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New 200 Ruble bill featuring Crimea hits Moscow; Ukraine’s already banned it

Russia pays tribute to the historic peninsula with a new banknote, but Kiev has conniptions

Russia is modernizing its banknotes. And it’s starting with a new 200 ruble denomination.

What makes the bills far superior to the previous series is their polymer construction, along with many more security features. The Bank of Russia plans to release another new denomination, 2000 rubles, soon.

The new bills have now hit the streets of Russia’s capital. And I recently got my hands on one of them, having received it in change at a local grocery.

But the most notable thing about the new 200 ruble note is that it honors Crimea, the historic peninsula which joined Russia after a referendum in 2014 and site of the medieval Russian prince Vladimir’s conversion to Christianity.

Ukraine, which still claims Crimea as its territory, has already declared the bills illegal – something which will doubtless complicate life for the millions of Ukrainians working in Russia who will need to ensure they do not have any of the banned cash on them on trips home.

Coinweek.com provided a succinct summary of the details on the new note:

On October 12, the Bank introduced two new denominations of Russian currency, a 200-ruble note and a 2,000-ruble bill. And while the larger note features depictions of the Russian Island Bridge near Vladivostok and the Vostochny Cosmodrome in Amur, both massive construction projects began in recent years as part of President Vladimir Putin’s project of developing the Russian Far East, it is the design of the 200-ruble note that has offended many in Ukraine and elsewhere.

The Design

On the front of the predominantly sea-green bill is the Monument to the Scuttled Ships, built by Estonian sculptor Amandus Adamson in 1905 to honor the Russian fleet that was intentionally sunk during the Crimean War’s 11-month Siege of Sevastopol (1854-55) (the Russian Black Sea Fleet was and still is stationed at the port city). Waves break against the column as three sea gulls fly around the monument. One of the city’s famous colonnades is seen on the right and left sides of the note. The numerals “200”, the denomination (ДВЕСТИ РУБЛЕЙ or “Two Hundred Rubles”) in Russian, the inscription “Banknote of the Bank of Russia”, the Russian eagle and a QR code that takes your smartphone or tablet’s browser to a website discussing the bill’s security features are also included.

The back of the bill portrays the Ancient Greek ruins at the Chersonesus, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. A grip of grapes sits beneath a map of the Crimean Peninsula on the right while what looks like a Roman mosaic of a bird is located above the ruins. Serial numbers, the numerals “200”, and the denomination in Russian also appear on the back.

National Pride

Elvira Nabiullina, the head of the Central Bank of Russia, said that the Russian people themselves chose the designs as part of a national design competition that began in 2016.

“The Russian people chose these symbols. This reflects the desire of the people of Russia to see these symbols on notes,” she said.

Which is not unreasonable, because even if Putin or other factions the Russian government had no hand in creating the nationalistic propaganda found on the bill, defiant in the face of sanctions imposed on Russia by the European Union and the United States, patriotism in Russia has been high since the country invaded Ukraine and annexed Crimea in March 2014. In fact, the note is similar to a limited-edition 100-ruble bill released in 2015 that also featured the Sevastopol Monument to the Scuttled Ships and other Crimean landmarks.

The rationale for the creation of the 100-ruble note, however, was a bit different. In 2014, Russian lawmaker Roman Khudyakov protested that the bill was “pornographic” due to the fact that a small statue of the greek god Apollo on the roof of the Bolshoi Ballet has its genitalia exposed. Khudyakov suggested that the Bolshoi building be replaced with a “child friendly” design… like images from the port city of Sevastopol.

It may or may not belie his argument that the older 100-ruble bill is still in circulation.

Intriguingly, Russian banknotes do not display people since the Bank of Russia makes a concerted effort to get away from the style of Soviet-era currency that featured Vladimir Ilyich Lenin – though Putin’s administration has never shied away from commemorating the achievements of the Soviet Union.

The bill itself is made of a combination of cotton and polymer, and incorporates watermarks, color-shifting ink and raised printing for the visually impaired, among other security features and improvements. It is part of a new series of banknotes, the first new series since 2006. The 200-ruble bill will enter circulation shortly (beginning in Moscow, Crimea, and the Far East), the 2,000-ruble note will come out before the end of 2017.

Ukraine Reacts

As could be expected, Ukrainian authorities did not react kindly to the provocative new bill. The country banned the 200-ruble note the very next day on October 13, making the bill illegal and setting an October 17 cut-off date for exchange at banks and other financial facilities. The ban also applies to any other Russian bank note, present or future, that depicts objects, maps, and symbols representing Ukraine or physical landmarks located within the borders of the sovereign territory of Ukraine.

In 2016, and despite Russian claims to the contrary, the International Criminal Courtdeliberated that the annexation of Crimea was an act of war between Russia and Ukraine. More than 10,000 people (including foreigners) have been killed in the conflict, with around 23,900 injured and millions displaced.

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