Tag Archives: 1970s

Communist banknotes: Part 1

Communism is both deeply hated and deeply loved by many. But whatever your thoughts are on the ideology it’s still easy to get fascinated by the phenomena. In its essence the ideology strives towards a utopic and equal society without classes and without private ownership.
It’s safe to say that communism is not strong today. It is an ideology of the 20th century during which many countries held it as the only possible way of life. However, no country succeeded in realizing the utopic society. Way to often these countries got stuck in the proletarian dictatorship with limitations in freedom of speech and terrible prosecutions ending in mass murder of opponents in countries like the USSR and China.
The enemy of communism is of course capitalism. This we saw during the long conflict that was the cold war which fueled wars all over the world.
Now, what would be a stronger symbol of capitalism if not money itself? There is something hypocritical with communist symbols and leaders on the very same thing that de ideology strives to counter. But the communism that was created in different countries during the 20th century is not unfamiliar to creating cults around certain figures. Some leaders got almost a religious status in these secular countries. The personality cult of the communistic countries works actually esthetically very well together with the classical design of banknotes. This fact makes them especially fun to collect.
In a couple of posts I’ll present some examples of these banknotes from my personal collection. You’ll get to read about them in an order of when the different persons were active. We’ll start it of where communism began.

DDR - 100 Mark - Marx

Above is a 100 mark banknote from East Germany (DDR) and it features Karl Marx, the philosopher and sociologist that could be considered the founder of modern socialist and communism. Below you have another banknote from DDR. This is a 50 mark banknote and it features Marx companion, Freidrich Engels. Together they laid the basis of the ideology with The Communist Manifesto which is their most famous manuscript and one of the world’s most influential ones. It’s no wonder that Marx and Engels were featured on DDR’s highest valued banknotes. DDR was a socialistic state and both of them were from Germany. The back of the 100 mark banknote features a couple of buildings in East Berlin. Among them you have the Palast der Republik (the parliament at that time), the Berlin TV tower and the red city hall. On the back of the 50 mark banknote you have an industrial complex portraying the importance of heavy industry for the state.

DDR - 50 Mark - Engels

These were my two first communist banknotes and there are six more to go!

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(West) Germany: 50 pfenning 1971

This is a pfenning coin – the subunit of the Deutsche Mark (often referred to as the D-mark). Germany was split in two after World War II. One state was created from the zones occupied by the U.S., France and Great Britain. This was Bundesrepublik Deutschland – West Germany and it was here that the D-mark was the official currency. The other state was created from the zone occupied by the USSR. This was Deutsche Demokratische Republik – East Germany.

The two parts were separated for about 40 years and developed in two different ways. West Germany developed into a stable democratic country, even though they had problems with people who’d been part of the power during the Nazi era keeping high positions after the war. The same problem wasn’t that present in the east, but there the population suffered hard from both economic problems and an undemocratic rule. The Berlin wall constructed in 1961 is the main symbol of the separation of these two countries. It stood as an example of the insanity that was the Cold war, and it wasn’t until one wonderful night in 1989 that the wall was brought down. Sadly, walls are still being built…

The coin features a woman planting an oak three. The oak is a symbol of Germany and is featured on many different coins both from the D-mark and the euro. To me the woman planting the tree represents something new. It’s a rebirth of a new country that rises from the ashes of the Second World War.

The D-mark also became the official currency in East Germany following the unification of the two countries in 1990. It was later replaced by the euro in 2002.

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Russia: 50 kopek 1899 + Bonus

Nikolaj II Romanov was the emperor (czar) of Russia between 1894 and 1917, during the last period of the Russian Empire. Nikolaj was the father of the Grand Duchess Anastasia, who according to legend would have survived the execution on her family, but this has been disproven.

This is a beautiful silver coin with the czar himself and the towheaded eagle – a symbol of the Russian Empire. Post-USSR the eagle is once again used as a symbol of Russia but now without the crowns, the spire and the globus cruciger. Nikolaj looks very secure on the coin, there’s and aura about him that radiates “good leader”. In 1899 this may have been the way that the world saw him as well. But that would change. Nikolaj were to be the last czar. He would bring the Russian Empire to its end.

First of all I need to mention the war with Japan (1904-1905). The war mainly concerned the region of Manchuria (present day China and Russia) and the Russians thought that it would be an easy victory against the undeveloped Asians. However Japan was developed – a result of major economic changes during the 19th century. Japan won and marked the first victory of an “undeveloped” country against one of Europe’s superpowers. Russia’s prestige was diminished and so was Nikolaj’s.

Internal problems continued in Russia. The population mainly consisted of farmers, people who lived tough lives with little help from the ruling classes. Tension continued to stir with different organizations defying the czar’s rule.

In 1914 Russia was a part of the entente, an alliance also consisting of Great Britain and France, whom stood against the central powers (Germany, Austria-Hungary and Italy) during what would be known as the Great War and later (at the time of WWII) as the First World War. Russia was an early looser with the powers of Germany overpowering it. This was yet again a disaster, but of a grander scale. The war took place in the motherland and the Russians were losing. The already low standard of living decreased, there was food shortage and millions of soldiers were lost in battle. Uprisings started in the larger cities among workers and together with deserters of the Russian army the czar was forced to abdicate. This was the result of the February revolution (in March according to the Gregorian calendar) 1917.

A provisional government was formed but this too would have to step down. During the October revolution (in November) the Bolsheviks (translated to “men of the majority”) managed to get power by another military uprising. The Bolsheviks was a result of the misery in Russia and they shared a communist ideology – calling for an end of a society divided by class with an ambition of collectivizing ownership. The new Russian ruler quickly made peace with Germany, resulting in the loss of large areas. Their new system was put to use and the royal family, with Nikolaj and Anastasia, was executed. A civil war started together with a witch hunt on wealthy people and landowners.

Russia’s new leader was Vladimir Lenin, the leader of the rebels since the turn of the century. He was a vital part in turning Russia yet again to a super power, but now as a part of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR).

This Soviet 1 ruble coin is commemorating the year when Lenin would have turned 100 years (1970).

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