661.11241/16: Telegram

The Chargé in the Soviet Union ( Henderson ) to the Secretary of State

24. Department’s telegram No. 16, January 15, 4 p.m.

The effects of the following departing staff members have been inspected:
At their dwelling: Ambassador Bullitt, Foreign Service Officers Wiley, Hanson, Shantz, Kennan, Kuniholm and Durbrow; Vice Consul Murray, Lieutenant White, Captain Nimmer and Dr. Rumreich.
At the customhouse: Vice Consul Johnson and Kock, clerks Davis, Ceres, Vukmanic, Hurteau, Eustis and Lepley; naval enlisted men Chapman and Hampel, and Military Attaché clerks Ecker, Barrett and Lange.
Appraisal fees or export duties were paid by the following:
Wiley: duty, rubles 550, September 1935.
Shantz: duty, rubles 2000, February 1936.
Kuniholm: duty, rubles 525, August 1936.
Davies: appraisal fee, rubles 1013.32, and duty, rubles 28,310, March 1937.
Hampel: duty, approximately rubles 40, April 1937.
Johnson: duty, approximately rubles 50, May 1937.
Rumreich: appraisal fee, rubles 155, and duty, rubles 245, January 1938.
The following persons were informed by the customs that certain articles presented to the customs for examination could be exported only upon paying export duty, but these articles were not appraised, being disposed of principally through sale in the Soviet Union, so the Embassy cannot state specifically that payment of export duty was refused, or the amount of export duty requested: Kuniholm, Durbrow, Rumreich, Kock, Davis, Eustis, and Barrett.
Insofar as the Embassy is aware no member of the staff has paid export duty on imported effects. On the other hand in almost all instances of departing members the customs has consented to the duty free exportation of certain imported articles only after protracted and disagreeable negotiations. It is believed that many difficulties could have been avoided had full lists of articles imported been submitted [Page 631] to the customs by each member upon his arrival in the Soviet Union. Unfortunately, not until comparatively recently has the Embassy fully understood that it is necessary to prove the foreign origin of articles other than silver, jewelry, works of art and the like. It had been the Embassy’s understanding that the customs authorities would permit the exportation of at least ordinary household effects of obviously foreign origin.
During the course of an assignment to Moscow it is natural that, since current needs for household effects should be satisfied by local purchases, the Embassy feels that export duty should not be levied on such articles. Since the members of the Diplomatic Corps, other than Chiefs of Mission, have not pushed to an issue their objections to the payment of duty on such articles, it has been difficult for this Embassy single-handed to combat the Soviet practice. Most of the other Missions have avoided the payment of export duties by sending out dutiable articles under cover of courier, letter, or by having retiring Chiefs of Missions take out with them the dutiable effects of members of their staff.
The Department might find it advisable to delay this matter until it receives a despatch on the subject in the course of preparation.43
  1. Despatch No. 961, February 18, 1938, not printed.