“Сoin with a Scar” – The Story of the Russian Rouble


Soviet golden chervonets

The amount of 10 roubles (in either bill or coin) is sometimes informally called  chervonets. Historically, it was the name for the first Russian three-rouble gold coin issued for general circulation in 1701. The current meaning comes from the Soviet golden chervonets (сове́тский золото́й черво́нец), issued in 1923. It was equal to the pre-revolution 10 gold roubles. All these names are no longer in use, however. The practice of using the old kopek coin names for amounts in roubles is not very common today.

Russia’s  American City

A 100 years ago Alexander III Russian emperor decided that it was necessary “to connect by inner railway net the Siberian regions which are richest with gifts of Nature”. Thus, the building of Great Siberian Railway had begun.
Primarily it was considered that Trans-Siberian Railroad would cross the Ob river near the big age-old Kolyvan village. But to the insistence of Mr. N.G.Garin Mikhaylovsky, the chief of prospecting party and a Russian writer, they made the final decision to build the bridge near the Krivoschokovo village. In a letter some time later Mr. Garin wrote : “The moving of the bridge location is my own merit, and I see with pleasure that the railroad didn’t decline my idea”. The building of the bridge commenced on May 20, 1893 in a forested area on the bank of the Ob river a solemn church service was held to begin of laying of the bridge, the project was designed by N.A.Belelubsky, a professor at the Petersburg Railway College. It took many workers to build the bridge. It was because of this  the Novonikolaevsk settlement began to grow which later became the largest town in Russian Asia.

The bridge  opened for traffic across the Ob river in the spring of 1897. The building of railway station and locomotive depot with workshops was completed during this same time. After it’s completion many workers left for other building sites, regardless the settlement continued to grow. This was due to the fact that it was conveniently located, established by it’s geographical position. Peasants from the Altay region and nearest villages brought great quantities of grain to the city that could then be transported easily by railroad to other locations.
The great amount of goods opened up active in the region of the Great Siberian railway which in a very short time turned the small settlement into a growing metropolis; Novonikolaevsk was given the official status of the city on December, 1903.

Novonikolaevsk soon became the banking capital of the region. In 1906 there was only one financial institute in the city – the Siberian Bank, by 1915 there arose 5 commercial banks in the city.

The population of the city rose so quickly, that the first city’s mayor, Mr.V.Jernakov said: “It (Novonikolaevsk) has rightfully been named a American City”. When in the bridge was opened in 1897 for traffic, the Novonikolaevsk settlement accounted seventy-eight hundred people. By 1903 it was already a city without a so called “uezd” – surrounding administrative territory – and accounted 22 thousand people. In 1907 it became a city with all the rights of self-government and population of 47 thousand. See more here.

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The word ruble comes from “rubit” (to chop)

The most well known version of “ruble” the word origin is thought to have derived from the Russian verb “rubit” (to chop). In early history of Russia the ruble was a piece chopped off a silver bar called a grivna. That’s why later the term became the official name of Russian currency.

Russian commerce was based on these tiny silver coins called wire money for hundreds of years.  The coins themselves were struck by taking a piece of silver wire. Cutting it to it’s proper weight, then smashing it between a pair of dies. This was all  done by strong-armed Russian.  As might be expected, the coins were quite crude, small and are usually struck partly off-center.  The coin showed a horseman on one side and legends on the other.
Following the death of Ivan the Terrible, Russia fell into a period of almost 20 years chaos and civil war. In an effort to bring the fighting to an end. In 1613 The Council of All Russia elected the 16 year old Michael Fydorovich Romanov as Czar. Despite many expected him to fail, the young leader slowly established his control over Russia and wisely avoided any involvement in the wars of Europe. By the time of his death in 1645 he had established the powerful Romanov dynasty, which was to last over 300 years, until the Russian Revolution in 1917.

Russia’s First Minted Coins came from

St. Petersburg.

It was First Peter the Great who planned to build a mint in St. Petersburg around 1720. It was the logical outcome of the transfer of the Russian capital to the new city on the Neva river. Unfortunately this plan was postponed due to a whole range of technical and organizational reasons. The building of the mint finally occurred in 1724. The Mint was established in the Trubetzkoy bastion of the Peter and Paul Fortress.

In the beginning very few coins were manufactured in St. Petersburg. It would only be gold coins that would be manufactured and only in a  limited number (When it did happen all gold and silver coins were manufactured in St. Petersburg starting in 1765). However, a new Mint was planned by Peter the Great as a base of reference for other mints that would be built in Russia, because of this great attention was paid to its technical equipment. Machinery for the St. Petersburg Mint was ordered from Nuremberg, Germany which at that time was the European center of coinage press manufacturing. Peter the Great ordered only the very best equipment they produced. It was because of this that the Mint in Trubetzkoy bastion became one of the most advanced coin manufacturers in all of Europe.

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The paper ruble appeared in 1769

The paper ruble appeared in 1769, during the reign of Catherine the 2nd, who, being a frugal ruler, was saving money for a war with Turkey and dramatically reduced the production of silver coins. The worst year for the single currency of Russia was 1915. Then, the ruble was printed only on paper and depreciated catastrophically, which, however, did not prevent it from surviving the collapse of the Russian Empire and stepping into the “bright socialist future.” See more here.


A History of continuous Reconstructions

History of the Bolshoi Theater is actually the history of continuous reconstructions and restorations almost from the date of its construction till present time. The last 120 years the building of theater is under constant process of restoration and repairs. Rate of building dilapidation is within the range of 50 – 70 percent according to different appraisals. Different methods of restoration and reconstruction of the Bolshoi Theater were suggested: from trivial capital repairs to complete reconstruction of the existing building. As a result the project, approved by the Theater Company, culture figures, architects, etc was selected. The project has included: scientific restoration of audience part of the theater and ultimate reconstruction of stage part with deepening of underground space. In this case the historical appearance of building an architectural monument is reserved. See more here.

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Quintessentially Russian

“The ruble is the most ancient symbol of Russian statehood,” according to ruble historian Sorokoumov, adding that it is as important for Russia’s identity as the Russian language.

Over recent years, Russian officials have sought to boost the ruble’s profile on the world stage.

In 2009, then-President Dmitry Medvedev pushed for the ruble to become an international reserve currency, criticizing the world’s dependence on the dollar.

The Kremlin has also pushed ahead with plans to forge a global financial center in Moscow, and last year the Central Bank launched an official symbol for the ruble. See more here.


Solovetsky Monastery a citadel of Christianity

and Great Wealth

Solovetsky Monastery was the greatest citadel of Christianity in the Russian North before being turned into a special Soviet prison and labor camp (1926–1939), which served as a prototype for the Gulag system. Situated on the Solovetsky Islands in the White Sea, the monastery braved many changes of fortune and military sieges. Its most important structures date from the 16th century, when Filip Kolychev was its hegumen. For more see here.

The monastery became so rich that in 1514 an equipment inventory of monastery was required. Up to the middle of the 16th century, the monastery was the most important owner along the White Sea coast. Forests, villages, salt houses, ploughed fields, lakes and fishing places belonged to the cloister. In the 16th and 17th centuries, 1600-2240 thousand tons of salt were made in salt houses of the monastery. This salt was sold all over Russia.

The fact that solovki salt was “black” is not known today. The salt was produced with ground corn and seaweed. As a result, when the salt is drying in a stove it becomes black. One salt-house produced more than 3 tons of salt in less than 48 hours. Salt was made with great effort, was highly valued and made quick returns. See more here.

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The Ruble as an International Currency

During its 700-year history, the ruble was never officially used in other countries until recently, when free circulation of the ruble was first introduced in the Chinese city of Suifenhe, just near the Russian-Chinese border.

The Chinese government’s decision allows residents in the city to hold accounts in both yuans and rubles, and both currencies are equally accepted in shops and during cashless settlements.

This decision has institutionalized the practice common for this region since the 90s – Suifenhe is a hot spot for Russian and Chinese shuttle traders, as well as tourists from Russian East, who come here loaded with rubles.

Other countries frequented by Russian tourists, like Portugal, Bulgaria, and Montenegro, may also open their doors to ruble in the near future. With the Russian ruble poised to become more international, a few crucial moments of its history are worth examination. See more here.

Isolation from the Latin Civilization

The city of Yaroslavl is important in many regards, first it has a history of over one thousand years. During that time Yaroslavl was and has been one of the strongholds of the Russian statehood. Yaroslavl the Wise to which the city is named was built after he defeated his brother Svyatopolk the Accursed the first time in 1016 and then again ten years later. Yaroslav ruled Kievan Rus for almost 35 years, consolidating political and economic power and making the city of Kiev one of the greatest cultural centers in eastern Europe.

It is important to understand that the close religious ties of Yaroslav with the Byzantine Church contributed to the future isolation of Russia from the Roman Catholic Church and consequently from Latin civilization. The cultural and religious development of Kievan Rus was further advanced by Yaroslav during his rule. He promoted the spread of Christianity, which was formally introduced by his father, Vladimir, in 988.

Yaroslav pursued a very active foreign policy; he supported and promoted international trade. Russian merchants successfully traded as far as the Byzantine Empire, France, Hungary, Norway, and Persia.

He built alliances with several central European and western powers through dynastic marriages, as his daughter Elizabeth was married to Harald III of Norway, daughter Anna to Henry I of France, and Anastasia to Andrew I of Hungary. Yaroslav was married to a Swedish princess and his sister married a Byzantine prince. This cemented the high prestige of the Kievan Rus state, and Yaroslav’s dynasty in Europe. See more here, and here.

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The Future of the Ruble “Altyn”

Altyn was the name of the ancient gold coin once used by Russians extensively for trade with Turkic and Arabic neighbors. Later, in medieval times, altyn, or  “altynnik,” became one of the regular Russian coins. In 15th century, altyn equalled six Moscow dengi, or 1/200s of a Moscow ruble. It also equaled three Novgorod dengi, or 1/100s of a Novgorod ruble. “Denga” was also called “kopeika” (kopeika is presently the 1/100s of a ruble). In the ancient times it was also called the arian “kuna.” See more here, and here.

 A Great Statesman and Reformer

Nikolay Muravyov-Amursky (1809-1881), former Governor-General of East Siberia, who went down in history as a great statesman and a great reformer is depicted on the 5000 ruble note. A hereditary nobleman, Nikolay Muravyov spent a lot of time abroad and took part in military campaigns. In 1847 he was appointed governor-general of East Siberia and then on he put in tremendous effort to develop East Siberia and the Far East and to strengthen Russia’s positions in the east by ensuring Russia’s access to the Pacific and establishing good contacts with eastern neighbors – China, Japan and America. Nikolay Muravyov took credit for returning the Amur River, a waterway for communication with the Pacific, which Russia gave China in 1689.

“Nikolai Muraviev tried his best to delineate the border along the Amur and went on numerous expeditions with a view to build more settlements and cultivate the region. One after another he set up Cossack settlements along the Amur”.

Talks with China to annex the Amur started in 1854 and ended in 1858, when Muraviev concluded the Treaty of Aigun, which recognized the Amur River as the boundary between Russia and China. For this Muravyov was granted the title of Count Amursky. Among Muravyov’s other achievements were building plants and ports and he opened a theatre whose architectural design was akin to big city architecture

“Nikolay Muravyov strived for order and fought against corruption, bribery. Under his rule serfs were freed in East Siberia well before the official abolition of serfdom in 1861. Irkutsk got a publishing house, a branch of the Russian Geographic Society, a theatre and a number of schools”.

For thirteen years in office Nikolay Muravyov did so much for East Siberia that this time came to be known as the “Muravyov age”. See more here.







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