Nikolai II depicted on the 15 ruble gold coin
The observe of the coins depicts Nikolai II, Emperor and Autocrat of All Russia, Grand Prince of Finland and King of Poland from 1896 to 1917. He was the last monarch from the imperial dynasty, the House of Romanov, to wield exclusive power in the Russian Empire. The epoch of the Romanovs, one of the most powerful and longest ruling royal families in the history of the world, came to a sudden end when Nikolai II and his family were savagely murdered by the revolutionary Bolsheviks in 1918. The Romanov bloodline had until this date ruled Russia and all its territory for over 300 years. The influence, wealth and power accumulated and captured during this time were immense. At the peak of the Romanov dynasty in 1866, the Russian Empire covered an area of 22.8 million km2 or 15% of the world land area, stretching from Eastern Europe to Alaska.
The Gold Ruble and Russia’s Industrial Revolution
The Romanov dynasty which began in 1616 and lasted until 1917 saw Russia go through significant structural changes. The more noteworthy ones were the emancipation of serfs, the building of the railway system and the introduction of the gold ruble standard. The introduction of the gold ruble standard in 1897 had an immediate positive impact on the Russian economy: foreign investors attracted by the new stable gold ruble invested huge amounts of capital in heavy industries in cities like St Petersburg and Moscow. The new railway system ensured a more efficient means of transporting raw materials from the more remote resource rich areas of the country to the industrial centres throughout Russia, and finally the emancipation of serfs meant that a new mobile workforce became readily available for Russia’s expanding heavy industries. By 1900, Russia was a commodity producing powerhouse, and its rapid development during this time is dubbed by Russian economic historians as “the great spurt”.
Unfortunately, golden eras tend not to last forever, and in this case the onset of WWI made Russia abandon its gold ruble standard. The change to a fiat monetary system paved the way for the printing of unlimited paper money which, coupled with Lenin’s war communism, created a prolonged economic depression where hyperinflation and other poorly directed government policies destroyed much of the once booming industrial sector. Fortunate were those that held on to their gold rubles, as they were spared many of the misfortunes that occurred during this period.