The sesquicentennial history on one coin 23.10.2015

The coin minted by the craftsmen of the Saint-Petersburg Mint under the order of the Bank of Russia can definitely be called unique. A small silver disk with the diameter of 39.0 mm contains the story about a few very important events in the sesquicentennial history of the Leningrad Zoo.

The “150th Anniversary of the Leningrad Zoo” coin is minted of sterling silver with the face value of 3 roubles. The weight of the precious metal in purity is 31.1 g. There is a relief edge around the circumference of the obverse and the reverse. The flank surface is ribbed. The coin was made in “proof” quality in the number of 5 thousand pieces.  

The author of the sketch and modeling – Andrey Brynza, an artist of the Design Center of Goznak – consulted employees of the Zoo and studied books and archive records before working upon the coin. After the immersion into the tragic and grand history of the Leningrad Zoo, the artist wanted to place the symbols of its brightest stages on a little coin.  

“The coin composition was formed at once”, said Andrey Brynza. “It was obvious that the polar bear, the symbol of the Leningrad Zoo, would be in the center. By the way, it’s also depicted in the Zoo logo”.

“First of all, the Leningrad Zoo is the northernmost in Europe, and secondly, it was here for the first time in the world that success in captive propagation of polar bears was achieved. Here, at Petrogradskaya Side of Saint-Petersburg, bear cubs are born, nursed, they grow up and go to zoos of various countries. Therefore it is not just a polar bear, but a she-bear with a cub depicted on the coin.  

Unfortunately, we have no idea what the Zoo looked like during the first years of its existence – there remain no images. But there are a lot of photographs and lithographs depicting the subsequent architecture of the Zoo Garden in the Eastern Style preserved in the historical building. One can see a fragment of the entrance gates of the period from an old lithograph on the left-hand side of the coin”.  

Today there are no elephants or apes at the Zoo, but the citizens remember them. Some of the elephants were in the films, and a children’s story was written about the elephants who survived the war in Vietnam, were given to the Leningrad Zoo and travelled across half the world from Vietnam to Leningrad.

The Zoo employees carried out unique experiments with apes, chimpanzees and orangutans by taking the animals to the Leningrad Region during the warm time of the year. It turned out that the tropical animals can adapt to responsible life in the forests of the moderate climate excellently.  

The Zoos usually accept elks very unwillingly – the elks die in captivity. But only at the Leningrad Zoo they have learned to create conditions for the elks to feel great and even breed.  

Giraffes usually live in captivity for no more than 20 years, but the giraffe female depicted on the coin lived at the Leningrad Zoo for about 30 years and left multiple progeny.

The Siberian tiger is an endangered species that lives in the Ussuri taiga only. The Leningrad Zoo contributes to preserving the population of the Siberian tiger in the world.  

And certainly, the famous Beauty, the hippopotamus female who survived the blockade. Laser engraving was applied to depict her against the background of the Peter and Paul Fortress – it was a fragment of an old photo. During the blockade (and the Leningrad Zoo was the only one in the world that survived a blockade) the animals starved the same way as the people. By the way, the “Leningrad Zoo” was not renamed; the name was preserved to keep the memory of the heroic deed of both the animals and the people during the war.

“It was both difficult and easy at the same time to work upon the coin. And it was interesting”, said Andrey Brynza. “The material was so rich and emotionally filled that the coin didn’t require any special technologies. It was all very plain – the relief, “proof”, the blackness of laser engraving reproducing the blockade time and the animals modelled in relief”.

“The work upon the coin is over”, concluded Andrey Brynza. “But the respect for the Zoo employees who always have to survive together with the animals in Russia will remain for ever. Just like understanding that these people do a great job quietly and imperceptibly. And although only the animals are depicted on the coin, it is also dedicated to the everyday quiet heroic deed of all generations of the employees of the Leningrad Zoo”.

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