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The Last Notes of Armenia

Bio page for Paxbrit By Paxbrit on 2018-01-23

When the Czar abdicated in 1917, many of the minority regions of the Russian Empire declared their independence. But, when the Bolsheviks seized power in the October coup in Moscow and St. Petersburg, the new nations quickly found themselves at war with the Communists, who had no intention of giving autonomy to their minority populations, despite the Bolshevik rhetoric about civil rights and self-determination. Ancient regimes such as Georgia, Ukraine, and Armenia briefly enjoyed a few years of independence, with military and financial aid from Great Britain and France.

Partly to contain the Bolshevik menace, partly to keep both the Germans in conflict on the Eastern Front, and Ottoman Turkey at war on their northern front, and partly to welcome these new nations into the realm of freedom, this aid even took the form of national currencies designed and printed in the west. These notes were the last of the Civil War notes of Armenia, designed and printed in England by Waterlow and Sons, with French language alongside Armenian and Russian. Dated 1919, and issued in 1920, these notes were short-lived, indeed. The Republic of Armenia was taken by force by Bolshevik armies in late 1920, and a splinter region, the Mountain Republic of Armenia, held out until 1921. A few Turkish provinces containing majority Armenian populations had joined with the new Republic, but all were subsumed into the new Russian Armenian SSR. Immediately upon their declaration of independance, Armenia quickly became embroiled in warfare between Turkey and Bolsehvik Russian and even a short fight with the new nation of Georgia over a disputed border area. Nagorno-Karabagh, known to collectors today by the recent issues of two regional banknotes, was the scene of conflict with Azeribaijan and Bolshevik Russia. Some things never seem to change, do they?

The wars were quickly lost to the much larger powers, and so, Armenia, known as Armina to the Babylonians, once a Macedonian stronghold from the days of Alexander the Great, who sent Ambassadors to Rome and Byzantine Constantinople, a thriving Christian Kingdom from the 4th to the 14th Century, torn apart and subjugated by the Persians, Kurds, Ottomans and the Russians for centuries, once again disappeared from the maps of the world, not to return until 1992 and the Soviet Union collapse and breakup.

The last notes of Armenia were issued in 50, 100, and 250 Ruble denominations. Printed in England by Waterlow and Sons security printing house. French, Armenian, and Russian language was used on the currency, which is pleasantly large in size, and well-designed. Even though some of the provinces of the new Armenia were break-away regions from Ottoman Turkey, there is no Turkish font, Arabic or otherwise, on the notes. You will never see that on an Armenian banknote after the genocide of 1915. The 50 Ruble note contains two mythical dragons on the face, and a geometric design on the back, with a pleasing mix of brown with red underprinting.

The 100 Ruble note is very pleasant appearing, sporting two allegorical Peacocks, and a scenic view of Mt. Ararat, where Noah's Ark lies to this day, awaiting discovery. The color scheme is green with a yellow and brown underprint, and the reverse is a rendition in blue, grey, and brown, with additional Peacocks and a mountain Eagle wielding a sword. A severed snake, meant to be the oppression of the Ottomans, the Czars, and the new Bolsheviks, lies at the Eagle's feet.

The last note, the largest in size of the three, is the 250 Ruble note. Again, brown coloration with green and yellow underprinting make for a pleasing design, which shows allegorical angels, and the dragons of the 50 Ruble note are now at the feet of the Angel. Above are two Griffins in all their horrible glory. The reverse is a violet color, with the usual yellow and green underprinting, of an Armenian girl spinning thread from flax or woo, signifying peace and industry. The Dragons are featured holding up the denomination roundel, with a winged lion above. All in all, a very nice design, with good mythical beasts of importance to the Armenian culture.

By the time the first shipment of these notes reached Armenia, it was too late for much general circulation, and they were very quickly replaced by the new Russian banknotes of 1919. The symbolic peace and industry of the girl spinning thread was replaced by Bolshevik subjugation and forced collectivization of a police state. The banknotes are readily found today in very nice AU, or Almost Uncirculated, condition, and are quite popular with collectors.

Members Comments

Bio page for Paxbrit
Comment by Proteus on 2018-01-23
"I've always considered these quite beautiful, and extremely collectable. Considering their age, and the fact that they can be found in high grades of condition, these make up a truly beautiful, small, and affordable set that can be purchased on a minimal budget. I think that it is also worthwhile to mention that their Russian replacements were, for the most part, plain to the point of being ugly."

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