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Russians give rouble a symbol

Russia's Central Bank Governor Elvira Nabiullina speaks to journalists after announcing the winner of a public competition to decide the off
Russia's Central Bank Governor Elvira Nabiullina speaks to journalists after announcing the winner of a public competition to decide the off

MOSCOW (Reuters) - The Russian public have picked a first official symbol for the rouble, choosing a sign the central bank said would enhance the appeal of the once-tarnished currency on global markets.

The central bank had published five proposed rouble symbols on its website, inviting voters to pick one and give a brief explanation for their choice.

The winner was a Cyrillic "P" with horizontal strokes - easily recognizable to Russians but less so to foreigners. In Russian, the letter is pronounced like the Latin "R".

The sign, now approved by the central bank, represents a largely symbolic move aimed at improving the appeal of the rouble that was damaged in the early post-Soviet years by economic chaos and hyperinflation.

"I believe that the approved symbol will worthily represent our currency on the world markets," Governor Elvira Nabiullina said at its presentation.

"Moscow aspires to the status of an international financial centre and that has had created an objective need to introduce a new symbol."

A one-rouble coin featuring the logo will be minted from next year, but it is still unclear when bank notes will follow.

Until now, signage such as price tags have either used the word rouble or a regular Cyrillic "P".

A symbol of ridicule in Soviet times, when the black market exchange rate was a fraction of the official rate, confidence in the rouble was further hit by hyperinflation and devaluation in the 1990s.

The currency lost a third of its value in a devaluation after the 2008 crisis. The central bank has since allowed the currency to float more freely and plans to step back from managing the exchange rate completely from 2015.

The central bank took another move towards an unfettered free float on Tuesday, decreasing the amount of interventions needed to shift its target exchange-rate corridor for the rouble.

More than 60 percent of respondents voted for the new symbol, with nearly three-quarters of them declaring themselves as male. Still, the central bank rejected the notion that the results showed a gender gap in financial awareness.

"Men believe that they are the most financially literate," Georgy Luntovsky, the central bank's first deputy chairman, told reporters.

"But at the Central Bank? Sorry, the governor is a woman. In my opinion she is the most competent financier (in Russia) today."

(Reporting by Lidia Kelly; Editing by Douglas Busvine and Alison Williams)

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