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The First Issues of Russia

By Edward Klempka

 

2018 marks the 160th anniversary of the first stamps issued in Imperial Russia. Edward Klempka looks at these early stamps, particularly the first issue featuring the Imperial Arms set inside an elaborate frame. This was one of the first bicoloured stamps to be issued and this iconic motif remained the principal design for Russian stamps until the Revolution of 1917.

Imperial Russia was relatively late when it came to issuing stamps; it wasn’t until 1858 that the first examples appeared. Many other countries had been quick to follow the lead of Great Britain, which had first issued stamps in 1840.

Prior to 1858, postage stamps could be found affixed to letters arriving in Britain from Russia. The Russian postage being paid in cash and, on arrival in Great Britain, the letter would be redirected and the redirection fee paid by affixation of a postage stamp. Alternatively, letters could be carried privately to the UK where, upon arrival, stamps would be added before they were posted to their final destination.

The example shown in Figure 1 was written at St Petersburg on 17 July 1842 and posted at Lombard Street, London, on 8 August 1842; the 1841 Penny Red Brown being cancelled by a black strike of the Maltese Cross.

Fig 1 Early stamped cover from Russia. The cover was posted from St Petersburg on 17 July 1842 and carried privately to London. It was then posted at Lombard St, London, on 8 August 1842
Fig 1 Early stamped cover from Russia. The cover was posted from St Petersburg on 17 July 1842 and carried privately to London. It was then posted at Lombard St, London, on 8 August 1842

Early postal stationary

 

The Russian Imperial Post issued prepaid postal stationery envelopes many years before they issued postage stamps. The St Petersburg City Post issued a series of nine envelopes in 1845. These were franked with a 5k. stamp embossed in blue at the lower left-hand side of the envelope. Figure 2 shows a used example of the 1848 issue (larger size with embossed stamp at lower left – in this instance the stamp is inverted). On the reverse is a St Petersburg City Post postmark dated 27 November 1857. Figure 3 shows a used example of the same issue (smaller size with embossed stamp at upper right). On the reverse is a St Petersburg City Post postmark dated 3 August 1855.

Although issued for St Petersburg, these envelopes were also used at Moscow (1847–51 and 1856–69), Kazan (1866–69) and Warsaw (1858). In addition, during 1846, Moscow issued its own envelopes inscribed Moscow City Post, 5 kopeks, embossed in red.

In 1848 the State Post issued a series of envelopes embossed with 10k. (+1k.) black, 20k. (+1k.) blue and 30k. (+1k.) rose stamps. The stamps were embossed upon paper watermarked with the Imperial eagle above post horns. The entire printing of these envelopes had a doublecircle embossed stamp with, at its centre, a double-headed eagle with a wide tail. In addition to the postage, a fee of 1 kopek was charged for the envelope.

Figure 4 shows a used 10k (+1k) black sent from Poskov on 16 June 1850; the embossed stamp being pen-cancelled.

Fig 2 St Petersburg City Post 5k. envelope (with inverted stamp in the lower left) used on 27 November 1857
Fig 2 St Petersburg City Post 5k. envelope (with inverted stamp in the lower left) used on 27 November 1857
Fig 3 St Petersburg City Post 5k. blue envelope used on 3 August 1855
Fig 3 St Petersburg City Post 5k. blue envelope used on 3 August 1855
Fig 4 An 1848 Russian State Post 10k. (+1k.) envelope used from Poskov, 16 June 1850. The embossed stamp has been pen cancelled
Fig 4 An 1848 Russian State Post 10k. (+1k.) envelope used from Poskov, 16 June 1850. The embossed stamp has been pen cancelled

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