Russia

THis being a short and random trip around the world, I refuse to get too stuck in Russia! I have already made a start on some iteresting material I have on the German advance into what was Tsarist Russia and is now sovereign Lithuania elsewhere on this site. here I shall show one or two outstanding designs from the Bolshevik revolution period, which show just how much it was an aesthetic as well as political upset, and a pair of stamps that although they are described as for postage, I cannot find listed. Their inflationary denominations suggest that they were issued in the currency collapse of 1921, and their designs suggest those hard times. But were they actually in use? And if so, where and when?

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What is shown here? Could it be an outline map of Western Russia, with the unmistakable coastline of Scandinavia towards the curve of the earth?

A query to Stampboards has elicited that these are known as the Odessa Famine stamps, a fantasy issue printed in Italy, and showing a remarkable gallery of expressionist images.  

Here are three examples from the thirties, when life could still be deeply unpleasant, but the regime was determined to present a brave and smiling face to its citizens. 

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The design celebrating Georgia, from the ethnicities issue of 1933. Some of the ethnic groups pictured in this issue are now, like Georgia, independent, ironically since the Soviet Union collapsed. Others struggle to maintain an identity now, having been brutally treated at the very time of this issue. 

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The 1939 Farm Fair. I’m not sure what the 16,000 litres on the bucket means, exactly. 


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Red Army - an amazing design - a few lines conveying amazing energy and commitment. 

Lastly, some places:

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Here is a station that looks like a church. It’s not some damning evidence of Soviet atheism. After all, in London we have as our European terminus, St Pancras - a most awesome Gothic creation on the scale of any cathedral, and built about 150 years ago in more Christian times. This here is the Kiev terminus, in Moscow. It is called a ‘ВОКЗАЛ’ [Vauxhall] as Russian rail stations are, because the Tsar called the first Russian terminus that, after the pleasure gardens which lay at the end of the line, outside St Petersburg. And they were called the Vauxhall Gardens, as were several such gardens at the time, after the famous and wonderful Vauxhall Pleasure Gardens in London. So. that’s two references to London, in a page about Russia. 

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A station, if you read the scipt, but no railway. It is a pumping station on the Volga-Moscow canal, I think at the Moscow end. 

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The Hibinsky Mountains, in this engraved high-value definitive of 1959, [click image to enlarge] are just a backdrop to the signs of modernity, overhead power lines and a railway train. Discovering the landscape and its wealth was part of the Soviet adventure. Take an extract from New Russia's Primer, a book written for use with 12 to 14 year-olds in Russian schools, to teach them about the Five-Year plan of construction. 

‘During the ten years following 1919 the Academy of Science organised three hundred and seventy-one expeditions! And how many scouts did our other scientific institutions send out! How many persons have been commissioned to explore those places where we have decided to build railways, to dig canals, to put down coal mines, to construct factories!

    Throughout the entire country our scouts are at work. What, then, do the scouts say? Have they succeeded in discovering anything?

    They tell me that we are still altogether ignorant about our country. They say that as yet our country has not even been discovered.

    Beyond the Polar Circle in the middle of the tundra of Karelia, they have found the huge Hibinsky Mountains. And do you know what these mountains are made of? They are made of most valuable raw materials - nephelite and apatite. Nephelite will give us glass. Apatite will give us phosphates - fertiliser for our fields. And of these raw materials there are tens, yes, hundreds of millions of tons.’

A new settlement, Apatite, is mapped close to these mountains, at 34° E, 67.7° N.