What Is the Russian Ruble (RUB)?

The Russian ruble is the national currency of the Russian Federation. The ruble is the second-oldest currency still in circulation, behind the British pound. It is made up of 100 kopeks.

Key Takeaways

  • The ruble is the currency of the Russian Federation.
  • The ruble has been used since the 13th century, making it the second-oldest national currency still in existence, behind the British pound.
  • The ruble's exchange rate tends to rise and fall with global oil prices, given Russia's position as one of the world's top exporters of oil and natural gas.
  • Russia has been among the first nations to seriously explore a central bank-backed digital currency, the CryptoRuble.

Understanding the Russian Ruble (RUB)

The ruble (RUB) has been used since the 13th century and has been through a number of incarnations during that time, including multiple revaluations and devaluations. Before the fall of the Soviet Union in 1992, the currency's symbol was SUR, and up until the redenomination in 1998, it was RUR. The 1998 redenomination made one new ruble worth 1000 old rubles.

In recent years, the currency's exchange rate has generally tracked global commodity prices, especially oil prices, because Russia's economy heavily depends on exports of oil, natural gas, and other natural resources. The ruble collapsed in the second half of 2014, losing about half its value versus the U.S. dollar as global oil prices plunged. Economic and financial sanctions imposed by the U.S. and European Union on Russia in July 2014 over its invasion of Ukraine also helped weaken it.

In late 2017, the National Bank of Ukraine ordered that all Ukrainian banks and other financial institutions were forbidden to circulate Russian banknotes that depict images of Crimea, a region of Ukraine that Russia annexed in 2014.

The ruble has existed in one form or another for about 800 years. 

Russia's Economy

Russia is more than twice as large as the contiguous 48 U.S. states and is blessed with enormous natural resources. Yet Russia’s annual gross domestic product (GDP) ranked only 11th worldwide in 2020, at just about 7 percent the size of the U.S. economy. That's because Russia relies heavily on exports of natural resources, rather than higher-value-added industries. In fact, in terms of GDP, Russia trails much smaller countries, such as Italy and France.

The CryptoRuble

President Vladimir Putin announced in 2017 that Russia's central bank would issue its own cryptocurrency, the CryptoRuble. Unlike most cryptocurrencies, the CryptoRuble won't be decentralized—it will be managed by the Russian government—and there won't be currency miners. Testing of the CryptoRuble is expected to begin in the second half of 2021.

The value of the CryptoRuble will be identical to the value of a regular ruble.

Many analysts believe Putin finds a national cryptocurrency attractive because it would enable Russian entities to more easily evade international financial sanctions. Another benefit would be replacing the decentralized, private cryptocurrencies such as Bitcoin, which are largely beyond the control of the Russian government.