Belarussian Wildlife #6, Wisent: 100 Rubles (Belarus, 1993)-Article

Updated: Dec 8, 2021

This early post-Soviet, Belarussian banknote is the 8th denomination of the First Ruble (1992). The First Ruble was introduced due to the collapse of the Soviet Union, in 1991. The Belarussian Ruble replaced the previous Soviet Ruble, on 25 May 1992. These early banknotes are notable for featuring the nation's wildlife.

Currently (2021) these small banknotes are well suited for beginner collectors. As they can be purchased for relatively cheap, the exception being the 1 Ruble (European Hare) and 3 Ruble (Eurasian Beaver) denominations. All denominations of the 25 May 1992 issued notes featured Pahonia (the chaser), on their reverse side


The observe depicts a Wisent (European Bison), the heaviest land animal in Europe. The note's "Hundred Rubles" value is listed at the upper right, in Cyrillic text. Nearby we can see a spiral guilloché pattern radiating outward. If one looks closely they can notice the beginnings of 2 similar patterns near the lower right and center. In addition to the note's multi-tone underprint, these form a simple anti-forgery measure.

Toward the edge of the underprint we can see a cross, symbolically representing the Cross of Saint Euphrosyne. Below is a guilloché pattern with the text "Hundred Rubles", reinforcing the note's value. This pattern overlaps a border, which the bear rests on.

This border extends to the right, in the watermark area. Above and below this border are 3 rows of micro-text, reading "Republic of Belarus" in sequence. The micro-text runs the full length of the note. Although can most easily be seen read from the watermark area.

Overall the watermark is simple, being a system of interlocking "S" patterns. Which run the across the note beyond the designated watermark area. A fairly common practice for early post-Soviet banknotes.


The reverse depicts Pahonia (the chaser), who's featured on the Belarussian Coat of Arms. Pahonia stems from an Eastern Slavic tradition. In which in case of sudden attack, all armed and able men are expected to pursue the enemy. In 1329, this tradition was personified as an image of a charging knight.

Pahonia gained notoriety as the seal of Duke Aleksandr Mikhailovich of Pskov (1301-1339). Who lead the Tver Uprising of 1327, against the Mongol Golden Horde. Which despite being decisively defeated, with the assistance of Ivan I of Moscow (1325-1340 CE). Later inspired the Great Stand on the Ugra River (1480 CE), which finally defeated the Golden Horde.

Despite being a relatively simple banknote, it utilizes extensive guilloché details. Being the most cost-effective and visually appealing option. To prevent the notes from being counterfeited by criminal elements. The guilloché patterns are layered, moving outward from the Pahonia image. In addition to forming borders for the notes text.

The note's "Hundred Rubles" value is listed at the sides of the Pahonia. While the text below lists the note as a "Payment ticket of the National Bank of Belarus". The note's print date (1992) is listed to the far right. While the he fine text featured above the watermark area reads, "Forgery of banknotes of the National Bank of Belarus is prosecuted by law".

The European Bison

The European Bison also known as the Wisent, is the heaviest land animal in Europe. The species is distantly related to the American Bison. Notably the larger extinct Steppe Bison of the Ice Age (115,000- 11,700 B.P.) historically shared it's range with both species. Forming a common link between European and American Bison. Until their extinction in Alaska roughly 5,400 years ago.

The average European Bison bull is heavily built, with a weight of 615-920 kg (1,356-2,028 lb). With a body length of 2.8 to 3.3 m (9.2 to 10.8 ft), excluding its 30 to 92 cm (12 to 36 in). Their height stands 1.8 to 2.1 m (5.9 to 6.9 ft), the shoulder. The smaller female cows has an average weight of 424 to 633 kg (935 to 1,396 lb). With a height and length of 1.69 to 1.97 m (5.5 to 6.5 ft) and 2.4 to 2.9 m (7.9 to 9.5 ft), respectively.

Like their cousins the American Bison, they are covered in brown wholly hair. Although differ in that they have less body hair, with hairier tails. They also are taller with longer legs, allowing them to jump higher and longer. Although they run slower and lack the stamina of American Bison. European Bison have longer forward pointing horns. Allowing bulls to lock horns when fighting, as opposed to American Bison which prefer charging.

European Bison travel in small herds of 8-13, mostly cow with young 2–3 year old calves. These herds will often only have a single bull. It should be noted that not a herds are strictly family groups. As herds will occasionally combine and trade members when interacting. Some small herds of 2-3 are made up entirely of young bulls.

The herd is a matriarchy, lead by an elder cow from grazing areas to watering holes. The majority of the herds time is spent grazing on grass and browsing for shoots. European Bison tend to browse more then their American cousins. Due to differing neck, which places their snout more forward. Allowing to better browse and drink water. When feeding in the open the oldest bulls will protect the herd, along its edges.

Another notable distinction of the European Bison, is their de-extinction in the wild. The European Bison was hunted to extinction throughout much of Eurasia. During the period of late-Antiquity (3rd-5th Century) and the Middle Ages (5th-15th Century). By the early 20th Century, wild population were only present in North-Central Europe and the Western Caucus.

These remaining Bison were used to create captive breeding programs. Which allowed the species to live on, even after their extinction the wild, in 1927. In 1952 the first two bison were released into Białowieża Forest, Poland. Additional captive bison were released into the wild, increasing the population to 100 bison by 1964. At present the population is estimated be in the several 1,000s, providing a stable population.

The largest wild populations live in Poland and neighboring Belarus. Which have provided bison for reintroduction projects, throughout their former European range. These reintroduced populations can be seen in protected national parks and nature reserves. Serving as attractions, which help raise money for future reintroduction efforts.

1992 First Belarusian Ruble Gallery

(Gallery contains all Series 1992 banknotes, "Belarussian Wildlife")


Additional Notes

  • This notes dimensions are 105 x 53 mm or 4.13 x 2.09 in, smaller than a standard US Dollar.

  • The żubr (Wisent) is one of the national animals of Poland and Belarus.

  • Ancient Wisent were often larger than their modern descendants.

  • Wisent are theorized to be the hybrid descendants of Steppe Bison and Aurochs. The extinct ancestors to ancient cattle.

  • Wisent are known to break ice with their hoofs, when searching for water in winter.

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