Ostap Bender is alive again, after somehow surviving the assassination in the previous book. This time he hears a story about an “underground millionaire”, Alexandr Koreiko. Koreiko has made millions, a truly enormous sum, by living on 46 rubles a month, through various illegal enterprises, taking full advantage of the widespread corruption in the New Economic Policy (NEP) period. Living in a city by the Black Sea, and working as an accountant for a government office in charge of economic management, Koreiko keeps his large stash of wrongly acquired money in a suitcase, waiting for the fall of the Soviet government, so that he can make use of it. Together with two associates, two petty criminals, and an extremely naive and innocent car driver, Bender finds out about him and starts to collect all the information he can get on Koreiko’s business activities. Koreiko tries to flee, but Bender eventually tracks him down in Turkestan (Uzbekistan), Central Asia. He then blackmails him into giving him a million rubles. By suddenly becoming rich, Bender faces the problem of how to spend his money in a country where there are no legal millionaires. Nothing of the life of the rich Bender dreamt of seems possible in the Soviet Union. Frustrated, Bender even decides to anonymously donate the money to Ministry of Finance, but changes his mind. He decides to buy a large quantity of jewels and gold, and tries to cross the Romanian border, only to be robbed by the Romanian border guards. The only thing he manages to keep after the customs inspection is a medal, the Order of the Golden Fleece (or Golden Calf). Koreiko finds another job as an accountant. He hides the rest of his cash, and continues to wait for the fall of the Soviets. “The Golden Calf“ was first published in 1931.
There are two variations of the ending of “The Golden Calf”. One was written at the time of delivering the novel to the magazine “Thirty days” to be printed. The other appeared later, probably under the influence of objections to the writers for poetizing their main character. According to the first, Ostap Bender, after reaching his “million”, familiarizes himself with the sorrow of a lonely man who has fulfilled his purpose, renounces the fortune, and maries his beloved, Zoya Sinicka. In the second, he is torn. At first, he returns his “million” to the Commissariat of Finance, but then changes his mind. Determined to travel to Rio de Janeiro, he was caught crossing the Romanian border and sent back home, after being deprived of his fortune by Romanian border guards.
“No ovations! I haven’t become Count Monte Christo . I’ll have to retrain for a caretaker”. (the 1932 English translation reads: "I shall have to qualify as a janitor")
And so, in the eternally living enthusiasm and returning to the old position of a stray and a seeker for a personal happiness and integrity, this individualist’s life passes by. A man who is defeated, but never surrenders. The hero’s name, “the great wheeler-dealer”, by far is a synonym of an eternal coping in life, at any cost.