20 November 2013

Kopek Pandemonium on a Russian Bus


Kopeks are more than three times smaller than this

image, and three times less valuable than in 2000.

Using money can be tricky. 

Sometime in my first years in Russia, a store clerk said Nyet and waved me towards the door.  She didn’t or wouldn’t accept my my 500 ruble bill.  Understandable, but I missed the patient explanation as to why, and the apology that I would likely have received back home in America.

Now with a better sales attitude, more currency in circulation, and computerized registers, stores accept ruble notes with no problem... but kopeks are another story!

Kopeks are worth less and less...

100 kopeks are equal to one ruble.  You can use the dime-size 10 kopek coin or the penny-size 50 kopek coin to get  to the equivalent of 100 kopeks.  These copper coins are worth much less than the American penny.  It would take 3,255 kopeks, the same value as 32.55 rubles, to equal one US  dollar.

Older people often have difficulty grasping how quickly rubles and kopeks have lost value.  A compound inflation rate of 312.11% since June of 2000 is hard to get used to.  In comparison, the US compound inflation was 31.54%.  *fxtop.com Inflation Calculator. 10/06/2000 to 10/11/2013


Babuskas find kopeks and checkouts magnetic!

Babuskas love counting out kopeks from their little change purses while at the supermarket checkout.  This causes aggravation and restlessness among those in line, which I find sort of endearing.  Men, meanwhile, often do not use kopeks, not even taking them from the change tray.

Only little children get kopeks off the ground. 

The Russian Central Bank announced recently that they will stop minting all kopek coins.Pravda.ru

My Story...  true, with fuzzy details sharpened for effect...


The scene of the crime.

One day some years ago Larissa rushed off to the local shopping mall.  Soon I got a call from her asking that I grab a bus and come quickly. On getting off the phone I realized I had no bills and insufficient change for the 12 ruble bus fare.  I grabbed a small plastic bag in which we kept kopeks so as to not clog up our pockets, and hurried to catch any of the three buses that went to where Larissa was waiting.

Breathless, I climbed on an autobus, sat, and counted my few ruble coins up to six rubles, planning to pay the balance with kopeks.  Before I was ready, a tall thin conductress weaved towards me, with a tired exasperated grimace.  I explained in my broken Russian that I needed to pay part of my fare in kopeks.  

I gave her a few rubles which added to half the fare, and then showed her my handful of kopeks  which I was counting to get to the 12 ruble fare.  The poor woman was in a hurry, took my handful of kopeks, and started counting them while she lurched to the front of the bus to another  passenger.  Some people watching shook their heads in commiseration with this hard working woman.

She lunged back, red in the face, and exploded!  ‘You not only gave me a head ache with all this counting, but you’re short 20 kopeks.  I’ll have you arrested.  Get off the bus!’

I told her I would give her the 20 kopeks the next time I saw her, but being kopeks she took that as a further insult.  Fortunately the bus arrived at my stop.

A few days later Larissa asked me why I didn’t want to take the 172 autobus, preferring to wait for another.  I confessed my trepidation that there would be an angry woman looking to kill me, all because of Russian kopeks!


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