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September 2010

The first coins in the territory of Rus’ (9th-11th century)

The archaeological evidence attests the existence of Byzantine coins in the territory of the Rus as early as the 9th century. However they started to appear regularly from the last quarter of the 10th century. The found coins are gold, silver and bronze; however the majority of them are silver miliaresia.(1) During the 10th century imitations of dirhams and of European deniers were struck at the mints of Kiev, Chernigov and other cities in the state of the Rus’. It is evident that the silver miliaresia were of greater importance for the Rus’. The reason might be the fact that silver was the main metal for issuing coins by the Arabs and the Western European states with which the Rus’ came into contact through trade. In relation to the introduction of Christianity and the development of commercial activities in the Kievan Rus’ territory, Prince Vladimir started to struck the first Old Russian coins in silver and gold by the end of the 10th century. The silver coins were called "сребреники" (srebreniki) and the gold "златники" (zlatniki). The influence of the Byzantine iconography is evident on these coins. Bronze and silver imitations of Byzantine miliaresia were also struck from the second half of the 10th century onwards in the Principality of Тmutarakan (Tamatarkha) on the Taman Peninsula which was under the control of the Kievan Rus during this period.

Srebrenik of Vladimir I, ca. 1000-1015

Silver “srebrenik” of  Vladimir I, Prince of Kiev, ca. 1000-1015

There is an apparent Byzantine influence on the iconography of the aforementioned coins which were struck in the lands of the Rus’. On the obverse of Vladimir’s first coins is depicted the Prince holding scepter; on other issues the figure of Prince is shown seated. On the reverse is represented the figure of Christ or in some cases a Tryzub (‘trident’), a symbol which eventually became the national coat of arms of Ukraine.

Silver coin, Tmutarakan' Principality, ca. 1000-1036

Silver coin (imitating a miliaresion), Тmutarakan’ Principality, ca. 1000-1036

The iconography of the coins minted in the Principality of Тmutarakan was influenced by the miliaresia depicting two emperors (Basil II and Constantine VIII), holding between them a long patriarchal cross. On the reverse appear lines of patterns imitating an inscription.

(1) В. В. Кропоткин, Клады византийских монет на территории СССР. 1962, Свод археологических источников. Е4-04;
T. S. Noonan, ‘The Circulation of Byzantine Coins in Kievan Rus’, Byzantine Studies/Études Byzantines 7. 2 (1980), 151-152.

Pavla Gkantzios Drápelová

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