his article offers a gallery and the exchange rates of the many different currencies of European cultures and countries. Banknotes are a key source in understanding what a culture holds dear to itself in term of its history, religion, and identity. Some currencies have churches on them, others Jesus, others images of dictators like Stalin and Enver Hoxha. If you have any currencies not included here, please notify us. Of course, only the most majestic and culturally-indicative banknotes have been shown per currency. We hope this
The archaic-looking hero on Albanian currency is Gjergj Skanderbeg, the 15th-century defender of Albanians against the Islamic conquest of the Turks. He converted to Islam in order to survive, then reverted back to Christendom to lead the rebellion (that failed). It is ironic that Albanians are so proud of the defender of their culture against Islamic invasion, yet they remain the only Muslim nation in Europe at roughly 70% (though nominal). The Albanian people, however, have greatly distanced themselves from their already-lax form of Islam in their struggles of the early 20th century to form their own nation, as well as during the atheistic Communist dictatorship of the bizarre Enver Hoxha. Their currency today displays imagery reminiscent of the Communist era.
Kosovo, a new nation not recognzed by most nations of the world, was seized by the United States, United Nations, and NATO from Yugoslavia during the Yugoslav Wars, ostensibly with the interests of protecting the Kosovar Albanian Muslims from Serbian brutality. Violence against civilians, however, was committed vigorously and horrifically by both factions. Kosovo had a de facto currency that was unofficially used alongside the Serbian Dinar that gained popularity when it was under UN administration. Upon achieving independence with the support of the EU and US (without consultation of Serbia, of which it was a part for nearly 1000 years), the Euro currency has been suggested as a new standard. It is not formally a member state of the EU due to its dismal bankruptcy, as it is unable to meet the basic requirements for EU membership.
Transnistria (Moldovan breakaway state)
Transnistria is a breakaway republic in eastern Moldova (which is east of Romania) that is not formally recognized. Primarily populated by Russian Slavs, the Soviet Union gave Transnistria recognition as a Soviet territory within the Moldovan SSR with partial autonomy. With the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, Romania and Moldova declared independence. Romanians and Moldovans separated, despite being of the same culture, ethnicity, religion, and national history for over a century, due to a divergent national history under Soviet authority. Moldova was directly part of the Soviet Union as the Moldovan SSR, whilst Romania was a puppet vassal in the Warsaw Pact until it distanced itself from Soviet control under Ceauseascu. Transnistrians were angered that they did not receive independence. Due to their bitter hatred of the Moldovan Vlach ethnicity, this nation prnts its own currency without any control of the central government in Chisinau. The conflict with the already-poor Moldova makes Moldova one of the most unstable and indeed the poorest nation in Europe. It is not recognized directly by any nation, although it enjoys casual support from Russia.
Belarus is one of Europe’s youngest countries, indeed not having an independent national history before the breakup of Russia in 1917, but one with a unique history. Long controlled by the Lithuanians, the language of this Slavic subject population functioned as a diplomatic lingua franca. No Belarusian cultural or national identity existed, although its people retained a distinctly Slavic character from the Baltic Lithuanians. Belarus was one of the most loyal of all Soviet republics, and today proudly espouses its Soviet heritage. Its president, Aleksandr Lukashenko, is often called “Europe’s last dictator,” yielding near absolute power and openly operating as a Soviet-style authority. It is a very poor nation that receives very little support from Western Europe due to their political stance, but they remain one of Russia’s closest allies today. Their currency is unusual in that it almost exclusively has only animals depicted.
Bosnia has among the simplest banknotes in the world. There is no recognition in the artwork of the Bosniak Muslim culture. Most of their notes reflect the proud Yugoslav heritage of the Bosnian people (not to say that they have affections for the Serbs). Bosnia, despite being one of the poorest nations of Europe, sets its currency with rather high value. Today, as a result of the Yugoslav conflict, Bosnia is split in three internally: Republika Srpska for Serbs in the east, Croats in the southwest, and Bosnian Christians and Bosniak Muslims in the center. The division is evident in the fact that Republika Srpska even prints its own money, as can be seen below.
Bosnia’s Serbian internal state prints its own money. Notice the Serbian eagle.
Another print of a banknote within Bosnia for the Serbian state in the east.
Britain, N. Ireland, Isle of Man, Gibraltar, Scotland POUND:
The British Pound remains one of the world’s most valuable currencies, the basis for dozens of colonial-created countries’ banking, and a standard measure of the worth of a currency. Because of its extremely high worth (the most valuable in Europe), its use is often shunned by traders from countries with less valuable currency (like the USA) in favor of the Euro or even less valuable forms. The British currency applies to all of its formal colonies today (Gibraltar, Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland, Guernsey, Jersey, Isle of Man, the Falklands off of Argenina, and other maritime colonies). Like the Euro, some banknotes have different country emblems (like Gibraltar), but can be traded all across the Empire in many cases.
Bulgaria has an interestingly currency reflecting their ancient history as one of the oldest-surviving nations on earth, founded in the 7th century. Bulgarian banknotes express the proud Bulgarian Orthodox Christian heritage of this ancient Slavic nation.
Croatian money has had a difficult economic and political history. As can be seen in the first banknote’s worth, Croatian money was worthless when the country was breaking from Serbian-dominated Yugoslavia (see the Visual History of Yugoslavia), but as the country has rapidly evolved to become a major and beautiful tourist paradise, the value of the Kuna has increased. Croatian currency expresses the strong Slavic (and Catholic) pride of this culture on the coast. The first banknote’s reverse (the strange statue) is an ancient sculpture of early Slavic history. The Croats’ desire to print their own local currency and manage their own regional affairs was arguably one of the first events that caused the bitter Serbian reprisal of political centralization that caused the Yugoslav Wars. The Croats have spent the last century defining themselves as a unique nation and culture from the Orthodox Serbs, despite their common racial descent from the Slavs (“Yugoslavia” means “South Slavs”).
Czech Republic KORUNY:
Though the Czechs and Slovaks have only had completely independent nations very recently, the Czechs and Slovaks are quite proud of their ancient Slavic and Catholic heritage. Their homeland has played a key role in the political evolution of Europe for the last 1,200 years, often vaccilating from being a puppet of the Germans to a major independent power. Their currency expresses their early Slavic roots, their church, and their medieval heritage as Bohemia, which broke from the Austria-Hungarian empire after World War I. Their Czechoslovakia banknotes are particularly beautiful and archaic. The Czechs and Slovaks, two cultures with almost identical history, genetics, language, religion, and heritage split into two states in the Velvet Divorce of the 1990s largely because of political disputes resultant from the struggles of post-Cold War state formation, a problem that greatly incensed many Czechs and Slovaks who view themselves as one people still today.
Danish & Greenlandic KRONER:
Scandinavia tends to simply use coins for transactions. Scandinavia easily has the highest cost of living in the world, with a cup of coffee sometimes exceeding $8 US. Sweden, Denmark, Norway, and (before the Euro) Finland have historically had very similar currency because of their common Scandinavian identity. The same applies to Estonia. Greenland and the Faroe Islands are Danish colonies, and use the Kroner.
This proud Baltic state has a long history, though very little as its own nation. The geography of Estonia (historically Estland) implies that it is an easy target for Polish, Lithuanian, German, Swedish, and Russian expansionism. It is a Lutheran Finnic country that broke from the Soviet Union by 1992, maintaining a strong cultural and economic tie with Scandinavia. Its capital, Tallinn, is a small town centuries old that has changed very little in its overall look ever since it was a province of the German Teutonic Order. Although still rather poor, its capital is among the most beautiful cities of the world, and is described as the best-preserved ancient city in the world alongside Ghent in Belgium.
The Hungarian Forint is among the most useless of the European currencies, and also among the most beautiful. They express great pride of Hungary’s ancient 1,000-year history as a major Catholic player that has shaped the history of Europe. Although Hungary was not independent from 1526 until 1918, being dominated by the Germans of Habsburg Austria, the Hungarians were acknowledged as the second-most powerful ethnic group in the empire and thus vigorously protected their independent cultural, ethnic, and historical identity. Hungary was long one of Europe’s largest kingdoms until it was mangled of 3/4 of its national territory after World War I. Ever since, it has often been unfortunately identified as an economic backwater despite the fact that ancient Hungarian cities like Esztergom and Budapest possess some of the greatest architectural wonders the world over.
Like Sweden, Denmark, and Norway, all of Scandinavia has a similar and often shared currency to promote their Scandinavian identity and economic relations. Icelanders proudly revere their unique political and cultural heritage that dates from the Viking period, including such visual concepts as the Althing government of political debate by Nordic freedmen.
Latvia has a long history, though little of its own as a nation. The Latvian tribes — the Semigallians, the Lev, the Livonians, and the Latvians — were long under ethnic German domination for the great majority of the last thousand years. The region was civilized by the German Teutonic Order and the preceding Brethren of the Sword, who built Riga into one of today’s best-preserved ancient cities. The region then fell under Polish and Russian rule until 1918, when it quickly fell under Soviet control yet again until 1990.
This Baltic state is sadly considered an insignificant economic backwater by most observers, despite the fact that the Lithuanians allied with the Poles to forge one of the largest empires in history that shaped the evolution of most of Eastern Europe for centuries. It has a proud identity of its own, not claiming descent from the Slavs nor any other race except their own. After they fell to the Russians in the 18th century, Lithuania became a mere chess piece in the competing empires of the Germans and the Russians until it was independent again in 1918. Its currency is unique in its frequent use of animals.
As one of the newest countries in European history, Macedonia has little independent history of its own, though it prides itself in a strong revolution against the Islamic rule of the Ottomans before World War I. It has only historically acted as a disputed buffer zone between the Serbian, Bulgarian, and Byzantine empires. Today it is one of the poorest nations in Europe, and with a 33% hated Albanian Muslim minority. The Macedonians identified themselves as ethnic Slavs until the chauvinistic dominance of the Serbs encouraged their discord from Yugoslavia in 1993. Ever since, the Macedonians have largely reversed their previous affiliation with their Slavic ancestors and promoted an independent racial identity. Many nationalists claim that the Macedonians are related not to the Russians and Serbs, but to the ancient Macedonian Greeks like Philip and Alexander. For this reason, when becoming a nation in 1993, the backwater country was embargoed by Greece, which proudly reveres their world-conquering hero. As a result of the conflict, Macedonia is now called the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia to emphasize that it is not the original nation of Greek Macedonia. The mere use of the word “Macedonia” without the preceding “FYRO” is almost always met by tremendous political and diplomatic conflict.
As Europe’s poorest country, ravaged by internal civil conflict with the Russian Transnistria breakaway state, and rife with corruption, Moldova has a very difficult history. Its culture, ethnic/racial heritage, language, and national history are identical to their related brethren in Romania, although the Moldovans draw from their own historical triumphs against the invading Muslim Ottoman conquerers when their brothers in Romania proper fell to the blade of jihad. Moldova and Romania were merged when the Ottoman empire began to collapse, but Moldova was completely annexed by the Soviet Union after the Soviets’ defeat of the Third Reich and allied Romania. Moldova was part of the USSR, whilst Romania was a semi-independent puppet in the Warsaw Pact. The political division created by this conflict caused the Romanians in the west and the east to view their political opportunities differently, leading to the creation of two countries. Moldova, with its eastern portions completely outside government control, is on the brink of collapse.
Like Sweden, Denmark, and Iceland, currency primarily relies upon coins instead of banknotes (though less so in Norway). Their currencies are all very similar, reflecting their common cultural, ethnic, linguistic, and economic ties as Scandinavians.
Poland, despite the low value of its currency and its unfortunate image as an impoverished ex-Communist state, is one of the oldest and proudest nations in Europe that (when merged with Lithuania) forged a massive empire stretching from Belarus to the Black Sea. It is also one of the oldest Christian countries of Europe, having been Christianized by Mieszko I over 1000 years ago. Their banknotes have all of their greatest heroes, including Boleslaw (who helped reunite Poland), Mieszko, and Casimierz (who made Poland a respectable and centralized power).
Romanian NEW LEI:
Romania, with its large Gypsy population, is one of the poorest nations in Europe. It reformed its useless “Old Lei” currency, then worth roughly 25,000 to the US dollar, into the New Lei of today. Their currencies express the agriculture, social, and cultural traditions of the Romanian, Wallachian, and Moldovan people in the land of Dracula.
The Ruble is one of the more famous currencies of Europe, having been an active currency (at least in name) for centuries. The Soviet Union used a Ruble as well, though the format, worth, and imagery have changed. Interestly, it is almost impossible to find a Russian currency (new or old) with Joseph Stalin on it despite his cult of personality as the leader of the largest empire on earth. Instead, Lenin is on virtually every banknote. Today, they tend instead to show the glorious architecture of Russian churches and government offices like the Kremlin.
Serbian money has taken many changes because of its previous union with Bosnia, Macedonia, Slovenia, and Croatia as Yugoslavia. Its Yugoslav currencies of the past show great pride in collective work, the Slavic people, Marshall Tito (the beloved quasi-dictator and founder of the socialist version of Yugoslavia), etc. Most of the breakaway states still have a proud expression of Yugoslav heritage in their banknotes despite their intense hatred for the Serbs. When the empire collapsed, the Serbian currency became valued at 500 BILLION per US dollar. It remains among Europe’s poorest countries, still troubled by corruption and a constantly-revolting Albanian Muslim minority in Kosovo (where they are the majority). Serbian currency today expresses the proud Yugoslav heritage of the country, their ancient Slavic history, and the role of Orthodoxy in Serbian culture. The last scan is of Tito.
Though the Czechs and Slovaks have only had completely independent nations very recently, the Czechs and Slovaks are quite proud of their Slavic and Catholic heritage. Their currency expresses their early Slavic roots, their church, and their medieval heritage as Bohemia, which broke from the Austria-Hungarian empire after World War I. Their Czechoslovakia banknotes are particularly beautiful and archaic. The Czechs and Slovaks, two cultures with almost identical history, genetics, language, religion, and heritage split into two states in the Velvet Divorce of the 1990s largely because of political conflicts resultant after the Cold War nation-building process. Many Slovaks and Czechs view this as a travesty, believing that both are one people. The bottom two scans are from united Czechoslovakia.
Like Denmark, Norway, and Iceland, Swedish currency expresses pride in the common ethnic, cultural, linguistic, and economic bond of Scandinavia. Coins are very common in Scandinavia, unlike much of the world.
The Swiss Franc is based, of course, on the pre-Euro French currency, the Franc. It was chosen historically instead of German currencies (the Mark) because of a closer economic relation with France, and also to protect their independence from the ever-intervening German empires. It is unusual in that it has many vertically-directed notes, and many have everyday individuals on their obverse. As Switzerland is a consociational state divided into three ethnicities (majority German, minority French, and minority Italian), its currencies are trilingual.
The Ukrainian Slavs are incredibly proud of their ancient cultural heritage. They claim to be a very ancient and longstanding nation despite the fact that the Ukrainians did not constitute a nation for most of their history, but were instead a region of intense competition between Cossacks, Poles, Russians, and Muslim Turks. The Ukrainians claim to have founded the oldest Slavic state and the nexus of Russia, which was centered at Kiev over 1,000 years ago (called Kievan Rus). The Russians, of the same cultural and genetic heritage as the Ukrainians, view themselves as the founders of Kiev Rus. In reality, however, the genesis of this pan-Slavic nation was built by foreign Germanic Vikings called the Varangians, although the Slavs proceeded to carry these foundations into a powerful empire. The first banknote below depicts the Viking Rus (the basis of “Russian,” although the Russians and Germanic Vikings are not related).
Note: The banknote images are not copyrighted; they are widely distributed across the internet without any proper owners. Many banknote websites exist, with images, that may be helpful for further research (and in some cases may be the original owners of the images), including banknotes.com, worldatlas.com, etc.