Currencies circulating in Estonia in the 20th century

​At the beginning of the 20th century, Estonia was a part of Russia and the Russian Tsarist currency was in circulation here. The situation changed in 1917-1918, when the Russian Provisional Government and the Bolsheviks issued different new banknotes, and the German occupation powers circulated German marks as well as German ostmarks and ostroubles, specially made for the occupied territories of East Europe.

When the Republic of Estonia came into being after the Germans left in November 1918, it had no currency of its own. All kinds of Russian and German currencies were still circulating here. In addition, the Estonian government put into common usage the 10 million Finnish marks borrowed from Finland in December 1919. In order to relieve the shortage of currency, the Estonian Provisional Government allowed different kinds of securities and bonds to be used as state ‘auxiliary means of payment’ in January 1919. To enlarge the stock of currency, the state treasury issued bills of exchange (with a nominal value from 1000 to 100,000 marks), which the population, due to lack of banknotes, arbitrarily started to use as their replacements. All together, this created a confusing situation, where at least five different currencies were in circulation.

At the same time, preparations were made for the issuing of the currency of the Estonian Republic, which was finally put into circulation in spring 1919. The national currency was called the mark (= 100 pence). At first, attempts were made to find certain guarantees for the mark, but the economic situation of the country prevented adherence to them, and soon the mark was simply unsupported paper money. Due to the catastrophic shrinking of the state gold reserves and the abrupt deterioration of the financial situation, Estonia had to carry out a currency reform; the name of the currency was changed as well. Starting on 1 January 1928, the new currency, the kroon (= 100 cents), came into effect (1 kroon = 100 marks). The kroon was fixed to the English pound sterling. During the world economic crisis in 1933, the kroon was devalued by 35 per cent.

After the incorporation of Estonia into the Soviet Union, the Soviet currency – the rouble and chervonets – started circulating in addition to Estonian currency, in November 1940. In March 1941, the Soviet regime declared the national currencies of the Baltic states invalid. During the German occupation in 1941-1944, the ostmark was again circulated in Estonia. The Soviet currency circulated as well and became the sole currency after the re-establishment of the Soviet regime in 1944.

In 1947 and 1961, the old banknotes were exchanged for new ones at the rate of 10:1. The last batch of Soviet roubles, with a slightly changed design, started circulating in Estonia in 1991, but already in 1989 preparations had begun for re-adopting the kroon. This became possible after the restitution of the Estonian Republic and, on 20 June 1992, the Estonian kroon became the sole legal means of payment. After almost two decades, the Estonian kroon was substituted by the euro in 2011. As of the 15 of January 2011, the euro is the sole valid currency in Estonia.


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