Before 1917, virtually no paper money was used in Russian Central Asia. But the Revolutions of that year resulted everywhere in the former Russian Empire in the disappearance of metallic coins, which were hoarded by the population, and their replacement by all kinds of regional, local and private paper money. Inflation rose steeply, so that the real value of the notes sank steadily.
Thus, under the successive rulers of the Khanates (later People's Republics) of Khiva and Bukhara and of the Turkestan ASSR, several hundreds of different banknotes circulated more or less widely between 1918 and 1924, the year when the Soviet Republics were established. Some of these banknotes were printed on silk, but the majority was printed with variables inks on crude paper, using rudimentary printing presses, wooden matrices and simple designs.
This 10,000 rouble note is one of the better-quality banknotes of this period. The Russian text, numbering, and signatures are printed in black, on a green and red background, on thin watermarked white paper. The dimensions of the note are 207x105 mm.
On the front (fig.1), the texts in Russian read:
Временный кредитный билет туркестанской советской республики
(Provisional credit bill of the Turkestan Soviet Republic)
Выпущен по постановлению Совета Народных Комиссаров Российской Социалистической Советской Федеративной Республики
(Issued under an act of the Soviet of People’s Commissars of the Russian Federal Socialist Soviet Republic)
What makes this note quite remarkable, is that when it came to find a motif for the reverse (fig.2) of the note, the designer did not hesitate to copy a contemporary French 100 franc banknote. True, at that time, this French note was one of the most beautiful in the world. It had been designed by the French painter Luc Olivier-Merson, and was the first polychrome banknote to be put in circulation (in 1910) by the Banque de France (figs. 3 and 4). When comparing the two blacksmiths on the back of the two notes, there can be no doubt that the Central Asian note reproduces the French one.
Did the Banque de France or the family of Luc Olivier-Merson (the painter died in 1920) ever learn about this utilisation of the design? This remains unknown.
These two notes enjoyed quite different fates : it is dubious whether many people ever paid with the 10,000 roubles note, whereas the 100 francs note has a long history: The artist attributed the date 1902 to his work. The Banque de France adopted the type in 1906. The dates (dates of “creation”) on the notes begin in January 1908. The emissions began in 1910 and lasted until 1939. The note remained in circulation until 1945.
The composition of the note shows several symbols and allegories, on both sides :
On the left a woman allegory of agriculture, with a young herd holding a sheep.
On the right a woman allegory of commerce, with a young boy holding a bundle.
On the left, a blacksmith holding a hammer on an anvil, symbols of manual work.
On the right, an allegory of the Fortune, holding a cornucopia, symbols of wealth.
Ceres and Mercury, gods of Cultivated land and Commerce.
The blacksmith was retained for the 10,000 rouble note, with his hammer, anvil, and tongs. Of course this echoes the Soviet symbol of the hammer and sickle. At the feet of the blacksmith, the Central Asian note also features a scythe and cereals.
Michel Muszynski - President of AFEP – Association Française pour l’Etude du Papier-monnaie.