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Soviet censorship
on international correspondence in the second half of the Great Patriotic War

Per-Christian Wallén (Drammen, Norway)
[German text in DZRP Nr. 92, May 2010]


This article is trying to systemize some of the information the author has collected about this theme. This is an updated article that has been published in Post-Rider #60 [1]. New information included deals with the censor labels, while some new finds are included for the censorship marks (e.g. Kishinev) and periods of use are extended. The usage period of the labels are only noted in the case were several items are described. For some labels only one example is known. All of the labels are rare, except label 2 from Moscow.

The data for the censorship are based only on originals or where photocopies has been available, no redrawing of the censorship, or a plain listing of censor numbers. The reason is to omit errors such as typing errors, relative sizes of the cancels to each other, or similar reasons for incorrectness. Some of the cancels show several censor numbers, but only one day as registered usage period. The reason is unreadable date cancels, or a incoming letter from abroad (without a arrival cancel) with unknown transit time. The original German article has more illustrations, [they are transferd to this site].

Letters to and from the USSR have from July 1942 to the end of 1945 a special censorship cancel, the "double circle" cancel. It consists of two circles with the text "ВОЕННАЯ ЦЕНЗУРА - СССР", with a fraction, consisting of a letter and a number, in the middle (see ill. 2). The fraction has a number as the numerator and one or two letters as the denominator. Except for the Baltic States, which have it the other way around. This censor cancel type was only used on international correspondence.

These markings were used at some cities towards the border of the USSR. They are struck on the back of envelopes and on the address side of postcards / postal stationeries. For letters they are sometimes accompanied with a censor strip, with the text "ПРОВЕРЕНО ЦЕНЗУРОЙ". But mostly they are sealed with glue.

On some few items I have observed that the stamp has been removed. Is this done by the censor, who maybe checked, if there was some message on the back of the stamps. Or is it just a coincidence that the stamp has fallen of or been removed for some other reason? If we study Illustration 1, it is very likely that the censor has removed it. The correct postage for this card is 30 kop., but it is only franked with 20 kop. It is easily seen that one stamp is missing (parts of the canceled date stamp is missing). The interesting fact is the marking of the receiving office, which is covering parts of where the stamp was placed before. This means that the stamp was removed after the stationary was delivered at the post office, but before the addressee received it. Another interesting fact is the receiving address, Palestine Distribution Committee in Teheran. This was a Jewish organization that helped Jews in the USSR by sending food to them. This card is a confirmation that the recipient has received sugar and other "stuff". I have got some other cards with the same address, and most (if not all) have lost the stamps. It looks like that there was a list of persons/organizations that got more thoroughly checked by the censors. Was it some kind of black list in existence? Both the German and English censors operated with such lists.

Fig. 1: Sent from Askhabad to Iran. Stamp removed by whom?

Some previous articles on this subject are trying to make some system out of the censor numbers. These numbers are most likely only an identification number for the censor, and the scarity of some numbers is only indicating the language known by the censor. E.g. for Moscow we usually find the numbers 29 and 36 for letters sent to English speaking countries, while the high numbers 101, 106, and 107 is found on German POW cards. Likewise to Palestine (hebrew/yiddish) I have seen the number 40.


Let us go through the different places that used these cancels and take a look of the types and periods used. The litera is in parenthesis after the city name. All dates are based on own objects and articles in the reference section. They are subject to change. In some cases I can name several numbers, but only one date. This is simply due to the fact that the date is not readable.

Fig. 2 Askhabad (А): This cancel is mentioned in the article from Shmuley [2]. The censor numbers that so far have been registered are: 1, 3 The period in use is from 21st of May 1943 (Shmuley [2; Fig. 15]) to 19th of August 1945.

Fig. 3 Alma-Ata (А-А): The cancel used in Alma-Ata. The censor numbers that have been registered are: 2 - 5, 8, 11, 13. The period in use is June 1944 to 3rd of May 1945.

Fig. 4 Arkhangelsk (А-к): Cancel used in Arkhangelsk. The censor numbers that have been registered are: 2, 5 The period in use is May 1943 to 11th of March 1945.

Fig. 5 Baku (В): Cancel used in Baku. The censor numbers that have been registered are: 1 - 3 The period in use is from 18th of September 1944 (Shmuley [2]; Fig. 17).

Fig. 6 Vilnius (В-с): the cancel used in Vilnius. The censor numbers that have been registered are: 3, 9 The period in use is 20th of August 1945 to 26th of December 1945.

Fig. 7 Vladivostok (В): cancel used in Vladivostok. The censor numbers that have been registered are: 2 Only one letter has been registered with the date 12th of April 1944.

Fig. 8 Yerevan (В-с): cancel used in Yerevan. The censor numbers that have been registered are: 1, 5, 11 The period in use is 30th of October 1942 to 23rd of April 1945.

Fig. 9 Kiev (К): Cancel used in Kiev. The censor numbers that have been registered are: 10 - 12, 17, 21, 26, 30, 33, 34 The period in use is 8th of December 1944 to 10th of July 1945.

Fig. 10 Kishinev (К-в): Cancel used in Kishinev. The censor numbers that have been registered are: 3, 7 The period in use is 21st of September 1945.

Fig. 11 Leningrad (Л): Cancel used in Leningrad. The censor numbers that have been registered are: 1, 4, 7, 16, 17, 19, 22, 23 The period in use is: 24th of December 1944 to 12th of December 1945.

Fig. 12 L'vov / L'viv (Лв): cancel used in L'vov / L'viv. This cancel is mentioned and illustrated in the article from Vinokurov [3]. The censor numbers that have been registered are: 2

Fig. 13 Minsk (Мк): cancel used in Minsk. It differentiates itself from the cancel used in Murmansk that it does not have a hyphen between the id letters. The censor numbers that have been registered are: 3, 9, 21 The period in use is: 12th of August 1945 to 24th of September 1945

Fig. 14 Moscow (М): This is the main censor office for mail. It comes in several different diameters and shapes. See Fig. 14-17 for the markings used in Moscow

Fig. 15 Moscow (М): This censor marking exists in different sizes and shapes

Fig. 16 Moscow (М): The censor numbers that have been registered are: 3, 5, 7 - 26, 29 - 34, 36, 39 - 45, 51, 52, 55 - 57, 63 - 65, 67 - 70, 75, 76, 80 - 84, 87, 89, 96 - 99, 101, 106, 107, 119 The period in use is: 6th of July 1942 to 18th of October 1945.

Fig. 17 Moscow (М): The cancel with censor id 55 exists also in another shape were the inner circle is more round. It is evidently a rubber stamp.

Fig. 18 Murmansk (М-к): The censor numbers that have been registered are: 2 - 4 The period in use is: 8th of February 1944 to 1st of April 1945.

Fig. 19 Odessa (О): The censor numbers that have been registered are: 11, 17 The period in use is: 2nd of December 1945

Fig. 20 Riga (Р-А): The censor numbers that have been registered are: 1, 3, 6 The period in use is: 15th of November 1945 to 18th of November 1945.

Fig. 21 Tallinn (Т-Н): Cancel used in Tallinn. The censor numbers that have been registered are: 6 The period in use is: 20th of April 1944.

Fig. 22 Tashkent (Т): The censor numbers that have been registered are: 2, 4, 6 - 8, 10, 19 The period in use is: 19th of July 1943 to 14th of July 1945.

Fig. 23 Taschkent (Т): This cancel has the same litera as Tbilisi, but they are easy to diffrentiate:
In the Tashkent cancel the fraction line points to "О" and "О", ВОЕННАЯ ЦЕНЗУРА is in capital letters, and the "Т" is bigger. The marking from Tbilisi points at the "В" and the "А", Военная Цензура has only capital letter on the first letter, and the "Т" is lesser in size.


Fig. 24 Taschkent: Card from Iran with censor cancel from Tashkent (one stamp is missing)

In many articles the censor marking for Tashkent/Tbilisi has been erroneously identified with the first or second city. This Illustration shows a card sent from Iran to Tashkent, Uzbek SSR. It has an arrival cancel from Tashkent, and a censor cancel with id number 4 (illustrated in Fig. 23). The censor id number is the same as in ill. 22, but the markings are of different types. It has been observed on several cards/letters sent from Tashkent, so it was clearly used in Tashkent. An interesting comment to the Iranian postcard is; why and when were the stamps removed? Is it coincidential, or is it the same reason as in illustration 1.


Fig. 25 Tbilisi (Т): The censor numbers that have been registered are: 4, 5 The period in use is: 1st of June 1945 to 31st of July 1945 The cancel used in illustration 25 does not have the inner circle as all other cancels have. If it just a bad impression of this cancel, or if it is like this is unknown. It is shown as the author has found it. All other articles show it as a typical cancel with the inner circle.
Fig. 26 Tbilisi: The marking in illustration 25 was found on a card sent from Tbilisi to Iran



Ulan-Ude (У-У): This cancel is mentioned and illustrated in the article from Vinokurov [3]. There is a similar cancel used in Romania, with the litera "Р". It has been omitted in this overview because it was not located in the USSR.






Censor labels


Another subject closely related to the censor cancels are the censor labels used at these control sites. This overview is not complete, but is an initial categorization of the labels used for the international correspondence. The period of usage might be much longer, but the rarity of them makes it difficult to get an accurate period of usage.

Alma-Ata :
The period in use is: 19th of March 1945 to 13th of November 1945.
Fig. 27: Letter from Akmolinsk to Palestine from 13th of November 1945, censored in Alma-Ata.


Archangelsk:
Fig. 28: Interesting letter from the USA to an American ship, probably on its way to USSR. Censored on arrival in Archangelsk.


Vladivostok:
Only one item from 12th April 1945.

Fig. 29: Vladivostok, Russian republic, 12.4.1944 to USA, censored in Vladivostok, and New York, USA. Postal route is Vladivostok, Moscow, Murmansk (or Archangelsk) (with the convoys), and to New York.


Kiev:
Only one item from July 1945


Leningrad:
The period in use is: 24th of December 1944 to 4th of September 1945.
The inner measure of the rectangle is 97 mm. It exists in two subtypes, either with black or red text. One half of the label is often glued inside the envelope, so the label is only visible from one side.


L'vov / L'viv:
Only one item with unclear date. This is based on a copy, and it is evident that half of the label is glued inside the envelope as it occurs in Leningrad.


Moscow:
Moscow has several different labels. There are a lot of minor differences between them. This article will only summarize the major differences.

Censor label type 1 from Moscow:

Fig. 30 Letter from Moskau to USA from 6th of July 1942 with censor label type 1. Additional English censor, probably transported with convoy.
The inner measure of the rectangle is 98 mm, it's written in bold and the letter "Ц" is ending in a rectangle. The period in use is: 6th of July 1942 to 13th of August 1942.


Censor label type 2 from Moscow:
The inner measure of the rectangle is 98 mm, and the letter "Ц" is ending in a triangle. It has several subtypes with text length of: 87 mm, 90 mm, 91 mm, and 93 mm. In addition, it has a lot of printing differences in the frames, so it is almost impossible to get two identical labels. The period in use is: 12th of October 1942 to 18th of August 1945.


Censor label type 3 from Moscow:

Fig. 31 Registered letter from Moskau to USA from 20th of May 1944 with censor label type 3.
The inner measure of the rectangle is 97 mm and the letter "Ц" is ending with a tail. Only one item from May 1944.


Censor label type 4 from Moscow:

Fig. 32 Registered letter from Moskau to Turkey from 17th of October 1944 with censor label type 4.
The inner measure of the rectangle is 97 mm and the letter "Ц" is ending in a triangle (like censor stripe 2), but there are major differences in the letters "О" (wider) and "Й" (the dot above). The period in use is: 9th of September 1944 to 17th of October 1944.


Censor label type 5 from Moscow:


Fig. 33 Registered letter from Moskau to Turkey from 17th of October 1944 with censor label type 5.
The inner measure of the rectangle is 88 mm and the letter "Ц" is ending in a triangle (like censor stripe 2). The text length is 74 mm. The period in use is: 18th of February 1945 to 19th of July 1945.


Censor label type 6 from Moscow:
The inner measure of the rectangle is 89 mm and the letter "Ц" is ending with a tail. The period in use is: 22nd of June 1945 to 4th of July 1945


Murmansk:
The text length is 86 mm.Only one item from February 1944.
Fig. 34 Letter from an american marine from 3rd of March 1944 from Murmansk to the USA with censor label from Murmansk. Additional American censorship, probably transported with convoy.


Odessa:
Only one item from the year 1945.
Fig. 35 Registerd letter from Tschernowitz from March 1945 to the USA, with censored in Odessa.


References:
[1] P. C. Wallén: Soviet censorship on international correspondence in the second half of the Great Patriotic War,
Post-Rider 60 (2007) 7-11.
[2] M. Shmuley: Soviet Censorship and other Markings, Rossica 112 (1988) 17-41.
[3] Винокуров, А.: Военная цензура в СССР в период Великой Отечественой войны, Филателия сентябрь (2003)