14 November 2014, 16:41
308653 |

The Foul Smell of Money & My Grandfather’s Pension

We’ve all done it—stuck a bill or two in between the pages of an old book, just some small savings for harder days to come. And what happens when you go back and find a 500 dram note, no longer in use, hidden in an old coat pocket? Surely old Armenian bills are useless, but they do bring on memories of a bitter-sweet past, a past where a political transition was expressed in interesting ways through our currency...

Most Armenians have surely forgotten the look of the paper bills that were circulated in the 1990s. At best, they'd recall its colors (the 100 Dram note was blue, the 50, light pink). I don’t know why they decided to get rid of the 500 dram bills, those had a comforting sense of stability—like there was really something of worth in your pocket.  

Every day when I would go to school (I entered the first grade in 1999) I was given one blue Victor Ambartsumian (the Soviet Armenian scientist who used to done the blue, 100 Dram note). Sometimes I would spend it all immediately and other days, I would save a bit. A bulki [round sweet bread] cost 50 dram; the slightly more luxurious hot dog, 100.

Strangely, these bills were much thinner than the ones we have today. When was the last time that you saw money taped together with scotch tape?


These old bills turned out to have some educational value. Armenian isn't the easiest language, particularly because its alphabet differs quite drastically from script letters to print. From these Soviet-era bills, we learned to appreciate certain complexities of our alphabet the crucial differences that exist between the typed and handwritten versions of it. Believe it or not, there were spelling mistakes on the 10 dram bill, as well as the 50.

The 1000 dram bill had classic words from Yeghishe Charents, but they, too, had typos! Really, only a single letter had been misplaced, and yet it completely changed the meaning of the word. Now, Charents’ famous poem read “I love the goodness of my sweet Armenia,” instead of its original, “I love the language of my sweet Armenia”. One day our Armenian teacher pointed this out, after which I went straight home to knowingly inform my parents, who praised me excessively for catching this grievous error.

Like all kids, I loved these bills. At the end of every month I would receive a 500 dram note when my grandfather claimed his pension. One time I received a 1000 dram note on my tenth birthday. However, I was never able to get my hands on a 5000 dram bill with a picture of the Goddess Anahit on it. No matter how many times I asked, they never gave me one.

Oh, and one more thing. These notes smelled absolutely awful. To this day, I don’t understand why. Nevertheless, these old, colorful bills represent a whole ten years of my life, from the lunch line in the school cafeteria, to the 25 dram bottles of lemonade. 


Այս հոդվածի հայերեն տարբերակի համար սեղմեք այստեղ։

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