Staunton, August 12 – In another recrudescence of the 1990s when the ruble collapsed and thousands of local governments and businesses issued their own script to deal with the lack of physical currency and high inflation, Russia’s Cossacks have issued their own currency with Vladimir Putin’s picture prominently displayed on it.
During the 1990s, 750 local and regional governments issued their own currencies to cope with the economic crisis; and thousands more firms did the same thing. (For a discussion, see “750 Republic and Local Governments in Russia Issued Their Own Currencies in the 1990s” at windowoneurasia2.blogspot.com/2012/01/window-on-eurasia-750-republic-and.html.)
Now, faced with a new economic crisis and with the collapse of the ruble, some outside Moscow may be about to do the same thing, thus reversing one of Vladimir Putin’s drives to eliminate what he views as a threat to Russia’s “common legal space” and even its territorial integrity.
The Irbis Cossack community in St. Petersburg has issued more than two million banknotes denominated in its own currency but with pictures of Vladimir Putin on them (kazaki-irbis.ru/2015/08/04/dengi/). That has prompted prosecutors and Bank of Russian experts to launch an investigation (procspb.ru/news/spb/12622-prokuratura-sankt-peterburga-nachala-proverku-informacii-razmeshchennoy-v-smi-o-nachale-vypuska-pravoslavnym-soyuzom-kazakov-irbis-sobstvennoy-valyuty).
Physical currency has become harder to come by, the Cossacks say; and the ruble is worth far less than it was. Thus, they argue, it is time for groups like themselves to issue their own currencies to help Russians pay for their daily needs (fontanka.ru/2015/08/10/128/). Not surprisingly, Russian officials do not see it this way.