It’s a scene all too familiar in Azerbaijan these days: a woman walks into a clothing store and discovers a beautiful dress that she would like to buy. But then comes the process of calculating the cost and purchasing the item.
“How much is it?” she inquires. “Seventeen Manats, 80 kopeks,” comes the reply.
The lady reaches into her purse to discover that she has only 12 of the new bills called “Yeni Manat” (New Manat) and only 50 of the new kopeks. She offers the bills and coins to the clerk who makes a mental calculation and politely reminds her that she still owes 5 Manats and 30 kopeks or 26,500 “old manats”.
Again, the lady digs into her purse and finally manages to pull out the necessary 26,500 in old manat bills. She presents them to the clerk, takes her purchase and walks out. And then she frets all the way home: “Was she charged correctly or not?”
Scenarios of this sort are quite common ever since Azerbaijan adopted its new currency. It’s almost a year since the Yeni Manat bills began to circulate. The presentation ceremony was held at the Baku’s Excelsior Hotel on December 28, 2005. Since January 2006 the new bills have gradually been introduced and circulated throughout society.
This year – 2006 – exchanges have been allowed in both currencies – the Yeni Manats as well as the old manats. This year is considered to be the transition year when both old and new manats are both permitted for daily exchange. In shops and department stores, charts often display the equivalent values of both currencies. But, all in all, it hasn’t been easy getting used to the new bills and new denominations. In truth, it’s been a rather slow, complicated and sometimes a quite confusing process.
Though all of the new denominations were in circulation by April, instead of people turning in all their old manats in exchange for new ones, most people just mixed them all together – offering bills in both formats for purchases and receiving change back for single purchases often in both currencies as well.
Above:Examples of Euro banknotes. Robert Callina from OeBS Company in Austria designed both the Euro and Azerbaijan’s Manat. The Euro is based on architectural designs found in Europe through the ages. In many of Azerbaijan’s banknotes, architecture features are included. Except for the one Manat and the 20 Manat bill, architecture also appears in the designs of Azerbaijan’s Yeni Manat. Azerbaijan’s currency has incorporated many of the same safeguards against counterfeiting that appear in the Euros.
It’s only natural that most people still understand the value of the old manats more than the new ones. Five thousand (5,000) old manats equal one (1) Yeni Manat. This was thought to be approximately equal to currency of developed countries (1 Manat = US 1 dollar or 1 Euro). Of course, in reality the Euro has already edged higher than the dollar.
The old manats were introduced as new currency when Azerbaijan gained its independence in late 1991. During the Soviet period, the currency in use in Azerbaijan was based upon the rubles and kopeks. By 1992, Azerbaijan had its own new currency printed-manats. There were no more rubles or kopeks. The manat at that time was valued at approximately 4,000 manats to the dollar.
The old currency consisted entirely of bills-no coins-in denominations of 1,000, 10,000 and 50,000 manats. Nothing larger. Since the rate was approximately 4,000 manats to one dollar, it meant that denominations smaller than 1,000, such as 500, 250 and 100 were hardly worth anything. People often collected them to pass out to beggars that they passed so frequently on the streets.
Yeni Manat bills are printed in the following denominations: 1, 5, 10, 20, 50, and 100. It would have been so much easier to do the mental gymnastics if the new currency had simply removed the zeros from the old currency in terms of value. Instead, one has to multiply the new bill by 5,000 to understand what the old amount was. For instance, we used to buy bread for 1,000 manats (about 25 cents), but now we pay 20 kopeks for it.
|Design of Yeni Manat|
According to information obtained from the Azerbaijan National Bank, a competition was held with the particiopation of international designers. The following countries took part: Germany (Giesecke & Devrient), Great Britain (De La Rue), Switzerland (Oriel Fussli), Austria (OeBS), Holland (Enchede Banknotes) and France (Oberthur).
Robert Callina from Austrian OeBS Company was declared the winner of the competition. He is also the artist and designer of the Euro. Some people have expressed disappointment that Azerbaijanis seemed not be invited to participate in the competition as the designs in general don’t have as much indigenous flavor in style, especially the higher denomination bills.
The design of the banknotes was based on the concept of creating a single unifying design for all the bills. This has been successfully carried out in many respects related to colors, fonts and patterns.
All banknotes generally follow the same motif on their reverse side which features two maps. The most dominant map is that of Azerbaijan. The outline of the map of Azerbaijan, often described as an eagle in flight towards the East, includes Garabagh [Karabakh], in the western part of Azerbaijan which has been under Armenian military occupation since 1992. This is Azerbaijan’s territory but all Azerbaijanis have been “ethnically cleansed” from the area. In plain language, that means that they were forced to flee the lands or risk losing their lives.
Kopeks enable the government to avoid additional expenses in reissuing money as coins being manufactured out of metal last much longer than paper banknotes.
Above: Coins called “kopeks” are circulating now that Yeni Manat (New Manats) were put into circulation early in 2006.
Kopeks have been issued in the following denominations of 1, 3, 5, 10, 20, and 50. Their designs follows the same progression of themes as do the Yeni Manat banknotes: 1 kopek (Culture, featuring traditional instruments used in performing modal music-mugham); 3 kopeks (Writing and Literature); 5 kopeks (History, featuring Maiden Tower); 10 kopeks (Karabakh, territory in the western region Azerbaijan over which a bitter war was fought with Armenians from 1988 until a cease fire was signed in 1994. Azerbaijanis consider the war yet unresolved since about 15 percent of their territory has been seized and is being held under occupation); 20 kopeks (Education and Future); and 50 kopeks (Economy and Progress).
However, many problems arise with the use of kopeks. When the sum is less than half a kopek – you round the sum downwards. For example, if something costs 35.4 kopeks, you would pay 35 kopeks. However, if an item costs more than half a kopek, such as 35.6 kopeks, then you have to round upwards and pay 36 kopeks.
Why the New Currency
According to the National Bank of Azerbaijan, three explanations are given as official reasons why Azerbaijan adopted a new banknote system: economic, technical and aesthetic.
Economically, the result of inflation and devaluation of currency always carry serious consequences and cause people to lose confidence in the national currency. When the currency rate is high, it usually prompts new inflation and results in “dollarization” of the economy and monetary issues become difficult and complicated by high prices.
Above Left:One Yeni Manat featuring traditional instruments used in performing mugham music-tar, kamancha and gaval).
Right: Five Yeni Manat, featuring Language and Literature.
Technically, counterfeiting bills has become relatively easy these days due to modern technology. Counterfeit bills often circulate successfully as people are not usually very aware of the protective elements designed into banknotes and don’t know how to identify forgeries.
The Azeri Yeni Manat has been designed to counter fraudulent attempts by incorporating a counterfeiting system in consultation with the National Bank of Switzerland. They claim that the Yeni Manat banknotes have 30 different elements that can distinguish these bills from fraudulent bills.
Above Left:Ten Yeni Manat, featuring a stylized sketch of the Old City of Baku (Ichari Shahar).
Right: Twenty Yeni Manat bill features Karabakh and is illustrated with symbols of war from medieval times: helmet, shield and sword. Notice (left of center) the white outline of a flower, Khari bulbul, which is indigenous to the region.
Aesthetically, in many countries, banknotes are gathered up and taken out of circulation every four years. Then new banknotes are reissued. However, many of the old banknotes in Azerbaijan have been circulating for more than 10 years. It doesn’t take long before they look all crumpled, tattered, very dirty and consequently very inhygienic.
Nicknames for banknotes
The new currency is so new that people have not quite developed a vocabulary for it. Certain denominations of the old currency had nicknames. For example, the very small denomination of the old 500-manat bill featured the portrait of the beloved poet Nizami. People called the bill “Nizami”.
The old 1,000 manat bill with the portrait of Mammad Amin Rasulzade went by various names: “Mammad,” “Mammad Amin” and even “Baldy”. Rasulzade was the head of the ruling Musavat political party that gained independence for Azerbaijan (1918-1920). This government existed for only 23 months before the Bolsheviks took control and set up the Soviet government, which lasted until 1991.
Above Left: Fifty Yeni Manat bill, dedicated to Education and Progress. However, starting with the 50-bill denomination, the design of the banknote has very little to do specifically with anything that is Azeri. Here nothing except the honeycomb stalactite decorative architectural feature above the passage way in the center of design relates to Azerbaijan. The other architectural structures are not from Azerbaijan.
Right: The One Hundred Yeni Manat bill is dedicated to Economy and Progress. Only the small inset showing the citadel walls and double gates of the Old City (Ichari Shahar) are designs that relate to Azerbaijan.
The old 10,000-manat bill was typically referred to as “Shrivan” because it featured the 15th century palace, which belonged to the Shirvan shahs inside the Old City walls of Baku.
The old 50,000-manat banknote featuring the 12th century Momina Khatun Mausoleum in Nakhchivan sometimes was referred to as “Momina Khatun”. She was the wife of Eldagiz Atabey Jahan Pahlavi who commissioned the monument to be built in her memory. No doubt within time, the Yeni Manats will acquire their own nicknames as well.
Plans for 2007
Beginning January 1, 2007, this difficult transition period is supposed to be finished. Only Yeni Manat will officially supposed be in circulation. The old manats can be traded for new ones at banks. Maybe life will be a lot less complicated and we’ll no longer have to carry out mental gymnastics coping with two currencies.
Above: The reverse sides of all of the Azerbaijan Yeni Manat. The same two maps are incorporated into each of the designs. The larger map features Azerbaijan; the smaller is of Europe and includes Azerbaijan. A closer look at the bill shows that the subtle decorative designs behind the maps are distinctly different on each bill. Often the design is taken from carpets.
|Yeni Manats Put in Circulation|
Gradual Introduction in 2006January 1 and 5 Yeni Manat
Plus all kopeks
March 10 and 20 Yeni Manat
April 50 and 100 Yeni ManatBy January 2007, the Azerbaijani government intends all exchange to be carried out in Yeni Manat.
|Features to Assist the Blind|
The Azerbaijan Yeni Manat was based on the design of Euro banknotes, which include several characteristics to assist the blind in distinguishing the different denominations of the notes. These were incorporated into the design in cooperation with organizations representing blind persons. Such characteristics aid both people who are visually impaired (people who can see the banknotes, but cannot necessarily read the printing on them) and those who are entirely blind.
Size: For example, both Manat and Euro banknotes increase in size with increasing denominations. Each larger bill increases in increments of seven millimeters.
Color: The predominant coloring of the notes alternates between “warm” and “cool” hues in adjacent denominations, making it easier to distinguish between two similar denominations for those who can see color.
Printing process: The printing of the denominations is intaglio printing, which allows the ink to be felt by sensitive fingers, enabling some persons to distinguish the printed denominations by touch alone.
Holograms: Lower denominations have smooth bands along one side of the note containing holograms; higher denominations have smooth, square patches with holograms.
|Measures that Protect Azerbaijan’s Yeni Manat Currency From Being Counterfeited|
Distinguish between the red and gray lines in the illustration above: red lines indicate elements that appear at the same location on all banknotes. This includes such features as the Watermark and Latent Image see-through elements.
Gray lines indicate that these features are located in different places on each banknote. For example, the iridescent stripe read by computers on the front of the One Yeni Manat banknote appears on the musical instrument tar. On the Five Manat bill, it appears on the writers’ monuments.
Each bill has words that are printed in tiny fine print called Microtext which are different on each banknote and appear in different locations.
1. One (1) Yeni Manat. Look on the two outer rings of the design of the kamancha for the words “BIR MANAT” (one manat) running continuously around the rim. Also the word “MANAT” appears just below where the strings are tightened on the tar, as well as on the vertical line of the main treble clef and the base of the kamancha. The letters “AMB” which abbreviate “Azerbaycan Milli Banki” (Azerbaijan National Bank ) run up and down on either side of the spike at the bottom of the kamancha.
2. Besh (5) Yeni Manat. “MANAT” can be found on the short bookmarker.
3. On (10) Yeni Manat. The abbreviation “AMB” alternates with the term “ON MANAT” (10 manat) and runs along the lower border of the citadel wall at bottom of sketch. Also the letters “BAKI” (Azeri for “Baku”) can be found above the entrance to the Old City. Two buildings include the numeral “10”. On five domes, you’ll find tiny script with the term “ON MANAT” and one mosque has “AMB”.
4. Iyirmi (20) Yeni Manat. Look closely on the main helmet and you’ll see a border of the repeated numeral “20”; and at the bottom of the rim, there is a series of “IYIRMI MANAT”.
5. Alli (50) Yeni Manat. Look closely at the rim on the top step for the Microtext for “ALLI MANAT”
6. Yuz (100) Yeni Manat. Look for “AZERBAYCAN” above the doorway of the entrance in the 19th century building ghosted in the middle of the design.
Other European Protection Features
Above: 1. Latent Image. 2. Watermark. 3. See-through element. 4. Optical variable ink (from green to red), special dyes with optic changing colors (OVI) made in Sweden by the SICPA company. This has an ultrafine pattern. 5. Tactile elements for the blind and visually impaired, such as embossed numerals. 8. Holographic feature which produces a three-dimensional effect Trust Seal holograph manufactured by the German company Kurtz.
There are also other features which incorporate Optic lines (IRISAFE) which have been produced by the Swedish company Landgarft. Also there are Ultra-violet elements, Security Thread, and a strip which only computers can read. In addition there are protection elements specific and only known by the National Bank of Azerbaijan.
|Scanning Manats – Photoshop|
Editor’s Note: After we scanned the Yeni Manat banknotes for this issue, we found that the Adobe Photoshop program had already detected that we were working with banknote images. Obviously, this is one more built-in deterrents related to the Yeni Azerbaijan Manat to help prevent counterfeit and fraud. This is a new development. The following message appeared on our computer screen:
“This application does not support the printing of banknote images. You can open and edit this image but you will not be able to print it as is. For more information, go to www.rulesforuse.org.”
“The counterfeiting of currency is a crime. While the overall economic losses to society from counterfeiting of currency are generally limited, the victims who suffer the most harm are individuals and businesses because no one reimburses those who accept counterfeit notes. Counterfeit currency can also undermine confidence in the payment system, making the public uncertain about accepting cash for transactions.
“The Central Bank Counterfeit Deterrence Group (CBCDG) is responsible for this website. A counterfeit deterrence system (CDS) has been developed by the CBCDG to deter the use of personal computers, digital imaging equipment, and software in the counterfeiting of banknotes. The CDS has been voluntarily adopted by hardware and software manufacturers, and prevents personal computers and digital imaging tools from capturing or reproducing the image of a protected banknote…”
Article by Sevinj Mehdizade. Source: azer.com