In July 1920, no one was allowed to traffic a commodity in the new communist country and to reinforce the rules, the authorities imposed the death penalty on anyone suspected of “speculating”. Tons of fish rotted in Tobolsk and at Omsk, there was a mountain of salt and yet across the Ural Mountains there was none and people were starving.
The quartermaster of the British prisoners, Emerson MacMillan secretly stowed about 40 pounds of salt in a kit bag when they departed under guard for Moscow on 14th July. At the evening halt, a woman in rags stepped up to him and whispered Salee? While the guards were distracted, a handful of salt was traded for a pound of prized butter and the woman seemed to think she had the best of the deal.