Thursday, 20 August 2015

Soviet Ukraine 1918 - 1921

For most of the period from beginning of 1918 to end 1920, the Soviets held at least some part of the territory claimed by the Ukrainian National Republic. At the very beginning, from January to early April 1918 they held Kharkov / Kharkiv until it passed into German occupation. Then with the collapse of Germany and Austria-Hungary in November 1918, Soviet power re-asserted itself in Ukraine - notably, once again, in Kharkiv where it was the Volunteer Army rather than the forces of the UNR which overthrew it in June 1919.

So it's possible to make a collection of Soviet Ukraine for 1918, 1919 and 1920 but very much made up of bits and pieces from the fairly short or short-ish periods during which the Reds controlled now this, now that bit of territory. It's not always easy to identify the material but there are some useful Check List points:

- the UNR never had a Free Post so Free Post items are always Bolshevik
- UNR and RSFSR Tariffs are different
- though there are periods in which mail passed back and forth between the RSFSR and  the UNR (for much of 1918, notably) at other periods this is not so and any mail going from Ukraine to Moscow or Petrograd or other obvious RSFSR areas will be Soviet mail
- in the UNR, unoverprinted Imperial stamps were invalid from 1 October 1918. But unoverprinted Imperial stamps were the mainstay of RSFSR mail throughout the 1918 - 1920 period.

One notable aspect of Soviet mail in 1920 and through into 1921 - by which time the UNR Government was in exile -  is that it uses Ukrainian General Issue and Trident overprinted stamps, but with the General Issue stamps and the Imperial low values up to 20 kopecks revalued x 100 in accordance with the March 1920 RSFSR revaluation.

What I don't know is whether there was a formal invalidation of Trident stamps and,if so, when. I have Tridents non-philatelically used on Soviet mail as late as May 1921 - see the example below. An "obvious" date for invalidation would be August 1921 when the new Arts and Industry stamps, and new Tariffs, came into use.

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Added 20 September 2015: 

Alexander Epstein has kindly sent me scans of the cover shown below with September 1922 usage of Kyiv II Tridents. It's correctly franked at 45 roubles but it may be no more than a successful attempt by someone to use up three 10 kopeck stamps with Tridents and now worth 10 roubles each as revalued 10 kopeck stamps. It seems to me possible but a bit unlikely that the post office at Molochansk in Taurida in southern Ukraine would have possessed Kyiv Trident overprinted stamps, but they clearly belong to this cover, tied by the local cancellation and the Moscow transits:

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Monday, 17 August 2015

Tags: Siberia + Civil War + Military + Maritime + Censor + Vladivostok

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Here is an interesting and very unusual item. It's banal picture postcard, posted On Active Service - the Russian equivalent of that is written at the top of the card in blue-green. Though it has an 11 October 1919 Vladivostok postmark, the message begins with the traditional Easter greeting, Christ is Risen! But this seems to be used as a joke to refer to the fact that it is someone called Christopher's birthday. The recipient obviously liked the card which is full of holes from having been pinned up repeatedly.

Now to business: the card was posted on board ship, where it was subjected to naval censorship indicated by the small two-line cachet above the handwritten address. This cachet reads EXAMINED /BY NAVAL CENSORSHIP.  But where?

Dr Raymond Casey comes to my assistance: the large "AMUR 9 is the (probably) incomplete strike of a slightly larger cachet, probably with a second pair of inverted commas after "Amur and maybe another letter or number. It is the personal cachet of the censor, struck in the same ink as the two-line general Naval Censorship handstamp, and it identifies the ship on which the card was posted.

The Amur (and here all the information is from Dr Casey) was a minelayer built in 1907, a vessel of 3068 tons with a full complement of 318 sailors which was based for the duration of World War One at Vladivostok. In 1919 it was presumably under White (Admiral Kolchak) control.

A puzzle remains: the address as written in ink looks incomplete - it is just someone's name. But at the base of the card, in a childish hand is written in pencil, partly inked over, "Morskoi port" - which means no more than "Sea Port" but might be sufficient to identify where the card should go in Vladivostok. Alternatively, it is a later addition to the card, made for unknown reasons.

Can anyone illustrate another example of the AMUR cachet - or provide an image of the ship?

Monday, 10 August 2015

Russia Pre-Philatelic Cancellations / Russland Vorphila

This particular Blog won't go viral. There are not many collectors of Russian pre-philatelic mail or pre-philatelic cancellations - though some cancellations continued in use after the introduction of postal stationery and even postage stamps.

Recently I bought a collection of pre-philatelic mail of Russia formed by Harry von Hofmann. I did not immediately study it - no one was pressing me to supply them with such material - though I did put one interesting item - an entire letter from DUBOSARY in the auction now online at

Anyway, today I checked the material I have against the major handbook in this field, Manfred Dobin's Postmarks of Russian Empire (St Petersburg 1993)  - a heavy bi-lingual work in 538 pages with illustrations of postmarks and maps of postal districts. I was pleased to find I have three cancellations not in this Handbook:


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This cancellation is on an official stampless wrapper. it reads DMITROV MOSK [va] GUB[ERNIYA] 18 ..... GODA. Though the date is completed in ink as 1860, the style of this cancellation is definitely pre-philatelic and it should exist on earlier material.


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Dobin lists and illustrates a similar cancellation but capable of printing the date; this cancellation is intended to have the date filled in by hand. Unfortunately, the cancellation is on an undated official wrapper the style and paper of which could date from the 1830s through the 1860s. It is possible, I suppose, that this is Dobin's canceller with the middle removed and so later rather than earlier. He gives a period of use 1838 - 1850 for his cancellation.


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I can't read this. The last word is Gub[erniya] and the middle word may identify the guberniya as Volin[skaya] The date is filled in as 1867 and it is used on a stationery envelope addressed to Novgrad Volinsk and apparently re-routed (see Mss at bottom of cover) But I cannot identify the town from which the cancellation above originates, once again pre-philatelic in style though used as late as 1867

 Readers? [ Added: See Comments below. Howard Weinert proposes Korets in Volhynia ]

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Tuesday, 4 August 2015

Tridents of Kharkov / Kharkhiv Local Types

Ordinary catalogues list three Kharkiv / Kharkov Trident types. The specialised Bulat catalogue lists eight.

The regular types are distinguished as follows:

Type 1, applied with a horizontal handstamp of 5 clichés to kopeck values. Fourteen different handstamps can be distinguished

Type 2, applied with a vertical handstamp of 3 clichés to rouble value stamps. Three different handstamps can be distinguished

Type 3, larger than 1 or 2, applied with a vertical handstamp of 3 clichés to rouble value stamps. Three different handstamps can be distinguished.

The basic research for this classification was done by Dr Seichter using complete sheets (which are in my possession now).

Both Dr Seichter and John Bulat distinguish Reprint [Neudruck] material, all of it supposedly ordered by the Riga stamp dealer Dzenis at the time in early 1919 when both Riga and Kharkov were under Soviet control and communication possible. It seems to me unlikely that one dealer was responsible for a very large quantity of Reprints and others may have been involved. The Reprints were postally valid and so might be regarded as later printings rather than Reprints.. Both Seichter and Bulat think the Reprints can be distinguished visually by the ink used. Except where the Reprints are made in violet ink, I do not think this claim is true as I have argued in previous Blogs ( See my Blog of 20 December 2011)

Types 4, 5, 6, 7 and 8 are "local" types made from single handstamps and using inks which are generally distinguishable from that used for the main body of overprinted stamps. I no longer have any examples of Type 8 (the "Lubotin" type: see my Blog of 28 July 2010) but this is what I have for the others. This collection is for sale. Click on Images to Magnify: