The Soviet Union emerged from the Second World War as the most dominant force in Eastern Europe, with
Communist satellite states in East Germany, Bulgaria, Hungary, Czechoslovakia, Poland, Romania, and Albania,
Finland, and the Baltics. It was as if, in Winston Churchill’s famous phrase, an “iron curtain” had been drawn across
that part of the continent. Central Asia also fell under the sway of the Stalinist regime.
In the four-and-a-half decades between the end of World War II and the collapse of the Soviet Union, there were a
number of revolts against authoritarian rule: the Tito-Stalin split in Yugoslavia in ’48, East Germany in ‘53, the
Hungarian Revolution in ’56, Prague Spring in ’68. The Solidarity movement in Poland in 1989 comprised the first
real crack in the Iron Curtain. The Berlin Wall fell later that year, and then, one by one, the nations of Eastern Europe
and Central Asia began to break free. On Christmas Day, 1991, the Soviet Union itself officially collapsed, ending the
This collection of banknotes features issues from former Soviet Republics, proxy states, and other notable nations
where the Cold War was fought.
1. Afghanistan 10 afghanis | P-47
In a bloodless coup in 1973, Mohammed Daoud Khan, featured on this banknote, seized control of Afghanistan,
ousting his brother-in-law the king. He was assassinated five years later by the Soviets, who launched an ill-fated
invasion of the country in 1979. The U.S.-financed mujahedeen fighting against the
Soviets included future Public Enemy #1 Osama bin Ladin.
Specifications: 140 x 56 mm│Obverse: President Mohammed Daoud Khan │Reverse: Arch Of Kalaie | 1973 – 78
2. Albania 1 lekë | P-40
Issued in 1976, after the name of the country was changed from “Peoples Republic” to “Peoples Socialist Republic.”
On the front, a happy peasant couple displays its bountiful harvest; the back features Shkoder Fortress, a castle whose
origins date to before the Common Era.
Specifications: 105 x 55 mm│ Obverse: Man, woman, wheat│Reverse: Building on mountain top / arms
3. Bulgaria 100 leva | P-86
Features the Communist theme of workers happily working. In this case, peasant women picking grapes in a vineyard.
Watermark is the hammer and sickle. Georgi Dimitrov, featured on this note, was the first Communist leader of
Bulgaria and a key figure in the 1933 Leipzig trial, in which he was accused of setting the Reichstag on fire; he won
world renown by his defense at this trial. In the war, he tangled with Goering and was deported from Germany.
Specifications: 167 x 87 mm │Obverse: Portrait, arms│Reverse: Woman harvesting grapes
This collection of banknotes features issues from former Soviet Republics, proxy states, and other notable nations where the Cold War was fought.
4. East Germany 50 Deutsche marks, F-VF | P-14
Issued in 1948, the year of the Berlin blockade, by the German Democratic Republic. Green on brown underprint. The
drab design, devoid of images or bright colors, reflects the mood of the East Germans living under Communist rule.
Specifications: 170 x 84 mm │ Green on brown
5. Great Britain Military 5 pounds | M-23
Issued in 1958 for the Army of the Rhine, the British force charged with protecting West Germany from the Soviets.
Because the country was divided in two, and because it was on the border between East and West, Germany was a
flashpoint throughout the Cold War.
Specifications: 148 x 80 mm│ Obverse: 2nd Series, denomination │Reverse: Denomination
6. Laos 10 kip | p-20
The Pathet Lao, the Communist movement formed in Laos in the mid-20th century, seized control of the government
in 1975, issuing these banknotes. Laos was a close ally of North Vietnam during the Vietnam War.
Specifications: 128 x 65 mm│ Obverse: Medical exam scene │Reverse: Fighters in the bush
7. Nicaragua 200,000 cordovas | P-162
The Central American nation of Nicaragua was home to one of the more notorious US/Soviet proxy wars. President
Ronald Reagan famously could not recall selling arms to Iran, in violation of US law, to finance the Nicaraguan
Contras, who were attempting to overthrow the Socialist Sandanista government.
Specifications: 157 x 67 mm│ Obverse: A. C. Sandino│Reverse: Liberation of 19.7.1979 At Left
8. Poland 100 zlotych | P-143
The word PROLETARYAT spans the back of this, printed from 1975-88—a year before the Solidary movement put
Poland on the path to independence. The front features a portrait of Ludwik Warynski, a 19th century Polish socialist.
Specifications: 138 x 64 mm│ Obverse: L. Warynski │Reverse: Old paper
9. South Korea 10 jeon | P-28
Issued in 1962, just after the end of the active fighting on the Korean peninsula. Technically, North and South are still
at war, and with the former possessing nuclear weapons, Korea remains a powder keg.
Specifications: 90 x 50 mm│ Obverse: Value│Reverse: Denomination
10. South Vietnam 500 dong | P-33
No proxy war was as destructive to the United States as the conflict in Vietnam. Determined to not have the country
fall to the Communists, and thus have a “domino effect” on Indochina. Over a million people died before the fall of
Saigon in 1975.
Specifications: 154 x 77 mm│ Obverse: Palace of Independence │Reverse: Tiger
11. USSR 100 roubles | P-236
Soviet notes featuring the bust of Lenin, along with the iconic hammer-and-sickle insignia.
Issued in 1961, at the height of the Cold War—the year the Berlin Wall was built.
Specifications: 140 x 70 mm│ Obverse: Portrait of Lenin│ Reverse: Kremlin Tower
12. Yugoslavia 5000 dinara | P-93
The split between Stalin and Tito—the Yugoslav dictator, featured on this note—was acrimonious, with the former on
several occasions attempting and failing to have the latter assassinated.
Specifications: 165 x 76 mm│ Obverse: Tito
Reverse: Jajce in Bosnia