Russia Currency Spotlight: Russian Ruble

In Business and Currency by Kyle RammlerLeave a Comment

This week we’ll shine a light on the Russian ruble. It’s been used in Russia for centuries, outliving many different rulers, regimes, and eras.

Fast Facts: Ruble

  • Rubble Symbol:
  • Russia Currency Code: RUB
  • Coins: 1, 5, 10, 50 kopeks, 1, 2, 5, 10 rubles
  • Notes: 5, 10, 50, 100, 500, 1000, 5000 rubles
  • Russian GDP (nominal): $1.175 trillion (15th)
  • Central Bank: Bank of Russia

History of the Ruble

The ruble has a long history stretching back about 500 years. One of the first major steps towards the modern incarnation occurred in 1704 under Peter the Great. He standardized the ruble, making it equal to 28 grams of silver. Over the next couple hundred years, the peg would vary from 1 ruble equal to 18 grams of pure silver, to 1 ruble equal to 1.2 grams of pure gold, while also including platinum coins (which were equal to 3.451 grams of the precious metal). A peg to the French franc was also used with the ruble varying from 4 francs to just under 3.

After the Revolution and the founding of the Soviet Union, the ruble would continue to be used. It was the official currency of the entire USSR, while ‘foreign’ rubles were also distributed for use by other Comecon countries (Soviet allies during the Cold War).

After the dissolution of the Soviet Union in 1991, Russia continued using the ruble. The 1990’s however were characterized by extreme hyperinflation due to the economic problems the country was suffering. In 1998, the ruble was reissued in a massive monetary reform. The new ruble had its currency code changed (RUR to RUB) and was worth 1000 times more than the previous incarnation.

Notes and Coins

With such a long history, there are many past iterations of the ruble. During the time of the Russian Empire, Peter the Great and Mother Russia were both prominently featured. There was even a rare coin that featured Emperor Constantine from 1825, though it was never circulated. Currency during the Soviet period changed designs many times and included: USSR seals, Vladimir Lenin, miners, and soldiers on the notes and coins, among other designs. The first notes released after the end of the Soviet Union were unique for their lack of portraiture.

The current series was released in 1998, though modifications have been made in the years since. Some of the designs on the banknotes include; the Bolshoi Theatre, the Monument to Peter the Great, the Millennium of Russia Monument, and Saint Sophia Cathedral in Novgorod. 5 and 10 ruble notes are no longer printed and are very rarely seen. In addition, a commemorative banknote was released in 2013 in celebration of the then upcoming Sochi Winter Olympics. Coins are relatively uniform, with half of them featuring Saint George and the others displaying the 2-headed eagle emblem that represents the Bank of Russia.

Value: RUB per USD

The value of the RUB has fluctuated greatly with the rising and falling fortunes of Russia and the Soviet Union before that. The relevant information here is the state of the ruble since 1998, as that was the introduction of the new RUB – a new currency for all practical purposes. The new RUB was meant to counteract the high inflation of the previous iteration, which is why it was introduced at 1 new to 1000 old. However, the introduction of the new RUB occurred right before the 1998 Russian financial crisis. In a period of six months, the RUB depreciated 70% against the USD.

Since 1998, the highest value the RUB has held against the USD was 5.9600 to 1 on the day the new RUB was introduced (January 1, 1998). Since then, the value of the RUB has generally floated around the high 20’s to low 30’s per 1 USD. Throughout 2014 and 2015, the RUB has again suffered huge losses against the USD. The lowest the RUB has been valued at was 69.6640 per 1 USD, which was recorded on February 3, 2015. Since then, the value has increased somewhat, though it is nowhere near pre-2014 levels of comparison.

The value at the time of writing (11:25am EST, April 24 2015) is 51.2515 RUB per USD.


The value of the RUB per 1 USD over the past year.

In addition, the value at the time of writing (11:25am EST, April 24 2015) is 42.1507 RUB per CAD.

Russian Economy

The Russian economy has gone through many highs and lows since the breakup of the Soviet Union. In 1991, Russia transformed rapidly from an economy based on high state ownership to an open market, globalized economy. This would trigger the rise of so called ‘oligarchs’, who were rich individuals that purchased former state assets for very low prices. This hurt the Russian economy greatly, and necessitated another change in policy in 1999. In part due to the new ruble, the Russian economy greatly increased in strength throughout the 2000’s. Though inflation was still a problem, higher commodity prices and broad pro-growth reforms were able to help Russia achieve a remarkable turnaround.

The Russian economy covers a wide variety of sectors including energy, mining, forestry, agriculture, defense, services, and more. The main cash cow here (and what most people equate with the Russian economy) is oil and natural gas. Russia has the largest reserves of natural gas in the world, as well as being its biggest exporter. It also exports extremely high amounts of coal and oil. In total, oil and natural gas account for 58% of the country’s total exports, helping to give Russia a large trade surplus as of 2013. Though oil wealth is often cited as the main reason for Russian economic strength, it can be a liability when prices are low – as they are currently.

Recently, some predicted that the Russian economy would enter recession due to low oil prices, sanctions, and military involvement in Ukraine. Though growth is small and the ruble is weak, GDP growth still remained positive in 2014 at around 0.6%.


Final Thoughts

Russia is sometimes referred to as one-trick pony due to its reliance on oil and natural gas wealth. However, this is a very good pony to have in your stables, as it helps cement Russia’s economic importance across the world.

For a broader understanding of Russian history and culture check out our Country of the Week profile. For information about traveling to Russia then be sure to follow our Travel Guide.

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