ 750 million at the time. This figure is similar to that spent by the Francoists - some $700 million - in this case provided on the credit by Nazi Germany and Fascist Italy.