They were rolled out 100 days ahead of the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics, which will run from February 7-23 in and around the Russian Black Sea resort.
The 20 million Sochi-themed banknotes planned for circulation depict an airborne snowboarder executing an exuberant "grab" high above a handful of venues and against a backdrop of snow-covered mountains. The other side shows Fisht Olympic Stadium, the venue for the opening and closing ceremonies.
Its "vertical composition is in line with modern trends in banknote design and helps to express the uniqueness of the region, where snowy mountains and the warm sea live side by side," say Sochi organizers.
The "snowboarder note" -- worth about $3 -- is reportedly the design of artist Pavel Bushuev of St. Petersburg's Ilya Repin Institute.
It looks to me like a male snowboarder, despite the fact that Russian snowboarding's only Olympic medalist so far is Yekaterina Ilyukhina, who sped her way to a silver medal in Vancouver in the parallel giant slalom event.
The banknote is already getting its first taste of competition, too. It's been nominated alongside eight other banknotes, including Libya's 50-dinar denomination and the celebrated Kazakh tenge, for the International Bank Note Society's "Banknote of 2013" competition (a nomination takes just one member, apparently -- in this case, thank you, Steven Bron!).
Russia also minted coins and stamps to mark the Sochi Games.
The organizers tout them all as a "fantastic reminder of the 2014 Games in Sochi."
But there might be another reminder, too. And those Olympic-themed banknotes might just come in handy if reports of billions in massive cost overruns and corrupt practices for Sochi -- hinted at by the Russian opposition but also the subject of a highly critical documentary called "Putin's Games" that was being screened for the first time on November 24 -- prove correct.
-- Andy Heil