New currencies to replace the hapless ruble are springing up in such parts of the former Soviet Union as Latvia and Estonia. But now, a new currency could arise inside Russia itself. If all goes well, the money will be issued by a Liechtenstein-based currency board later this year. It will be used mostly in the rich oil fields of Western Siberia, according to Steve Hanke, an economist at Johns Hopkins University who has been informally advising local authorities on the project. The fully convertible Urals franc will be traded only for dollars.

But Boris Yeltsin's government says it is opposed to the idea. "A currency board is completely unfeasible in this country," according to Pyotr Aven, Russia's Foreign Economic Relations Minister.