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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

A Convertible Ruble

In Helsinki, at the currency exchange of one respected Finnish bank, I was changing $100 for Finnish marks, when I randomly asked:

"You don't happen to change Russian rubles?"

The answer struck me by its pleasant unexpectedness.

"Yes, sure. We accept rubles without any limitations."

It has come to pass! From internal convertibility, which we got used to long ago, our ruble has confidently taken a step out of the country. All of three years ago, when the father of Russian reform, Yegor Gaidar, said that very soon store shelves would be filled with products and the ruble would become convertible, they openly laughed in his face. Nobody believed his "fairy tales."

Indeed, it was hard not to agree with skeptics: Prices were jumping by 1 1/2 to two times a month then, and the Central Bank did not have time to write enough new zeroes on the money. But the situation gradually "settled down."

The "wooden" [ruble] has noticeably strengthened. In the beginning, they started gladly accepting it in former Soviet republics. If Russians take their rubles to Ukraine or Belarus for example, they feel like rich foreigners taking taxis or frequenting expensive restaurants. There's more: The ruble has crossed the borders of the former Soviet Union.

It is difficult to say in which country they started to change rubles for local money. It cannot be ruled out that energetic Polish merchants at their border-markets gave a start to this. Although the Hungarians and the Czechs were also never far behind them. In Bulgaria, changing rubles for levs also does not pose a problem.

Colleagues who were recently in Austria talk about how the Viennese banks change rubles, but at a sharply lowered rate. It is completely possible that Russian money is also traded in many other countries, however, Russian bankers do not have such information at their disposal.