Russia is one of the world’s largest nations. Russia is one of the major players on the world political stage. Russia has a history stretching well over a millennium. And all of these things are deeply intertwined with the economy. Consequently, it’s only natural that many people are interested in the Russian currency – the rouble.
The currency of a country is a good indicator of past, present, and future happenings within a nation for those that know where to look. And there aren’t many currencies that have experienced the volatility that the rouble has.
In this article, we’ll cover the origin of the rouble, take a look at the past few decades to understand how it got to where it is today, point out some trends, and give a few tips on exchanging it. But first, well start with the basics of the Russian currency.
The Russian rouble (alternative spelling: Russian ruble) is the official currency of the Russian Federation. Similarly to, for example, the South African Rand, the rouble is also used in other territories; namely: Abkhazia, South Ossetia, Donetsk, and Luhansk. These are partially recognized or unrecognized republics and the complex politics will not be covered here.
For the purposes of this article, it is enough to state that the Russian rouble is used in these places. Further, the Russian rouble should not be confused with the Belorussian rouble – the currency used in Belorussia (ISO code BYN, symbol Br).
The official symbol of the Russian currency is ₽, but ‘p’ is also used colloquially. The ISO code for the rouble is RUB. One Russian rouble can be divided into 100 kopeks. It is issued by the Central Bank of the Russian Federation.
Russian rouble banknotes come in denominations of 5, 10, 50, 100, 500, 1000, and 5000 roubles. Coins in circulation are of 1, 5, 10, and 50 kopeks and 1, 2, 5, and 10 roubles. The ₽5 banknote, although still in circulation, is rarely used in practice and can mostly only be found in collections.
Another interesting thing to note is about the ₽200 banknote from 2016. It features Sevastopol, the Monument to Sunken Ships, and Chersonesus – all of which are located in Crimea. Similarly, the ₽100 commemorative banknote from 2015 features the Monument to Sunken Ships and the St. Vladimir Cathedral located in Sevastopol.
The obverse of the ₽100 commemorative banknote from 2018 features a football displaying Russian territory, including Crimea. Displaying the symbols of Crimea on these banknotes has caused friction with countries that do not recognize Crimea as part of the Russian Federation. In 2017, the National Bank of Ukraine even issued a ban on using these three notes.
1 US dollar is worth approximately 72.75 Russian roubles as of November, 2021. However, because Russian currency is unstable and often fluctuates, you should always use a currency converter to check the daily rates if you are interested in the current situation.
The rouble traces its origins back to the 13th century. However, the rouble was used as a designation of silver weight and not a full-fledged currency in its own right. According to one theory, the name rouble derives from the Russian word rubit, which means to cut/chop/hack, because a rouble was a cut-out portion of a grivna (a currency and weight of measure in early East Slavic countries).
The rouble became the official currency of Russia in 1704, when Tsar Peter I started regular minting of the rouble in silver. The silver rouble was used during the 18th and 19th centuries. But, silver roubles were debased during the 18th century and paper money was primarily used in the latter half of the 19th century.
In 1897, Russia switched to the gold standard and the silver rouble was replaced with a gold one. Only a few decades later, during the early years of WWI, gold roubles could no longer be found in circulation and paper money was no longer convertible.
Soon after, Russia started experiencing high inflation. Starting from 1917 and in the subsequent years, spurred in part by the Russian Revolution, Russia entered a period of hyperinflation. From 1917 to 1922-23, the rouble was essentially worthless.
The new government instituted a parallel currency – the chervonets – and re-established the gold standard. 1 chervonets was pegged to 10 roubles. The chervonets lasted until 1947, when the rouble was restored as the only currency of the Soviet Union. The remaining gold chervonets minted in 1923 and 1925 are very rare and highly collectible.
The currency in Russia from 1917 to 1992 (one year after the dissolution of the USSR) was the Soviet rouble (code: SUR), while from 1992 to 1998 it was the First Russian rouble (code: RUR). The RUR replaced the SUR at a rate of 1 : 1.
However, the Russian Federation entered another period of hyperinflation during the 1990s. To exemplify, banknotes of 500 000 RUR were printed in 1997, while the highest pre-1992 SUR banknote was 1 000. To further illustrate, when it was introduced in 1992, the exchange rate for the RUR was approximately 1 USD : 125 RUR, while by 1998 it was 1 USD : 6 000 RUR.
In 1998, the second rouble was introduced with the ISO code RUB. When it was introduced, the rouble was redenominated at a rate of 1 RUR = 1 000 RUB. However, the second rouble was introduced just as the 1998 Russian financial crisis occurred and Russia defaulted on its domestic debt, placed a moratorium on repaying foreign debt, and devalued the rouble.
The financial crisis, accompanied by political instability and other associated factors caused the value of the rouble to drop in comparison to the US dollar from approximately 1 USD : 6 RUB in August of 1998 to 1 USD : 20 RUB in the following six months.
Somewhat surprisingly, the Russian Federation recovered relatively quickly from the financial crisis, in large part due to rising oil prices. From 2000 – 2001 to 2014 the rouble was relatively stable. Even during the Great Recession of 2007 – 2009, the rouble held steady. Further, in 2010, China and Russia started using their national currencies for bilateral trade, where previously the USD was used.
However, from 2014 – 2016, the rouble experienced a sharp decline in value and caused a new financial crisis. The value of the rouble nearly halved in these two years. From 2017 to today, the Russian currency and economy have been relatively stable, at least as far as the rouble goes.
One thing can be said for certain – the Russian rouble is a volatile currency. It is very difficult to make predictions and you should be extremely wary if you plan to invest in Russian currency. The volatility of the rouble provides ample opportunity for potential profits, but it is just as easy to make a wrong assessment.
Let’s end on a lighter note. If you are planning a trip to Russia, it’s best to have some roubles in cash on you at all times. You shouldn’t have any issue exchanging your money in larger cities and towns. But there is a chance you won’t have access to ATMs if you travel to more rural areas.
While locals may let you pay in euros or dollars, such transactions are forbidden and you may get fined. And try not to exchange your money at airport kiosks because of the high fees and be careful of the more common tourist traps.
Because of the volatility of the Russian currency, it can be hard to exchange it in the United States. But US First Exchange carries many major and exotic currencies, including the Russian rouble. You can online and have high-grade banknotes delivered to your doorstep.
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