On November 12, 1841, Tsar Nicholas I issued a decree to establish the first private savings institutions in Russia “for the purpose of providing all people of common rank and origin the means of making savings in a reliable and profitable manner.”
The first Savings Banks (Sberbanks or Sberkassa) were opened the following year in St. Petersburg and Moscow. The person to leave his mark on history as the first customer was Nikolay Kristofari, who tendered a deposit of ten rubles (a large sum of money at that time) and was presented with savings book No. 1.
Government agencies embarked on an extensive outreach campaign about the benefits of savings banks, releasing brochures that advertised the convenience of holding funds in a savings account.
Gradually the number of investors began to grow. Over the next 20 years, about 45 savings banks opened in nearly all of Russia's regional capitals. By 1860, the Moscow branch served more than 500 people daily (compared to 70 in 1842). These banks were unique because they served all classes of society. Among the depositors were military and civilian officials, merchants and tradesmen, peasants and servants.
After the communist revolution of 1917, Sberbanks, unlike the commercial banks, were preserved. In 1922 they became known as the State Labor Savings Offices, and eventually became outlets of the only Soviet bank, The State Bank of USSR (or Gosbank).
After the disintegration of the USSR, it was the only bank to preserve its structure. Today Sberbank of the Russian Federation is the largest credit organization in Russia and is the backbone not only for the country's banking system, but also for all of Russia's economy.