Interesting documents on the convertibility of the Soviet currency during 1924 –1937

  • Zbyshek Shustek


In the framework of the New Economic Policy (NEP) and the currency reform of 1922-1924 the USSR currency was introduced, which was fully convertible into gold. Actually, the reform was supposed to re-introduce the old gold currency, which was in circulation in the Russian Empire before the beginning of the WWI. New Soviet copper and silver coins had the same metrological parameters as the corresponding coins before the war. Banknotes were really convenient abroad duringr 1924-1927 years and freely exchanged for other currencies, but promised to free convertibility of banknotes for gold coins has never been implemented. The reason of that was the golden blockade of the USSR and the refusal to accept these coins in the West. For this reason, the old 10-ruble coins with the portrait of Tsar Nicholas II had to continue to be minted. However, there are also internal reasons which prevented the planned exchange rate of the gold coins. The regulatory quota for issuing government bills for 500 million gold rubles was soon exceeded twice, which triggered the development of inflation. On October 1, 1926, the free export of banknotes abroad was prohibited, and in 1928 – also free entry into the USSR. Thus, the free convertibility of the new Soviet currency was abolished, and the Soviet currency became only internal. In this article we review and analyze internal instruction, which stated quite openly that the promised guarantees on new bank notes convertible into gold is in reality only a tactical maneuver relatively to other countries. From August 1, 1926, free export of the Soviet currency was prohibited in foreign countries and in 1928 it’s import from abroad. The Soviet government at that time has made some effort to foreigners who were in the USSR and were carrying Soviet money legally, they can freely convert. At the same time, this effort can be seen as an indication of the responsibility of the Soviet authorities for those who in a very short time provided free convertibility of the Soviet currency. This is evident from the passports of Czechoslovak citizens who have been visiting the USSR for 30 years. Whether its owners are not in the USSR, they were close to Soviet entry visa with a special stamp, followed by the Czech text: "Import and transfer of Soviet currency on the territory of the USSR provided to August 1, 1926". From the results obtained to date from the old passports it is not clear how the Soviet embassy began to give these stamps in the passports. Trips in the USSR were quite rare for foreigners in the interwar period. Exchange of foreign currencies in the USSR was very unprofitable for foreigners in the second half of the 1930's. However, the amount of the money received in rubles, had a much lower purchasing power than the equivalent amount in exchange currency abroad. Accordingly, in the Polish border areas of the USSR, the Soviet currency was offered much cheaper on the black market. But modern authors have noted that any purchase of Soviet money was very risky, as black markets were well controlled by the Soviet secret services. Consequently, all these documents show that the Soviet currency was very uncertain in the interwar period.


1. Adler, H., (1937) Handbuch der Banknoten und Múnzen Europas [Handbook of banknotes and coins of Europe]. Internationale kriminalpolizeiliche Kommission vom Banbenverband, Wien, 859 S. [in German].

2. Romsics, I. (2005) Magyarország története a XX. Században [History of Hungary in the XX. century], Osiris Kiadó, Budapest, 668 S. [in Hungarian].

3. Zwach, I. (1932) SSSR, Země práce a odříkáni, Pokorný a spol [USSR, Country of Work and Disclaimer], Brno, 167 S. + 1 Mape. [in Czech].

Author Biography

Zbyshek Shustek

Zbyshek Shustek, Slovak numismatic society at the Historical Institute of the Slovak Academy of Sciences
Bratislava, Slovakia

How to Cite
Shustek, Z. (2017). Interesting documents on the convertibility of the Soviet currency during 1924 –1937. The Ukrainian Numismatic Annual, (1), 165-172.