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Tuesday 23 July 2013

Russia's Imperial Arms Imperforate Stamps 1917 - 1922: a Theory

I have Blogged before about the distribution of Russia's Imperial Arms imperforate stamps, issued from 1917 on as Emergency supplies. Today I was looking at a big collection (Peter Ashford's) of Dashnak Armenia surcharges. I realised that it is only at the end of 1920 / beginning of 1921 - when the Bolsheviks entered into or  formed the government of Armenia - that certain imperforate values become available in Armenia, notably the 20, 35, 50 kopeck and 7 rouble.

This led me back to my Theory. Let's assume that the imperforates were all produced in 1917. But they weren't all distributed in 1917. That's the first part of the Theory.

If perforate stamps became available - either from fresh printings or from supplies found in a cupboard - then those were distributed in preference to imperforates, which were a nuisance at the post office counter. So if you look at mail from Petrograd or Moscow, the busiest post office counters, then you see that low value Imperforates come into use early (1917) and then disappear - perforated stamps make a comeback. That's the second part of the Theory. In principle, you could probably establish rough periods of use. I would start with the 5 kopeck as an example.

Just as important, I think that some post office districts got preferential treatment and that others had imperforate stamps dumped on them. Petrograd and Moscow are the most obvious districts likely to have been favoured. That's the third part of the Theory.

So where were the stamps dumped? The biggest receiver was Ukraine - and it is possible that this happened as part of some bigger deal at the end of 1917 / beginning of 1918 between the Bolshevik postal authorities in Russia and the government postal authorities in Ukraine. That's the fourth part of the Theory. The evidence for this claim is the fact that postal use of higher value kopeck imperforates though not common anywhere occurs earlier and more frequently in Ukraine, both before and after Trident overprinting.

(In this connection, I actually have some doubts about the usual story of devalued Russian stamps being sold across the border in Ukraine as what we would now call "Postage", creating the need for trident overprinting in order to safeguard post office revenues. Were there really at this time  - mid 1918 say - dealers travelling from Russia to Ukraine to sell stamps for ordinary postal use at a discount on face value?)

Leave that aside. How does the story continue? As the Bolsheviks regained control of territory from the Whites, so they often had to distribute fresh supplies of stamps. For this purpose, unwanted stocks of imperforates - still held in the distribution centre in 1920 / 21 - could be used up. That's the fifth part of the Theory. So if Armenia put in a call for fresh supplies of stamps at the end of 1920 / beginning of 1921, then it's call was partly answered by new supplies of imperforates. The alternative is to suppose that Melik-Pachaev or some other dealer was instrumental in bringing previously unavailable imperforates (the 20, 35 and 50 kop; the 7 rouble) into Armenia at that point.

Of course, the kind of theory I am outlining can only be developed by someone able to study the Archives in St Petersburg and Moscow. Maybe it has been done ...

1 comment:

  1. The only publication that even comes close to this subject was an article in one of the first post-Soviet issues of "Kollektsioner": a very fine article on the post-revolutionary printings of Arms stamps. I don't remember if it went into perf vs. imperf, sorry! For me, the eye-opener in that article was the vast numbers of 15k stamps printed...