After Glasnost

July 1999, Volume 36 No. 7
JUST ten years ago, the face of eastern Europe changed utterly. Mikhail Gorbachev started the remarkable chain of events when he realised that Communism had failed, and that the only way that the countries of the eastern block would ever achieve political and economic progress was by a thorough overhaul of the system. .
Hungary was the first to read the signals coming from the Kremlin and promptly ditched its ageing old-style Communist leader. Free elections in March 1989 swept the old guard from power. The new government speedily dismantled the barbed wire fence on the border with Austria.

This breach in the Iron Curtain enabled thousands of east Germans to flee to the west via Hungary and Austria. By the end of the year the Berlin Wall itself had been demolished and Germany was well on the way to reunification. Communism, which seemed to be entrenched for ever, collapsed like a house of cards in a matter of months. Lech Walesa and Vaclav Havel, dissidents who had been jailed for their protests, found themselves propelled into the presidencies of Poland and Czechoslovakia respectively. In Romania Nicolae and Elena Ceaucescu were executed.

In the USSR the first freely elected parliament since 1918 was convened. Many Communists were unseated; even when elected unopposed, they failed to poll the minimum 50 per cent of the vote to retain their seats. Boris Yeltsin, standing against an official Communist candidate, got 89 per cent of the vote. In the Baltic states, Ukraine, the Caucasus and central Asia, the republics clamoured for complete independence. By 1991 the monolithic USSR had crumbled to dust. The face-saving Commonwealth of Independent States never really got off the ground, and the 15 republics of the USSR went their own way. In Russia the Tsarist tricolour replaced the Hammer and Sickle.

Needless to say, these startling developments have not been without their numismatic impact. Notaphilists have had a field day. As the former Communist countries struggled to introduce a free market economy and teetered on the verge of bankruptcy, currencies went into free-fall, providing a bonanza of banknotes. The collapse of the rouble, the zloty and the dinar was accompanied by notes of ever more astronomical face value but little real spending power. The rash of new republics grappled with monetary chaos, producing numerous short-lived issues of notes, talons, coupons and vouchers-anything that would pass for currency.

Paradoxically it has also been a rich time for the coin collector, even if most of the coins to emerge from eastern Europe in the past decade have been aimed at the export market. The breakup of the USSR, Yugoslavia and Czechoslovakia has resulted in the creation of at least 22 new monetary entities at the last count, a potentially exciting field for the future. It may take time for the dust to settle, but collectors ignore this dramatic area at their peril

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In This Issue

New & Views12
Gold coin smashes record
Islamic coin minted in Medina sold for an astounding £308,000
Spotlight23
The Aegean 'Turtles'
Despite popular belief the turtle coins of Aegina really were the first coins minted in Europe.
Ancients24
Production of Celtic Coins
The Celts produced coins by striking and by casting but both methods required skill. How did they do it..
Feature27
Coins of Edward VI
The 'boy king' restored the coinage to its former fineness and was the first to add the date to the legend.
Background32
Changing Money
It took the Channel Islands 100 years to convert their coinage - how long will it take Europe to do the same?
Insight35
Coinage of Russia - i
Russian coinage is linked with its history and in the first of a series the author looks at the ancient coins that circulated.
On the Fringe39
More Saints
In his quest for off - beat items the author has come across some medals with their own stories to tell.
Out & About40
The Money makers
A Fascinating visit behind the scenes at the Singapore Mint, one of the world's most progressive minting facilities
Banknote feature45
Keeping Notes
At the British Museum: an introduction to one of the world's finest banknote collections on its anniversary, by the curator
Banknote feature46
The papermoney of Austria
The second part of the series covers the banknotes of the State Central Pay Office between 1850 and 1888

Regulars

Coin News & Views12
New issues Update16
market Scene - a busy month!19
Banknote News & Views43
Banknote New Issues44
Bookshelf51
Price Guide to Pennies52
Dealer's Lists55
What's On57
The Coin Clinic58
Letters to the Editor59
The Notice Board60
The Back Page - York Fair Preview64