Georgia’s currency history reflects its geographical position between east and west. For much of the 20th century the country was part of the Soviet Union, but since the introduction of the lari and the 2003 Rose Revolution the country has been on the right track.
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GEORGIAN LARI FAST FACTS:
- Currency Code: GEL
- Subunits: tetri (1/100)
- Coins: 1, 2, 5, 10, 20, 50 tetri, 1, 2 lari
- Banknotes: 1, 2, 5, 10, 20, 50, 100, 200, 500 lari (200 and 500 are rarely used)
- Central Bank: National Bank of Georgia
- GDP: $6.750 billion (2016)
- GDP Growth: 4% (2016 – estimated)
- Inflation: 0.2%
The Persian abbasi (so called because it was issued by Shah Abbas I) circulated in the 16th and first part of the 17th century. When Georgia issued its own silver coin in the late 17th century they dubbed it the abazi in reference to the Iranian coin that preceded it. After the Russian Empire absorbed Georgia the country continued to mint its own coins until the ruble replaces the abazi at a rate of 5 abazi to 1 ruble. In 1918 the Transcaucasian ruble was introduced at par with the Russian ruble but replaced a year later by the maneti in the Democratic Republic of Georgia and Georgian Socialist Republic. In 1923 the maneti was replaced by the ruble until that was eventually replaced by the kuponi in 1993 after the fall of the Soviet Union. Kuponi’s were only issued in denomination of 3, 3000, 30,000, and 150,000 and quickly underwent a period of hyperinflation.
In 1995 the lari was introduced, replacing the kuponi at a rate of one million to one. The name is derived from an old Georgian word meaning ‘property’, or ‘a hoard’. The name of the subunit, tetri, means ‘white’ and has long been associated with currency as far back as the 6th century BC.
|1 tetri||“Republic of Georgia”, The Borjgali (a Georgian symbol of the sun with wings), Christian tree of life.||Denomination, a vine tendril||Steel|
|2 tetri||“Republic of Georgia”, The Borjgali (a Georgian symbol of the sun with wings), Christian tree of life.||Denomination, peacock||Steel|
|5 tetri||“Republic of Georgia”, The Borjgali (a Georgian symbol of the sun with wings), Christian tree of life||Denomination, golden lion statue, barrow of the Alazani valley||Steel|
|10 tetri||“Republic of Georgia”, The Borjgali (a Georgian symbol of the sun with wings), Christian tree of life||Denomination, Saint Mamai riding a lion, 11th century silver plate from the Gelati Monastery.||Steel|
|20 tetri||“Republic of Georgia”, The Borjgali (a Georgian symbol of the sun with wings), Christian tree of life||Denomination, deer from a painting by Niko Pirosmanashvili (famous Georgian painter)||Steel|
|50 tetri||Denomination, Gryphon from the Samtavisi Cathedral||Brass-plated steel 1993|
|50 tetri||Georgia’s coat of arms, sun beams, and date of issue (2006)||Denomination||Copper-nickel 2006|
|1 lari||Georgia’s coat of arms, sun beams, and date of issue (2006)||Denomination||Copper nickel alloy 2006|
|2 lari||Georgia’s coat of arms, sun beams, and date of issue (2006)||Denomination, sun rays||Copper aluminum-nickel inner ring, copper-nickel outer ring 2006|
|1 lari||Niko Pirosmanashvili (Georgian artist)||Panorama of Tbilisi (capital of Georgia), deer from Niko Pirosmanashvili painting||White||2002|
|2 lari||Composer Zacharia Paliashvili||Tbilisi Zacharia Paliashvili Opera and Ballet State Theatre||Rose||2002|
|5 lari||Ivane Javakhishvili (famous academic)||Ivan Javakhishvili building in Tbilisi University||Brown||2002|
|10 lari||Akaki Tsereteli (famous poet)||Mother in David Kakabadze’s painting Imereti – Mother of Mine||Blue||2002|
|20 lari||Ilia Chavchavadze (public figure)||Vakhtang Gorgasali (founder of Tbilisi), old map of Tbilisi, and panorama of old Tbilisi||Yellow, Navy||2002|
|20 lari||Ilia Chavchavadze (public figure)||Vakhtang Gorgasali (founder of Tbilisi), old map of Tbilisi, and panorama of old Tbilisi, Georgia’s coat of arms, old Narikala||Magenta||2016|
|50 lari||Queen Tama, Vardzia monastery cave complex, animal with wings||Zodiac sign for Sagittarius, Georgia’s coat of arms, and 12th century manuscript collection||Navy, Green||2004|
|50 lari||Queen Tama, Vardzia monastery cave complex, relief of Virgin Mary from Pitareti||Zodiac sign for Sagittarius, Georgia’s coat of arms, and 12th century manuscript collection, Georgia’s coat of arms||Green||2016|
|100 lari||Shota Rustaveli (poet)i, angel raising a cross||Biblical scene from Martvili Monastery||Light green/grey||2004|
|100 lari||Shota Rustaveli, illustrations from the poem The Knight in Tiger Skin, biblical scene||Zakaria Paliashvili National Academic Theater of Opera and Ballet||Violet||2016|
|200 lari||Kakutsa Cholokashvili, cultural artifact||City of Sukhumi, fragments from iconostasis from Tsebelda in Gulripsh district||Yellow||2006|
|500 lari||David IV||Early Georgian inscriptions and cross||Light green/ navy||1995|
Like many former Soviet states, Georgia suffered greatly after the fall of the Soviet Union. GDP fell sharply and the kuponi experienced hyper inflation. The introduction of the lari has brought some monetary stability but the country was still experiencing economic and political troubles. The 2003 Rose Revolution ushered in a new era of democracy and liberal economic reforms, and soon after the country began to post double digit growth. In 2007 the country was named the world’s best economic reformer by the World Bank. It is widely considered the least corrupt country in the region, and also has a free press. As of 2014 the country has also become a member of the EU Free Trade Area. The deal has boosted trade with the EU, but trade with the Commonwealth of Independent States (also called the Russian Commonwealth) declined sharply.
Debt stands at just 29% of GDP, the population below the poverty line is about 11% and 12% of the working population is unemployed. The country ranks a very healthy 16th in the world in terms of ease-of-doing business (ahead of notable economies like Canada, Germany, Ireland, France, and Japan). Foreign direct investment is a major driving factor behind Georgia’s growth.
The bottom line
Georgia, unlike some other former Soviet States, has successfully embraced democratic and liberal economic reforms, working hard to stamp out corruption and make the country more attractive to foreign investment. Still, the nearby Russian bear will remain a cause for some concern.
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