Armenia's banknotes

Discover the wealth of banknotes issued between 1919 and 2018

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Historical context

Armenia is a country located in the Lesser Caucasus region of Western Asia. This former Soviet socialist republic has land borders with Turkey to the west, Georgia to the north-northwest, Azerbaijan to the east and Iran to the southeast. Although geographically located in Asia, Armenia is considered to be culturally, historically and politically speaking part of Europe. The country is also recognized a cradle of Christianity and Indo-European civilizations and has played a historic role in their dissemination.

Throughout its rich history, Armenia has been successively occupied by Arabs, Russians and Turks. In the 19th century, Russia and the Ottoman Empire fought over the territory until 1878. In 1894, fearing a revolutionary movement in the part of the territory they controlled, the Turks sent an expeditionary force of Kurds who surrendered to the first massacres against the Armenian people. These dramatic events will be perpetuated until 1915 with the deportation and massacre of more than a million Armenians ...



Armenian Republic Issues

After the collapse of Russia in 1917 and the Ottoman Empire in 1918, the Armenians succeeded in creating an independent democratic republic, but with ephemeral existence (1918-1920). However, several issues will be put into circulation during this short period of independence. Note that the catalog of Armenia banknotes does not begin for the moment until the third issue of 1920 (1) with a series of three banknotes of 50, 100 and 250 rubles (Pick # 30 to Pick # 32). These banknotes have the particularity of being denominated in three languages, Russian, Armenian and ... French!

50_rubles_type_1920.jpg

Above: front of 50 rubles type 1919. Dimensions: 127 x 82 mm.



The soviet period

The Armenian Republic was attacked by the Turks in September 1920. Defeated by Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, the Armenians resigned themselves to accepting the protection of the Bolsheviks. On November 29, 1920, Armenia was proclaimed the Soviet Republic of Armenia. On March 12, 1922, Armenia, Georgia and Azerbaijan were merged to form the Transcaucasian Soviet Federated Socialist Republic, which became part of the U.S.S.R. On December 5, 1936, the Transcaucasian federation was dissolved and Armenia was definitively included in the Soviet Union (2).



The 1993 Issues

Armenia gained its independence on September 21, 1991. But it was only on November 22, 1993 that the official Armenian currency, the Dram, was put into circulation. A series of six banknotes with a face value of 10, 25, 50, 100, 200 and 500 drams begin to circulate with an exchange rate of one dram for 200 rubles. The whole theme of this series of banknotes is oriented towards highlighting the architectural, cultural, modern and historical monuments of Armenia. It should be noted that the old Soviet 500 ruble banknotes issued from 1961 to 1992 remained in circulation until March 17, 1994. Two other banknotes of 1,000 and 5,000 drams were then introduced by the Central Bank of the Republic of Armenia between 1994 and 1995 to complete this first series.

5000_dram_type_1995v.jpg

Above: back of 5,000 dram type 1995. Dimensions: 145 x 71 mm. In illustration, a bust of the goddess Anahit now in the British Museum in London.



The 1998 Issues

In 1995, the Central Bank of the Republic of Armenia decided to modernize the design of its banknotes by incorporating the new international security standards in force at the time. This modernization thus gave birth to a new series of six banknotes of 50, 100, 500, 1,000, 5,000 and 20,000 drams which were introduced in 1998. The theme of this series pays tribute to the most eminent figures of culture and the Armenian historical heritage: the composer and conductor, Aram Ilich Khachaturian (50 dram), the astrologer and astrophysicist Victor Hambardzumyan (100 dram), the architect Alexander Tamanyan (500 dram), the poet, writer and translator Yeghishe Charents (1,000 dram), poet Hovhannes Tumanyan (5,000 dram) and painter Martiros Saryan (20,000 dram).

500_dram_type_1999.jpg

Above: front of the 500 dram type 1999 with the architect Alexander Tamanyan. Dimensions: 129 x 72 mm.



2001 Commemorative Issues

In 2001, a commemorative note of 50,000 dram type 2001 was put into circulation. It is dedicated to the 1,700th anniversary of the proclamation of Christianity, the state religion in Armenia. The front of the note shows a general view of the oldest Armenian Christian building, the Cathedral of St. Etchmiadzin. The reverse side depicts Mount Ararat, a khachkar from Kecharis Monastery, and an image of the church symbolizing Christianity in the hands of Grigor Lusavorich (Gregory the Illuminator) and King Tiridate IV the Great.



2018 Isssues

In 2018, in commemoration of the 25th anniversary of the Armenian currency, the Central Bank of Armenia decides to issue a third series of six banknotes of 1,000, 2,000, 5,000, 10,000, 20,000 and 50,000 dram. These new banknotes are characterized by a technical innovation in terms of paper with the use of a “Hybrid” composite material in the production of banknotes, making it possible to extend the life cycle of the banknotes in circulation. The design of the notes uses the same theme of 1998 Issues with portraits of famous Armenians who have contributed to the influence of the cultural and historical heritage of Armenia: the poet Parouir Sévak (1000 dram), the great international chess master Tigran Vartani Petrossian (2,000 dram), Armenian-American writer William Saroyan (5,000 dram), composer and musicologist Komitas (10,000 dram), marine painter Ivan Konstantinovich Aïvazovsky (20,000 dram), clergyman and first Catholic of Christian Armenia, Gregory the Illuminator (50,000 dram). All banknotes in this third series are printed by the German company Giesecke & Devrient.

20000_dram_type_2018.jpg

Above: front of 20,000 dram type 2018 with the painter Ivan Konstantinovich Aïvazovsky. Dimensions: 150 x 72 mm.





Notes

(1) In 1919, the young Armenian republic began by issuing a series of 8 banknotes of 5, 10, 25, 50, 100, 250, 500 and 1,000 rubles (Pick # 1 to Pick # 8). These denominations are introduced by the Yerevan Branch of Government Bank. A second issue of 50, 100, 250, 500 and 1,000 rubles (Pick # 9 to Pick # 13) is then introduced. In 1920, two issues were put into circulation: a first issue of 5, 10, 25, 50 and 100 rubles (Pick # 14 to Pick # 18), then a second issue of 25, 50, 100, 250, 500, 1,000, 5,000 and 10,000 rubles (Pick # 19 to Pick # 29). These 29 banknotes will be added to the Numizon catalog in a second step ...
(2) All banknotes issued between 1923 and 1922 can be viewed on the remarkable Bank Note Museum website for Russian Transcaucasia. For banknotes issued between 1923 and 1992, also consult the catalog of the Bank Note Museum website for the Soviet Union. These two countries are not currently available in the general Numizon catalog.


Our sources

  • "Armenia", Bank Note Museum.
  • "Armenia", Wikipédia.
  • "Money cycle in the Republic of Armenia", Central Bank of Armenia.
  • "The Banknote Book: Armenia" by Owen W. Linzmeyer.
  • "Armenia" Standard Catalog of World Paper Money, 1368-1960, 12th edition (pages 65 to 67).
  • "Armenia" Standard Catalog of World Paper Money, 1961-present, 17th edition (pages 69 to 72).
  • Photos source: Bank Note Museum, cgb.fr.


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