On Christmas Day, 1991, the Soviet Union collapsed. One “Union” of Soviet Socialist Republics was now 15 independent nations: the Baltic states of Latvia, Lithuania, and Estonia; the Eastern European countries of Belarus, Moldova, and Ukraine; Armenia, Azerbaijan, and Georgia, in the Caucasus; the sprawling Central Asian nations of Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan; and Russia itself. Thus ended its run as one of the two superpowers that dominated the world stage for half a century.
During the Cold War, the USSR and its Warsaw Pact affiliates vied for global supreme-acy against the United States and its NATO allies. With both sides capable of wiping each other out—and destroying the world in the process—neither were inclined to push the button. This concept of mutually assured destruction, or MAD, prompted both governments to adopt different, more subtle means of warfare. In places like Korea, Vietnam, and Afghanistan, Marxist/ Communist governments aligned with the Reds fought bloody civil wars against Western-backed pro-capitalist regimes.
The two sides competed for technological superiority. The Soviets launched Sputnik 1, the first satellite, in 1957—an event met with near-hysteria in the United States. The Americans ramped up their own space program, creating NASA, investing heavily in research and development, and, just 12 years after Sputnik, landing a man on the moon. Meanwhile, all around the world, the CIA, the KGB, and their affiliated agencies worked through sabotage, propaganda, and, sometimes, assassination.
The kopek coins and the ruble banknote in this collection were the last currency issues circulating in the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics. First minted in 1961—the year the Berlin Wall was built—the coins were in circulation during the terms of Nikita Krushchev, Leonid Brezhnev, Uri Andropov, Constantine Chernenko and Mikhael Gorbachev. In 1991, the 1 ruble banknote was redesigned and reissued.
THE RED SCARE: SOVIET CURRENCY
Soviet Currency These coins and banknote are genuine artifacts of the former Soviet Union. The coins all show, in miniature, the seal of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics. In its full scale, the names of all of the republics that were incorporated into the U.S.S.R. are listed on the ribbons that are wrapped around the sheaves of wheat located on either side of the iconic hammer and sickle.
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