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POSTCARD MAIL IN THE YEARS OF REVOLUTION, CIVIL WAR, AND INFLATION IN RUSSIA (1917-1923)
PART II: AREAS UNDER SOVIET ADMINISTRATION (1919-1921)
Alexander Epstein (Tallinn, Estonia)


This article covers the postal rates in the areas under Soviet control from 1919 to 1921 and is a continuation of that one in the last issue of the DZRP describing the postcard tariffs between August 1917 and the end of 1918 [1]. It will be followed by a contribution describing the subsequent postcard tariffs between 1922 and 1923.
 
Inland postal rates of 1 January 1919
                  Ordinary inland postcard:      free   (to 14 August 1921)
     Ordinary local & inl. printed matter:     5 kop  (to 31 October/4 November 1919)
               Registration fee (domestic): +25 kop* (to 31 October/4 November 1919)
 
* This amount was added to a conventional weight charge of 10 kop for postcards making 35 kop in total. Thus, the tariffs for registered postcards remained unchanged after the introduction of free postage for ordinary mail.
 
The introduction of free postage for some kinds of ordinary mail, inc. postcards, had no serious economic background but was guided rather by the belief that money would soon loose any significance in the assumed communistic society. All the stocks of PS cards available at post offices were converted into blanks to be sold together with formula cards (official and of private manufacture) for a uniform price of 10 kop (this price was raised later repeatedly). The corresponding decree concerning revaluation of postal stationery provided for annulling the imprinted stamp by either method, although this instruction was mostly ignored. Thus, under the state of affairs when any private trade was abolished and forbidden, the public was forced to purchase postal stationery at the post for the same price as did it prior to January 1919 which made the 'free postage' rather illusive: only those who had some reserves of PS cards or picture postcards formerly bought could enjoy these rights for some time. The free postage was introduced not only in Soviet Russia but also in other areas then under a Soviet administration (Ukraine, Byelorussia, Lithuania, Latvia) which were considered formally independent Soviet republics but adopted the postal regulations of Russia.
 

Fig. 1: Official postcard blank of Petrograd GPO mailed free on 22 April 1919 from Petrograd to Winnitsa, Podolia province in Ukraine then also under the Soviets.

Fig. 2: 5-kop PS card used as blank for a free ordinary postcard mailed to Moscow from TPO 164 Kalatsh-Talovaja on 9 May 1919.

Fig. 3: 3-kop Imperial PS card used as blank for a free ordinary postcard mailed on 21 April 1919 from Riga to Ligat (received on 22 April), both in Latvia then under the Soviets.

Fig. 4: 5-kop PS card with the imprinted stamp crossed over mailed locally as blank in Petrograd on 23 June 1919.

Fig. 5: Official postcard blank of Petrograd GPO overprinted "10" and mailed locally in Petrograd on 20 October 1919.

Fig. 6: 5-kop PS card surcharged "10 KOP" in Petrograd, franked additionally with a 20-kop + 3-kop + 2-kop Imperial definitives, i.e. on 35 kop in total, inc. the surcharge, and registered as local mail on 16 August 1919.
 

Fig. 7: Imperial 3-kop PS card with a Ukrainian trident overprint but the 10-kop face value covered in black ink used on 13 March 1919 as blank for a free ordinary postcard from Kharkov, Ukraine to Tambov.
 
 
It seems that the free post was not introduced, at least, in some parts of Soviet Turkestan, particularly in Tashkent, which was at that time cut off from the mainland under the conditions of Civil War. There exist a few items of mail evidencing this fact as the one which is shown below.

Fig. 8: Official postcard blank of Turkestan Post/Telegraph District used locally in Tashkent on 30 July 1919 and franked with Control stamps 5 rub and 25 rub officially allowed for postage in summer 1918 by the central postal administration of Russia then only for Turkestan. However, the corresponding decree did not specify the particular conditions of their use, so those stamps were actually used in different manner in different parts of Turkestan.  An analysis of this and other two similar items known let us deducing that these stamps were used in 1919 in Tashkent at 5 kop each irrespective of the face value, i.e. the postcard was franked on 10 kop according to the previous set of tariffs.
 
 
Inland postal rates of 1/5 November 1919
(1/5 November 1919 means that these rates were to enter in force on 1 November in the capitals (Moscow and Petrograd) and on 5 November in the rest of the country.)
                             Ordinary inland postcard:        free      (to 14 August 1921)
               Ordinary local & inl. printed matter:        50 kop  (to 9/19 March 1920)
                         Registration fee (domestic):       +3 rub*  (to 9/19 March 1920)
* This amount was added to a conventional weight charge of 1 rub for postcards making 4 rub in total.
 
The corresponding circular introducing this set of rates fixed actually a rate of 3 rub for registered postcards while ignoring the weight charge which is in contradiction with the principle of both the previous and next sets of tariffs. In contrast, a weight charge was set for letters at an amount of 50 kop. The same would be logical for postcards as well, but the registered postcard rate was fixed at 3 rub without weight charge in the corresponding decree published in the official journal as the very last paragraph. Nevertheless, both postcards illustrated in the article (Fig. 10, 11) and mailed from quite different places show a franking of 4 rub. Probably, there was a correc-tion of this rate not published in the journal.
As a matter of fact, there are known registered postcards franked on 3 rub, but they are all 20-kop PS cards of the Provisional Government design issued probably at the end of 1919 or beginning of 1920 by the Soviet postal administration. There is a guess that they were destined originally for registered mail and sold then for 1 rub that was included in the total postage. The item in fig. 12 can probably serve as an indirect confirmation of this hypothesis. Another example is shown in fig. 22.
 

Fig. 9: 5-kop PS card used as blank for a free ordinary postcard to Kowrov, Wladimir province from Barnaul on 21 November 1919.

Fig. 10: 5-kop PS card used as blank with a 3.50-rub + 50-kop Imperial definitives affixed to make the 4-rub rate for registered postcard mailed on 5 January 1920 from Serpuchov to Petrograd where also censored.

Fig. 11: 5-kop PS card used as blank with a 3.50-rub + 50-kop Imperial definitives affixed to make the 4-rub rate for registered postcard mailed from Wotkinsk (the stamps pen-crossed because of lack of date canceller) via Petrograd to Strelna where arrived on 29 March 1920.

Fig. 12: 20-k PS card issued as blank and used locally in Petrograd on 10 March 1920. The handstamp "1" on the left of the imprinted stamp represents supposedly the special selling price of the card in rubles, while this price for other kinds of PS cards was fixed at 50 kop at that time
Inland postal rates of 10/20 March 1920
(10/20 March 1920 means that these rates were to enter in force on 10 March in the capitals (Moscow and Petrograd) and on 20 March in the rest of the country.)
                   Ordinary inland postcard:  free  (to 14 August 1921)
     Ordinary local & inl. printed matter:
                            (to 15 April 1921)   1 rub
              (16 April to 14 August 1921)   2 rub
               Registration fee (domestic): +5 rub* (to 14 August 1921)
* This amount was added to a conventional weight charge of 5 rub for postcards making 10 rub in total.
 

Fig. 13: Reply part of double 5 + 5-kop PS card used as blank on 7 August 1921 for a free ordinary mail from Petrograd to Nikolaev in Soviet Ukraine.

Fig. 14: 20-k PS card issued as blank and used on 3 July 1921 as free ordinary postcard from Tashkent (where censored) to Petrograd

Fig. 15: Official postcard blank of Jekaterinoslav P/T District, Ukraine franked with a 4-kop + 2 x 3-kop Imperial definitives revalued 100 times, i.e. on 10 rub in conformity with the rate in force and registered on 16 June 1921 (the canceller is wrongly adjusted on "9" instead of "6") in Lisitschansk, Jekaterinoslav province to Novaja Wodolaga, Charkov province

Fig. 16: Official postcard blank of Samara Post/Telegraph District mailed from Omsk (as evidenced by the message) to Karkaraly, Semi-palatinsk province where arrived on 27 March 1920. The 25-kop adhesive was affixed still during the 'White' rule in Siberia according to the rate in force there and annulled by ink pencil as a sign of the free postage under the Soviet administration.
Before introducing the free postage, stationery postcards were often sold at post offices with adhesives affixed to them to match the rate then in force.
 
 
 
Foreign postal rates of 1919
(no particular date known if applicable at all)
                          Ordinary postcard abroad:           free   (to 6 June 1920)
                          Ordinary printed matter abroad:   10 kop (to 6 June 1920)        
                           Registration fee (abroad):        +50 kop*  (to 6 June 1920)
* this amount was added to a conventional weight charge of 20 kop for postcards making 70 kop in total.
 
Free postage for ordinary postcards and letters as of 1 January 1919 was declared not only for the domestic but also for the mail abroad. As a matter of fact, however, there were absolutely no postal communications between the Soviet republics and foreign countries up to the summer of 1920 because of the circumstances of Civil War that ravaged Russia. Some set of postal rates for the mail abroad was allegedly developed by the postal authorities but it was not published in the official journal because of its practical uselessness. It could find an application in practice only after January 1920 when the first peace treaty with a neighboring country (Estonia) was concluded, and hopes for the restoration of postal communications with the foreign countries appeared. Actually, the postal communications with abroad were restored in June, first through a contract with a Captain of a Norwegian ship that began carrying mail from Murmansk to the Norwegian port Vardö.
The free ordinary mail abroad was not recognized by most foreign countries and such mail coming from Russia was taxed by them.

Fig. 17: 20-kop PS card used as blank for a free ordinary mail sent on 15 May 1920 from Luga to Revel (Tallinn), Estonia. The card was forwarded from Petrograd on 29 June when the postal communications with abroad were resumed. It was taxed in Tallinn for an amount equal to the Estonian ordinary postcard rate.
 
 
Foreign postal rates of 7 June 1920
             Ordinary postcard abroad:         free  (to 29 September 1920)
          Ordinary printed matter abroad:  1 rub (to 24 August 1921 or an earlier date in some provinces) 
               Registration fee (abroad):   +5 rub* (to 29 September 1920)
* this amount was added to a conventional weight charge of 2 rub for postcards making 7 rub in total.
 

Fig. 18: Inquire part of double 5 + 5 kop PS card used as blank for a free ordinary mail sent on 7 July 1920 from Tsarskoe Selo to Riga, Latvia where arrived on 14 August. The card was routed via Petrograd (8 July) where also censored. It was taxed on arrival on 80 Latvian kopecks equal to the double Latvian postal rate for postcards abroad.

Fig. 19: Imperial 3-kop PS card used as blank, franked with a 5-kop + 2-kop Imperial definitives revalued 100 times, i.e. on 7 rub in total according to the rate in force for registered postcards abroad and mailed on 14 September 1920 from Selishtshenskie Kasarmy, Novgorod province via Petrograd to Jurjev (Dorpat, Tartu), Estonia.
Foreign postal rates of 30 September 1920
     Ordinary postcard abroad:         2 rub (to 24 August 1921 or an earlier date in some provinces)
     Ordinary printed matter abroad:  1 rub (to 24 August 1921 or an earlier date in some provinces)
         Registration fee (abroad):    +5 rub (to 24 August 1921 or an earlier date in some provinces)

Fig. 20: 5-kop PS card used as blank, franked with a 3-kop + 4 x 1-kop Imperial definitives revalued 100 times, i.e. totaling to 7 rub according to the rate in force for registered postcard abroad and mailed on 16 December 1920 from Solombala, suburb of Archangelsk to Vienna.

Fig. 21: 5-kop PS card used as blank for an ordinary postcard sent on 17 November 1920 from Moscow to Riga, Latvia where taxed on 155 Latvian kopecks.

Fig. 22: 20-kop PS card franked with a 5-rub stamp of the 1st RSFSR definitive issue and registered on 16 August 1921 at Petrograd to London. As the corresponding rate was 7 rub, one can suppose that the card itself was sold at the post office for 2 rub, and this sum was included in the postage (offered and sold at Ebay).
 
 
 
Foreign postal rates of 1921 (?)
                          Ordinary postcard abroad:       4 rub  (to 24 August 1921)
                      Ordinary printed matter abroad:    2 rub (to 24 August 1921)        
                       Registration fee (abroad):        +10 rub  (to 24 August 1921)
 
This set of rates twice as high in comparison to those of 30 September 1920 were introduced in some provinces (e.g. most of the Ukrainian provinces, Don etc.) by the local postal authorities. The former tariffs remained in force in other provinces.
 

Fig. 23: 5-kop PS card used as blank, franked with 2 x 7-rub + 1-kop Imperial definitives, the latter revalued 100 times, totaling to 15 rub, i.e. over-franked on 1 r relative to the rate in force and registered on 10 June 1921 in Novotsherkassk, Don province (where also censored) to Belgium. 
 
The New Economic Policy (NEP) adopted by the Soviet government in 1921 put an end to the free postage as well. This was true for the postcard rates within Russia as well as for those abroad.
 
 
 
 
Inland postal rates of 15 August 1921
                             Ordinary inland postcard:        100 rub (to 31 January 1922)
                Ordinary local & inl. printed matter:        100 rub (to 31 January 1922)        
                        Registration fee (domestic):       +1000 rub (to 31 January 1922)
 
 

Fig. 24: Official postcard blank of Soviet origin (RSFSR coat-of-arms) franked with ten 10-kop Imperial Arms definitives revalued 100 times, i.e. making the 100-rub rate, and sent on 20 August 1921 from Moscow to Snamenskoe, Orel province.

Fig. 25: 20-kop PS card used as blank for a free ordinary local mail in Petrograd on 1 September 1921 and franked with three 40-rub of the 1st RSFSR definitive issue, i.e. overfranked on 20 rub.

Fig. 26: Reply part of 5-kop double PS card used on 26 August 1921  for an ordinary mail from Moscow to Losinoostrovskaja where arrived on 28 August. Franked with a single 100-rub stamp of the 2nd RSFSR definitive issue released only a day before.

Fig. 27: Imperial 3-kop PS card used on 13 September 1921 as blank for an ordinary mail from Irkutsk to Tshita where arrived on 22 September. Franked with a single 100-rub stamp of the 2nd RSFSR definitive issue. Tshita was then the capital of Far East Republic which was considered formally a foreign state. Nevertheless, inland postal rates were applied to the mail between RSFSR and FER.
The following two examples also show that there is still little clarity as concerns the postal use of the 20-kop PS card in different periods.

Fig. 28: 20-kop PS card used locally in Moscow on 24 August 1921 as ordinary mail without any supplementary franking. The card was taxed first on 500 rub (double letter rate) but then this amount was corrected to 160 rub. As the double postcard rate was 200 rub, such amount indicates to that the indicum of PS card itself was taken for 20 rub.

Fig. 29: 20-kop PS card used on 25 September 1921 as ordinary mail from Lyskowo-Priwolshskoe, Nizhni Novgorod province to Moscow. The card is franked on 80 rub with four revalued 20-kop Imperial Arms definitives. As the card was not taxed, one can suppose that its indicum was taken for 20 rub.
 
 
Foreign postal rates of 25 August 1921
                        Ordinary postcard abroad:        400 rub (to 20 November 1921)
                 Ordinary printed matter abroad:        200 rub (to 20 November 1921)        
                       Registration fee (abroad):        +1000 rub (to 20 November 1921)
 
 

Fig. 30: 5-kop PS card used on 16 November 1921 as blank for ordinary mail from Tschereja, Mogilev province via Moscow (24 November) to Jaffa in Palestine. The franking with four 100-rub stamps of the 2nd RSFSR definitive issue conforms to the 400-rub rate.
 

 

 
Fig. 31: Official postcard blank of Petrograd Main Post Office registered on 8 October 1921 at Opol'e, Petrograd province to Viljandi, Estonia where arrived on 14 October. The franking consisting of a 1000-rub and a 250-rub stamps of the 2nd RSFSR definitive issue plus eight revalued 20-kop Imperial Arms definitives totals to 1410 rub, i.e. on 10 rub over the rate.
 
 

Fig. 32: 20-kop PS card used on 8 October 1921 as blank for ordinary mail from Tashkent (where also censored) to Berlin. The card is franked on 200 rub with ten revalued 20-kop Imperial Arms definitives, i.e. only on a half of the current rate. Nevertheless, the postcard was not taxed.
 
 
 
 
Foreign postal rates of 21 November 1921
                             Ordinary postcard abroad:        2000 rub (to 19 February 1922)
                     Ordinary printed matter abroad:        1000 rub (to 19 February 1922)
                           Registration fee (abroad):        +5000 rub (to 19 February 1922)
 

Fig. 33: Official postcard blank of the Rostov Postal/Telegraphic district sent as ordinary mail on 28 December 1921 from Rostov-on-Don to Vienna and franked with a pair of 1000-rub stamps of the 2nd RSFSR definitive issue according to the rate in force.
 
 
 
Traditionally post-free mail in 1919 to 1921
The mail from State institutions and to/from Army-in-Field continued remaining free in this period.
 

Fig. 34: Postcard blank of Soviet design for official mail sent from Moscow on 6 February 1919 to Bronnitsy, Moscow province (7 February).

Fig. 35: Inquire part of double 5-kop PS card used as blank, mailed on 17 April 1920 from Moscow and addressed to Red Army Field Post Office No. 118 attached to Latvian Riffle Division where received on 21 May.
Literature:
[1] Epstein, A.; Postkarten-Tarife während Revolution, Bürgerkrieg und Inflation in Russland (1917-1923);
Teil 1 Russland unter der provisorischen Regierung und der Sowjet-Verwaltung (1917-1918). DZRP 88 (2008) 36-42.
[English text at http://arge-russland.de/1707384.htm]