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Wednesday 29 December 2010

Armenia 1919: "k 60 k" overprints

Armenia declared its national independence in May 1918 with Yerevan as its capital. Distinctive postage stamps did not appear until over a year later - July 1919 is the date usually given for the appearance of the first "k 60 k" overprints on 1 kopeck Russian stamps.

So this is Armenia's Number 1, celebrated 75 years later on a stamp of the modern Republic of Armenia.

We still know very little about it.

1. We do not know how many physically (numerically) separate handstamps were in use and whether they were (all or some) made individually or (all or some) made from moulds.

The core problem here is that some of the time it is not clear if one is looking at variations due to wear, ink or handstamping style of a clerk or looking at impressions from a different handstamp. I have a couple of hundred overprinted stamps in my stockbook and the variation among those I believe genuine is considerable ...

2. We do not know for sure how many post offices were open to despatch mail in the second half of 1919 and how many of them received or made a supply of "k 60 k" stamps

3. We do not know precisely what was the relation between centrally and locally produced overprints.

It is clear that at Katarsky Zavod - the Zangezur copper mines - there were locally produced handstamps in two denominations (60 and 120) and probably only two handstamps to make these famous local issues.

From the 2010 Artar catalog (page 16) it looks as if a Manuscript "60" surcharge was locally produced at Nizhnie Akhty - and if there, then possibly elsewhere, since there was a central directive regarding the uprating of 1 kopeck stamps to 60 kopecks. [ Correction: As Stefan Berger points out to me, the Nizhnie Akhty cancellation has a date of 30 3 1 ..This is not compatible with the "60" having been applied in response to a directive in July 1919. This suggests that the "60" in manuscript is a fake. The only other possibilities are that the Mss was an independent initiative prior to the official decision or that the "3" in the date stamp (March) is a slipped date ]

According to Ceresa (1978), there was a handstamp used locally at Elenovka (Yelenovka) which because of its similarities to the standard Erivan type (k 60 k without stops) could have been produced from a mould and sent from Erivan to Elenovka ... Ceresa illustrates a cover from his collection (Plate 1) part of which is better illustrated in the Artar catalog (page 16) - I believe the cover to be in a Moscow collection - but Artar does not regard the stamps on this cover as other than examples of the standard Erivan "k 60 k" without stops

The "k 60 k" without stops and with the "6" and "0" close together and apparently from a metal handstamp is associated with Alexandropol and generally attributed to that city in catalogues but which is also found with Erivan cancellations. It seems likely that this handstamp was indeed located in the Alexandropol post office and may have been made in the city rather than sent from Yerevan. At a later date, remainders of the issue may have been sent off to Yerevan for overprinting with framed and unframed "Z". But since stamps with Yerevan-style overprints are found with Alexandropol cancels, it seems there was also a central distribution of stamps from Yerevan.

Finally, at least one "k.60.k" handstamp was in use in Yerevan. I say at least one because Zakiyan provides two different illustrations of this surcharge, though calling both of them "Type II". (Zakiyan also shows two illustrations of "Type I" without dots, but these are the Erivan type ( space between "6" and "0") and the Alexandropol type (no space).

It would be nice to clear up what should be a relatively simple story. The most important fact to bear in mind is that the central directive was implemented with a mix of central and local initiatives - at a time when the desperate state of the country made everyday life very difficult to sustain


Postscript: ELENOVKA. I have only seen CTO Dashnak material from one place apart from ERIVAN and ALEXANDRPOL and that place is ELENOVKA ERIV. I believe that this is because the Belgian mining engineer and philatelist, Boel ( of Katarsky Zavodi fame) visited Elenovka - the Ceresa cover mentioned above is a Boel cover. I don't know why he visited Elenovka (now called Sevan and located on Lake Sevan).
Elenovka was a Russian settlement founded in the middle of the 19th century and home to religious dissidents - principally Dukhobors - though many left for Canada around 1900.
Elenovka post office was open in the Dashnak period - as is evident from the CTO material and the Boel cover - and it remained open in the early Soviet period, though the cancellation is rare on 1922 - 23 issues.
Boel probably stopped at Elenovka because it was on the old post road from Yerevan to Tiflis - trains may not have been running when he needed one. In 1901. Esther Lancraft Hovey published an article in The National Geographic on "The Old Post Road from Tiflis to Erivan". This contains photographs of Elenovka, some of which are reproduced in Nicholas B. Breyfogle, Heretics and Colonizers: Forging Russia's Empire in the South Caucasus (Cornell University Press 1905)

Note added 30 March 2014: Boel also visited the copper mines at Allaverdi in Tiflis guberniya and there is Boel-related correspondence from Allaverdi. He may have used the Erivan - Tiflis post road to get to Allaverdi

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