The ruble or rouble (Russian рубль; see note on spelling below) is the currency of the Russian Federation and Belarus (and formerly, of the Soviet Union and the Russian Empire). One ruble is divided into 100 kopeks (копе́йка). The ISO 4217 currency code for the ruble is now RUB; the former code, RUR, referres to the currency prior to 1997 denomination.
The ruble has been the Russian unit of currency for many centuries. The word "ruble" is derived from the Russian verb рубить, rubit, i.e., to chop. Historically, "ruble" was a piece of a certain weight chopped off a silver ingot (grivna), hence the name. It was the Russian equivalent of the mark, a measurement of weight for silver and gold used in medieval western Europe.
In Russian, a folk name for "ruble", tselkovyi (целковый, wholesome), is known, which is a shortening of the "целковый рубль" ("tselkovyi ruble"), i.e. a wholesome, uncut ruble. A practice of cutting or clipping precious metal coins was historically wide-spread throughout the world. A small chunk was cut from a coin by its current holder before the coin was tendered at the full value. Over a period the coins had become obviously smaller, but legally still carried the full face value. Thus wholesome adjective was needed to distinguish the uncut coins.
Ruble and Kopek
The word kopek or kopeck (kopeyka) derives from the Russian kop'yo (копьё) – a spear. The first kopek coins, minted by Muscovy after the capture of Novgorod in 1478, carried the Moscow coat of arms with Saint George slaying a dragon with a spear. The modern Russian kopecks carry this image, too.
Ten ruble coins are sometimes informally named chervonets (черво́нец). Formerly it was a 3-ruble gold coin and later a 10-ruble bill.
Over time the amount of precious metal in a ruble varied. In a 1704 currency reform Peter I standardized the ruble coin to 28 grams of silver. While ruble coins were mostly silver, sometimes they were minted of gold, and some 19th century coins were platinum. The gold ruble introduced in 1897 was equal to 0.774235 g of gold. The Soviet ruble of 1961 was formally equal to 0.987412 g of gold, but the exchange for gold was never available to the general public. The ruble is no longer linked to a gold standard. The currency was revalued in 1998 following the Asian financial crisis, such that the post-1 January 1998 ruble is equal to 1,000 of the pre-1 January 1998 rubles.
All Russian paper money is currently printed at the state-owned factory Goznak in Moscow, which was organized on June 6, 1919 and has continued to operate ever since. Coins are minted in the Monetny Dvor mint in St. Petersburg that operates since 1724 and in Moscow.
In November of 2004, the authorities of Dimitrovgrad (Ulyanovsk Oblast) erected a five-meter monument to the ruble.
Ruble in Russian/Soviet subdivisions
In the Soviet period, the ruble had it own name in official languages of the Soviet Union. The value of all banknotes had the value printed in the languages of all Soviet Republics. This naming is preserved in modern Russia. Example: Tatar for ruble and kopek are sum and tien. The current names of several currencies of Central Asia are simply the local names for ruble.
The name of the currency in the official languages of the 15 republics:
Note on spelling
Both the spellings "ruble" and "rouble" are used in English. The form "rouble" is preferred by the OED, but the earliest uses it records in English were the now completely obsolete "robble", followed by "ruble". The form "rouble" probably derives from the transliteration into French used among the Tsarist aristocracy. There is some tendency for North American authors to use "ruble" and other English speakers to use "rouble", and also some tendency for older sources to use "rouble" and more recent ones to use "ruble", but neither tendency is absolute.
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Russian Empire bills during Nicholas II rule