November 6, 2013 / 1:15 PM / 5 years ago

Russian central bank puts rouble "rebranding" to the vote

* Seeks to strengthen reserve currency credentials

* Cyrillic vs Latin alphabet dilemma

* Russia building Moscow as financial centre

MOSCOW, Nov 6 (Reuters) - Russia’s central bank is rebranding the rouble, offering the public a say on a new logo to back Kremlin efforts to enhance the international appeal of a currency tarnished by the upheaval and hyperinflation of the early post-Soviet period.

The central bank has published five proposed rouble symbols on its web site, inviting voters to pick one and give a brief written explanation for their choice. At present there is no generally recognised symbol.

President Vladimir Putin, his central bank boasting a central bank stash of half a trillion dollars, wants to burnish the rouble’s image as a safe investment in contrast to established reserve currencies like the dollar, euro or yen at risk from loose monetary policy pursued by their central banks.

“The introduction of the graphic symbol of the rouble will help promote a positive image of Russia, the capital of which aspires to the status of an international financial centre,” the central bank said in response to a request for comment.

In Soviet times the rouble was an object of ridicule by some, the scarcity of goods to buy with it giving birth to the popular quip “they pretend to pay us and we pretend to work”. After the breakup of the Soviet Union the rouble was hit by hyperinflation. Devaluations followed in 1998 and 2008.

Now, under its new Chairwoman Elvira Nabiullina, the central bank is allowing the currency, lifeblood of any economy, to float more freely as Russia opens up its financial markets to foreign investors.

The rebranding faces a challenge because, in Russia’s Cyrillic alphabet, the first letter of the word rouble resembles the Latin “P”, a possible source of confusion for many foreigners.

Two options plump for the Cyrillic version, with horizontal or vertical ‘strokes’ reminiscent of the symbols for the dollar, euro or Japanese Yen.

The other three are based on the Latin “R”, with diagonal or curved strokes that have drawn comparisons with ski tracks, or even a ski jump, leading cynics to suspect they are advertising the forthcoming Winter Olympics hosted by Russia.

Option 2 - a Cyrillic P with horizontal strokes - has at least one backer: “I like the second one, it is easy to write, and does not change much in the nature of the traditional letter,” said Anton Zakharov, a fund manager at Promsvyazbank.

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