19

An inscription on the 1, 3, and 5 rubles notes says that it is a State Treasury Note (Государственный Казначейский Билет), and that it is guaranteed by the entire property of the Union of SSR (обеспечивается всем достоянием Союза ССР).

On the other hand, the inscription on the 10, 25, 50, and 100 rubles notes says that it is a State Bank Note (Билет Государственного Банка), and that it is guaranteed by gold, precious metals, and by other assets of the State Bank (обеспечивается золотом, драгоценными металлами и прочими активами Государственного Банка).

Just in case, here are the images of the notes.

There were absolutely no difference in their circulation.

What was the rationale of having two independent sources of currency?

  • 2
    For most the the 20th century in the USA there were United States notes and Federal Reserve notes looking similar but with different words. – Henry Aug 18 at 0:10
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    There is an article on treasury notes of USSR in Russian – user45361 Aug 18 at 4:29
  • In Japan, coins and bank notes are still issued by different institutions. – user45348 Aug 19 at 0:40
  • Even in the US currency and coins are created by different institutions. – C Monsour Aug 19 at 6:43
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    Note that 1,3 and 5 rubles from 1991 were also guaranteed by gold, precious metals, and by other assets of the State Bank. I don't think they are treasury notes, because treasury notes would yield some interest (even if nominal) . However, it is possible that after the war state issued currency directly , similar to US Greenback from Civil War era . – rs.29 Aug 19 at 8:03
11

In 1922, the Soviet economy was suffering from high inflation and the government introduced a new gold-backed currency called Chervonets which was equivalent of the old Russian imperial gold coin of 10 roubles. Initially, chervonets was exchanged for 11,400 roubles. As the roubles and chervonets were both in circulation, every day, the State Bank published exchange rate between roubles and chervonets.

The same year, the State Bank started issuing banknotes denominated in chervonets which had inscription that 1 chervonets is equivalent of 7,74234 grams of gold. Chervonets was freely convertible and was traded on foreign exchanges.

By the end of 1923, chervonets mostly replaced old Soviet roubles and comprised 80% of the money supply. In 1924, the Soviet government started also issuing State Treasury Notes in denominates of 1,3 and 5 gold roubles (1 chervonets equals 10 gold roubles) but they weren't gold-backed. In 1925, the rouble was pegged to the chervonets with the same rate of 1 chervonets to 10 roubles.

With the end of New Economic Policy, increasing money supply, introduction of price controls, chervonets started losing its convertibility and in 1930 stopped being traded on foreign exchanges. In 1937, new banknotes for 1,3,5,10 chervonets had new inscription which didn't mention its gold equivalent but still stated that they are "guaranteed by gold, precious metals, and by other assets of the State Bank". In 1947, the State Bank issued new banknotes in denominations of 10,25,50 and 100 roubles. The dominations of 1,3 and 5 roubles were still issued as Treasury notes. The last Soviet banknotes were issued in 1961 with the same distinction between "State Bank Note" for denominations of 10,25,50 and 100 roubles and "State Treasury Note" for denominations of 1,3 and 5 roubles but with no real distinction in practice.

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    So far, the most relevant answer. Thank you. – user58697 Aug 22 at 2:07
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Your State Treasury Note is similar to the German Rentenmark, which was based on mortgaged public property up to a sum of 3.2 Billion Goldmarks.

The State Bank Note was similar to the German Reichsmark, which was, theoretically, pegged to gold/US dollar.

In theory an inflation of the Reichsmark would not effect the value of the Rentenmark, since the value of the property (in Reichsmark) would automatically rise with the inflation.

The theory also assumes that the population trusts the issuing authority not to print more banknotes than the value of the mortgaged property.

The reason to retain both was the hope that the population would remain confident in the value of the State Treasury Note (Rentenmark), even if the value of the State Bank Note (Reichsmark) radically lost value.


The Soviet Rubel, togeather with the currencies of all the other Socialist countries at that time, were non-convertable currencies. They were only intended for internal usage.

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  • Of course, what will actually happen if people lose confidence in the State Bank Note is that the State Treasury Note will vanish from circulation, at least until the Bank Notes inflate to the point of worthlessness. – Mark Aug 22 at 18:00
  • @Mark Yes, very likely - just as with Gold coins. In both cases all the notes were eventually redeemed on par with each other. In the case of the Rentenmark, confidence in the system lead to its acceptance by the population and stopped the Hyperinflation, as apposed to the previously issued treasury notes (in summer 1923) in Goldmarks. – Mark Johnson Aug 22 at 18:35
1

In the Soviet Union, the idea was to make socialist distribution of income look more equal than it actually was. The mechanism was to create rubles of different value and pay different classes of people in different kinds of rubles.

Rubles that were tied to "hard currency" such as dollars or gold, held their value better than "Soviet" rubles that were tied to the economy of the Soviet Union. As noted in a book called "Klass", at times, the value of a "certificate" (hard currency) ruble might approximate one dollar, while it cost twenty "Soviet" rubles to buy one dollar on the black market. So the "official" exchange rate (of hard rubles) might be 1 to 1, while the "real" rate (of Soviet rubles) would be 20 to 1.

A laborer might earn 500 rubles a month while a senior party member earned 1000 rubles a month. On paper, that's a two to one ratio in favor of the party member, in line with "socialist" principles.

Except that the laborer was paid in "Soviet" rubles in worth 5 cents on the dollar, or $25 a month, while the party member was paid in "dollar" rubles worth 100 cents on the dollar, or $1000 a month. Then the party member would, in fact, earn 40 times as much as the laborer, a ratio more in line with capitalist principles.

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  • 3
    Your sources don't support your assertions in the last paragraphs which are the most important part of the answer. – gktscrk Aug 20 at 20:52
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    So-called "Certificates" have nothing to do with banknotes in the question. These certificates were used only to pay salaries to these soviet people who were working abroad, and could have been used in Beryozka shops only. Party members (unless they were working abroad) were paid in normal roubles as everyone else. The trick was that the apparatchiks (and not every party member) had access to special shops with special prices. – AlexD Aug 21 at 21:31
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    @TomAu You are mixing Beryozka shops which special shops which are called in Russian "спецраспределитель". Both Beryozka and special shops were with restricted access but only Beryozka traded with "certificates" or hard currency. Beryozka shops were very rare, about two hundred in whole country. – AlexD Aug 21 at 23:37
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    @TomAu Also "certificates" weren't "linked" to the special banknotes, they were themselves special banknotes to pay in Beryozka shops. – AlexD Aug 22 at 0:23
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    @user58697 It depends on the level of special shops. Central Committee special shop "спецраспределитель ЦК" had very cheap prices. The Kremlin stolovaya is still famous for its cheap prices. Elsewhere, e.g. spec-shop at a scientific institute, everything was sold using fixed government prices which was important for food - e.g. government price for meat was 2 roubles/kg but it wasn't available in general shops while on farmers market you would pay something from 3-5 roubles up to 10 roubles. – AlexD Aug 22 at 3:21
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The USSR had a continuous complex capitalist market throughout its history. (War communism was RSFSR.). This market mediated relations between various enterprises. In particular the finance and capital banks mobilised state and firm investments.

The obvious rationale behind high value notes being firm guaranteed and low value notes being state guaranteed is to allow mediating institutions (banks) to be able to fail liquidating outstanding credit notes values. In contrast low value notes are state guaranteed. This ensures that in a bank run crisis within the Soviet Union the state places a greater risk on workers and speculators and petits bourgeois and the few private bourgeois. In contrast in an inflationary crisis the state is insulated from issuing new notes as its notes rapidly become worthless.

Yes, large scale investment was centrally planned as were major markets, but these and the consumer market were mediated by market relations.

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  • 8
    Sources could make this a strong answer. – Brian Z Aug 18 at 2:00
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    In 1931 all private shops (with only exception of farming markets) were nationalized and private business become illegal in the USSR. Since 1960 economic activities were prosecuted with capital punishment. You could have been arrested for selling a pair of jeans. – AlexD Aug 22 at 0:13

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