A friend of mine, that lives and works in Kazakhstan for the last few years, came to visit the UK. Catching up, we somehow start looking at Kazakhstan money notes. I was intrigued by the graphics on the notes and a few drinks later I had one of each in my hand for a closer study.
A bit of history
After Kazakhstan became independent, they chose to still rely on the Russian ruble. Kazakhstan was not really in the position to introduce their own currency, but also did not like the decisions by the Russian financial authorities. In summer 1992, Russia made the ruble a fully convertible currency. After the ruble became tradable on the international market, it lost a lot of value immediately (falling from 130 to over 450 rubles to the U.S. dollar). This caused a movement of huge amounts of old rubles to post-Soviet countries, particularly Kazakhstan, where the ruble was still the only legal currency. This lead to Kazakhstan’s money to quadrupled in just a few months. In November 1993, Kazakhstan introduced the tenge (Kazakh: теңге, teñge), their own new national currency at a rate of 1 tenge = 500 rubles.
Below is the first version of the tenge:
In 2006 the National Bank of Kazakhstan issued a new exotic series of banknotes (200, 500, 1000, 2000, 5000 and 10 000 tenge) with the same values as the previous ones.
The design on the obverse (front) has a portrait layout with the denomination written in Kazakh. The obverse all have the same design. The only difference are the size, colours, values (…obviously) and shapes and patterns in the background.
The most striking element is the handprint. In the hand is the signature of president Nazarbayev with fragments of the national anthem. Also, clearly noticeable at the first glimpse, is the Astana Bayterek monument/observation tower. Astana is the capital of Kazakhstan and the monument symbolises this status. It is also meant to embody a folktale about a mythical tree of life with a ‘gold egg’ that was laid by the magic bird of happiness, Samruk. Close to the top of the note is the blue and yellow national flag of Kazakhstan. More towards the middle is the Coat of Arms.
The reverse of the notes are all different with the value written in Russian. One striking element they do all have in common is the outline of Kazakhstan’s border. Inside the outline map each note has a different geographical ‘view’ and on the outside a unique architectural structure. The name of issuing in Kazakh, the logo of the issuing bank and inscription in Russian stating that counterfeiting banknotes is against the law can also be seen on the back of all of the notes.
200 Tenge (size 126х64 mm)
Outside the outline map is the Transport and Communication Ministry and a winged snow leopard on the bridge over River Ishim. Inside of the outline map is Ministry of Defence and steppes in the background.
500 Tenge (size 130х67 mm)
Outside the outline map is the Ministry of Finance and Akimat (City Hall) of Astana. The inside of the outline map are filled with gulls over the sea in background.
1000 Tenge (size 134х70 mm)
Outside the outline map is the President Culture Center. The inside of the outline map are with mountains in background.
2000 Tenge (size 139х73 mm)
Outside the outline map is the Abai Opera House. The inside of the outline map are with a mountain and lake in background.
5000 Tenge (size 144х76 mm)
Outside the outline map is the Independence Monument. The look of the monument is of great interest to me. It is in the middle of Almaty’s (the capital of Kazakhstan) main square. It is a six-meter figure of the Golden Man* and a winged snow leopard and features the most important periods of Kazakhstan’s history. On the note next to it is the Kazakhstan Hotel. The inside of the outline map are with mountains in background.
10000 Tenge (size 149х79 mm)
Outside the outline map is the Residence Akorda, the official residence of the President. The inside of the outline map are with canyons in background.
Central Bank of Kazakhstan misspells ‘bank’ on money
The first lot of the 2,000 and 5,000 tenge notes, issued in 2006 and printed, had the word ‘bank’ spelled incorrectly. This mistake was not just a spelling problem, but also a political issue. During Soviet times, Kazakhs were encouraged to speak Russian, which is written in Cyrillic script. Since independence in 1991, the country’s own Kazakh language came to use. The Kazakh word for ‘bank’ is “банкі”. On the new note, the word was written with an alternate Cyrillic form of the letter K – “банқі” – which has a slightly different pronunciation.
During the writing of this post, digging into the tenge, I also looked at actual photographs of the architectural structures on the money. Also looking at the different types of mountains on the 1000, 2000, 5000 and the canyons on the 10000 tenge. Kazakhstan has great travel opportunities for an interesting picturesque experience. Something I need to consider at some point for another blog post!
* The Golden Man is an ancient Sacae warrior’s golden costume discovered in the Issyk burial mound near Almaty in 1970; it is now on display in the Central State Museum in Almaty. The snow leopard, according to ancient Kazakh philosophy, guards the Universe. Together, they symbolize the freedom, peace, stability, grand spirit and spiritual unity inherent in the Kazakh people and Kazakh traditions since ancient times. The base of the tower has a group of allegoric sculptures – Mother Heaven and Mother Earth, and two children riding colts, who symbolize the future of Kazakhstan.