Laos is a rugged, landlocked region in the midst of the Indochina peninsula. 80% of its land is hilly to mountainous. Land suitable for agriculture, arable land, is located primarily along its major river, the Mekong, and its tributaries. From rainy to dry seasons the elevation of the Mekong can fluctuate 20 meters. The Mekong remained “untamed” along its entire length, that is, not a single spanning bridge, until 1994 when the Friendship bridge was opened, connecting Laos with Vietnam.
In 1893, Laos became a French colony. During WW2 it came under dominion of the Japanese, returning to France following the war. In 1954, Laos secured independence from France. Landlocked, surrounded by Vietnam, Cambodia, Thailand, Myanmar, and China, for decades remained largely unknown to the rest of the world. That is changing.
It is 1979 in Laos; and our featured banknote is published.
The national emblem on the banknote below, circular on the left, displays the hammer and sickle in the midst of traditional Laotian scenes. An artillery tank and a river gunboat flank a column of infantry marching towards the viewer.
750 years of monarchy ended with the Laotian civil war in 1975; and out banknote was issued just four years later. A new regime was in power, and their ideology adhered to communism’s ideals. Their banknote announces a readiness to defend themselves.
It was a bitter time in was a confusing era. Laos had transitioned from colonialism to independence in perhaps the worst way possible; they had become a pawn in a proxy war of new Cold War superpowers.
The ancient peoples of Laos became a colony to France in the late 19th century. French control continued into WW2 until Japanese power overran most of the Indochinese peninsula. With Japan’s defeat imminent, Laos proclaimed independence in 1945. But defeated France, rejuvenated through the allied victory in WW2 in 1945, moved to reassert its power and reestablish its colonial rule in Laos and the surrounding regions. Laos resisted but it was not until nine years later, in 1954, when France abandoned all claims to Laos.
That 9 year period saw the empowering of communist Soviet Union through their detonation of an atomic bomb in 1949 and the victory of the communist party in China under Mao in 1949.
The United States thought appropriate to take a stand against communism in Laos’ neighbor, Vietnam, about this time. US foreign policy became known as “containment”. In 1958, North Vietnam invaded Laos to establish the Ho Chi Minh trail, the logistical supply route between North Vietnam and South Vietnam. With the escalation of the Vietnam War, this supply route became the subject of intense military fighting, and this region of Laos became the subject of possibly the most intense bombing in history.
To much of the world, Laos was an unknown nation. Centered in the middle of the Indochinese peninsula, Burma and Thailand on its left, Vietnam on its right, Cambodia below and China above, to much of the world, Laos remained lost in the monsoon nourished jungles, without access to the Sea, unknown to the modern world.
The other side of our banknote highlights ambitions in the textile industry. Massive rolls of cloth are being manufactured by modern machinery in this tribute to a growing manufacturing base.
From this industry post: Growth in the Lao textile and garment industry has been impressive from a base of only two companies in 1990 to 116 in 2006 employing 30,000 workers. Laos became a market-oriented economy in the mid-1980s, meaning it had a short learning curve to pick up the basics about the industry.
From a WTO report (approximately year 2004): The textile and garment industry is of great importance to the Lao economy. Currently, the industry comprises ninety-six factories and employs more than 25,000 workers. In 2003, garment exports, valued at US$115 million, accounted for approximately a third of total exports, second to electricity. Laos exports ready-made garments to forty-two countries.
Greece 1,000,000 Drachmas Banknote, Year 1944 – Face and Back
Where the number on a banknote (after all, a piece of paper) is a Million, you can bet there is hyperinflation. The banknotes on this page are from the WW2 era, 1944. War may clarify a few things such as who one’s true friends are, but it distorts most other things, including money.
From Wikipedia article on Hyperinflation in Greece under the German-Italian occupation, (Reference and links in footnotes below):
With the German invasion in April 1941, there was an abrupt increase in prices. This was due to psychological factors related to the fear of shortages and to the hoarding of goods. During the German and Italian Axis occupation of Greece (1941-1944), the agricultural, mineral, industrial etc. production of Greece were used to sustain the occupation forces, but also to secure provisions for the Afrika Korps. One part of these “sales” of provisions was settled with bilateral clearing through the German DEGRIGES and the Italian Sagic companies at very low prices. As the value of Greek exports in drachmas fell, the demand for drachmas followed suit and so did its forex rate. While shortages started due to naval blockades and hoarding, the prices of commodities soared. The other part of the “purchases” was settled with drachmas secured from the Bank of Greece and printed for this purpose by private printing presses. As prices soared, the Germans and Italians started requesting more and more drachmas from the Bank of Greece to offset price increases; each time prices increased, the note circulation followed suit soon afterwards. For the year November 1943 – November 1944, the inflation rate was 2.5 × 1010%, the circulation was 6.28 × 1018 drachmae and one gold sovereign cost 43,167 billion drachmas. The hyperinflation started subsiding immediately after the departure of the German occupation forces, but inflation rates took several years before they fell below 50%.
Start and End Date: Jun. 1941 – Jan. 1946 Peak Month and Rate of Inflation: Dec. 1944, 3.0 × 1010%.1
*************** The Million drachma banknote features the head a bronze statue recovered from the Sea bottom in 1900, off the island of Antikythera, Greece. This small island, a little less than 8 square miles, is important to ornithologists. It is an important resting place for regional migratory birds and is also the largest breeding ground for a certain species of falcon known as Eleonora’s falcon.2
Antikythera Ephebe But the tiny island is important to historians too. In 1900, sponge divers spotted the shipwreck off the island. In addition to many treasures and artifacts were two items of tremendous significance. One is a full size bronze statue of remarkable beauty and grace. The head of the Antikythera Ephebe is featured on our 1,000,000 drachma banknote. The beauty of the artwork startled the artworld, revised art history and was featured prominently on our 1944 banknote.3
Antikythera Mechanism But it wasn’t until years later that the greatest, perhaps, treasure of all was recognized in the recovered sea-soaked artifacts. A small wooden box containing bronze items, corroding for two millenia beneath the sea, attracted little attention in the fifty years following its discovery. Then in 1951 a Yale University professor and science historian began to study it. It has been intensely studied since, and has become known as the Antikythera mechanism. It is considered by many to be the earliest analogue computer in the world. The technological skill and craftsmanship demonstrated in the mechanism became lost to history for reasons unknown. It wasn’t until the 14th century that anything comparable began to be produced.4
Temple of Poseidon On the reverse of our 1,000,000 drachma banknote, is featured the Temple of Poseidon.5
Poseidon was the god of the Sea. This temple is constructed on the bluff at the end of a peninsula, surrounded on three sides by water, with a commanding view of the Sea, the dominion of Poseidon.6
The Half Million drachma banknote in this post features Zeus on the front. One must hand it to the Greeks, whereas other nations feature renowned politicians and other leaders on their banknotes, the Greeks feature God Himself. This is Zeus, the god of Thunder, known by others as Jupiter, the greatest of the planets. He resides on Mount Olympus as the King of the gods.7