The Central Bank of the Russian Federation, better known as simply the Bank of Russia, has released a new series of circulating commemorative coins that has managed to spark quite a bit of controversy in diplomatic circles.
The new series of coins is entitled “Capitals Cities Liberated by Soviet Troops from Fascist Invaders”, and is meant to celebrate the soviet contribution in defeating the Third Reich during World War II. The fourteen coin series depicts monuments from different cities that soviet forces liberated from Nazi Germany during the Second World War.
Sounds relatively simple so far, the problem arises when you consider that a number of these cities and countries came to fall under soviet rule after the war ended. Only to fully regain independence after the fall of the Berlin wall and subsequent collapse of the former Soviet Union.
This has let to the foreign ministries of several countries to lodge official complaints against the Bank of Russia's characterization that Soviet occupation, that in many cases lasted more than 5 decades, was an act of liberation.
Rafal Sobczak, head of the Polish Foreign Ministry spokesperson's office, said the following in an official statement :
"The Russian side's propagation of the Soviet version of history finds no understanding with Poles and only weakens prospects for building good and partnerly relations with Russia, which we consistently want to see based on respect and truth"
He acknowledges the role of Soviet troops in defeating the Nazi invaders but goes on to say that many people who were in fact liberated from Nazi occupation :
“did not live to see the moment of full liberty and true independence.”
However the strongest reactions surely came from the Lithuanian foreign ministry. On Wednesday August 3rd 2016 Rolandas Kacinskas, Political Director of the Lithuanian Foreign Ministry, had the following to say in response to the release:
“We know Russia’s position and the coin issuance only confirms that Russia is not ready for the historical truth about Soviet occupation”
He also went on to say that the coin for Vilnius, Lithuania, depicts a Soviet era monument called “On Guard for Peace” that was taken down by the Lithuanian government after independence. He commented that ““such symbols of Soviet occupation.” should not be seen as a monument to liberation.
As of the time of writing, the Governments of Poland, Lithuania and Latvia have publicly protested the new coins.
The series of coins all share a common obverse design. A large number “5” dominates the obverse appearing slightly offset to the upper left of the coin. Below it in three lines are the inscriptions “РУБЛЕЙ” (ROUBLES), “БАНК РОССИИ” (BANK OF RUSSIA) and “2016”. Indicating the denomination, 5 Ruble, the issuing authority and country of issue and finally the date of issue for the coins. A flowering plant can be seen to the right with leaves appearing on the far left of the coin as well. The obverse design is completed by the mintmark for the coin on the right side of the coin.
The fourteen coins in the series all have differing reverse designs depicting a detailed relief image of a war monument from the city in question in the foreground. The background of each coin in turn features a frosted silhouette(or grayed-out outline if you will) of that cities skyline. The reverse side legend of each coin inscribes the name of the city at the top along the rim between two stars, one at each end. To the bottom appears the date on which Soviet forces liberated the city from Nazi occupation.
The 14 coins released this week are dedicated to the cities of Kiev(Ukraine), Minsk(Belarus), Vilnius(Lithuania), Kishinev(Moldova), Bucharest(Romania), Tallinn(Estonia), Riga(Latvia), Belgrade(Serbia), Warsaw(Poland), Budapest(Hungary), Bratislava(Slovakia), Vienna(Austria), Berlin(Germany) and Prague(Czech Republic)
“6 НОЯБРЯ 1943 г” (6TH OF NOVEMBER 1943)
“3 ИЮЛЯ 1944 г.” (3RD OF JULY 1944)
“13 ИЮЛЯ 1944 г.” (13TH OF JULY 1944)
“24 АВГУСТА 1944 г.” (24TH OF AUGUST 1944)
“31 АВГУСТА 1944 г.” (31ST OF AUGUST 1944)
“22 СЕНТЯБРЯ 1944 г.” (22ND OF SEPTEMBER 1944)
“15 ОКТЯБРЯ 1944 г.” (15TH OF OCTOBER 1944)
“20 ОКТЯБРЯ 1944 г.” (20TH OF OCTOBER 1944)
“17 ЯНВАРЯ 1945 г.” (17TH OF JANUARY 1945)
“13 ФЕВРАЛЯ 1945 г.” (13TH OF FEBRUARY 1945)
“4 АПРЕЛЯ 1945 г.” (4TH OF APRIL 1945)
“13 АПРЕЛЯ 1945 г.” (13TH OF APRIL 1945)
“2 МАЯ 1945 г.” (2ND OF MAY 1945)
“9 МАЯ 1945 г.” (9TH OF MAY 1945)
Each of the 25mm(0.984 inch) 5 Ruble coins will carry a mintage figure of 2 000 000(two million) coins and are destined for general circulation for the Russian Federation. No announcement has been made of a special special uncirculated or proof issues for collectors as of yet.