THE VOICE OF INTERNATIONAL LITHUANIA
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Thu, 16th June, 2011 - Posted by
What would you think if you found out that experts believe that the Rouble did not
originate in Russia? What would you think if you found out that these same experts
believe the Rouble originated in Lithuania and then later migrated to Russia?
This article was partially based on an article written by Dr. A. M. Rackus
Was the Russian Rouble invented in Lithuania?
Text: Vin Karnila, Associate Editor
Lithuanian Rouble bar - grivna
When you hear the word “Rouble” automatically one thinks of Russia as this has been their official monetary unit for hundreds of years. During the many years of Imperial Russia it was called the Russian Rouble, during the times of Soviet Russia it was called the Soviet Rouble and now in the time of the Russian Federation it is again called the Russian Rouble. What would you think though if you found out that experts believe that the Rouble did not originate in Russia? What would you think if you found out that these same experts believe the Rouble originated in Lithuania and then later migrated to Russia?
To help sort this out, there are two things to keep in mind.
1. The history of the Rouble has been traced back to about 1000 years ago in Lithuania.
2. The earliest circular coin bearing the inscription "rouble" on it was struck by Czar Alexiei Mikhailovitch in 1654.
Prior to 1654 roubles were quite primitive. They were cast as silver bars in sand moulds. Once cast these bars were then cut into two equal parts. The shape of these bars are referred to as a boat and a finger with the oldest-type roubles being boat shaped and the later ones finger shaped.
It is believed that the origin of the word Rouble comes from the (old) Lithuanian word “kapa” which is a derivative of the (old) Lithuanian verb “kapat” which meant to cut or chop. The word "rouble" is derived from the White Russian / Ruthenian verb "rublit", which also means "to chop." Hence both terms, kapa and rouble, literally mean "a cut piece of silver."
To add further validity to not only the origin of the Rouble but to also help explain why these pieces of cut silver were in such abundance in this area, experts refer to the fact that during the medieval ages in Lithuania any individual had the right to cast silver into bars of a specific regulated weight and purity. There was an unwritten law, however, that smelters were under obligation to refine silver before it was cast into kapas / roubles and those that were caught cheating were put to death. There is also a record in the Livonian Statute of A. D. 1228, where it is stated that the death penalty will be imposed on those attempting to debase silver by adding to it even 1/16 part of other base metals. This is the reason why silver bar kapas /roubles, whenever found in Baltic States, are always nearly pure.
How early did kapas or roubles appear in Lithuania? Some experts believe they originated sometime between the ninth and tenth centuries. Their opinion is based on the following facts.
No gold or silver mine was ever found in Lithuania. Neither did Northern Russia have any silver mines in olden days. In spite of this, it is surprising the incredible amount of silver that circulated in Lithuania in the ninth century. Various archeological finds in Lithuanian territory prove it. At the beginning of the ninth century, Arabian merchants frequented Lithuania to purchase fine furs, beeswax and precious amber.
Brisk trading between Arabians and Lithuanians went on for about two hundred years. Arabians brought to Lithuania millions of their Cufic silver coins and silver ornaments. There was great excitement among archaeologists in 1909 when labourers, digging ditches at Gnezdovo / Gnyozdovo, near Smolensk, accidentally discovered a large treasure trove, which consisted of Arabian silver rings and Cufic coins. In regards to the findings at Gnezdovo, please remember that this area was a part of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania. Several other similar large findings were dug up in various parts of what is now the Republic of Lithuania, where Cufic coins and silver bar roubles were found together; but in each find the quantity of Cufi coins was very small. This would indicate that as soon as a sufficient quantity of silver coins were gathered together they were melted and cast into bars, which were then ready at any time to be cut into kapa or rouble pieces. It is a well-known fact to historians and archaeologists that in A. D. 1012 the Arabian trade with Europe abruptly ceased and no more Cufic coins streamed into Europe. These facts also support the belief that kapas / roubles already existed in Lithuania between the 9th and 10th centuries.
While there is much documentation and findings regarding the kappa / rouble in Lithuania, Old Russian chronicles give very little information about roubles. The earliest date mentioning rouble in Russian chronicles is 1317. Excavations in the northern part of Russia also throw very little light on this subject. During the period of Tartaric invasion of Russia (1230-1400) the “Golden Horde” exacted enormous quantities of silver from the Russian people. Russian chronicles state that when Kiev was threatened by the Tartars in 1399, Kiev citizens had to pay to Khan Timur Kutluk a contribution of 3000 Lithuanian roubles. This proves that Lithuanian silver bar kapas / roubles circulated freely in Kiev long before 1399.
In the Russian province of Novgorod, marten skins were used as money up to 1410. Russian chronicles say that in 1410 Novgorod adopted Lithuanian money as legal tender, and the use of marten skins as money was discontinued. Evidently there was an abundance of Lithuanian money in Novgorod long before 1410, and in the market Lithuanian money had a strong purchasing power or Russians would have never adopted a foreign currency for their legal tender. In the Duchy of Pskov and other Russian localities, Lithuanian roubles were circulating freely as early as the beginning of the thirteenth century.
What is considered as one of the most interesting specimens, which created a sensation among Lithuanian numismatists recently, is a silver bar rouble with five different counter stamps on it. The purpose of counter stamping Lithuanian kapas / roubles by Russian dukes was either to legalize their circulation in Russian provinces or to claim their ownership and to record the name of the reigning duke. Numismatists know that most counter stamped coins, whether ancient or medieval, as a rule originally were issued in a foreign country. The same rule applies to Lithuanian kapas / roubles with Russian counter stamps on them. Another interesting fact is that whenever silver bar Kapa / rouble hoards are excavated in Lithuanian territory they are never found counter stamped. Only two instances are recorded where a few bar roubles were found with counter stamps in the Baltic States. In Russian territory, however, most bar-shaped roubles are found counter stamped. These facts would indicate that ruble originated in Lithuania and then migrated into Russia, where it was adopted later as a national Russian monetary unit and then evolved into official Rouble coins then into the official Rouble banknotes.
So here we have in the 9th and 10th centuries Lithuanians melting down Arabic silver coins into silver bars and calling these bars kapas / roubles. In 1399 we have the citizens of Kiev paying off Khan Timur Kutluk a contribution of 3000 LITHUANIAN roubles so that he would agree to not pillage and plunder their fair city. We also have Russian chronicles stating that in 1410 Novgorod adopted LITHUANIAN money as legal tender.
Then – We have documentation of the earliest circular coin bearing the inscription "rouble" on it in Russia was struck by Czar Alexiei Mikhailovitch in 1654.
So dear readers, what is YOUR conclusion?
Lithuanian Rouble or Russian rouble?
The earliest circular coin bearing the inscription "rouble" on it in Russia was struck by
Czar Alexiei Mikhailovitch in 1654.
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