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Friday, 25 May 2018

727) Som Banknotes of the Kyrgyz Republic or Kyrgyzstan:

727) Som Banknotes of the Kyrgyz Republic or Kyrgyzstan:

For other interesting posts on Banknotes, Coins and Stamps issues from Kyrgyzstan on this Blog, please visit the following links:

The Kyrgyz Republic is a land-locked country with mountainous terrain, bordered by Kazakhstan to the North, Uzbekistan to the to the West and South-west, Tajikstan to the South-west and China to the East.

Its capital and largest city is Bishkek.

A Brief History of evolution of Kyrgyzstan: 

The Scythians were the early settlers in present day Kyrgyzstan.

Kyrgyzstan's recorded history dates back about  2,000 years and is replete with a variety of cultures and empires. Although geographically isolated by its highly mountainous terrain, which helped preserve its ancient culture, Kyrgyzstan has been at the cross-roads of several great civilisations as a part of the Silk Road and other commercial and cultural routes.

It has long been inhabited by several independent tribes and clans and more recently was a part of the Soviet Union. 

The name "Kyrgyz" is derived from the Turkic word for "forty", in reference to the forty clans of Manas, a legendary hero, who united the forty regional clans against the Uighurs who dominated much of Central Asia (including Kyrgyzstan), Mongolia and parts of Russia and China.  "Kyrgyz" literally means "We are forty".

The Kyrgyz Flag has forty rays, symbolising the 40 clans and the geographical element in the Sun's centre depicts the wooden crown called "Tunduk" of a Yurt - a portable dwelling traditionally used by nomads in the steppes of Central Asia.

In 840 AD, the Kyrgyz State reached its greatest expansion after defeating the Uighur Khaganate.

From the 10th Century AD, the Kyrgyz migrated as far as the Tian Shan Range and maintained their dominance here for about two centuries.

In the 12th and 13th  Centuries, the Kyrgyz territories had vastly shrunk due to the expansion of the Mongol Empire and the Kyrgyz peacefully became a part of the Mongol Empire in 1207 AD.

Meanwhile, Issyk-Kul Lake in the North-eastern Tian Shan is the largest lake in Kyrgyzstan and the second largest mountain lake in the world after Lake Titicaca, and was a stop-over on the Silk Road, a land route for traders, merchants and other travellers from the Far East to Europe.

In the 17th Century AD, Kyrgyz tribes were once again, overrun by Mongols and in the 18th Century AD by the Manchurian Qing Dynasty.

Still later, in the 19th Century AD, the Kyrgyz territories were ruled by the Uzbek Khanate of Kokand.

In the late 19th Century AD, the Eastern part of present day Kyrgyzstan (the Issyk-Kul Region) was ceded to the Russian Empire through the Treaty of Tarbagatai between China (under the Qing Dynasty Rule) and Russia.

In 1876, the territories formally became a part of the Russian Empire. The Russian takeover was met with numerous uprisings against Tsarist authority and many Kyrgyz moved to the Pamir mountains and Afghanistan.

By 1916, several more Kyrgyz had migrated to China rather than accept Russian domination.

In 1991, Kyrgyzstan attained sovereignty as a nation-state when the Soviet Union broke up.

Since Independence, Kyrgyzstan has become a unitary Parliamentary Republic, although it is plagued with ethnic conflicts, uprisings, economic troubles, transitional governments and political conflict.

Ethnic Kyrgyz make up the majority of the country's 5.7 million citizens (73% of the total population), followed by  significant minorities of Uzbeks (14.6%) and Russians (5.8%). The majority of the population are non-denominational Muslims. Other inhabitants are small minorities - Uighurs, Tajiks, Kazakhs and Ukrainians. The country has over 80 ethnic groups.

Kyrgyz is closely related to other Turkic languages, although Russian is still the most widely spoken and is the official language. In addition toits Turkic culture, Kyrgyz culture bears elements of Persian, Mongolian and Russian influence.

The Kyrgyzstani Som:

The Som is the currency of the Kyrgyz Republic, subdivided into 100 Tyiyn.

After the disintegration of the Soviet Union, several attempts were made by most Republics to maintain a common currency. 

The Central Bank of Russia was authorised to take over the State Bank of the USSR (Gosbank) on 01.01.1992.

It continued to ship USSR Ruble Banknotes and coins to the Central Banks of the 14 newly independent countries, which had formerly been the main branches of Gosbank in the republics.

During the first half of 1992, a Monetary Union with 15 independent states all using the Ruble was in place, but owing to political differences, it was clear that this situation would not last, as several independent nations were issuing huge amounts of money in the form of credit and "coupons" to protect their markets from buyers from other states.

The Russian Central Bank tried to set up restrictions to the flow of credit between Russia and the other states. 

The final collapse of the Ruble Zone began with Russia pulling out of the mechanism at the end of July 1993

The Som was introduced on 10.05.1993, replacing the Soviet ruble at an exchange rate of 1 Som to 200 Rubles. The word Som means "pure" in Kazakh, Kyrgyz and other Turkic languages. The term implies "pure gold".

The Som Banknote Series:

On 10.05.1993, the Government issued 1, 10 and 50 Tyiyn Banknotes and the Kyrgyzstan issued Banknotes of 1, 5 and 20 Som denomination. This is called the First Series of Banknotes (1993-January 2008).

This Series was withdrawn from circulation on 01.01.2008.

In 1994, the Kyrgyz Bank issued a Second Series of Banknotes (1994 - January 2008) in the denominations of 1, 5, 10, 20, 50 and 100 Som. 

This series was, also, withdrawn from circulation on 01.01.2008.

In 1997, a Third Series of Banknotes (1997-2005) followed having Banknotes in the denominations of 1, 5, 10, 20, 50, 100, 200, 500 and 1,000 Som.

This Series had similar themes, but enhanced designs, as compared to the previous Series.

In January 2008, coins of 1 and 5 Som were introduced.

In December 2009, coins of 10 Som were circulated.

While the printing of Banknotes of these three values stopped, the Banknotes continued to be treated as legal tender. They were not removed from circulation, but were gradually phased out by January 2008, the last few Banknotes of 1, 2 and 10 Som denominations being withdrawn on 01.01.2010.

The remaining denominations of this Series are presently in circulation.

In 2009-2010, the Fourth Series of Banknotes  was circulated by the National Bank of the Kyrgyz Republic.  These Banknotes have enhanced security features as compared to the previous Series.

Initially, on 02.03.2009, a 5,000 Som Banknote was issued.

Later, new editions for the 20, 50, 100, 500 and 1,000  Som Banknotes were issued in 2009 and 2010.

On 17.11.2017, a 2,000 Som Banknote was issued.

The details of the Banknotes issued under the Fourth Series & presently in circulation are as under:

On the Front of the 20 Som Banknote is seen a portrait of Togolok Moldo and Kyrgyz text.

Togolok Moldo (10.06.1860-04.01.1942):

He was a Kyrgyz poet, Manaschi and folk song writer. Born in Ak-Talaa district, Naryn Region. "Togolok" means "round-faced" while "Moldo" means an "educated person". His poems and folk songs have been translated into all the languages spoken by members of the former USSR.

Togolok Moldo Park in Bishkek is home to the monument dedicated to him.

On the Back of the 20 Som Banknote is seen the Tash Rabat.

Tash Rabat:

This is a well-preserved 15th Century stone  Caravanserai in At Bashy district, Naryn Province, Kyrgyzstan located at an altitude of 3,200 metres.

The Dimensions/Size of this Banknote are  120.0 mm x 58.0 mm and the predominant Colour is red.

This Banknote has been in circulation since 01.07.2009.

On the Front of the 50 Som Banknote is seen a portrait of Kurmanjan Datka and Kyrgyz text.

Kurmanjan Datka (1811-01.02.1907):

She was also known as "The Tsaritsa of Alai" (or "Queen of the South"). She was a stateswoman in Kyrgyzstan who acquiesced to the annexation of that region to Russia, under duress. Born into a rich family of the Mungush clan in the Osh, she fled to China to escape from an arranged marriage which was planned for her.

In 1832, the local feudal lord Alimbek who had taken the title of "Datka" and was the ruler of all the Kyrgyz of Alai, married her. When her husband was murdered in the palace coup, she was recognised by the Khans of Bukhara and Koland as the ruler of the Alai and given the title "Datka". In 1876, the Alai Region was annexed to the Russian Empire.

In 2014, the film "Queen of the Mountains" (originally titled "Kurmanjan Datka" was released on her life-story).

On the Reverse of the 50 Som Banknote is seen a Minaret and Mausoleum.

Minaret: A minaret (also known as "Goldaste") is a distinctive architectural structure akin to a tower and typically found adjacent to mosques. Generally a tall spire with a conical or onion shaped crown, usually either free-standing or taller than associated support structures.  Minarets are traditionally used for the Muslim call to prayer by the muezzin at the prescribed times of the day.

The basic form of a minaret includes a base, shaft and gallery. Styles vary regionally and by period.

Mausoleum: This is an external free-standing building constructed as a monument enclosing the internment space or burial chamber of deceased person(s). A Mausoleum is a type of tomb.

The Taj Mahal in Agra, India, is the world's most famous and most photographed mausoleum.

The Dimensions/Size of this Banknote are 126.0 mm x 61.0 mm and its predominant  Colour is orange.

This Banknote has been in circulation since 01.07.2009.

On the Front of the 100 Som Banknote is seen a profile portrait of Toktogul Satvlganoy and Kyrgyz text.

Toktogul Satylganov (25.10.1864-17.02.1933):

He was the most famous of the Kyrgyz Akyns-improvising poets and singers. The Kyrgyz town of Toktogul in the Jalal-Abad Region is named in his honour.

He had democratic views even during Tsarist Russia's colonial era in Southern Kyrgyzstan (1876-1917).

On 17-18 May 1898, in a "holy war" seeking to gain Independence from Russian rule, which uprising was crushed by the Russian Empire and the participants arrested and severely punished, Toktagul was falsely accused by his political foes in the Ketmen-Tobe valley and jailed for his alleged participation in the revolt. He was released from Siberia jail in 1905.

His fame reached its zenith in the Soviet era, when his works were promoted by the State as a musician of the people. Even after the disintegration of the Soviet Union, his songs remain popular among Kyrgyz performers and many streets, parks, schools and his home-town are named after him. 

On the Back of the 100 Som Banknote is seen the Toktogul Hydro-electric Power Station.

The Toktogul Hydro-electric Power station:

This is an irrigation dam on the Naryn River in the Jalal-Abad Province of  Kyrgyzstan, named after Toktogul Satylganov. The dam with an installed capacity of 1,200 MW is the largest power plant in the country.

The Dimensions/Size of this Banknote are 132.0 mm x 63.0 mm and its predominant Colour is blue.

This Banknote was released into circulation on 01.07.2009.

On the Front of the 200 Som Banknote is seen a portrait of Alykul Osmonov and Kyrgyz text.

Alykul Osmonov (21.03.1915-12.12.1950):

He was a Kyrgyz poet, well-known for his efforts to modernise poetry in Kyrgyzstan from oral tradition to a literary tradition, focussing upon secular themes with a special focus on inner emotions, daily life and nationalism, as well as, translating numerous European authors into the Kyrgyz language, including William Shakespeare, Sandor Petofi and Alexander Pushkin.

On the Back of the 200 Som Banknote is seen an image of Lake Issyk-Kul.

Lake Issyk-Kul:

Lake Issyk -Kul ( the name Issyk Kul means "warm lake" in the Kyrgyz language) is an endorheic lake in the Northern Tian Shan mountains in Eastern Kyrgyzstan. Although it is surrounded by snow-capped peaks, it never freezes.

With a shore length of 669 kilometres, it is the tenth largest lake in the world by volume (though not in surface area) and the second largest saline lake after the Caspian Sea.

The lake is a Ramsar site of globally significant bio-diversity and forms part of the Issyk-Kul Biosphere Reserve. (The Ramsar Convention on Wetlands especially water-fowl habitat is an international treaty for the conservation and sustainable use of wetlands. It is named after the city of Ramsar in Iran, where the city of Ramsar in Iran, where the Convention was signed in 1971).

The Dimensions/Size of this Banknote are 138.0 mm x 66.0 mm and its predominant Colour is yellow.

This Banknote was released into circulation on 01.12.2010.

On the Front of the 500 Som Banknote is seen a portrait of Sayakbay Karalaev and Kyrgyz text.

Sayakbay Karalaev (1894-1971):

He was a renowned "manaschi" - a reciter of the epic Kyrgyz poem  - Manas.

On the Back of the 500 Som Banknote is seen an image of the Manas Masauleum/Monument in Bishkek.

The Epic of Manas:

Dating back several centuries, the plot of the Epic revolves around a series of events that coincide with the history of the region around the 17th Century when it was written, (although oral traditions place the origins of the Epic, several centuries earlier).

Kyrgyzstan celebrated the 1,000 anniversary of Manas in 1995.

The eponymous hero of Manas and his Oirat enemy Joloy were first mentioned in a Persian manuscript. In one of its dozens of iterations, the epic poem consists of approximately 500,000 lines, second only to the (Sanskrit) Indian Epic Mahabharat and the Tibetan Epic of King Gesar, which are both longer. The distinction is in the number of verses. Manas has more verses, thought they are much shorter

On the Front of the 1000 Som Banknote is seen a portrait of Jusup Balasagyn and Kyrgyz text.

Jusup Balasagyn (1021-1085):

He was an 11th Century Central Asian Turkic poet, statesman, vizier and philosopher from the city of Balasaghun, the capital of Kara-Khanid Khanate in modern day Kyrgyzstan. He wrote the "Kutadgu Bilig" at the age of 50. 

He presented his completed work to the Prince of Kashgar who awarded him the title of "Khass Hajib" (meaning " Privy Chamberlain or Chancellor").

On the Back of the 1000 Som Banknote is seen the Takht-i-Sulaiman or Mount Sulaiman.

The Sulaiman Mountain (also known as "Taht-i-Suleiman"):

This is the only World Heritage Site located entirely in Kyrgyzstan (Kyrgyzstan shares the Tian-Shan Silk Road Site with China and Kazakhstan).

It is located in the city of Osh and was once an important Muslim and pre-Muslim pilgrimage.

Says the UNESCO book titled "Treasures of the World" in my personal library:

Sulaiman-Too is an exceptional spiritual landscape reflecting both ancient religious and Islamic beliefs and particularly the cult of the horse. Its strong traditions of worship span several millennia and it presents the most complete picture of a sacred mountain in Central Asia.

Its five peaks and slopes contain a large assembly of ancient cult places and caves with petroglyphs, interconnected by a network of ancient paths, together with later mosques.

Sulaiman-Too matches iconic images from Zoroastrian and Vedic traditions - one mountain with a peak dominating four others, in the centre of a river valley and surrounded by other mountains.

With its long tradition of religious worship and rich remains together with its "ideal" form, Sulaiman-Too has had a profound effect over much of Central Asia.

The mountain dominates its landscape of the fertile Fergana Valley and the city of Osh. Medieval Osh stood at the crossroads on the Central Asian Silk Routes connecting Asia, Africa and the Mediterranean worlds."

This mountain is also believed to be the famous landmark of antiquity known as the "Stone Tower" and marked the mid-point on the ancient Silk Route taken by caravans between Europe and Asia.

Sulaiman (Solomon) is a prophet in the Qur'an and the mountain contains a shrine that supposedly marks his grave. The rock also contains the National Historical and Archaeological Museum Complex Sulayman that was built during the Soviet era.

On the Front of the 2000 Som Commemorative Banknote  is seen the Equestrian statue of Manas the Noble, fighter with a sword and shield on horseback. In the background is a stylised Yurt - a portable dwelling traditionally used by nomads in the steppes of Central Asia. Also seen is Kyrgyz text.

On the Back of the  2000 Som Commemorative Banknote is seen Kyrgyz text and Khan Tengri Mountain, an eagle soaring over lake Issyk Kul and a stylised tree (symbol of life and prosperity).

The watermark is of Manas the Noble and Electrotype 2000. Additional security is of Motion Surface windowed security thread.

The Dimensions of this Banknote are 152.0 mm x 70.0 mm and its predominant Colour is light blue and Gray.

This Banknote was introduced into circulation on 17.11.2017.

The 2000 denomination Banknote was also nominated as one of the contenders for the 2017 "International Banknote of the Year Competition - 2018"(IBNS- Banknote of the Year).

On the Front of the 5000 Som Banknote is seen a portrait of Suimenkul Chokmorov and Kyrgyz text.

Suimenkul Chokmorov (09.11.1939- 26.09.1992):

He was a Kyrgyz film actor born in Chon Tash village, Kirghiz SSR (present Day Kyrgyzstan). 

In 1964, he graduated from the Leningrad Academy of Arts and later taught painting and composition at the Arts School of Frunze.

In 1977, he was a member of the jury at the 10th Moscow International Film Festival. Some of his popular works are - "Karash Karalash" ("A shooting at the Karash Pass) (1968), "Jamilya" (1968), Extraordinary Commissar (1970), The Seventh Bullet (1972), I am Tien Shan (1972), The Ferocious One (1974), The Red Apple (1975), Dersu Uzala (1975).

On the Back of the 5000 Som Banknote is depicted the Ala-Too Square.

The Ala-Too Square:

This is the Central Square in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan. The square was built in 1984 to celebrate the 60thAnniversary of the Kyrgyz SSR at which time a massive statue of Lenin was placed in the Square's centre.

Earlier, known as the Lenin Square, until Kyrgyzstan gained its independence from the USSR in 1991. A new statue called "Erkindik" replaced the Lenin statue in 1991 and in 2011, a statue of Manas was placed here to celebrate the 20th Anniversary of Kyrgyzstan's independence.

The Square serves  for a place for State events and celebrations.

(The first three Banknotes are from my collection, bought for me by Jayant Biswas. The remaining ones are from Jayant's collection. Banknotes scanned and post researched and written by Rajeev Prasad)


  1. Vikram Bhatnagar has commented:
    " "Manas" and "Som" sound eerily similar to "Manav" and "Somras!" Good informative post, brings out ancient connections between peoples living far apart!"

    1. Thanks, Vikram. Kyrgystan was on the old Silk Route to Europe, Africa and the Mediterranean etc. So there was a constant cultural interaction between all countries and businessmen. There are interesting similar sounding names like "Jalalabad", "Goldaste" (for a minaret) etc. The most interesting thing is that in the Sulaiman-Too Mountain (a UNESCO world heritage site), there are iconic images from Zoarashtrian and Vedic traditions, although presently it is a pilgrimage for Muslims.

    2. Pushkin Sinha has commented:
      "Interesting to read these connections of anciant times in far flung areas. Keep posting boss."

  2. Rajendrasinh Mohite has commented:
    "Good information."

  3. Santosh Khanna has commented:
    Excellent post!!"