From the treasure trove of the Money Museum Kyiv hryvnia

Today, many of us are thinking about Ukraine, our hearts beat as one with our Ukrainian brothers and sisters. We can call them our kin, a people with whom we lived in one country in the past, we share one history. While some are trying to deny this, the history of Ukraine is far older than ours, older even than that of the state trying to realise its imperial ambitions. Relics from Ukraine’s past can also be found at the Money Museum. One of them is the ancient money — the Kyiv hryvnia. 

One of the distinguishing features of the monetary systems of the medieval Eastern Europe region was silver alloys of various shapes used for large settlements. Their spread is usually associated with a decrease in the flow of silver (primarily in the form of coins) observed between the 11th and 17th centuries. This period, which lasted at least until the beginning of the 14th century, is sometimes referred to by historians as the “coinless period”, thus noting that the coins were not circulating in principle.

At that time, the political structure that dominated the region was Kyivan Rus’. Local gold and silver coins began to be minted here at the turn of the 10th–11th centuries, but already in the mid-11th century, their mintage ceased. It was at that time that internal struggles for the throne began in Kyivan Rus’, and the political situation became unstable. At the end of the 12th century, the state split into several independent duchies, and in the mid-13th century, it completely collapsed after the Tatar Mongol invasion. 

In this context, coin minting was difficult, so silver alloys — “hryvnia” — were used for large domestic settlements and international trade. 

The term “hryvnia” was primarily a unit of weight, but there was also a quantitative variation of it used to calculate coins (hryvnia kuna; the latter term was used to name several types of coins). It is believed that it originated around the 8th–9th centuries and its etymology is associated with a necklace made of precious metals. These articles were sometimes chopped into pieces, which were given the name of the jewellery. In the mid-11th century, large silver alloys began to acquire clearer metrological parameters — mass, shape, and other dimensions.

The earliest type of such alloys, which began around the mid-11th century, were hexagonal, diamond-shaped alloys with a mass of between 160 and 170 g. According to the location where they were first found, they are commonly referred to as “Kyiv hryvnia”, but this did not mean that they were cast only in this region. Findings have also come from the more northern regions, including in southern Lithuania. 
The Kyiv hryvnias circulated until the 13th century. Other types of alloys — Chernihiv, Novgorod hryvnias, as well as Lithuanian longs and three-sided alloys — appeared. The Chernihiv hryvnias are mentioned separately. By their shape, they were similar to the Kyivan ones, and by weight, they were closer to the Novgorod hryvnias, so they were treated as a transitional type of alloy.

LBPM GEK 8728/1. Kyiv hryvnia. The mid-11th–13th century. Kyivan Rus’. Silver, casting. Length 87.5 mm, width 39.1 mm, height 10.4 mm, mass 165.64 g.