A century and a half with “katenka” and “petenka”6 июля 2018 года
A century and a half with “katenka” and “petenka”
The main novelty was in the fact that there appeared portraits of Grand Duke Dmitry Donskoy, Tsars Mikhail Fedorovich and Alexey Mikhailovich, Emperor Peter the Great and Empress Catherine II. It was with this type of banknotes that the tradition of depicting the Russian sovereigns on paper money was started.
The new credit notes were created as a result of an in-depth modernization of the Expedition of Storing State Papers that took place at the end of the 1850s – the beginning of the 1860s. New buildings were constructed; new papermaking machines for “endless” paper production were installed.
During the reconstruction, a contract with the American Bank Note Company was concluded; the company was to render technical assistance during the preparation for the emission of the new banknotes. The company successfully applied intaglio printing – a brand new technology of gravure printing of images and inscriptions carved on the steel board and transferred to special cylinders, and then replicated to the printing plates. This printing method allowed to protect banknotes against counterfeiting reliably and improve their appearance considerably.
In 1860, drawings of the new banknotes were sent to the USA – the Americans were to engrave them on the steel boards. Those drawings did not look like the resulting banknotes at all – initially, it was planned to depict images of architectural monuments and representatives of the peoples inhabiting the Russian Empire instead of portraits of the Tsars and Emperors. The boards were produced across the ocean, but ill fate interfered – the ship bringing them to Russia ran into a storm and went down. The boards raised from the bottom turned out to be fatally flawed with water. After that, it was decided to develop new banknote sketches, and in 1863, there appeared an idea to decorate them with portraits.
Emperor Alexander II chose and approved the portraits, and the work started in Russia already. As a result, in the second half of the 1860s, the new money was gradually put into circulation. It was much more difficult to counterfeit the new banknotes than their predecessors, and that no doubt served the Russian currency system well.
“The Pantheon” of portraits on the banknotes would change in the future – the grand dukes and tsars of the pre-Peter epoch would be replaced with images of Nikolay I and Alexander III, and the portrait of Peter the Great would be transferred from the 50- to the 500-rouble note. In the funds of Goznak, there are project drawings of banknotes with the portraits of Pavel I, Alexander I, Alexander II, Empress Maria Fedorovna and even the Minister of Finance of the epoch of Nikolay I – E.F. Kankrin; however, those were only projects.
The banknotes of the model of 1866 would gradually be replaced, starting from the second half of the 1880s. “Katenka” – the best-known Russian pre-revolution banknote – would be changed twice, in 1898 and 1910. Its last variant developed by the artists and technologists of the Expedition of Storing State Papers would become one of the most beautiful and best-secured banknotes of that time.
The Exhibition Complex of Goznak
Translated by Tatiana Ugryumova
Translator’s note: “katenka” is an affectionate diminutive form of Catherine and “petenka” of Peter in Russian; the banknotes were called so in the folklore because of the portraits of Catherine II and Peter the Great on them.