Paper Money

Why is American author on Armenian 5,000-dram note?

The Central Bank of Armenia released the last three of the six denominations in its new family of bank notes on Dec. 25 — the 1,000-, 2,000-, and 5,000-dram notes. 

The 5,000-dram note has a rare distinction — both sides are dedicated to a United States citizen from Fresno, California. 


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The author William Saroyan, born Aug. 31, 1908, also happens to be an Armenian national hero. The William Saroyan Foundation explains that the author’s parents had immigrated from Bitlis in western Armenia, now part of Turkey. His writings reflect on the lives of immigrants in early 20th century America, and in particular the Armenian experience in Fresno, in California, and the global Armenian community.

Saroyan once said: “Although I write in English, and despite the fact that I’m from America, I consider myself an Armenian writer. The words I use are in English, the surroundings I write about are American, but the soul, which makes me write, is Armenian. This means I am an Armenian writer and deeply love the honor of being a part of the family of Armenian writers. It is simply in the nature of Armenians to study, to learn, to question, to speculate, to discover, to invent, to revise, to restore, to preserve, to make, and to give.” Saroyan died May 18, 1981.

The note’s face has a large head of Saroyan positioned in front of some excerpts from his books. A mountain forms the background. The back shows a statue of Saroyan and a view the city of Yerevan, in which it is located.

The 1,000-dram note issued Christmas day features the poet Paruyr Sevak, and Tigran Petrosian, the Soviet-Armenian chess grandmaster and World Chess Champion from 1963 to 1969, appears on the 2,000-dram note. 

The series’ first three denominations, 10,000-, 20,000-, and 50,000-dram notes, were issued Nov. 22, 2018. 

All the notes are printed in Germany by Giesecke+Devrient Currency Technology, on a substrate called Hybrid, comprising a cotton base within a protective polyester film. Each has a 5-millimeter security thread, 3D effect watermark, “LaserCut” window, and a two-color iridescent strip on the back side.

In value, 1,000 drams equals $2.07. 

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