Hitting the Right Notes: The Symbols, History and Images of Kazakh Currency

By Julia Rutz

One of the first things visitors to Kazakhstan notice is the gorgeous collection of paintings and illustrations of the country that are on display. There are portraits of famous people of Kazakhstan and intricate drawings of the nation’s landmarks and wildlife; the whole thing is a beautiful blur of the country’s rich past and surging present. But you don’t have to drive to an exhibit. All you have to do is open your wallet.

Kazakhstan gained independence from the Soviet Union in 1991 and set about adopting its own symbols and currency. In 1993, the country’s first set of bills were adopted. Kazakhstan was one of the last Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) to adopt its own currency. But the wait was worth it, both for political reasons and for the design of the new money. The designs were intricate, colorful and told the story of new and old Kazakhstan. So with the help of EdgeKz and the information here, you can open your wallet and learn a little of the beauty and history of this unique country.

200200 Tenge

The front of this orange and green note is oriented vertically and is dominated by an image of Astana’s Baiterek Monument, the symbol of the capital. The monument represents an ancient Kazakh belief about the origin and structure of the universe. Baiterek is the tree of life, the refuge of the sacred bird, Samruk. Samruk takes refuge in the tree’s high crown to lay a golden egg: the sun. The structure of the tower symbolizes the three pillars of creation: the underground, terrestrial and celestial worlds. The Baiterek Monument was opened in 2002 and has become a major landmark and tourist destination. “Today, Baiterek is strongly associated not only with the capital but also the whole country, representing Kazakh people preserving their historical roots and heading toward the future,” says Nurgul Aksanbayevna, a currency expert at the National Bank of Kazakhstan.

In the middle of the banknote is a fragment of the sheet music of Kazakhstan’s national anthem, which was last changed in 2006. “My Kazakhstan,” a well-known song from 1956 with lyrics amended by President Nursultan Nazarbayev was chosen to replace the previous version of the anthem. (The president is considered a co-author to the original writer, Zhumeken Nazhimedenov.) Beneath the music is another symbol of the president – an open palm with his signature. The palm symbolizes faith, sincerity and justice. All banknotes in this series have the same design on the front, though they come in different colors.

Flip the note over for an outline of the nation’s borders with an illustration of waving steppe grass contained inside it. In front of this are drawings of the Ministries of Transport and Communication and Defense. “The idea was to put images of the main governmental buildings on each banknote,” says Aksanbayevna (AGAIN, with or without ‘n’???). The winged snow leopard statue in the foreground sits on the bridge over the Yessil River in Astana. The winged snow leopard is one of the main mythological figures of the nomadic tribes who lived on the territory of modern Kazakhstan. It has become the symbol of independent Kazakhstan;it represents the modern nation’s strength and power.

500500 Tenge

The back of this blue and gray note shows the same map outline as on the 200 tenge note, but this time the borders of the map contain a drawing of seagulls flying across the Caspian Sea, which forms part of the country’s western border. “Kazakhstan is known for a variety of landscapes and the idea of representing different views on the backside of each banknote is to show the viewer how unique the nature of Kazakhstan is,” says Aksanbayevna (SAME QUEsTION). The gulls represent Aktau, Kazakhstan’s only seaport, but also the freedom and independence of the country. In the bottom right corner are the Ministry of Finance and Astana’s akimat or city hall.


10001,000 Tenge

This yellow and brown note shows the President Culture Center, a complex established at President Nazarbayev’s initiative, which includes a museum, library and exhibition halls (Since 2012, this building houses the Nazarbayev Center). Within the borders of the country this time is a picture of the limestone mountains from the far eastern region of Mangystau (which is translated as ‘Thousand Mountains’).

20002,000 Tenge

This green-hued note depicts the Big Almaty Lake inside the usual outline map. At the bottom right is Almaty’s Abai Opera House. Established in 1934, Abai OperaHouse is the pride of Kazakhstan’s musical culture and typical of the architecture of Almaty.  


50005,000 Tenge (2006 version)

This red and brown note has the same outline map, this time filled inwith steppe grasses in front of mountains that eventually rise to a sharp, snowy peak. Center-right is the Independence Monument from Republic Square in Almaty. In the monument, Altyn Adam, the Golden Man, stands on and drives the winged leopard. This symbolizes a firm government on the Kazakh territory. The Golden Man is an archeological and cultural treasure discovered in an ancient burial mound in Issyk, near Almaty, where sovereigns of ancient tribes were buried. Behind the monument, on the far right, rises the Kazakhstan Hotel. The building was erected in 1970 and became a famous landmark in Almaty and a symbol of the city.

10,000 Tenge (2006 version)

The front is the same as the others in this series. The back of this purple and blue note has a drawing of a vast Charyn Canyon, located in the southern and eastern parts of the country, inside the nation’s borders. Front and center is the Akorda Palace of the President of the Republic of Kazakhstan. Akorda is the president’s residence; it sits on the left bank of the Yessil River in Astana.

New 5,000 Tenge Note (2011)

The front of this pink- and red-hued note is also oriented vertically. The main image on the face side is the Kazak Eli Monument, dedicated to the 10thanniversary of the capital and the historical destiny of Kazakh people. The marble base represents purity of thought and the durability of friendly relations between the peoples of Kazakhstan. The sculpture flies upward from its base, representing the future of the country. Samruk, the bird of happiness, sits atop the column observing the country and its heritage. Images of flying pigeons, symbolizing peace and harmony, and winged snow leopards, the symbol of a strong and independent country, are at the bottom of the banknote.

Behind the Kazak Eli Monument are the Pyramid of Peace, also called the Palace of Peace and Reconciliation, and the Palace of Independence. The people of Kazakhstan believe that the Pyramid of Peace expresses the country’s true spirit, a place where many cultures and traditions coexist in harmony.

The back of the note shows the Independence Monument and the Kazakhstan Hotel, as the 2006 5,000 tenge note does. The same map of the country shows a field of wild tulips in front of a jagged mountain range outside of Almaty.

10000New 10,000 Tenge (2011)

The front is the same as on the new 5,000 tenge note issued in 2011, but without the image of winged snow leopards. The back shows Akorda Palace, the president’s residence. 

1,000 Tenge Note Commemorating Kazakhstan’s Chairmanship of the Organization of the Islamic Conference (2011)

Both sides of this blue, green, and yellow note show the mausoleum of Hodja Akhmed Yassavi. Themausoleum, in the southern city of Turkestan, is one of the largest and best-preserved constructions of the 14th century. It was built by the order of Timur (Tamerlane), the ruler of Central Asia. After his death, construction of the building was halted and never completed.  It is closely associated with Timur and with the diffusion of Islam in the region with the help of Sufi orders.

last_pageSince the independence of Kazakhstan in 1991, the mausoleum has become a symbol of national identity. As it is connected with a leading force for the expansion of Islam in Central Asia, this mausoleum was chosen to be a symbol of Kazakhstan’s chairmanship in the Organization of the Islamic Conference in 2011.

1,000 Tenge Note Commemorating Kazakhstan’s Chairmanship of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe in 2010, issued in 2010

The front of this teal and pink note shows the iconic Baiterek Monument and stylized flying pigeons in different patterns. The back shows more pigeons taking the air, symbolizing peace and harmony, and a large painting of Akorda Palace, the president’s residence in Astana. The blue and yellow Kazakhstan’s flag runs vertically just left of center.

2,000 Tenge Note Commemorating the Seventh Asian Winter Games, Issued in 2011

Kazakhstan’s National Bank issued new 2,000 tenge banknotes to commemorate the Seventh Asian Winter Games. The front is the same as other recent notes. On the back, a ski-jumper achieves lift-off in front of a backdrop showing snowy Khan Tengri Peak. A new ski-jumping facility was constructed in Almaty especially for these games. On the far right, is the symbol of the Seventh Asian Winter Games.

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The Astana Times
The Astana Times