The som (C) is the currency of the Kyrgyz Republic.
In the Soviet Union, speakers of Kazakh, Kyrgyz and Uzbek called the ruble the som, and this name appeared written on the back of banknotes, among the texts for the value of the bill in all 15 official languages of the Union. The word som (sometimes transliterated “sum” or “soum”) means “pure” in Kyrgyz, Uyghur and Uzbek, as well as in many other Turkic languages. The word implies “pure gold”.
The National Bank of the Kyrgyz Republic 2017 approved an underlined С (es) as the official currency symbol for the KGS. Currently no Unicode currency symbol is registered.
The som is sub-divided into 100 tyiyn (Kyrgyz: тыйын).
After the collapse of the Soviet Union attempts were made by most republics to maintain a common currency. Certain politicians were hoping to at the very least maintain “special relations” among former Soviet republics, or the “near abroad”. Another reason were the economic considerations for maintaining the ruble zone. The wish to preserve the strong trade relations between former Soviet republics was considered the most important goal.
The break-up of the Soviet Union was not accompanied by any formal changes in monetary arrangements. The Central Bank of Russia was authorized to take over the State Bank of the USSR (Gosbank) on 1 January 1992. It continued to ship USSR ruble notes and coins to the central banks of the fourteen newly independent countries, which had formerly been the main branches of Gosbank in the republics. The political situation, however, was not favorable for maintaining a common currency. Maintaining a common currency requires a strong political consensus in respect to monetary and fiscal targets, a common institution in charge of implementing these targets, and some minimum of common legislation (concerning the banking and foreign exchange regulations). These conditions were far from being met amidst the turbulent economic and political situation.
During the first half of 1992, a monetary union with 15 independent states all using the ruble existed. Since it was clear that the situation would not last, each of them was using its position as “free-riders” to issue huge amounts of money in the form of credit. As a result, some countries were issuing coupons in order to “protect” their markets from buyers from other states. The Russian central bank responded in July 1992 by setting up restrictions to the flow of credit between Russia and other states. The final collapse of the ruble zone began when Russia pulled out with the exchange of banknotes by the Central Bank of Russia on Russian territory at the end of July 1993.
The som was introduced on May 10, 1993, replacing the Soviet ruble at a rate of 1 som = 200 rubles.
Circulation coins were first introduced in January 2008, making Kyrgyzstan second to last of the former Soviet republics to issue them. Belarus became the last of the former Soviet republics that did not issue coins for general circulation until the July 1, 2016 revaluation of their currency. This move came with growing demand from vendors for coins, especially from slot machine industries and those desiring a more efficient system for collecting fare money. The coins were issued in denominations of 10 and 50 tiyin (also spelt tyiyn and tyin) made of brass-plated steel, and 1, 3 and 5 som, made of nickel-plated steel. A nickel-plated steel 10 som coin was issued a year later for 2009. All coins are minted by the Kazakhstan mint in Ust-Kamenogorsk and bear some resemblance to coins of the Russian Federation in their designs. There are several commemorative non circulation coins made of silver and gold, and a special collector’s issue of brass 1 tyiyn coin.
On 10 May 1993, the government issued 1, 10 and 50 tyiyn notes and the Kyrgyzstan Bank issued notes for 1, 5 and 20 som. In 1994, the Kyrgyz Bank issued a second series of notes in denominations of 1, 5, 10, 20, 50 and 100 som.
A third series followed from 1997 onwards in denominations of 1, 5, 10, 20, 50, 100, 200, 500 and 1000 som. A new series of banknotes was introduced with similar themes, but enhanced design, compared to the previous series.
In January 2008 coins of 1 and 5 som and in December 2009 coins of 10 som where introduced. As a result, production of banknotes of these values ceased. The banknotes were however not removed from circulation, but are instead being phased out. In January 2008 the Kyrgyz National Bank estimated that within 2 years the 1 and 5 som banknotes would have almost completely disappeared from circulation.
A fourth series was issued in 2009 and 2010 in denominations of 20, 50, 100, 200, 500, 1000, and 5000 som. In 2009 the National Bank of the Kyrgyz Republic issued a 5000 som note. Later new editions for 20, 50 and 100 som denominations followed. Among other things, these notes have enhanced security features compared to the previous series.