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Wednesday 2 January 2013

RSFSR Mail in the Free Post period 1919 - 21

Anyone who collects Russian postal history will have come across postcards and maybe covers from the Free Post period in the RSFSR. For unregistered ordinary inland postcards and letters (first weight step) the period lasted from 1st January 1919 until 15 August 1921. For mail abroad, Free Post was also available from 1st January 1919 but only until 30 September 1920.

However, the RSFSR had no regular mail connections to foreign countries from the beginning of 1919 until late June 1920. None. Extraordinary but true. When mail services were resumed, mail was first of all routed via the Arctic Circle Norwegian port of Värdo, which involved mail being sent up from Moscow to Archangel or Murmansk. Fortunately, agreement was soon reached on a route through Estonia.

These dates imply that there was a three month period (end June - end September 1920) in which people living in the RSFSR could - in reality and not just in theory - send mail abroad for free. I show an example above.

This letter started out in UNDOL VLAD[imir] G[uberniya]  25 .. 20. The month date is not clear on the beaten-up canceller but is almost certainly June because the Moscow three triangle censor mark reads MOSKVA EXSPEDITSIA 22 7 20. Addressed to a doctor, Herman Schumacher, in independent Lithuania ("Litva" in the first line of the address - but helpfully followed by "Kovno guberniya")  it did indeed arrive there, as shown by the new style Lithuanian canceller on the reverse ANYKSCIAI 13 IX 1920. 

There are some remarks written in Lithuanian on the reverse. Can one of my readers translate them I wonder?


I used Alexander Epstein's article on RSFSR Foreign Mail Tariffs (Journal of Classical Russian Philately, #2, 1998) to write this Blog post.


  1. I sent this on to a Lithuanian lady who was born in that same district in 1923. She suggested the second word looked like "Atskleistas", meaning "opened" as though a postal or customs official had examined it. Possible?

  2. Actually, it says in Lithuanian "Paimtas Atplėštas" - Received Opened, signed by authorized person.