The Soviet ruble (Russian: рубль; see below for other languages of the USSR) was the currency of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR). One ruble was divided into 100 kopeks (Russian: копе́йка, pl. копе́йки – kopeyka, kopeyki). Many of the ruble designs were created by Ivan Dubasov. The production of Soviet rubles was the responsibility of the Federal State Unitary Enterprise, or Goznak, which was in charge of the printing of and materials production for banknotes and the minting of coins in Moscow and Leningrad. In addition to regular currency, some other currency units were used, such as several forms of convertible ruble, transferable ruble, clearing ruble, Vneshtorgbank cheque, etc.; also, several forms of virtual rubles (called "non-cash ruble" or "cachless ruble": "Безналичный рубль" beznalichny rubl) were used for inter-enterprise accounting and international settlement in the Comecon zone. In 1991, after the breakup of the USSR, the Soviet ruble continued to be used in the post-Soviet states, forming a "ruble zone", until it was replaced with the Russian ruble by 1993.
|советский рубль (in Russian)|
|Plural||rubli (nom. pl.), rubley (gen. pl.)|
|kopek (копейка)||kopeyki (nom. pl.), kopeyek (gen. pl.)|
|Banknotes||1, 3, 5, 10, 25, 50, 100, 200, 500, 1000 rubles|
|Coins||1, 2, 3, 5, 10, 15, 20, 50 kopeks, 1, 3, 5, 10 rubles|
|Central bank||State Bank of the Soviet Union|
|Mint||Leningrad (1921–41; 1946–91)|
|Pegged with||1 Pound Sterling = 1 Soviet ruble (1961–1991)|
This infobox shows the latest status before this currency was rendered obsolete.
The word ruble is derived from the Slavic verb рубить, rubit', i.e., 'to chop'. Historically, a "ruble" was a piece of a certain weight chopped off a silver ingot (grivna), hence the name. The word kopek, kopeck, copeck, or kopeyka (in Russian: копейка) is a diminutive form of the Russian kop'yo (копьё)—a spear. The reason for this is that a horseman armed with a spear was stamped on one of the faces of the coin.
The word kopeyka is a direct translation of old Lithuanian money kapa that has the same meaning 'to chop' in Lithuanian as does "ruble" in Russian. For many centuries, around 500,000 km2 of contemporary Russia were Lithuanian lands inhabited by Lithuanians, and in this region Lithuanian kapa circulated. After the annexation of these lands by Muscovy (which in 1547 reformed itself into Russia), a modified version of this Lithuanian word came to be used by Russia as the hundredth fraction of the ruble.
Ruble in the Soviet Union
The Soviet currency had its own name in all the languages of the Soviet Union, often different from its Russian designation. All banknotes had the currency name and their nominal printed in the languages of every Soviet Republic. This naming is preserved in modern Russia; for example: Tatar for 'ruble' and 'kopek' are сум (sum) and тиен (tiyen). The current names of several currencies of Central Asia are simply the local names of the ruble. Finnish last appeared on 1947 banknotes since the Karelo-Finnish SSR was dissolved in 1956.
The name of the currency in the languages of the fifteen republics, in the order they appeared in the banknotes:
|Language||In local language||IPA Transcription|
Note that the scripts for Uzbek, Azerbaijani, and Turkmen have switched from Cyrillic to Latin since the breakup of the Soviet Union. Moldovan has switched to Latin and is once again referred to as Romanian.
These fifteen names derive from four roots:
Historical Soviet rubles
First Soviet ruble
The first ruble issued for the Socialist government was a preliminary issue still based on the previous issue of the ruble prior to the Russian Revolution of 1917. They are all in banknote form and started their issue in 1919. At this time other issues were made by the white Russian government and other governing bodies.
Denominations were as follows: 1, 2, 3, 5, 10, 15, 25, 50, 60, 100, 250, 500, 1,000, 5,000, 10,000, 25,000, 50,000 and 100,000. Short term treasury certificate were also issued to supplement banknote issue in 1 million, 5 million and 10 million rubles. These issue was printed in various fashions, as inflation crept up the security features were few and some were printed on one side, as was the case for the German inflationary notes.
In 1918, state credit notes were introduced by the RSFSR for 1, 3, 5, 10, 25, 50, 100, 250, 500, 1,000, 5,000 and 10,000 rubles. These were followed in 1919 by currency notes for 1, 2, 3, 15, 20, 60, 100, 250, 500, 1000, 5000 and 10,000 rubles. In 1921, currency note denominations of 5, 50, 25,000, 50,000, 100,000, 1,000,000, 5,000,000 and 10,000,000 rubles were added.
Second Soviet ruble, January 1 – December 31, 1922
In 1922, the first of several redenominations took place, at a rate of 1 "new" ruble for 10,000 "old" rubles. The chervonets (червонец) was also introduced in 1922. This currency was short-lived, lasting only a full year.
Only state currency notes were issued for this currency, in denominations of 1, 3, 5, 10, 25, 50, 100, 250, 500, 1,000, 5,000 and 10,000 rubles.
Third Soviet ruble, January 1, 1923 – March 6, 1924
A second redenomination took place in 1923, at a rate of 100 to 1. Again, only paper money was issued. During the lifetime of this currency, the first money of the Soviet Union was issued. This currency was short lived, not lasting too long after Vladimir Lenin's death, but lasting over two months longer than its predecessor.
The first coinage after the Russian civil war was minted in 1921–1923 with silver coins in denominations of 10, 15, 20 and 50 kopecks and 1 ruble. Gold chervonets were issued in 1923. These coins bore the emblem and legends of the RSFSR (Russian Soviet Federative Socialist Republic) and depicted the famous slogan, "Workers of the world, Unite!". The 10, 15, and 20 kopecks were minted with a purity of 50% silver while the ruble and half-ruble were minted with a purity of 90% silver. The chervonetz was 90% gold. These coins would continue to circulate after the RSFSR was consolidated into the USSR with other Soviet Republics until the discontinuation of silver coinage in 1931.
As with the previous currency, only state currency notes were issued, in denominations of 50 kopeks, 1, 5, 10, 25, 50, 100, 250, 500, 1,000, 5,000 and 10,000 rubles. In early 1924, just before the next redenomination, the first paper money was issued in the name of the USSR, featuring the state emblem with 6 bands around the wheat, representing the languages of the then 4 constituent republics of the Union: Russian SFSR, Transcaucasian SFSR (Azerbaijani, Armenian, and Georgian), Ukrainian SSR and Byelorussian SSR. They were dated 1923 and were in denominations of 10,000, 15,000, and 25,000 rubles.
Fourth (gold) Soviet ruble, March 7, 1924 – 1947
After Joseph Stalin's consolidation of power following the death of Lenin, he launched a third redenomination in 1924 by introducing the "gold" ruble at a value of 50,000 rubles of the previous issue. This reform also saw the ruble linked to the chervonets, at a value of 10 rubles and put an end to chronic inflation. Coins began to be issued again in 1924, while paper money was issued in rubles for values below 10 rubles and in chervonets for higher denominations.
In 1924, copper coins were introduced in denominations of 1-, 2-, 3 and 5 kopecks, together with new silver 10-, 15 and 20 kopecks, 1 poltinnik (50 kopecks) and 1 ruble. From this issue onward, the coins were minted in the name of the USSR (Union of the Soviet Socialist Republics). The "Workers of the World" slogan was carried forward. However, 1921–1923 coins were allowed to continue circulating. Copper ½-kopeck coins were also introduced in 1925. The copper coins were minted in two types; plain edge and reeded edge, with the plain-edged types being the fewest in number. The silver coins once again had the same silver purity as the previous issues. The 1-ruble coin was only issued in 1924 and production of the poltinnik (50 kopecks) was stopped in 1927, while the ½-kopeck coin ceased to be minted in 1928. Coins of this period were issued in the same sizes as the coins previously used during the Czarist period. In 1926, smaller, aluminium-bronze coins were minted to replace the large copper 1-, 2-, 3- and 5-kopecks coins, but were not released until 1928. The larger coins were then melted down.
A shortage of silver coins had perpetually dogged the Soviet economy in the 1920s and silver was becoming too expensive to use, with much of it needing to be imported. By 1930 the silver coin shortage had become acute and Soviet authorities scapegoated "hoarders" and "exchange speculators" as responsible for the shortages, and confiscatory measures were taken. In 1931, the remaining silver coins were replaced with redesigned cupro-nickel coins depicting a male worker holding up a shield which contained the denominations of each. All silver coins were returned and melted down. In 1935, the reverse of the 10-, 15-, and 20-kopecks coins were redesigned again with a more simple Art Deco inspired design, with the obverse of all denominations also redesigned, having the "Workers of the world, unite!" slogan dropped. The change of the obverse designs did not affect all 1-, 2-, 3-, and 5-kopecks coins immediately, as some 1935 issues bore the "Workers of the World" design while some bore the new "CCCP" design. The state emblem also went through a series of changes between 1935 and 1957 as new soviet republics were added or created, this can be noted by the number of "ribbons" wrapped around the wheat sheaves. This coin series remained in circulation during and after the monetary reform of 1947 and was finally discontinued in 1961.
In August 1941, the wartime emergency prompted the minting facilities to be evacuated from the Neva district in Moscow and relocated to Permskaya Oblast as German forces continued to advance eastward. It only became possible to resume coin production in the autumn of 1942, for one year the country was using coins made before the war. Furthermore, the coins were made of what had suddenly become precious metals – copper and nickel, which were needed for the defense industry. This meant many coins were being produced in only limited quantities, with some denominations being skipped altogether until the crisis finally abated in late 1944. These disruptions led to severe coin shortages in many regions. Limits were put in place on how much change could be carried in coins with limits of 3 rubles for individuals and 10 rubles for vendors to prevent hoarding as coins became increasingly high in demand. Only high inflation and wartime rationing helped ease pressure significantly. In some instances, postage stamps and coupons were being used in place of small denomination coins. It was not until 1947 that there were finally enough coins in circulation to meet economic demand and restrictions could be eased.
In 1924, state currency notes were introduced for 1, 3 and 5 gold rubles (рубль золотом). These circulated alongside the chervonets notes introduced in 1922 by the State Bank in denominations of 1, 3, 5 10 and 25 chervonets. State Treasury notes replaced the state currency notes after 1928. In 1938, new notes were issued for 1, 3 and 5 rubles, dropping the word "gold".
Fifth Soviet ruble, 1947–1961
Following World War II, the Soviet government implemented a confiscatory redenomination of its currency (decreed on December 14, 1947) to reduce the amount of money in circulation. The main purpose of this change was to prevent peasants who had accumulated cash by selling food at wartime prices from using this to buy consumer goods as the postwar recovery took hold. Old rubles were revalued at one tenth of their face value. This mainly affected paper money in the hands of private individuals. Amounts of 3,000 rubles or less in individual bank accounts were not revalued, while salaries remained the same. This revaluation coincided with the end of wartime rationing and efforts to lower prices and curtail inflation, though the effects in some cases actually resulted in higher inflation. Unlike other reforms, this one did not affect coins.
In 1947, State Treasury notes were introduced for denominations of 1-, 3- and 5 rubles, along with State Bank notes for denominations of 10-, 25-, 50 and 100 rubles. The State Bank notes depicted Lenin while the Treasury notes depicted floral artistic designs. All denominations were colored and patterned in a similar fashion to late Czarist notes.
|1 Ruble||State Emblem of the Soviet Union|
|3 Rubles||State Emblem of the Soviet Union|
|5 Rubles||State Emblem of the Soviet Union|
|10 Rubles||Vladimir Lenin|
|25 Rubles||Vladimir Lenin|
|50 Rubles||Vladimir Lenin|
|100 Rubles||Vladimir Lenin||Moscow Kremlin|
Sixth Soviet ruble, 1961–91, the one whose ISO code is SUR
The 1961 redenomination introduced 1 new ruble equal to 10 old rubles and restated all wages, prices and financial records into new rubles. It differed from the confiscatory nature of the 1947 reform when banknotes were reduced to 1/10th of its value but wages & prices remained the same. Its parity to the US dollar underwent a devaluation, however, from $1 = 4 old rubles (0.4 new ruble) to $1 = 0.9 new ruble (or 90 kopeks). It implies a gold parity of 31.5 SUR per troy ounce or 1 SUR = 0.987412 gram of gold, but this exchange for gold was never available to the general public.
The 1958 pattern series: By 1958, plans for a monetary reform were underway and a number of coin pattern designs were being experimented with before implementation. The most notable of these was the 1958 series, in denominations of 1, 2, 3, and 5 kopecks in copper-zinc, and 10, 15, 20, and 50 kopecks and 1, 3, and 5 rubles in copper nickel. These coins all had the same basic design and became the most likely for release. Indeed, they were mass-produced before the plan was scrapped and a majority of them were melted down. During this time, 1957 coins would continue to be restruck off old dies until the new coin series was officially released in 1961. This series is considered the most valuable of Soviet issues due to their scarcity.
On January 1, 1961 the currency was revalued again at a rate of 10:1, but this time a new coinage was introduced in denominations of 1, 2, 3 and 5 kopecks in aluminium-bronze, and 10, 15, 20 and 50 kopecks and 1 ruble in cupro-nickel-zinc. Like previous issues, the front featured the state arms and title while the back depicted date and denomination. The 50-kopeck and 1-ruble coins dated 1961 had plain edges, but starting in 1964, the edges were lettered with the denomination and date. All 1926–1957 coins were then withdrawn from circulation and demonetized, with the majority melted down.
Commemorative coins of the Soviet Union: In 1965, the first circulation commemorative ruble coin was released celebrating the 20th anniversary of the Soviet Union's victory over Nazi Germany, during this year the first uncirculated mint-coin sets were also released and restrictions on coin collecting were eased. In 1967, a commemorative series of 10-, 15-, 20-, 50-kopeck, and 1-ruble coins was released, celebrating the 50th anniversary of the Russian Revolution and depicted Lenin and various socialist achievements. The smaller bronze denominations for that year remained unchanged. Many different circulation commemorative 1-ruble coins were also released, as well as a handful of 3 and 5 rubles over the years. Commemorative coins from this period were always slightly larger than general issues, 50 kopecks and 1-ruble coins in particular were larger, while the 1967 series of the small denominations were the same circumference but thicker than general issues. Initially, commemorative rubles were struck in the same alloy as other circulating coins until 1975, when the metallurgic composition was changed to a higher-quality copper-nickel alloy that excluded zinc in the composition.
Starting in 1991 with the final year of the 1961 coin series, both kopeck and ruble coins began depicting the mint marks (М) for Moscow, and (Л) for Leningrad.
Banknotes were issued in denominations of 1, 3, 5, 10, 25, 50, and 100 rubles, with similar colors to the previous series, but this time much smaller in size. The notes again depicted Lenin on the higher denominations and various buildings in Moscow.
Seventh Soviet ruble, 1991 – 1992
The Monetary Reform of 1991 was carried out by Mikhail Gorbachev and was known also as the Pavlov Reform. It was the last of such in the Soviet Union and began on January 22, 1991. Its architect was Minister of Finance Valentin Pavlov, who also became the last prime minister of the Soviet Union. The details included a brief period to exchange old 1961-dated 50- and 100-ruble notes for new 1991 notes — for three days from 23 to 25 January (Wednesday to Friday) and with a specific limit of no more than 1,000 rubles per person—the ability to exchange other bills considered in the special commissions to the end of March 1991. See Monetary reform in the Soviet Union, 1991.
In late 1991, a new coinage was introduced in denominations of 10 and 50 kopeks, and 1, 5 and 10 rubles. The 10-kopeck coin was struck in brass-plated steel, the 50-kopeck coin, and 1- and 5-ruble coins were in cupro-nickel and the 10-ruble coin was bimetallic with an aluminium-bronze centre and a cupro-nickel-zinc ring. The series depicts an image of the Kremlin on the obverse rather than the Soviet state emblem. However, this coin series was extremely short-lived as the Soviet Union ceased to exist only months after its release. It did, however, continue to be used in several former soviet republics including Russia and particularly Tajikistan for a short time after the union had ceased to exist out of necessity.
Banknotes for this ruble were nearly identical in background color and size for all denominations compared to the 1961 series, but included more color and heightened security features. This time, however, new 200-, 500-, and 1,000-ruble notes were introduced along with 1-, 3-, 5-, 10-, 50-, and 100-ruble notes.
After the breakup of the Soviet Union, many newly independent republics chose to continue circulating Soviet rubles until the introduction of the new Russian ruble in 1992.
The Soviet Union ran a planned economy, where the government controlled prices and the exchange of currency. Thus the Soviet ruble did not function like a currency in a market economy, because mechanisms other than currency, such as centrally planned quotas controlled the distribution of goods. Consequently, the ruble did not have the utility of a true currency; instead, it more resembled the scrip issued in a truck system. Soviet citizens could freely purchase a set of products with rubles, but choice was limited. Prices were always political decisions, having no connection to manufacturing cost. For example, bread was cheap and public transport practically free, but there was a shortage of manufactured consumer goods and wages were low, implementing a hidden tax. It was common to hold large savings in rubles in the sberkassa, a kind of a "bank", because credit was not available. Special rubles used in accounting were not exchangeable to cash, and were effectively different currency units. The currency was not internationally exchangeable and its export was illegal. In bilateral trade, a separate, non-exchangeable "clearing ruble" was used. There were separate shops (Beryozkas) for purchasing goods obtained with hard currencies. However, Soviet citizens could not legally own foreign currency. Thus, if they legally received payment in foreign currency, they were forced to convert it to Vneshposyltorg checks at a rate set by the government. These checks could be spent at a Beryozka. The sudden transformation from a Soviet "non-currency" into a market currency contributed to the economic hardship following the dissolution of the Soviet Union in December 1991.
Historical official exchange rates
|Date||Soviet ruble of the time per USD||USD per Soviet ruble of the time|
Replacement currencies in the former Soviet republics
Shortly after the fall of the Soviet Union in 1991, local currencies were introduced in the newly independent states. Most of the new economies were weak and hence most of the currencies have undergone significant reforms since their introduction. In the very beginning of the post-Soviet economic transition, it was widely believed by ordinary people and monetary institutions (including the International Monetary Fund) that it was possible to maintain a common currency working for all or at least for some of the former Soviet Union’s countries. The wish to preserve the strong trade relations between former Soviet republics was considered the most important goal.
During the first half of 1992, a monetary union with 15 independent states all using the ruble existed. Since it was clear that the situation would not last, each of them was using its position as "free-riders" to issue huge amounts of money in the form of credit (since Russia held the monopoly on printing banknotes and coins). As a result, some countries were issuing coupons in order to "protect" their markets from buyers from other states. This also started to cause massive inflation in the formerly high-valued currency. The Russian central bank responded in July 1992 by setting up restrictions to the flow of credit between Russia and other states. The final collapse of the "ruble zone" began with the exchange of banknotes by the Central Bank of Russia on Russian territory at the end of July 1993. As a result, other countries still in the ruble zone (Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan, Moldova, Armenia and Georgia) were "pushed out". By November 1993 all newly independent states had introduced their own currencies, with the exception of war-torn Tajikistan (May 1995) and unrecognized Transnistria (1994). Due to the large amount of inflation in the Soviet bloc, each of the successor currencies had to be revalued at least once.
Details on the introduction of new currencies in the newly independent states are discussed below.
|First national currency (with new code)
replacing the "Soviet ruble" (SUR)
|Date introduction new currency||Date leaving
the "ruble zone"
|Future revaluation or currency replacement|
date, New replaced currency
= 1 AMD
|22 November 1993||November 1993||-|
= 1 AZM
|15 August 1992||August 1993||1 January 2006:|
Azerbaijani manat (AZN)
5 000 AZM = 1 AZN
= 1 BYB
|25 May 1992||26 July 1993||2000:|
1 000 BYB = 1 BYR
Belarusian ruble (BYN)
10 000 BYR = 1 BYN
= 1 EEK
|20 June 1992||22 June 1992||1 January 2011:|
15.6466 EEK = 1 EUR
= 1 GEK
|3 April 1993||20 August 1993||20 October 1995:|
Georgian lari (GEL)
1 000 000 GEK = 1 GEL
= 1 KZT
|15 November 1993||November 1993||-|
= 1 KGS
|10 May 1993||15 May 1993||-|
= 1 LVR
|7 May 1992||20 July 1992||5 March 1993:|
Latvian lats (LVL)
200 LVR = 1 LVL
1 January 2014:
0.702804 LVL = 1 EUR
= 1 LTT
|1 May 1992||1 October 1992||26 June 1993:|
Lithuanian litas (LTL)
100 LTT = 1 LTL
1 January 2015:
3.4528 LTL = 1 EUR
= 1 MDC
|10 June 1992||July 1993||29 November 1993:|
Moldovan leu (MDL)
1000 MDC = 1 MDL
= 1 RUR
|14 July 1992||August 1993||1 January 1998:|
Russian ruble (RUB)
1000 RUR = 1 RUB
= 1 TJR
|10 May 1995||January 1994||30 October 2000:|
Tajikistani somoni (TJS)
1000 TJR = 1 TJS
= 1 TMM
|1 November 1993||November 1993||1 January 2009:|
Turkmenistan manat (TMT)
5000 TMM = 1 TMT
= 1 UAK
|12 January 1992||November 1992||2 September 1996:|
Ukrainian hryvnia (UAH)
100 000 UAK = 1 UAH
= 1 UZC
|15 November 1993||15 November 1993||1 July 1994:|
Uzbekistani so'm (UZS)
1000 UZC = 1 UZS
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- Archive of Bank of Russia "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2013-02-03. Retrieved 2012-09-11.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
- John Odling-Smee, Gonzalo Pastor. The IMF and the Ruble Area, 1991—1993 // IMF Working Paper, 2001 Archived 2015-09-24 at the Wayback Machine
- ISO 4217
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Money of the Soviet Union.|
- Leon Trotsky. The Revolution Betrayed. Chapter 4 - The Struggle for Productivity of Labor, associated with the issuence of the ruble, 1936
- A commercial site with some relevant historical information
- Catalog of USSR Banknotes from 1922
- Historical banknotes of the Soviet Union (incl. Banknotes of the successor States of the USSR) (in English) (in German) (in French)