Nicholas II was the final leader of Russia to carry the monarchical title of "czar." With his downfall closed the final chapter of Imperial Russia's history, leading to a tumultuous 20th century of revolutions, Rasputin, coups, and soviet-style communism.
Outside of the history books, one of the few tangible remains of this bygone era are the gold coins issued by the ill-fated czarist government. These historic relics, struck from 90% pure (.900 fine) gold, are now beginning to turn up in unexpected places.
Last week, a group of construction workers in the metro of Minsk, Belarus stumbled upon a group of unfamiliar coins. They bore the portrait of Czar Nicholas II and the long-forgotten emblem of the Russian Empire. Most importantly, they were composed of gold!
According to state-run media outlets, the coins "have been handed to the administration of Minsk’s Kastrychnitski District for temporary storage. Then they will be transported to the Museum of the History of Minsk." Thereafter, expert analysts will determine their value, which will presumably provide funding for the museum.
Background of the 5 Ruble Gold Coin
These 5-ruble gold coins were issued between 1897 and 1911. The same design also came in 7.5-ruble, 10-ruble, and 15-ruble varieties for certain of these years of mintage.
The obverse and reverse designs of these coins certainly reflect the conventional minting style of the 19th and early 20th century.
The czar's bust faces to the left on the obverse, as was the tradition with monarchs represented on coins. The style is clearly neoclassical, offering a great deal of realism. Inscriptions around the rim are in the Cyrillic script, while a fancy denticle (teeth-like) pattern lines the outer rim.
The reverse design shows the two-headed crowned eagle that was the chosen symbol of the Russian Empire. This symbolism was also used by many other imperial powers dating back to the time of the ancient Byzantines. The same denticle pattern fills the outer rim.
Depending on the year, these coins can be rather rare. This is why it makes sense for the construction workers to turn them over the Museum of the History of Minsk.
How did the coins end up in this foreign metro? Considering that Belarus borders Russia to the west and has a long relationship with its neighbor, it's not too hard to imagine that commerce flowed between the two countries quite frequently. In fact, the monetary denomination used in Belarus is also the ruble, and it is home to quite a few artifacts from the time of the Soviet Union (USSR). However, these coins may hold special historical significance given that they predate the communist regime in Russia and its satellite states. Instead, these gold coins offer a window into the imperial era of Russia's history.
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