Nevada City, CA — As a handful of protesters took to the Brunswick overpass for the 4th protest in the past five weeks against the wireless 5G roll-out, none knew of the deep connection their efforts with the Russian government. Still fewer, except for a few participating old-timers, had any idea of the 150-year link between the quaint Sierra Nevada foothills town and Russian oligarchs.
“Oh, the Russian stranglehold is well known around here, at least it was,” said unofficial Nevada City historian 62-year-old Toby “Doob” Carnvale who was attending the protest and was inebriated. “But it’s rarely spoken about by historians, for obvious reasons.” When asked what the ‘obvious reasons’ might be, Doob shushed us and looked around suspiciously.
For the first 100 years of Nevada City’s existence, no one questioned Russia’s and then the former Soviet Union’s presence in the California Gold Rush town.
Russia’s Roots in the California Gold Rush
“It goes back to the gold rush, like everything else. It’s pretty obvious why Russia was here in the 1850s, but it wasn’t always nefarious,” continued Doob adjusting his crotch in the cold January morning. “They all started as fur traders and then prospectors, as you might imagine. A lot of people don’t know that Commercial Street used to be called Kyiv Lane. They changed it after a Russian was accused of starting the great 1965 fire.”
It was after the fire, says Doob, that an early form of the Russian Bratva mob descended on Nevada City.
“Well, that was it. Around 1866 these scary-looking Russian fellas showed up in town. And they brought with them this new technology to shoot water out of a cannon and takedown a whole mountain looking for gold. There were attempts to stop them, but the mayor, and then councilmembers, started disappearing if you know what I mean.”
It wasn’t until the great Marysville/Yuba City floods caused by these environmentally catastrophic mining operations that the government was finally able to stop the Russians. However, due to corruption at the California State Capitol, they were able to continue “monitor mining” up until 1884. From that point on, the Russians shifted their attention from grift and gold mining to manipulating government officials.
Starting around 1874, rumors began circulating about the dangers of a new technology initially called “a voice telegraph,” which would come to be known as the telephone. Wild and unsubstantiated rumors about the lethal dangers of this new technology started surfacing in local newspapers. Although none of the claims were true, it took authorities another four years to finally activate the nation’s first long-distance telephone service on the North San Juan Ridge, just outside of Nevada City.
“Oh, people were going crazy back then. And the Russians were behind it,” said Doob looking off towards Banner Mountain in the distance. “People were saying all kinds of things about the telephone lines like, ‘you’re going to go mad from the wires’ and ‘electrical signals are the voice of satan.’ Not sure what they had to gain from it, other than making everyone crazy and suspicious of each other.”
After the 18th Amendment was passed in January 1919, the Russians found a new opportunity.
“Well, they certainly had a grip on many of the governments, and Nevada City was no exception,” said Doob nervously, looking around as a car honked in agreement with the protestors. “Even Teddy [Roosevelt] couldn’t get them out Nevada County. In fact, after his 1906 visit, he never came back here. But it was Prohibition where they made their money.”
And the Russian mob made their money not by booze running, like the Irish and the Italians did, but rather by fear. The oligarch-backed mob spread vicious and false rumors that the bootlegged liquor from the Italians and particularly the Irish, was tainted. This drove business away from both anti-Italian and Irish sentiments and allowed the Russians to corner the illegal booze trafficking market throughout the gold rush Motherload.
“The Russians made money in two ways: politicians and booze,” continued Doob. “As legend has it, the White Russian cocktail was invented by Mokelumne Hill bartender William Franks who attempted to gain favor Bratva mob. It seems he owed them some gambling debts. It didn’t turn out too good for Frank. However, a prospector found him at the bottom of a well around Sutter Creek.”
What Red Scare?
Following World War II, the nation was in the grips of the red scare. There were Russians everywhere, and everyone was terrified. But not in Nevada County. However, a few and famous Nevada City residents became caught-up in Senator Joseph McCarthy’s tactics. Most notably of them were Julius and Ethel Rosenberg, who were convicted and executed for treason.
Mr. Carnvale claims he’s related to Julius, although he has no way to back up that claim.
“Julius was born on Cottage Street like I was. Although Ethel was from Brooklyn, New York, they met after the war. Some say they the Soviets hooked them up in Nevada City. We’ll never know for sure. But that’s just another example of how mother Russia seems permanently connected to this place.”
Senator McCarthy made several references to Nevada City during his hearing on Capitol Hill, however never by name, which has always been curious. He referred to it as a “prominent gold rush town.”
“Yeah, he never referred to us by name,” said Doob. “Which kinda made us angry and relieved at the same time, you know? I mean, who wants all that negative attention?”
Local newspaper accounts from the 1950s confirm this.
“Look, during the early 1950s, there was no red scare in Nevada City. Now you know why.”
After the 1950s, the area started suffering an economic decline as the gold mining industry lost its luster. And with that loss, so went the rest of the communities. But even though as native-born families began to leave for “the flatlands,” as it was not so affectionately called, the Russians laid low and didn’t move.
“They figured this would all blow over; that eventually things would return to better times. I mean, when you think about it, who knows more about terrible situations than the Russians?”
And after about 30 years in a regional depression, the area did return as new industries appeared, and retirees began buying up properties. That’s when the dormant Bratva awoke from a deep hibernation, sprouting like a fungus on the political scene.
And they didn’t miss a beat, resorting to their time-tested techniques of intimidation and fear.
“We never really had a fair and free election here from what I can tell,” mused Mr. Carnvale, who seemed to light up a joint mid-sentence. “I mean, we censured this council member twice for some really bad stuff. It was a pretty horrible situation. But now she’s the city’s mayor. No one could figure out how that happened. Like everything else, it’s the Russians. That’s how they like it.”
Now, according to Doob, they have their sites on new conspiracies to wrap susceptible and weak minds into confusion and fear.
“At first, it was vaccines. Then it was this crazy thing called chemtrails. And if that wasn’t weird enough, they returned to the old ‘the telephones are killing you’ thing from the 1870s for this new 5G thing. And it seems to be working, sort of. The latest thing they have going on is merging all of these odd things into one colossal theory. You know, the 5G activates the chemtrails which target vaccinated.”
And from various investigative news reports around the world, Nevada City isn’t unique in this regard. Much like the disinformation campaign surrounding the 2016 election in the United States, the Russian Federation has found a new home in what critics call the “derp-o-sphere” on social media and beyond.
All this has the effect of confusing people, so they don’t know how to trust. And all it takes is just a few mentally unstable citizens to carry water for these outlandish “theories.” They show up together at City Council meetings, form secret groups on Facebook, and hold protests like the one Mr. Carnvale is attending for “kicks and fresh air.”
“That’s something the Russians have been good at since the beginning,” Doob said, taking one last toke on his joint. “They can’t win on the battlefield, so they wait it out like one of their winters. And while they’re waiting it out, they take the time to stir up shit. You know, take advantage of people who probably aren’t that well in the head. You know, some people say that about me. But for now, I know I’m OK. I’m just a spectator in all this.”