The Bank Of Russia Museum



Russian ruble:
milestones in history

On display are items providing an insight into how currency circulation and the banking system in Russia was established. Professionals, schoolchildren, students and everyone interested in banking and history are welcome.

Designed by  Art. Lebedev Studio
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The first Russian coins

The first Russian coins — which came to be known as ‘srebreniks’ — were made of silver and minted in the late 10th and early 11th century. They were harbingers of the birth of a rich and powerful state — Ancient Rus. They were also known as ‘kunas’ and ‘srebro’.

Coinless period


The Russian lands went through a coinless period between the 12th and 14th century. This period is unique to the history of European states, marking a return to trading with various forms of long-forgotten primitive money. These could be beads, distaffs, animal furs or other valuable objects.


From where the ruble went?

The word “ruble” is for the first time mentioned in the chronicle under 1316. In “notes” of the ancient inhabitants left on birch bark, this name meets even for fifteen-twenty years earlier. Rubles at first called the bars of silver which are chopped off since the ends, but soon — and the whole cast ingots of new weight standards.


Coining in North Eastern Rus commences

With Russian princes having accumulated considerable amounts of silver, North Eastern Rus saw the beginning of regular coining. From the 1360s, coins were minted with Golden Horde patterns; twenty years later, the minting of original Russian coins began. These coins were called ‘dengi’ — after ‘dangy’, the highly-prized silver coins of the Golden Horde.

Wise Veliky Novgorod (Novgorod the Great)

Veliky Novgorod launched its own coin in 1420, one which lasted for 58 years until this boyar (seigniory) republic lost its independence. The obverse of the coins depicted a posadnik (mayor) kneeling in front of Saint Sophia, Novgorod’s patron saint.

The coins of Minin and Pozharsky’s militia

In Yaroslavl, the territorial militia, assembled by Kuzma Minin and Prince Dmitry Mikhailovich Pozharsky, launched coining for the Russian government (‘the government of the whole land’). The money was released on behalf of Feodor I of Russia, the last legitimate tsar of the Rurik dynasty. When, in October 1612, the militia drove the Poles from Moscow, these coins bearing this Tsar’s name continued to be issued in the Russian capital.

Peter the Great in Holland

Peter, accompanied by his entourage, arrived in Holland in 1697. He outran the ambassadorial carts and, skipping a scheduled stop in Amsterdam, set off for Zaandam, a small town famous for its dockyards. There, Peter took on the job of a lowly carpenter. He would spend his spare time surveying factories, mills and workshops. He would also meet with locals, especially those whose family members worked in Russia.

Peter the Great’s reform


By the late 17th century, the silver coin had emerged as the largest currency unit in circulation. Its small size made it difficult to handle, with every major transaction involving a long recount. An avid traveller, Peter the Great had become well-acquainted with advances in Europe, and saw the need to reform the monetary system. As part of these reforms between 1698-1718, Russia’s decimal currency system was established (with one ruble equalling 100 kopeks).

‘Thaler’ rubles

The first rubles — regularly minted coins — were released in 1704 as part of Peter the Great’s monetary reforms. They were made in Moscow, to the West European weight standard for the thaler. The original thaler coins coming into the treasury would often be used as raw material.

Coins from cannons

In the mid 18th century, coins were minted by recasting copper from old cannons. These coins were then used to make up the capital of one of the first banks in Russia — the Bank of Artillery and Engineer Corps; spearheaded by Field Marshal General Pyotr Ivanovich Shuvalov. Set up in 1760, the Bank was conceived as an institution funding the Artillery and Engineering School of St. Petersburg, which provided academic training to artillery and engineering troops.

“Coin Siberian”

The coin for Siberia was minted since 1763 from the Altai copper containing parts of gold and silver. Face values from half-ears to ten kopeks were other weight, than all-Russian. Thus the Siberian coin could address only in Siberia and in the Urals — in the European part of Russia payments were forbidden it.


First paper money

Russia’s first paper money was unveiled in late 1768. This money was called ‘assignatsii’, from the Latin ‘assignatio’ (literally, ‘assignment’). The Senate paid two kopeks a leaf for paper which could print large denominations (up to one hundred rubles). The release and distribution of the new money, as well as its exchange for coins, was assigned to authorised banks in St. Petersburg and Moscow, better known as assignation banks.

Napoleon’s forgery

Forged assignation rubles made their way into circulation even before the Patriotic War of 1812, on the orders of Napoleon I. The French emperor is thought to have personally monitored the use of this counterfeit money in Russia, the intention being to deceive the population and maintain his army.


“Firm money” of Nicholas I

Monetary reform of 1839-1843 following the results of which the “firm” ruble was entered was carried out to board of the emperor Nicholas I. This coin containing 18 g of pure silver was declared by the main instrument of payment. New notes — the state bank notes which replaced bank notes — for fifteen years were exchanged “for silver” face value.


Between 1768 and 1867, forged gold coins akin to Dutch ducats were secretly coined in Russia at the St. Petersburg Mint, under the codename of ‘the famous coin’. The Russian Treasury would then use them in foreign trade settlements. From the late 19th century, ducats of Russian origin were increasingly prominent in Russia’s domestic currency circulation; they were known as ‘lobanchiki’, ‘arapchiki’, or ‘puchkovye’.

Moscow Exchange


Moscow’s Gostiny Dvor (an indoor market and shopping centre) initially hosted a ‘people’s exchange’ — a regular gathering for traders. In 1828, merchants approached Governor General Dmitry Golitsyn to request an official exchange to be built. The first exchange was built between 1836 and 1839 by the architect Mikhail Bykovsky.

Emancipation Reform

The emancipation of serfs that took place on 19 February 1861 proved to be the landmark event of 19th century Russia. To mark the emancipation, the famous Russian medallist and sculptor Fyodor Petrovich Tolstoy made a medal which depicted Emperor Alexander II wearing a helmet and a chainmail coat. He is placating a landlord and a peasant — former adversaries — who are shown shaking hands.

Distinguished service

In August 1827, the Badge of Distinguished Service was bestowed on civil servants and officers in recognition of 15 years or more of impeccable service (‘Acquired through labour and unwavering integrity’, the badge’s statute read). The badge was attached to the St. George Ribbon in the case of officers, and on the Vladimir ribbon for civil servants.

Mother Russia

Late 19th century banknotes allegorically depict Russia as a woman. Crowned with Monomakh’s Cap; she is also holding a sceptre and the attributes of empire. She would sometimes also be depicted with a palm — a symbol of victory and Christianity.


Witte’s reform


In the late 19th century, preparations were underway for a monetary reform to be implemented between 1895 and 1897. Finance minister Sergei Witte set out a plan to introduce a gold standard. The reform resulted in the emergence of a gold coin which was exchangeable for paper banknotes. According to decrees on the 3 January and 29 August 1897, the entire currency issue was concentrated in the State Bank, which acquired the privilege to issue the notes. The ruble’s gold parity was established at 0.77g of pure gold.


Collection and a golden standard

The 1895-1897 monetary reform led to the emergence of a golden standard in Russia’s currency circulation. Paper money could be freely exchanged for gold coins. The ‘yellow metal’ coins were transported both within the country and to other countries in the baggage cars of the state railways.

War Bond posters

No less a campaign slogan than ‘Sear the hearts of men with a poster’ (inspire people through posters) fits the 1916 War Bond posters, which the State Bank sponsored. They were the first illustrated posters to advertise state bonds (only text posters had been used prior to this). The posters called on people to contribute a portion of their savings to the cause of victory — ‘to crush all enemies’. Even countrymen in remote villages were willing to sign up to the state bond.

The State Bank of the USSR and the Great Patriotic War

The 1941-1945 Great Patriotic War was a game-changer in the national history. At the time, the State Bank of the USSR faced the toughest of challenges. It had to find resources to expand the funding of the military industry and agricultural sector — both assigned with military orders. Evacuated enterprises received financial aid and efforts were constantly made to meet the funding needs of the army and the wider country.

Gold nuggets

A gold nugget is a naturally occurring piece of gold often found in deposits or just above ground. The world’s largest gold nugget ever found is the Holtermann nugget, discovered in the Hill End Mine, New South Wales, Australia in 1872. The gold specimen was 144cm long and 66cm wide, weighing 285kg (of which pure gold was 93kg). The largest gold nugget in Russia (36.2kg) was discovered in the Urals in 1842.

SrebrenikSrebrenikKievan grivna Som of the Golden HordeNovgorod grivnaThe chopped-off hryvnia“Humpbacked hryvnia”Kleymeny half-oozeRussian imitation of the Golden Horde dang of the Middle Oka regionDenga of the Grand Principality of MoscowDenga of the Grand Principality of TverDenga of the Grand Principality of MoscowDenga of the Grand Principality of Nizhny NovgorodDenga of the Grand Principality of RyazanDenga of the Novgorod RepublicDenga of the Pskov Republic of boyarsKopek of False Dmitry IKopek of the Second MilitiaGold coin with a quarter of the Ugorsky gold coin’s value‘Efimoks with a sign’Sevsky CzechTwo-ruble coin of Peter the GreatRuble of Peter the GreatThe coin ruble which is rapped out in board of the tsar Peter I (medalist G. Gaupt)1000-guilder Public bondGreat Map of the Russian Empire Printed in AmsterdamOne-grivna plate‘Mourning ruble’Grivennik (ten-kopek coin)Ruble of Ivan VISix-grosze coin, minted for East PrussiaCopper coin of 5 kopeksEngraving with a view of Gostiny Dvor and the St. Petersburg ExchangeTwo rubles of Elizaveta PetrovnaRuble of Peter III of RussiaDesktop Medal for ‘Setting Up the Accurate Coin’Imperial Gold poltina (fifty-kopek piece)Gold five-ruble coinDesktop Medal in Honour of Privy Councillor Ivan Betskoy“A coin Siberian” 10 kopeksThe model of the building of Assignatsionny bank in St. PetersburgFive-ruble assignation notesFive ruble-coin of Pavel I of RussiaCounterfeit Russian assignation note dating back to Napoleon IStatue of Mercury25-ruble assignation noteGold coin of 5 rublesA dedication from N.S. MordvinovAutograph by Count Y.F. Cancrin in his letter to A.S. GreigOne-ruble coin in commemoration of the opening of the monument to Alexander IThe memorable silver ruble devoted to consecration of a memorial chapel on the Borodino fieldThree-ruble coin of Nikolay IFive-ruble banknote of Nikolay IBook by Baron Alexander de ChaudoirDonativny coin 1.5 rubles with the image of members of an imperial family (“Family ruble”)Book of calculation of percent on tickets of banks and safe treasury. St. PetersburgForged Dutch ducatThree-ruble banknoteThe silver medal which is rapped out on the occasion of consecration of the new building of Saint Petersburg Stock ExchangeDesktop medal commemorating the 50th anniversary of the Moscow ExchangePortrait of Emperor Alexander II after the painting by Yegor BotmanDesktop medal commemorating the Emancipation Reform Sample two-kopek coin of the Brussels MintGrand medal commemorating the exhibition of the Free Economic SocietyBill of sale for five-percent notesAlexander II three-ruble coinFive-ruble banknoteHonourable distinction for 40 years of unblemished serviceTen-ruble banknote25-ruble banknotePhoto of the State Bank vaultModel of the building of the Moscow office of the State bankAlexander III ten-ruble coin100-ruble banknoteNikolay II 15-ruble coin500-ruble banknoteMoneyboxTravel instructions to State Bank officialsMoscow office of the State BankToken commemorating the death of Christian GhilToken commemorating 30 years of numismatic research by Count Ivan TolstoyDesktop medal commemorating the centenary of the Ministry of FinanceBook of supreme orders with respect to the State BankLetter from State Bank Governor Ivan Shipov to the head of the Nizhny Novgorod OfficeAgitation poster of the war bondAgitation poster for a war bondAgitation poster for a war bondFreedom Bond agitation poster by Boris Kustodiev25-tchervonets note of the RSFSR State BankGold tchervonetsState Bank of the USSR in MoscowDistinguished Worker of Gosbank BadgeDistinguished Financial Worker Badge Sample Soviet 50-kopek coinStamp of the head of a military cash desk of the State Bank of the USSRState Bank Yelets Branch JournalState Bank of the USSR employee’s travel authorisationGold nuggetGold ingot, production USSRCommemorative 25-ruble Bank of Russia coinCommemorative 150-ruble Bank of Russia coinCommemorative 100-ruble Bank of Russia coinCommemorative 10,000-ruble Bank of Russia coinCommemorative 100-ruble Bank of Russia coinCommemorative 25-ruble Bank of Russia coinCommemorative 10,000-ruble Bank of Russia coinCommemorative 25-ruble Bank of Russia coinCommemorative 10,000-ruble Bank of Russia coinCommemorative 100-ruble Bank of Russia coinCommemorative 200-ruble Bank of Russia coinCommemorative 100-ruble Bank of Russia coinCommemorative 50,000-ruble Bank of Russia coinCommemorative 25,000-ruble Bank of Russia coinCommemorative 500-ruble Bank of Russia coinCommemorative 200-ruble Bank of Russia coinCommemorative 10,000-ruble Bank of Russia coinCommemorative 100-ruble Bank of Russia coinCommemorative coin of Bank of Russia 3 rubles “Magic of theater”