Ukrainian shah

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Thirty-shah stamp of Ukrainian People's Republic (1918). The young woman depicted in the stamp symbolizes the young Ukrainian nation.

Shah (Ukrainian: шаг) was the name of several currencies used in Ukraine. The name derives from shilling via shelyag (sheleg; Russian: шеляг, шелег; Polish: szeląg). The forms shahy (шаги, for 2 to 4) and shahiv (шагiв, for five or more) are declensional plurals of the noun used in denominations, for example, 2 shahy, 20 shahiv.

17th-19th centuries[edit]

The term "shah" was the Ukrainian name of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth's silver coin of 17th-18th centuries with face value of 3 grosz, coined since 1528, especially during the times of Sigismund III Vasa. Later, the name was transferred to the Russian copper coin of 2 kopecks. Since 1839 when silver money counting was reinstated in the Russian Empire, the term shah was transferred to the silver ½ kopeck. This term for the kopeck was in use until 1917.[citation needed]

Early 20th century[edit]

In 1917, banknotes were introduced in the newly independent Ukraine. These were denominated in shah, hryvnia and karbovanets, with 100 shahiv = 1 hryvnia and 2 hryvni = 1 karbovanets.

At the beginning of the 20th century, during World War I (1914—1918), many countries issued currency in the form of stamps. It was done similarly in early independent Ukrainian states: in West Ukrainian National Republic and Ukrainian People's Republic. There, these money stamps were called shahivky (шагiвки, singular: шагiвка, shahivka). Stamps in denominations of 10, 20, 30, 40, 50 shahiv were issued.

These shahivki were printed on perforated 11 ½ card stock, due to a shortage of metals needed for the war effort at the time. Each currency stamp was inscribed on the reverse with a tryzub (trident) and with some words stating that these shahivki circulate in lieu of coins and that they are prohibited to be used as stamps. However, they do appear on some postal envelopes as there was an acute deficiency of "true" stamps. Nevertheless, on July 18, 1918, the independent Ukrainian government authorized its first set of stamp issues, also called shahivki and having nearly identical designs.

The 10 and 20-shah stamps issues of Ukrainian People's Republic were designed by the artist Anton Sereda and the 30, 40, and 50-shah stamps by Heorhiy Narbut, a master graphic artist and president of the Ukrainian Academy of Arts in Kiev.

This 1918 issue of shahs was designed by graphic artists Anton Sereda and Heorhiy Narbut.

Late 20th century[edit]

In 1992, after the dissolution of the Soviet Union after which the newly independent Ukraine was able to choose its own currency, trial runs of coins of 1 shah and 50 shahiv were issued, but were not approved. Therefore, the kopiyka (копійка) was confirmed as a numismatic term for Ukrainian currency, despite nationalistic sentiments that kopiyka (Ukrainian for Russian kopeyka) is a Russian term.

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