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POSTCARD MAIL IN THE YEARS OF REVOLUTION, CIVIL WAR, AND INFLATION IN RUSSIA (1917-1923)
PART I: RUSSIA UNDER PROVISIONAL GOVERNMENT AND SOVIET ADMINISTRATION (1917-1918)

Alexander Epstein (Tallinn, Estonia)


A rise of collectors’ interest to postcards as a kind of mail is observed nowadays. This is evidenced also by articles on this topic recently published [1,2]. This paper dealing with a very complicated and stormy period of Russian history is considering this subject on examples of such mail assorted by the postal rates in effect in various regions of the former Empire under different administrations struggling against each other during the Civil War. Selecting the examples, I tried to show as much as possible the use of different basic postcards (stamped PS, official and other formula cards, also picture postcards but in a lesser degree) as well as peculiarities of their use. All these examples are from the present author’s collection if not otherwise stated.
 
 
 
Provisional Government & Soviet Administration
Inland postal rates 15 August 1917 - 27 February 1918
Ordinary inland postcard:                5 kop
Ordinary inland greeting postcard:   15 kop
Ordinary local greeting postcard:     10 kop
Ordinary local & inl. printed matter:   2 kop
Registration fee (domestic):         +20 kop
 
The former postal rates for postcards which persisted for over 38 years (except the registration
fee) were raised at last as a consequence of growing inflation because of the continuing war against the Central Powers in unity with the Entente. This and the following set of postal rates remained in force also for a few months after the seizure of power by Bolsheviks after 25 October 1917.
 
 
Fig. 1: Official postcard blank of Riga Post/Telegraph District franked on 5 kop with a 3-kop + 2 x 1-kop Imperial Arms definitives and mailed as ordinary postcard on 15.8.17 from Reval (now Tallinn) to Wesenberg (now Rakwere) (16.8.17). The 1st day of new rates in force! The current PS cards could now be used with adhesives additionally affixed.
Fig. 2: Imperial 3-kop PS card franked additionally with a 2-kop Imperial Arms definitive and mailed on 28.8.17 as ordinary postcard from Moskau to Witebsk (30.8.17) where censored on the next day.
 
 
Fig. 3: Imperial 3-kop PS card franked additionally with a 20 kop/14 kop + 2 kop Imperial Arms definitives making the 25-kop rate for registered postcards and mailed on 4.9.17 from Kiev to Jurjev (Dorpat, now Tartu), Livland province (9.9.17).
Fig. 4: Official postcard blank of Riga Post/Telegraph District franked on 2 kop with an Imperial Arms definitive and sent on 20.9.17 as ordinary printed matter from Weso.
 
 
Fig. 5: 5-kop PS card just issued by Provisional Government sent as ordinary mail to Jurjev (Dorpat) from Moscow on 25.10.17: the earliest known date of use of this PS card. The 5-kop PS card of new design prepared by the postal administration of Provisional Government to match the new inland postcard rate was released only in the last days of this government.
Fig. 6: 5-kop PS card franked additionally with 4 x 5-kop Imperial Arms definitives making the 25-kop rate and registered on 4.11.17 from Moskau to Reval (7.11.17). By now, the Bolsheviks sized power in Moskau too.
 
 
Fig. 7: Imperial 3-kop PS card franked additionally with a 2-kop Imperial Arms definitive and mailed on 30.10.17 as ordinary postcard from Petrograd to Stavropol. Four days after the Bolsheviks upheaval!
Fig. 8: 5-kop PS card sent as ordinary postcard to Witebsk from Novyi Pogost, Wilno province on 18.2.18. Just on this day, the final offensive of German troops started and this place was soon occupied by them.

Fig. 9: The war still continued and mute postmarks were used at the near-front areas almost to the end. Picture postcard from Dvinsk (Dünaburg, now Daugavpils) to Narwa (20.12.17) franked by a 5-kop Imperial Arms definitive with a mute cancellation.
 
Prior to the WWI, postcards with greetings (Easter, Christmas and New Year, birthday, etc; the first two made the bulk of such mail) which text did not exceed 6 words could be franked at the corresponding printed matter rate. An end to this practice was put in December 1915 when all such postcards were ordered to be franked as letters. This found its reflection in this and two following sets of inland postal rates. Greeting postcards from this period are rather scarcely found because of the chaotic situation in those days.
 
 
Fig. 10: Picture postcard with New Year greetings franked with a 10 kop/7 kop Imperial Arms definitive according to the corresponding rate in force and posted locally in Reval on 1.1.18.
Fig. 11: Picture postcard with Christmas greetings franked with a 5-kop Imperial Arms definitive and mailed on 27.12.17 from Narwa to Sillamägi (now Sillamäe), Estland province (28.12.17). The card was taxed at arrival to Sillamägi on 20 kop, i.e. the double deficiency to the 15-kop rate.
Postal rates abroad 1 September 1917 - 9 March 1918
Ordinary postcard abroad:          8 kop
Ordinary printed matter abroad:   4 kop
Registration fee (abroad)         +20 kop
Also these rates superseded the previous set which persisted from 1889. Now the previous rates were doubled.
 
 
Fig. 12: Imperial 3-kop PS card franked supplementary with a 5-kop Imperial Arms definitive making the 8-kop rate and mailed on 22.10.17 to Hilversum, Holland from Petrograd where also censored.
Fig. 13: Imperial 4-kop PS card franked supplementary with a 5-kop + 2x10-kop Imperial Arms definitives making the current registered postcard rate (overfranked on 1 kop), sent to New York on 17.10.17 from Minsk via West Front Return Field Post Office where also censored.

Fig. 14: 5-kop PS card franked additionally with a 3-kop Imperial Arms definitive according to the 8-kop ordinary postcard rate and mailed on 21.12.17 from Petrograd to Germany. The state of war still remained, but the armistice between Soviet Russia and Central Powers provided for the restoration of postal communications. Such situation persisted till 18 February 1918 when the armistice was broken. The postal communications between Russia and Germany were resumed only as late as June 1918.
 
It seems that the local authorities in some areas tried to introduce still higher rates without an official approval of higher authorities. Such situation seems to take place at the end of 1917 - beginning of 1918 e.g. in Livland province including the northern part of the present Latvia and southern part of the present Estonia.
 
 

Fig. 15: 5-kop PS card franked additionally with a 5-kop Imperial Arms definitive which would be excessive relative to the legal 5-kop rate. The postcard was cancelled at TPO 40 Riga-Petrograd (running at that time actually from the station of Ramotskoe, now Ramkava) on 29.12.17 and arrived to Twer on 1.1.18.
 
 
Soviet Russia
Inland postal rates 28 February 1918 - 14 September 1918
Ordinary inland postcard:                  20 kop
Ordinary inland greeting postcard:      35 kop
Ordinary local greeting postcard:        30 kop
Ordinary local & inland printed matter: 10 kop
Registration fee (domestic):             +70 kop
At this time, i.e. about a half of year after introducing the former set of tariffs, the postal rates were raised rather drastically.
 
 
 
Fig. 16: Official postcard blank of Nizhni Novgorod Post/Telegraph District franked with a 20-kop Imperial Arms definitive and sent as ordinary postcard on 21.5.18 from Wetluga to Petrograd.
Fig. 17: Imperial double 3-kop PS card (reply part) franked additionally with a 5-kop + 2 x 3 kop + 2 x 2 kop + 2 x 1 kop Imperial Arms definitives, i.e. making 20 kop in total and sent on 9.4.18 as ordinary postcard from Petrograd to Krymskaja, Kuban province.
 
 
Fig. 18: Imperial 4-kop Romanov Jubilee PS card franked additionally with a 5-kop Imperial Arms definitive + 10 kop/7 kop Romanov Jubilee stamp + 1- kop War Charity stamp, i.e. on 20 kop in total, and mailed locally in Jekaterinodar (now Krasnodar) on 24.4.18. Although of philatelic origin, an interesting use under the so-called Kuban/Black Sea Soviet Republic.
Fig. 19 (image on page before): Imperial 3-kop PS card franked additionally with a 15-kop + 2-kop Imperial Arms definitives making the 20-kop rate for ordinary postcards and mailed on 4.3.18 from Moscow Brjansk RPO to Charkov (11.3.18).
 
 
Fig. 20: 5-kop PS card franked additionally with a 70-kop + 15-kop Imperial Arms definitives making the 90-kop rate for registered postcards and mailed on 7.3.18 from Smolensk to Jaroslavl (10.3.18) and readdressed then to Wologda.
Fig. 21: Birthday greeting picture postcard franked with a 20-k/14-k + 10-k/7-k + 5-k Imperial Arms definitives in conformity with the 35-kop postal rate mailed on 11.3.18 to Wolosovo.
Many TPO routes in the western part of the former Empire were shortened because of some sections of their routes turned out in the territories occupied by the German troops. However, the former cancellers remained in use without any alterations in the text.
 
 
 
Fig. 22: Picture postcard franked on 20 kop with 15-kop + 5-kop Imperial Arms definitives and mailed on 4.6.18 at TPO 40 to Elisawetino, Petrograd province (5.6.18). The canceller shows the route Riga-Petrograd, although this TPO had its terminal actually at Jamburg (now Kimgisepp), about 15 km west of Narwa occupied by Germans. Such cancellers remained in use, at least, up to 1921.
Fig. 23: Picture postcard to Moscow franked with a 20-kop Imperial Arms definite mailed at steamship PO Rybinsk-Perm (21.6.18). The passenger ship traffic was discontinued less than a month later after the uprising of the Czecho-Slovak Legion.
The steamship post offices were still functioning during the first months of Soviet administration.
 
With the introduction of this set of postal tariffs, an unusual situation arose when the inland rates became higher than the foreign rates. This state of affairs did not change after introducing the following, new set of foreign rates.
 
Postal rates abroad 10 March 1918 to 1919
Ordinary postcard abroad:            12 kop
Ordinary printed matter abroad:      6 kop
Registration fee (abroad):          +30 kop
These rates were tripled against the original foreign rates.
 
 
Fig. 24: Imperial 3-kop PS card franked additionally with a 5-kop + 4 x 1-kop Imperial Arms definitives totaling 12 kop and sent as ordinary postcard on 25.7.18 from Kriwoe Osero, Saratov province to Halle, Germany; censored in Moscow and Königsberg (Germany).
Fig. 25: 5-kop PS card franked additionally with a 7-kop Imperial Arms definitive, i.e. making the 12-kop ordinary postcard rate, and mailed on 9.7.18 from Petrograd to Berlin; censored in Petrograd.
 
 
Fig. 26: 5-kop PS card franked additionally with a 15-kop + 2 x 10 kop + 2-kop Imperial Arms definitives, i.e. on 42 kop in total, and registered on 29.6.18 from Kasan to Reval (20.7.18), then under the German occupation; censored in Moskau and Riga.
Fig. 27: Imperial 3-kop PS card franked additionally with a 15-kop + 2-kop Imperial Arms definitives making the 20-kop inland postcard rate mailed from Käppaselga, Olonets province (22.8.18) to Reval; censored in Petrograd and Riga.
The fact that these rates were lower than the corresponding inland rates induced some senders not infrequently to frank their mail according to the inland tariff.
 
 
 
Inland postal rates 15 September 1918 - 31 December 1918
Ordinary inland postcard:                   10 kop
Ordinary inland greeting postcard:       25 kop
Ordinary local greeting postcard:        15 kop
Ordinary local & inland printed matter:   5 kop
Registration fee (domestic):             +25 kop
 
Reduction of postal rates under the conditions of rising inflation is a rather unusual thing. There are assertions that this was done allegedly with preparing the introduction of free postage in the near future. In my opinion, however, this step was undertaken, first of all, to stop the abnormal state of affairs when the inland rates were higher than foreign rates. Besides, the postal rates of Soviet Russia where now equated to those of Ukraine with which the postal exchange had been recently resumed basing on the inland rates of each country.
 
 
Fig. 28: Official postcard blank franked on 10 kop with an Imperial Arms definitive and mailed on
15.12.18 from Moskau to Kovrov, Wladimir province (17.12.18).
Fig. 29: Imperial 3-kop PS card franked additionally with 7 x 1-kop Imperial Arms definitives, i.e. on 10 kop, and mailed as ordinary postcard on 27.9.18 from Wilgort, Perm province to a monastery in the Wologda province; censored at the Headquarters of 3rd Army which fought in this area.

Fig. 30: 5-kop PS card franked additionally with a 3-kop + 2-kop Imperial Arms definitives making the 10-kop rate for ordinary postcards and mailed on 28.12.18 from Perkino, Tambov province via Gorelowo (30.12.18) to Staroe Jurjewo, the same province (1.1.19).
 
 
 
Free postcard mail in 1917-18
As before, the free postage rights were retained by the State and public institutions as well as army servicemen. Even Church used them during the first few months of Soviet administration. In most cases, an official cachet served as a confirmation of the free postage right.
 
 
Fig. 31 (left column): Picture postcard written by a naval serviceman on 10 November 1917 supposedly in Helsingfors and addressed to Pernov (Pernau, now Pärnu). The card was delayed because of military circumstances as the corresponding cachet reads. It was censored in Petrograd but postmarked there only on 4.IX.18, almost 3 months after the resumption of postal communications with Estonia then occupied by Germans. Nevertheless, it could reach the addressee in Pernau or Pärnu, at that time a part of the independent Republic of Estonia as late as 14.7.19
Fig. 32: Picture postcard mailed by a serviceman at Field Post Office No. 123 (attached to 13th Army Corps, at that time in Pernov) on 2.2.18 and addressed to Wesenberg where arrived on 17.2.18. However, it was on the way actually for two days, since the transition from the Julian calendar to Gregorian calendar was decreed in Russia as from 1 February. The FPO merely did not follow this decree and did not readjust the date!
 
 
Fig. 33: Official postcard blank of the Petrograd GPO used by the St. John’s (Ioann) Evangelical Lutheran Church in Petrograd and sent post-free to Matweevskoe, Estland province (25.1.18).
Fig. 34: Official blank for privileged mail used by the Pestyakovo District Committee and sent post-free on 19.6.18 from Pestjakowo, Vladimir province to Head of Moscow P/T District in Moscow.

Fig. 35: Picture postcard with a military cachet of Commandant of Station Burym, Moskau-Kasan
Railway sent post-free to Witebsk (12.10.18).
 
 
 
 
References:
[1] Berger, Th.; Verwendungsformen von Postkarten. DZRP 87 (2007) 25-29.
[2] Ercolini, M.; Postal Rate Changes of 1917-1918.
Rossica Journal of Russian Philately 149 (2007) 19-29.
 
 
 
From: Deutsche Zeitschrift für Russland-Philatelie, 88 (2008)