Rainer's Zemstvo Pages
Intruoduction to Zemstvo Philately (as per the catalog by F.G. Chuchin)
THE RURAL (ZEMSTVO) POST.
According to the establishment of the Zemstvo in the
middle of the sixties the local administration and the
local economical activity has become centered in the
districts. The District Zemstvo-Offices at the head of
the Zemstvo organization experienced the urgent need of
postal communication within the boundaries of the
district. There were post-offices of the State in town,
and a very restricted numbers of them in the larger
villages; as to the rest, the inhabitants were obliged,
in order to deliver and to receive the mail to drive to a
distance of 40-50 versts, or more, especial in the north
The Zemstvo-Offices were meant to supply to the local educational and sanitary needs and to maintain the ways and means of communication; the organization of a Zemstvo Post was the more necessary.
According to the Russian laws, the post was the monopoly of the State and no other analogous organization was allowed. The Zemstvo Post, on the contrary, was considered as carrying on the work of the State Post in the localities where there was none, but not as competing with it, and thus its organization and its activity was not interfered with. The first Zemstvo-Post has been opened in the Vetluga district of the government of Kostroma; at first, it had no stamps; it was in the Shlisselburg district of the gov. of S.-Petersburg, where a Zemstvo post-office has been opened in Sept. 1865, that they appeared for the first time.
Up to 1870 the Zemstvo-Post has not yet been formally
legalized; still at about that time these new
post-offices with stamps of their own have been opened in
more than 20 districts. According to the decree of the 27
of Aug. 1870 the Zemstvo-Post has been, at last,
legalized. The Zemstvo was allowed to transmit the mail
on receiving it from the State post-offices within the
boundaries of the district (but not from one town to
another), to organize further postal communication, and
was bound to be responsible for the same. This post was
to have its own stamps, differing from those of the State
and the postmen were not to wear the emblem of the
State-Post-the post-horn-on their bags.
This new organization has proved to be so efficient, that, according to the new Zemstvo laws issued on the 12 of June 1890, the organization and maintainment of the local post has been entrusted to the Zemstvo. lt. is not easy to trace the development of the Zemstvo Post, because the opening and the closing of the offices lay entirely with the local Zemstvo authorities; in some localities, the mail was carried cost free. A philatelist has to consider the number of stamps issued by the Zemstvo-Post during a certain period in connection with total number of Zemstvos that issued them during the same time.
The following data grouped by decades
Number of districts having their own stamps
Number of the principal varieties. of stamps issued during that period
1870 - 1879
1880 - 1889
1890 - 1899
1910 - 1917
make manifest the fact, that the ordination of the Home Office of 1870 concerning the post and the New Zemstvo Law of 1890 have greatly simulated the development of the Zemstvo-Post; later on since 1900 the issuing of new Zemstvo-stamps seems to be firmly established.
According to the law of 1864 the Zemstvo has been organized in 36 governments, containing 371 district; in 33 there was a Zemstvo-Post, too, but stamps came into use in 162 districts only.
The dispatching of the mail being cost free in some localities, we cannot judge about the development of the Zemstvo Post after the data we have got concerning localities where stamps were used. In 1892, for instance, the Zemstvo Post is known to have been organized in 150 districts, but we have got stamps of that period only for 89.
To judge after the stamps in use, the Zemstvo Post
organization must have been fully developed only in two
governments-those of Kherson and of Pérm-and
considerably, in Vologda, Viatka, Novgorod, Pskof;
districts with stamps of their own are known in the gov.
of Voronezh, Yekaterinoslaf, Kursk, Moskow, Poltawa,
Riazan, Samara, St-Petersburg, Satatof, Tambof, Twer,
Toula, Kharkof, lt is characteristic, for instance, that
the gov. of Viatka with its peasant Zemstvo had a post
organization in all the districts (they were 11), but
only in 7 stamps came into use. During the year of 1888
more than 700000 postal packages have been delivered
through the Zemstvo post of Vlatka. How far, from
reliable it is to judge about the activity of the
Zemstvo-Post after the occurrence of stamps, the distance
of the gov. of Simbirsk clearly shows: we have got stamps
of the year 1867 only for the Alatyir district, the post
being cost free in 5 districts out of eight.
In the localities where stamps were used their varieties amount to 3.000. Among other post-free post cards (distr. of Pskof), wrappers (distr. of Bogorodsk) and stamped envelopes were used (distr. of Bogorodsk, Bronitzy, Kadnikof, Kazan, Luga, Okhansk, Ostrof, Ustsyssolsk, Rzhef, Soroki, Totma, Tula, Volchansk; in Fatezh and Ttoropets starnped envelopes alone).
The Rural stamps were at first made at the local lithographing and typographing offices, their size and their pattern is very varied, sometimes, quite unknown in other branches of philately. They are often very big, so as to close a letter with envelopes being scarce in remote rural localities; some have the shape of a vertical or horizontal lozenge (Pskof, .Ostrof), some are oval (Vessiegonsk), round (Kassimof) or square. They were mostly made by lithographic method, less often manufactured at printing offices. Sometimes they were made with the help of a metallic land-jigger or printed on a hectograph. Stamps made at the larger towns with the help of better technical means are sometimes very fine specimens of graphic workmanship.
The Rural stamps had to be quite different from those of the State, especially at the beginning, when the Melitopol district stamps even confiscated on account of their too close similarity to those of the State; later on, however, even such stamps (Morshansk, Bugulma, Buguruslan) were tolerated; in the districts of Twer and Borovichi they were even made after the same pattern, differing only in color.
In some districts we observe a tendency towards new designs and the imitation of foreign stamps; in that of Griazovets, for instance, there were imitations of Swiss, Bavarian and Hungarian stamps. Some districts haven chosen a certain design, kept it permanently the separate issues differing from each other only in shades of color and in some details (Podolsk, Kamyslilof etc).
The earlier stamps have no perforation; later on, it
is very varied sometimes even made with the
sewing-machine. Very often some stamps of the same issue
have it, and some of them not. It happens, too, that the
stamps are perforated in one district only.
The local lithographers arranged some of the stamps horizontally for the sake of economizing the paper, if here was no place for a vertical arrangement; that is why we find some couché stamps among those of the Zemstvo. It happens rather often, that in a row of stamps one is turned upside down (téte-béche) either by mistake or as the result of printing stamps in groups repeatedly on the same sheet; this is a peculiar téte-béche type with a considerable space between the stamps.
Besides these particular features there are different types to be discerned among the Rural stamps. When a group of clichés was made, there was a slight difference between the single stamps; when the cliché was transferred to stone, there types alternated in a certain order. These stamps, together with their disposition-on the sheet, are of great importance for the discerning of the separate issues of stamps of the same pattern.
Among the peculiarities quite unknown in other
branches of philately, the following must be pointed out:
stamps with counterfoils bearing the same number; they were torn off and, did as quittances, certifying the delivery of the letter at the post; they were registered and thus enabled to control the dispatch of the letter to the addressee (Zadonsk, Kotelnich),
The Zemstvo-Post being meant to transfer the mail from the State post to remote localities, additory stamps very soon became necessary (Bogorodsk); instead of issuing special stamps for that purpose, the usual ones in some districts were marked so as to show that the postal package has not been paid for.
Sometimes stamps not of different color only but of
different value, too, were printed on the same sheet
(Griasovets, Biezhetsk, Rostof on Don, Bobrof Pskow etc).
The paper they were printed on was far from being uniform; one can see quite similar stamps printed on a different kind of paper. For discerning, if this is due to chance, or to the stamps belonging to different issues, it is necessary to consider other details the coloring, the space between the stamps, the shape of the perforation, etc.
The Zemstvo-stamps issued by the State-Paper Printing Office first appeared in 1884 and gradually came to prevail among others.There were 5 principal types of them:
- Made for the post of the Ostrof district; artistic design. small size (181/2x 241/2 mm), two - colored since 1885 and one-colored from the nineties for economy's sake. In 1887 similar stamps for the Lebedin-district appeared for the first time; they have been,two-colored up to 1916.
- Very soon a second type appeared, destined for the district of Arzanlas and marked out its size (22 1/2x 283/4, mm.) and the method of printing. The stamps were printed on a guilloché ground of the same color as the design, which was taken from the stamps that have been formerly manufactured and used in that district; the other Zemstvos have never imitated it.
- This is the Bielozersk and Bakhmut type appeared first in 1883 in the districts of Bielozersk and Yeletsk. Very soon the same design was taken up in the districts of Sarapul (1893), Stavropol (1894) Novouzensk (1897), Sumly (1898), Livny (1900) and Bakhmut (1901). Since 1902 they were substituted by stamps of the so called Ardatof type, but the former design came into use again, as the Zemstvo of Shadrinsk ordered clichés for stamps in 1910. There are three varieties of this type:
1) size 191/2x261/2, mm., one colored the general type of such stamps;
2) same size two-colored, the gnilloché ground and the design being of two different colors (Novouzensk and Sumy);
stamps having an additory frame at the distance of 1 mm and, consequently, a size of 22 x 29 mm. (some stamps of the Shadrinsk-district).
- Issued since 1901 exclusively for the Petrozavodsk-district, these stamps are less numerous. They are one colored and rather like those that in some towns are put by the police on passports.
A clear and artistic design is presented by the stamps of the Bielozersk and Bakhmut type soon substituted by that of Ardatof.Their sizes 191/2x261/2mm; they are always one-colored. First issued in 1902 for the Ardatof district, they became a favorite type at the State-Papers Printing Office as a model for stamps made for other districts to the very end of the Zemstvo Post's existence. Such stamps were used in 30 districts. In spite of their uniformity we can discern among them two varieties beside the principal type:
- the brown stamp of 1913 with a pink guilloché ground, printed for the district of Wessiegonsk;
- the general, type one colored with no hatching on the design in the middle of the upper part of the stamp (Dankof, Zolotonosha, Krasnouflimsk, Lgof and Chistopol).
The stamps issued by the State-Paper Printing office
have the same perforation (111/2, 121/2, and 1/213) but
even then we can observe varieties as to the size of the
holes formed by perforation. Different spaces between the
stamps are to be seen in some issues otherwise uniform
(Sarapul district); this helps us to discern the single
A very restricted number of stamps issued by the State-Paper Printing Office has no perforation at all. If there is a vertical perf., a horizontal one is never missing, either and vice-versa.
At the period of ordering stamps at the State-Paper Printing Office the Zemstvos sometimes had practically none left for use; the local manufacturing of stamps by lithographic method had to supply to that need. These stamps differed greatly from their model. A rare exception are the stamps of the Chistopol district that would scarcely differ at all from those issued by the Printing Office, if it were not for a differ perforation and wider margins.
As to the methods of canceling stamps at the post it was formerly usual to mark them with ink and to denote the date; later on special stamping came into use, but at the same time the former methods were used, too.
It ought to be pointed out that amateurs very often come across stamps not mentioned in any catalogue; they are either reprints differing from the original in coloring or proofs. As to the forged stamps they have sometimes quite a fantastic design unknown to any Zemstvo.
The Russian Rural stamps have been more taken notice of abroad than in Russia itself. The first work on them was published in 1875 in Brussels by the firm of .J.B. Moens. It was a catalogue of J. Koprovsky: .Les timbres post ruraux de Russia. Later on, the editors have included the Zemstvo-stamps into their general catalogue of Russian stamps, which has been published repeatedly during the nineties.
The Russian Rural-stamps have been published with special care in English catalogues. In The stamps collector's handbook by Edward L. Pembetton (1878) there are 50 pages of them, but the prices are not mentioned; this is omitted in Dr John Edward Gray's .Illustrated catalogue of postage stamps', too. Of all the works on Russian stamps in English the most prominent is W. Herrick's- Catalogue of the Russian rural stamps' published in 1896 by The Scott Stamp and Coin Co Ltd, New-York. A special local post catalogue, dealing largely with Russian stamps has been published up to 1899 in London by the firm of Stanley Gibbons. The German philatelic literature has also taken a considerable interest in Zemstvo-stamps, especially in catalogues. In the eighties Lübkert's well known work was published; in 1895 P. Treskow's Katalog der russischen Zemstwo Postwertzeichen in the Austria Philatelist'; this catalogue does not go farther than the stamps of Bogorodsk of 1891. In 1912 the firm Philipp Kosack in Berlin has published a Preiskatalog der Postwertzeichen der Russischen Landschaftsämter'.
As to the Russian works, the book of D. Chiudnofsky
has been completed and published in Kief in 1888 (.The
description of Russian Zemstvo-stamps, envelopes and
wrappers'). This book is not illustrated at all and does
not mention the prices; therefore, it is scarcely adapted
for practical use.
In 1914 P.P. Ganko has published a brochure on the Zemstvo Post of the Poltava district, where an amateur will find a great deal of material for his work.
In 1910- 16 the Catalogue of Russia Rural Stamps' by C.C. Schmidt was published by numbers, but remained incomplete; it reaches up to the letter K.
The collectioneering of Zemstvo-stamps in Russia has not been developed as it ought to be according to the interest that those stamps afford; it has been the pursuit of a restricted number of amateurs.
The Dresden Philatelist Society had in St. Petersburg a section,which was the chief center of collectioneering Zemstvo-stamps. This section was founded at about 1881; F.L. Breitfuss soon became the head of it. He had a very large correspondence with the Zemstvo Offices. It was not easy work in Russia in those times; very often the Zemstvos would refuse to forward stamps (that of Alatyir, for instance) under the plea of the stamp being distilled exclusively for the use of the local post. Breitfuss's correspondence has been handed over to the society and presents a great deal of material for further work. G.R. Kirchner, the Vice-President of the Petersburg section, and E.S. Lenz, the secretary, have been studying Zemstvo stamps and Lenz had them sent from the Zemstvo-Offices in order to distribute them among the members of the society. At that period C. C. Schmidt and A. C. Fabergé, members of the society began to study these stamps, too. After the death of Breitfuss and the retirement of Leuz Schmidt was elected President, and L.L. Breitluss-Secretary of the society. Breitfuss carried on Lenz's work in supplying the members with stamps, forwarded directly from the Zemstvo Offices. About this time the section of the Dresden Society was reformed and reorganized as the Russian Philatelist Society of St. Petersburg.
Another center of the same studies was in Moscow. Among the members of the Philatelist society there E. von der Beeck, A. G. Go'dstege, Sievert, Hornung and Albert Steldel must be mentioned.
The materies that they have collected enabled Schmidt and Fabergé to begin their work Die Postwertzeichen der Russischen Landschaftsämter which began to be published by numbers in 1908 with illustrations in separate pages. This is classical and complete study of the large material that was at hand. Up to 1916 20 issues appeared, forming two large sized volumes of about 900 pages with 102 prototypical tables. This work was stopped at the letter L'; later on, it has altogether ceased to appear and the remains of this edition have mostly gone astray. The collectioneering of Zemstvo-stamps was therefore again lacing a difficult position. It was necessary to collect the rest of the material into a guide book for amateurs; this work was commenced in 1918 by a section of Leningrad philatelist (S. S. Antonof, L. L. Breitfuss, A. C. Fabergé, A. A. Khalfan, A. A. Kraus, K.K. Melikof) with the purpose of producing a simple and popular guide-book, so as to help to discern the various types of stamps. Several difficulties chiefly of financial character arose during the work and only now in 1925 it is being published under the leadership of F.G. Cuchin Commissioner of the State Philatelist Organization.
Updated on 24.07.20
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