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Sunday, 21 February 2016

Sovietisation 1920 - 1921: Examples from Ukraine and Georgia

The end of the Civil War in Russia is usually dated to November - December 1920 and the evacuation of General Wrangel's Army from the Crimea. But Sovietisation of areas previously controlled by White forces or independent governments began before then and continued afterwards. The Baltics, Finland and Poland remained outside of Soviet rule but to the East, no part of former Imperial Russia was not Sovietised. Indeed, some new areas were added if you count Mongolia and Tannu Tuva and the full absorption of Bukhara and Khiva. The period of Sovietisation and re-Sovietisation certainly lasts until the creation of the USSR at the beginning of 1924.

The intervening years 1920 - 1923 are messy with national and regional differences in government persisting, sometimes reflecting greater or lesser willingness of local populations to accept Bolshevik rule and with it subordination of some kind to Moscow. In addition, economies had collapsed, people had starved, many had gone into exile.

Mail from this 1920 - 23 period outside the core RSFSR often reflects the difficulties of transition to Soviet rule

Here are two examples that I have recently acquired.

The first is a Registered cover sent from VINNITSA ZABUSHE POD[olia] 17 3 20 and addressed to Petrograd with PETROGRAD 3 4 20 receiver on front at top right and a Petrograd 6th Expeditisa cancel in red on the reverse. At the left on the front are the remains of a SPRAVKA form: the letter could not be delivered and arrived back in Vinnitsa on 19 4 20. This is just prior to what would become the Polish Occupation of Podolia during the Russo-Polish War of 1920

The 10 rouble franking with Imperial Arms stamps overprinted with Podilia type 1a Tridents is interesting: it is the correct RSFSR Tariff introduced in Mocow and Petrograd on 10 March 1920 but often delayed elsewhere  because of lack of notification. Here the Notification has clearly arrived. When the collector and dealer pencil scribbles are removed from the cover, this will be a very nice item

There are two puzzling marks on the front of the cover at bottom right: a small violet circular cachet with a number inside and a blue circular seal. It is this kind of thing which adds to the difficulty of understanding mail from this 1920 - 23 period. I rely on readers to provide information about them:

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The second cover dates from much later in October 1921 and was sent from what I read as DRAND[a] SUKHUMSK O[blast]  19 10 21 in recently-Sovietised Georgia. It is addressed to Finland with three HELSINKI HELSINGFORS cancels on the back but with unclear dates. The letter transited through MOSKVA  and PETROGRAD in November 1921 with a violet Three Triangle censor of PETROGRAD 12 11 21. As I read the dates, it looks to me as if this cover was shuttled between Petrograd and Moscow  before delivery. I cannot identify the roller cancel.

What is most interesting is that the letter was paid in cash. There is a Postmaster's endorsement on the back flap. It looks as if he first of all thought this was going to be a Registered letter at 1000 roubles and then had to correct the 1 to a zero when he realised it was an ordinary letter, thus yielding the odd-looking 0500 rub. The word ZAKAZNOE [Registered] at top left on the front is indeed crossed out with the postmaster's violet ink pen.

Neither 500 or 1000 corresponds to an RSFSR Tariff so I have to assume that this is a specifically Georgian Tariff. I await further clarification from readers.

Added 25 February: Alexander Epstein writes to me that this cover is sent from Abkhazia during a period (March - December 1921) when it was Sovietised but virtually independent of Georgia. Later it was federated with  Georgia. Georgian mail in 1921 is very scarce (as Dr Ceresa has also observed), but Epstein says that this is the only 1921 Abkhasian item that he has seen:

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