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# Oswald's pay in the Soviet Union

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I have recently been working on a timeline of Oswald in the Soviet Union.  There were things in this timeline that I discovered that were new to me about Lee Harvey Oswald in the Soviet Union.  They are probably things that the old hands at the Forum know, but I thought I would post this for folks who don’t know like me.  The information on the Red Cross was the biggest eye opener and what the Russians gave the defector Robert Webster.

January 5, 1960:  Harvey Oswald went to the Red Cross in Moscow for money.  He said, “I receive 5000 rubles, a huge sum!! Later in Minsk I am to earn 70 rubles a month at the factory.”

Note:  That is 70 rubles a month not 700.  This makes one wonder if he knew the value of Russian Rubles.  Or, was he being in part facetious?  In the 1960s the exchange rate for rubles to dollars was different for old rubles as versus new rubles in 1960.  The internet offers this information from Wikipedia:

“Its parity to the US dollar underwent a devaluation, however, from \$1 = 4 old rubles (0.4 new ruble) to \$1 = 0.9 new ruble (or 90 kopeks).”

With these figures 5000 rubles becomes \$4500 and 70 rubles becomes \$63.00.  If my math is right \$4500 was a large sum to given by the Red Cross.  Why would the Red Cross do that?  The \$63.00 is less than what he made as a PVT in the Marines.

This becomes important once he reaches Minsk and this amount of money is adjusted.

January 7, 1960:  Oswald left Moscow by train for Minsk, Belorussia.  At this time, he wrote his mother and brother saying, "I do not wish to ever contact you again. I am beginning a new life and I don't want any part of the old."

Note:  Why would he say such a cruel and hateful thing?  Did he hate his family?  If all is true about Harvey then this was not his family.  They were some folks he had to deal with in the role he was playing.

Or, was this a message to his superiors that all was successful and he was to stay in Russia?  And, that he was about to accomplish the mission he was sent into Russia to do.  This mission was more than likely not working in a factory in Russia.

January 7-January 11, 1960:  Oswald arrives in Minsk and during the next couple of days meets various people there.

January 13, 1960:  Oswald begins work as a “checker” metal worker at the radio factory in Minsk.  The amount of money he receives is adjusted.  He now receives 700 rubles from the Red Cross on the 5th of the month and another 700 rubles for his job at the radio factory.  This 1400 rubles is the same pay as the director of the factory.

Note:  This is very suspicious.  What had he done to receive as much money as a factory director of an important industry in Minsk?

Let’s compare what Oswald received in relation to what the most famous British double agent, Kim Philby, received from the Russians.  Philby, the most important Russian spy in Britain for Russia, received 200 pounds or approximately 1670 rubles per month from the Russians when he defected to the Soviet Union.  Kim Philby became a member of the Communist Party in 1912 and for many years he was a secret Russian agent.

Harvey Oswald received nearly as much as the most notorious spy defector of the Cold War period.  Oswald had 1400 rubles as versus Kim Philby’s 1670 rubles.

To answer the question about why the Red Cross gave 700 rubles per month to Oswald is that they didn’t.  That money was paid to the Red Cross to give to Oswald by the Russian MVD.

The New York Times Archives

June 28, 1964, Page 56

DALLAS, June 27 (AP)— Lee Harvey Oswald said that the Russian secret police had paid half of his income during 1961 while he was in the Soviet Union, The Dallas Morning News said today in a copyright article.

The article by a News reporter, Hugh Aynesworth, said the funds had been mentioned in notes made by the accused assassin of President Kennedy shortly after he had left the Soviet Union in 1962.

Oswald wrote he felt the monthly 700 rubles was payment for “my denunciation of the U.S. in Moscow.” He made the same amount at a job in Minsk. in the Soviet Union.

In a diary disclosed by The News, Oswald mentioned that the additional 700 rubles had been given hini by the Red Cross, but after leaving the Soviet he wrote:

“When I went to Russia in the winter of 1959 my funds were very limited, so after a certain time, after the Russians had assured themselves that I was really the naive American who believed in Communism, they arranged for me to receive a certain amount of money every month.”

“Oh, it came technically through the Red Cross as financial help to a poor political immigrant, but it was arranged by the MVD [secret police],” Oswald wrote.”

Let’s compare what Harvey Oswald received in comparison to another defector, Robert Webster.  From:

THE DEFECTOR STUDY
Staff Report of the
Select Committee on Assassinations
U.S. House of Representatives
Ninety-fifth Congress
Second Session
March 1979

“In the last of July or early August, Webster attended what described as a serious, no drinking meeting held in a private restaurant room at the Metropole Hotel.(247) Webster told two Soviet chemists he could help them make the Rand spray gun he had demonstrated at the U.S. Exhibition.(248) On September 9 he was told he had been accepted by the Soviets. (249) Although he had requested to work in Moscow, Webster was informed he would be sent to Leningrad. (250 )

The following day the Soviet officials registered Webster at the Bucharist Hotel, and instructed him not to leave.(254) He was given 1,000 old rubles and asked to write a note to a Rand employee requesting the money be left for him at the hotel because he was on a tour of Russia. (252)

Webster's girlfriend joined him the following day and both went on a month vacation at the Suitland Sanitarium in Sochi. (263) They returned to Leningrad and began work at the institute, where his girlfriend was employed as an assistant and translator. (264) Webster received 280 rubles per month and a semiannual bonus of 50 to 60 rubles. (265) He lived with his girlfriend in a new apartment building and had three rooms with a bath.”

From Oswald’s Collective paper he said this about the average workers pay:

“Here girls solder and screw the chassis to the frame attaching, transistors, tubes and so forth. They each have quotas depending upon what kind of work they are engaged in. One girl may solder 5 transistors in four minutes while the next girl solders 15 wire leads in 13 minutes. The pay scales here vary but slightly with average pay at 80 rubles without deductions. Deductions include 7 rubles, general tax, 2.50 rubles for bachelors and unmarried girls and any deductions for poor or careless work the inspectors may care to make further down the line.

They start teams of two mostly boys of 17 or 18, turning the telvisions on the conveyor belts right side up, from where there has been soldering to a position where they place picture tubes onto the supports. These boys receive for a 39 hour week, 65-70 rubles, not counting deductions. Further on, others are filling tubes and parts around the picture tube itself, all along the line there are testing apparatus with operators hurriedly afix shape type testing currents, and withdrawing the snaps that fitting out a testers card, pass the equipment back on the conveyor, speed here is essential.”

So, what Oswald was told originally about what he would be paid, 70 rubles, seems to be close to what the average workers at the radio factory were paid.

Let’s summarize Oswald’s pay in relation to others:

Kim Philby- The most notorious Cold War British spy received 1670 rubles from the Soviets when he defected.

Lee Harvey Oswald- Oswald received 1400 rubles, 700 for his job and 700 more from the Red Cross (actually the MVD secret police) for a low rate job at the radio factory in Minsk.  This info on the low quality job comes from fellow workers.

Robert Webster- A Rand Company worker who defected to the Soviet Union.  For helping them make a spray gun he had demonstrated was given first 1000 rubles and later a salary of 280 rubles per month with a semi-annual bonus of 50 to 60 rubles.

Workers at the Minsk Radio factory- Average pay there was about the 70 rubles, perhaps a little higher for women, as Oswald stated he would receive at first.

As you can see, whatever Oswald did for the Russians they considered almost as valuable as a spy who worked for them undercover in Britain for nearly 50 years. Philby joined the Communist Part around 1912 as a student.  Philby as a top rank British Intelligence officer in MI6.

So, what did Oswald do for the Soviets?  One can speculate that it had to do with the U2 intelligence operations of the United States.  Oswald’s whole military career revolved around aviation electronics and radar operations near the U2 at various bases he was stationed at.

What did he know of value?  Most claim that he didn’t have anything of value to give or trade to the Soviets.  That is not true.  Oswald possessed the kind of information that the Soviets would have salivated for and loved to get their hands on.

He knew about military operations, equipment such as radars and planes, codes, frequencies, and general intelligence on military bases he was stationed at.  He may have known more about U2s then most give him credit for.  Oswald was trained in aviation electronics and repair.  He worked with a Sgt. Ransberger in repair and maintenance of air craft in California.

He lived in the same barracks with the U2 maintenance and repair crews.  How difficult would it have been to strike up an after-hours conversation about work?

He was stationed or visited some of the most secret military, intelligent bases in the US, Japan, Philippines, and Taiwan.  What he knew could compromise the entire US Pacific military and intelligence operations in 1959.

Knowing this one can speculate he gave the Soviets sufficient information to help them down the U2 in May, 1960.  This would account for the Soviets giving him an extraordinary sum of money for a defector.

Edited by John Butler
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On 11/16/2019 at 11:30 AM, John Butler said:

January 7, 1960:  Oswald left Moscow by train for Minsk, Belorussia.  At this time, he wrote his mother and brother saying, "I do not wish to ever contact you again. I am beginning a new life and I don't want any part of the old."

Note:  Why would he say such a cruel and hateful thing?  Did he hate his family?  If all is true about Harvey then this was not his family.  They were some folks he had to deal with in the role he was playing.

John,

This may have been particularly easy for the Russian-speaking Oswald since he almost certainly had no living parents or brother, at least living in the United States. In a short “autobiography” allegedly written in “Oswald’s” own hand as part of an application for employment at the Minsk radio plant, he wrote:

Also, this excerpt from page 285 of Harvey and Lee might interest you:

Oswald was given Identity Document P311479, a Soviet residence document for people without citizenship, and told that he would soon be sent to Minsk where he would work in a factory and be paid 700 New Rubles a month.

NOTE: Oswald's salary of 700 New Rubles per month was changed to 90 Hard Rubles
per month on January 1, 1961, when 10 New Rubles were exchanged for 1 Hard Ruble.

The following day Rimma Shirakova accompanied Oswald to the Red Cross office where he was given 5000 Rubles, which he used to pay his hotel bill (2200 Rubles), and purchase a train ticket to Minsk (150 Rubles).2

NOTE: The "Red Cross" in Russia (circa 1959) was an organ of the KGB. It was not
affiliated with the world-wide International Red Cross founded in 1863 in Geneva,
Switzerland.

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Thanks Jim,

NOTE: The "Red Cross" in Russia (circa 1959) was an organ of the KGB. It was not
affiliated with the world-wide International Red Cross founded in 1863 in Geneva,
Switzerland.”

This information on the Red Cross makes sense.  I do mention that the Red Cross is an adjunct of the Secret Police, the MVD.  I didn’t know that and thought perhaps other new people to the study of the Kennedy affair wouldn’t either.  I joined the Forum in Dec., 2016.  There’s a lot to learn and will take more than 3 years.

I probably didn’t explain my thinking here as well as I should.  IMO, this would be out of character for the original Lee Harvey Oswald.  In being out of character this may be a message passed on to his superiors that he was “in”.  This may have been a message that he was now cooperating with the Soviets and they were accepting the information that he was sent into Russia to convey.  I meant to raise a speculative question here.

“January 7, 1960:  Oswald left Moscow by train for Minsk, Belorussia.  At this time, he wrote his mother and brother saying, "I do not wish to ever contact you again. I am beginning a new life and I don't want any part of the old."

Note:  Why would he say such a cruel and hateful thing?  Did he hate his family?  If all is true about Harvey then this was not his family.  They were some folks he had to deal with in the role he was playing.

Or, was this a message to his superiors that all was successful and he was to stay in Russia?  And, that he was about to accomplish the mission he was sent into Russia to do.  This mission was more than likely not working in a factory in Russia.

...

Oswald says a couple of strange things in this note.  1) He says he was stationed with the American Army in Japan.  There is no record of this.  Harvey Oswald was in Japan for about 1 to 3 weeks, probably 1 week.  He may have been referencing Lee Oswald here.  2) He said he went to two aviation schools while with the American Army.  There is no record of this either.

The info on his family is out of character for Lee Harvey Oswald, the original.  This could easily be checked by the Soviets in a short period of time.  It is in a sense an admission “I am an American Agent.”  I don’t know why he would say this except maybe to be caught as an American agent.  Then he could become a double agent for the Russians.  They would understand that and he would be trusted more than a wannabe Russian and communist American defector

This has to be Harvey because of the written Russian below.

What did you think of the following?

“Let’s summarize Oswald’s pay in relation to others:

Kim Philby- The most notorious Cold War British spy received 1670 rubles from the Soviets when he defected.

Lee Harvey Oswald- Oswald received 1400 rubles, 700 for his job and 700 more from the Red Cross (actually the MVD secret police) for a low rate job at the radio factory in Minsk.  This info on the low quality job comes from fellow workers.

Robert Webster- A Rand Company worker who defected to the Soviet Union.  For helping them make a spray gun he had demonstrated was given first 1000 rubles and later a salary of 280 rubles per month with a semi-annual bonus of 50 to 60 rubles.

Workers at the Minsk Radio factory- Average pay there was about the 70 rubles, perhaps a little higher for women, as Oswald stated he would receive at first.

As you can see, whatever Oswald did for the Russians they considered almost as valuable as a spy who worked for them undercover in Britain for nearly 50 years. Philby joined the Communist Part around 1912 as a student.  Philby was a top rank British Intelligence officer in MI6.

I might add here Philby was also a good friend/associate of James Angleton, said to be one of Oswald’s spymasters.

Harvey Oswald provided information to the Soviets.  I take this as a given.  He had to have a reason why the Soviets should take in him as a defector.  The most valuable information he would have is that concerning the U2.  The U2 is all over his military service.

I believe Harvey was sent into the Soviet Union to betray the U2 program to the Russians.  This would disrupt any peace talks between Eisenhower and Khrushchev in the Spring of 1960.  The U2 would eventually be downed by the Soviets.  Why not use this event to accomplish a foreign policy goal contra to peace in the Cold War.  After all the A12 was waiting in the wings.  Soviet "hard liners" under Khrushchev may have wanted this also.

The calculations here are based on old rubles (.4 to the dollar) which changed to new rubles (.9 to the dollar) after Oswald was in Minsk for some time.

The exchange rate for Russian rubles to American dollars is bizarre.  It depended at that time on whatever you were buying.  As an example there would be a different rate of exchange for buying metals as versus something like cereals which required a different exchange rate.

Edited by John Butler
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1 hour ago, Jim Hargrove said:

Oswald was given Identity Document P311479, a Soviet residence document for people without citizenship,

Jim,

I got to puzzling over this.

Why would the Soviets give Oswald an identity card for a person who has no citizenship, when he never renounced his American citizenship to begin with?

There's a couple of things in his late October diary entries that seem suspicious to me.

Oct. 28(con.) Rima notifies me that pass & registration office wishes to see me about my future. Later Rima and car pick me up and we enter the offices to find four officials waiting for me (all unknown to me)…. What papers do you have to show who and what you are? I give them my discharge papers from the Marine Corps.

Why his Marine discharge papers? Didn't Marguerite say that Oswald had his birth certificate with him?

Three days later, he goes to the American embassy and takes his passport with him. Why didn't he take his passport with him when told that the Russian passport office wanted to see him? He only took it when he went to see the Americans. Why?

Oct. 31. I make my decision. Getting passport at 12:00, I meet and talk with Rima for a few minutes…. At 12:30, I arrive American Embassy. I take out my American passport and lay it in the desk, "I have come to dissolve my American citizenship…. I tell him I have decided to take Soviet citizenship and would like to legally dissolve my U.S. citizenship…. Snyder ...and says the dissolution papers are a long time in preparing. (In other words refuses to allow me at that time to dissolve U.S. citizenship.)... "I wish to dissolve U.S. citizenship." Not today, he says in effect.

I leave Embassy, elated at this showdown. Returning to my hotel, I feel now my energies are not spent in vain. I'm sure Russians will accept me after this sign of my faith in them.

If Oswald was talking to American officials in the American Embassy, how would he know that the Soviets knew he had "made a sign of faith in them"?

Did Oswald know that the Embassy was bugged?

Steve Thomas

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I think there's a problem with the math.

If \$1 = 0.9 rubles, then 1 ruble = approximately \$1.11. So that 5000 rubles =approximately  \$5555, not \$4500. And 70 rubles is about \$77, while 700 rubles is about \$777.

So 1400 rubles a month becomes \$1540 a month. For comparison purposes, the first time I got a salary of \$1400 a month was in the 1980s. For 1960-61, that was a higher income than the average American laborer made.

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Mark,

Thanks for the correction.  I like your numbers much better than mine.  Should have divided rather than multiplied.  I can blame that on creeping senility.  I am glad you corrected my blunder.  That further enhances what money Oswald obtained from the Soviets.

The first decent job I had after leaving the service and going to school was working for the Park Service in the summers in 1971-74.  I think I received about \$750 per month.  12 years earlier Oswald was getting twice that for a low ranking factory job.  He was making the same as the factory director.  That has to be meaningful.  If you look at what they gave Robert Webster for a plastic spray gun there is a big difference.  And, Webster didn't even get to keep Marina.  I speculate what Oswald gave to the Soviets was U2 information, information of secret military and intelligence bases, information of the defense structure and function in Japan, the Philippines, Taiwan, and the west coast of the US.

From what you were saying Oswald received \$1540 a month for doing a low ranking job at the radio factory in 1960.  I used the new rubles exchange rate.  That didn't go into effect until after Oswald was in Minsk for some time.

The whole point of the rubles thing was to show that the Russians really valued Oswald highly.  He was placed in the same category as Kim Philby.  Philby was Britain's most notorious spy for the Russians for decades.

Edited by John Butler