The Russian Gold Rush | National Geographic in Russia

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National Geographic's Sergey Gordeev details the history of the Russian Gold Rush

SERGEY GORDEEV: Gold is the most powerful metal on earth. And Russia is one of the world's leading suppliers of it. It all began in 1745 when a peasant named Erofey Markov, while looking for crystal, found something else, a tiny gold speck inside a piece of quartz. His discovery changed the history of Russia and the world.

Three years after Markov found the first gold in Russia, mines like these popped up all over this region. It was grueling work. To get an ounce of gold, miners had to cut, grind, and wash more than seven tons of raw ore. For the next 66 years, this was the only way to extract gold in Russia until Lev Brusnitsin made a revolutionary discovery.

A son of a gold miner, Brusnitsin discovered that gold flex also existed in the sediment of local riverbeds. He then developed an ingenious panning technique based on a simple principle. Gold is heavier than rock and sand, and if washed properly, it will sink to the bottom of a pan.

SERGEY GORDEEV: By 1816, only two years later, half of all gold in Russia was obtained using Brusnitsin's method. And because it was now accessible to everyone, people from all over Russia flocked here to get rich quick. And so, the Russian gold rush began.

It wasn't long before Brusnitsin's method caught on around the world. In 1848, gold was discovered at Sutter's Mill in California. And Russian teams even came out to teach the Americans how to pan for it. So you could say that without the Russian gold rush, the American gold rush might never have happened.