Postage stamps and postal history of Russia
||This article has multiple issues. Please help improve it or discuss these issues on the talk page.
|This article may be expanded with text translated from the corresponding article in the Russian Wikipedia. (August 2012)|
Early postal history 
Records mention a system of messengers in the 10th century. Early letters were carried in the form of a roll, with a wax or lead seal; the earliest known of these seals dates from 1079, and mentions a governor Ratibor of Tmutarakan. The earliest surviving cover was sent in 1391 from La Tana (now Azov) to Venice.
By the 16th century, the postal system included 1,600 locations, and mail took 3 days to travel from Moscow to Novgorod. In 1634, a peace treaty between Russia and Poland established a route to Warsaw, becoming Russia's first regular international service.
Peter the Great enacted reforms making the postal system more uniform in its operations, and in 1714 the first general post offices opened in Saint Petersburg and Moscow. “Regular post service” was established along the Moscow and Riga routes. In February 1714, the postal service started biweekly runs from St. Petersburg to Riga; in June it started runs from St. Petersburg to Moscow. The field post office was founded in 1716, and the so-called ordinary post service in 1720, for fast conveyance of state ordinances and papers. Regular delivery of private parcels (the so-called heavy post) was organized in the 1730-40s. In 1746, parcels and private correspondence were first delivered by courier, and starting in 1781 money, too, could be delivered to one's door. The earliest known Russian postmark dates from July 1765; it is a single line reading "ST.PETERSBOVRG" (in Latin letters), but the first official recommendation to use postmarks did not come until 1781.
Post coaches appeared in 1820. In 1833, the St. Petersburg City Post was created, and the city was divided into 17 districts with 42 correspondence offices, which were located in trade stores. In 1834, reception offices appeared in the suburbs (in St. Petersburg there were as many as 108). Periodical press delivery in Russia was organized in St. Petersburg in 1838. The Department of Coaches and T-carts was opened in 1840 at the Moika Embankment; light cabriolets carried surplus-post, coaches delivered light post, and T-carts dealt with “heavy" post. Green coloured street mail boxes were installed in 1848, the same year stamped envelopes were issued; orange mailboxes for same day service appeared near railway stations in 1851, and post stamps appeared in 1857. In 1864, the City Post started sending printed matter and catalogues, and in 1866, they sent packages.
Postal stationery made its first appearance in 1845, in the form of envelopes that paid the 5-kopeck fee for local mail in St. Petersburg and Moscow. The idea worked well, and was extended throughout Russia on December 1, 1848.
Postage stamps 
The postage stamp idea had already swept much of the world when, in September 1856, the Russian authorities decided to follow suit. The first stamps went on sale 10 December 1857, but were not valid for use until 1 January 1858. The first value was a 10-kopeck to be used for letters weighing up to one lot (about 12.8 grams). It was an imperforate stamp depicting the coat of arms of Russia, and printed using typography in brown and blue. This was followed on 10 January by 20-kopeck and 30-kopeck perforated stamps using the same design but in different pairs of colors, along with a perforated version of the 10-kopeck stamp. The paper was originally watermarked with the numeral, but this was soon abandoned, and later printings in 1858 are on regular wove paper.
A 5k stamp for local postage was introduced in 1863, and in the following year a new common design, with the arms in an oval, was introduced for 1k, 3k, and 5k values. These were used to make up complicated rates for international mail, which had previously required cash payments at the post office.
After 1866 the stamps were printed on watermarked with a pattern of wavy lines, "EZGB" in Cyrillic plus a set of more or less horizontal lines [13 for the height of the letters!] and vertical lines running through the letters and halfway. Apart from that the "grain" of the paper was always perpendicular to the watermark text! In the early years the horizontal watermark prevailed, but for a minority of each value the grain was vertical. In later years the vertical watermark prevailed. Contrary to common perception among collectors there was NO laid paper involved. The "stripes" were always part of the watermark.
The coat of arms design was changed in 1875, and used for 2k and 8k values, and a 7k in 1879. The 7k was also printed on revenue stamp paper watermarked with a hexagon pattern; these are quite rare.
A new issue of 14 December 1883 featured an updated design, lower values printed in a single color, and new high values - 14k, 35k, and 70k. January 1884 saw the introduction of 3.50-ruble and 7-ruble stamps, physically much larger than existing stamps.
In 1889 the designs were changed again, this time to introduce thunderbolts across the posthorns underneath the double-headed eagle, and in printings after 1902 the usual grain of the paper was changed to be vertical.
In 1909 a new series came out, using a mix of old and new designs, all printed on unwatermarked wove paper, and with lozenges on the face to discourage postage stamp reuse.
Russia's first series of commemorative stamps appeared 2 January 1913 to mark the 300th anniversary of the Romanov dynasty. The 17 stamps featured portraits of the various Tsars, as well as views of the Kremlin, Winter Palace, and Romanov Castle. But in 1915 and 1916, as the government disintegrated under the pressures of World War I, several of the designs were printed on card stock and used as paper money. 7k and 14k stamps were also surcharged 10k and 20k due to shortages.
The period of the Russian Revolution is complicated philatelically; post offices across the country were thrown on their own devices, and a number of the factions and breakaway republics issued new kinds of stamps, although in some cases they seem to have been as much for publicity purposes, few genuine uses having been recorded.
Entities issuing their own stamps include:
- Army of the Northwest
- Far Eastern Republic
- South Russia
- Transcaucasian SFSR
- West Ukrainian National Republic
In 1917 the Provisional Government reprinted the old Tsarist designs, but sold them imperforate. The first stamps of the Russian Soviet Federative Socialist Republic appeared in 1918, as two values depicting a sword cutting a chain. While great quantities of these stamps survive, they saw little use, and used copies are worth more than mint.
The next stamps appeared in 1921, after inflation had taken hold. The set's values range from 1 to 1,000 rubles. By the next year these stamps were being surcharged in various ways, with face values of up to 100,000 rubles.
A currency reform in 1922 that exchanged money at a 10,000-to-1 rate enabled new stamps in the 5r to 200r range, including a set marking the 5th anniversary of the October Revolution, Tsarist stamps surcharged with a five-pointed star containing a hammer and sickle. Stamps with portraits of a worker, peasant and soldier also appeared this year; variations on these portrait designs would continue to be issued throughout the 1920s.
Finnish occupation of Aunus 
At 1919–1921 there was Aunus expedition where a group of Finnish volunteers occupied parts of East Karelia (Aunus in Finnish, Olonets Karelia in Russian). There were stamps issued for Aunus troops by local authorities. They were Finnish definitives from 1917 with overprint Aunus.
Stamps of the Soviet Union 
Leningrad post office 
By the late 1930s, 203 post offices operated in Leningrad. During the Great Patriotic War of 1941-45, communication between the front line and the rear was provided by the Field Post. In the first year of the Siege, there were 108 post offices working in Leningrad. The Leningrad Post Association was created in 1988, and included the General Leningrad Post-Office, 13 regional post offices, 345 post offices, 11 automatized post offices, and a fleet of cars.
Stamps of the Russian Federation 
|This section is empty. You can help by adding to it. (September 2011)|
See also 
- British Society of Russian Philately
- List of people on stamps of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics
- Rossica Society of Russian Philately
- Russian joint issues
- Russian philatelic forgeries
- Soviet Union stamp catalogue
- Zemstvo stamp
References and sources 
- See, for example, http://web.inter.nl.net/hcc/Langenberg/Zemstvo.html.
- Dobin, Manfred Postmarks of Russian Empire (Pre adhesive period). St. Petersburg: Standard Kollektion, 1993. ISBN 9785853870222
- Encyclopaedia of Postal History
- Rossiter, Stuart & John Flower. The Stamp Atlas. London: Macdonald, 1986. ISBN 0-356-10862-7
- Stanley Gibbons Ltd: various catalogues
- Скропышева, В. Г. (1990). Карлова Е. Л. К вашим услугам - почта: Справ. пособие (Charles E.L.K. at your service - the post). 2-е изд., перераб. и доп. М.
- Кутьин, В. А. (1997). Санкт-Петербургский почтамт. СПб (St. Petersburg Post Office). I. A. Bogdanov.
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to: Stamps of Russia|
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to: Stamps of the Soviet Union|