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What the Euro and the Azerbaijani Manat Have in Common

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The Wall Street Journal is reporting that a monthly survey by Commerzbank shows "German companies have turned notably more negative on the [euro] compared with March, with 66% of participants now expecting the euro to fall against the dollar on the 12-month horizon, up from 46% last month."

Respondents "also expect the single currency to fall against the Swiss franc, the pound and in emerging market currencies, against the Polish zloty and the Russian ruble. In April's survey, 46% saw the euro dropping against the pound, up from 27% in March, and 24% expected the single currency to register losses against the Swiss franc, compared to 15% previously."

When the ruble is a better bet than the euro, it's hard to deny the world has changed beyond anyone's wildest imagination. But there is a little-known connection between the euro and the currencies of (at least one) former Soviet republics:

The euro and the Azerbaijani manat were both designed by the same man.

In 1996, Robert Kalina, described by the Qatar Peninsula as "an unknown engraver at the Austrian National Bank," beat out 44 other entrants in a competition to design the euro note.

The original briefing documents given to participants explicitly forbade "any gender and national bias":

For this reason, the graphics on each euro note represent "typical architectural examples" of the Classical period (€5 note), the Romanesque period (€10 note), the Gothic period (€20 note), the Renaissance (€50 note) and Baroque and Rococo (€100 note), while "the age of iron and glass architecture appears on the €200 note and modern 20th century architecture on the €500 note," rather than representing specific structures or places identifiable to a certain country.

Regardless, Kalina enlisted "a structural engineer to ensure his imaginary buildings could not collapse."

When designing the new Azerbaijani manat, which was introduced in 2006, Kalina didn't have to worry about offending other countries in the "manat zone" by spotlighting one landmark over another.

Instead, he featured images that would be instantly recognizable to people of all nationalities the world over, such as rock drawings of Gobustan, the Icheri Shekher wall, as well as Azerbaijani folk instruments including the daf, the kamancheh, and the tar.
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