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Banknotes with a secret and national colouring

A dozen means of public protection are used on Belarusian banknotes
By Valeria Gavrilova

Most of us scarcely glance at the money we use daily, barely noticing the little details and symbols encoded on our banknotes.

‘Tangible’ money
The 100,000 Belarusian Rouble banknote is considered to be one of the most interesting issues to date by the National Bank, including a great many public protection features. Even with closed eyes, you can tell that you’re holding a banknote: it’s crisp to the touch, ‘crackling’ against your fingers. Your can also feel that some of the details are printed in relief. It features a picture of Radziwiłł Castle, alongside its value and text elements. Most eye-catching is the abbreviation of the National Bank of the Republic of Belarus: placed in metallographic printing.

On the front bottom left corner is a boldly imprinted combination of five horizontal stripes and one dot: designed for those who are visually impaired, it denotes the value of the banknote. Each horizontal stripe represents a zero, while each dot is worth ‘one’ (placed progressively vertically to denote ‘two’ or ‘three’ and so on.

Colour solution
The colour of the banknote is probably its most important feature, since we tend to recognise money by this alone. Of course, some banknotes are very similar in colour: for example, 1,000 and 50,000. In poor light, it can be easy to confuse them.

The Chief Directorate of Cash Turnover at the National Bank of Belarus tells us, “The colour range of banknotes is determined while developing a new money series. It is important that banknotes use colour shades that cannot be copied or scanned without distortion. Accordingly, there are technical limitations in the choice of colours, since special paints are used with protective properties. Banknotes can appear similar in colour, so it’s important to look carefully not only at colour, but at the value. After all, no one confuses our notes with US Dollars although, until recently, they shared the same colour.”

Face to face
The front of each banknote features a monument of Belarusian architecture or an urban landmark. The 50,000 note shows Mir Castle, while the 100,000 has Radziwiłł Castle in Nesvizh and the 200,000 depicts the Museum of P. Maslennikov in Mogilev. A temporary working group from the National Bank selects the designs, with modern photos and older pictures provided by the National Academy of Sciences of Belarus, taken from the archives of the National Library of Belarus and various other Belarusian museums.

Just above the picture of Nesvizh Castle, on the 100,000 note, is a fragment of the Radziwiłł emblem, in a golden colour. If you slightly bend the note, the emblem changes colour to green, thanks to optically variable ink. Only two Belarusian banknotes display this technology, with the ink also used to frame the denoted value of the 50,000 note. To the right of the main image, under its value, is a small picture resembling an emblem: its right side composed of gold and white stripes and an eagle on the left. A similar image is on the reverse, creating a finished picture.

Displaying national character
The 100,000 note also has a security thread: metallised and with a holographic effect, it’s like a rainbow stripe. The shiny dotted line is used against the text ‘NBRB’; moving the note converts the dotted line into a solid dark line with smooth edges. Such security threads came into use in 2010-2011 but this version is even more difficult to forge.

The value of a note occurs repeatedly, using both numbers and letters; alongside the name of the issuing bank: the National Bank. These are mandatory elements present on all world currency. Belarusian money, in addition to meeting international requirements, uses its design to reflect national Belarusian colour. In fact, the 200,000 note recently won the top prize for ‘Design Reflecting National Character’ at the International Watermark Banknote Awards.

Making banknotes is a long, skilled process, creating something intrinsically representing a nation and its people. There are currently ten Belarusian banknotes, ranging in value from 50 to 200,000 Roubles. The media has repeatedly raised the topic of introducing a 500,000 note but the National Bank has no plan as yet, nor to introduce any other major changes. 
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