Faculty Author Q&A: Ekaterina Pravilova on "The Ruble"

Dec. 12, 2023

Ekaterina Pravilova is Rosengarten Chair of Modern and Contemporary History, professor of history, and director of the Program in the Russian, East European, and Eurasian Studies. Her book, “The Ruble. A Political History” was published in June 2023 by Oxford University Press.

How did you get the idea for this project?

If someone were told that I wrote this book by accident, they might find it hard to believe. After all, a few years of archival research culminating in a 560-page volume hardly seems like an unintended endeavor. However, initially, my focus was different. I delved into the history of authenticity, fraud, and trust in imperial Russia. It struck me that the state, which issued paper bills with a promise to exchange them for gold and silver coins, was often perceived as the biggest fraudster since the Russian currency was largely unconvertible. Intellectuals, reformers, and liberals viewed this state-inflicted deceit as the root of numerous societal ills – moral decay, a breakdown in trust between the government and the people, and widespread social injustice. This realization prompted me to shift my focus from fraud and authenticity to the subject of money, leading to the creation of “The Ruble.” There is also another, more personal reason behind this book. “The Ruble” serves as a tribute to my teacher, the Russian historian Boris Ananich (1931-2015), who was a pioneer in the study of Russian financial and political history.