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the basic monetary unit of prerevolutionary Russia and the USSR. The ruble served as the basis of the Russian decimal monetary system that was established in the early 18th century through the monetary reform of Peter I (1704).
The term “ruble” was first used in Novgorod in the 13th century to denote one-half of a grivna, a silver ingot weighing about 200 g. The ruble ingot was a unit of payment and weight. In the 14th century, rubles came into use in the principalities of central Rus’. When halved, the half-grivna ruble yielded two poltiny, which became the first Moscow rubles. In the second half of the 14th century, when the minting of Russian coins was resumed—ancient Russian coins had been minted in the tenth and 11th centuries, but the minting was interrupted by the Mongol-Tatar conquest—the ruble lost its significance as a unit of weight and became only a monetary unit. In 1534, when the unified monetary system of the Russian state was established, the ruble became the system’s basic monetary unit (1 ruble = 100 kopeks = 200 den’gi = 400 polushki). The weight of new coins was reduced: before the reform, coins for 2.6 rubles were minted from a grivna ingot of silver, whereas coins for 3 rubles were minted from the same-sized silver ingot after the reform.
During the Polish and Swedish interventions in the early 17th century, the ruble was debased, with silver content declining from 68 to 48 g. In 1654, under Tsar Aleksei Mikhailovich, debased rubles were minted from coins known as efimki. In 1698 the weight of the ruble was made equal to the weight of a German thaler (28.4 g). In 1704 the regular issuance of silver coins weighing 28 grams per ruble was begun, which brought the Russian ruble into use in European monetary systems. In the 18th century the silver content of the ruble was gradually reduced, becoming 18 g in the 1760’s and remaining at this level until 1915, when the minting of full-value silver coins was stopped.
Gold rubles were minted in 1756 and 1779, and in 1770 and 1771 about ten copper rubles were produced on a trial basis. The copper rubles, which contained about 1 kilogram of copper each, were called Sestroretsk rubles, after the mint where they were produced. From 1769 to 1849 both silver rubles and paper rubles (assignatsii) were used for accounting purposes. The paper credit ruble came into circulation in 1841. The reform of S. Iu. Witte put Russia on a single, gold standard in 1897; at the same time, the ruble converted to a gold base. By the end of World War I, only debased paper rubles, called kerenki, were in circulation; they were worth between 6 and 7 prewar kopeks.
The first Soviet ruble was issued in 1919 in the form of a state banknote. In 1921 in the RSFSR, the first silver rubles were minted. In 1922 paper chervontsy were issued, each chervonets equal to 10 gold rubles. In 1923 gold chervontsy containing 8.6 g of gold were minted. In 1924, 1-, 3-, and 5-ruble state treasury notes were put into circulation, and silver rubles containing 18 g of pure silver were minted. In 1937 the value of the ruble was established relative to the American dollar, which contained 0.888671 g of pure gold ($1 = 5.30 rubles). In 1950 it was decided to cease calculating the ruble exchange rate on the basis of foreign currencies. The ruble was converted to a gold base, with a pure-gold content of 0.222168 g ($1 = 4 rubles). In 1961, after the price scale in the USSR had risen by a factor of 10, the gold content was set at 0.987412 g of pure gold. For domestic circulation, treasury notes were printed in denominations of 1, 3, 5, 10, 25, 50, and 100 rubles, and ruble coins of nickel silver were minted.
In 1965 a commemorative metal ruble was minted in honor of the 20th anniversary of the victory of the USSR in the Great Patriotic War of 1941–45. In 1967 and 1970 commemorative rubles were struck to mark the 50th anniversary of the October Revolution and the 100th anniversary of the birth of V. I. Lenin, respectively. A commemorative ruble to mark the 30th anniversary of the victory in the Great Patriotic War was issued in 1975.
REFERENCESMets, N. D. Nash rubl’. Moscow, 1960.
Spasskii, I. G. Russkaia monetnaia sistema, 4th ed. Leningrad, 1970.
S. G. KHOLOD