Monday, March 29, 2010

Boren Fellowships and Scholarships



"Desire to Learn Russian Heating Up Again"

March 1, 2010

Last year, over 8% of Boren Scholarship and Fellowship recipients were studying Russian.  While some of those students were just beginning their study of the language, others were building on years of language study at the college and, in some cases, the high school level.  According to today's article in The Washington Post, that number may be on the rise.  The number of Russian programs in high schools, which had been shrinking since the fall of the Iron Curtain in 1991, has stabilized and may even be growing. 

Read The Washington Post article, "Desire to Learn Russian Heating Up Again."


Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Georgian conflict and bank bonds.

Back during the invasion of Georgia by the Russian military, it seemed as if the complaints by the West were largely ignored. To the contrary, they weren't. A couple months back it came out that the Russian government was in talks with the Chinese to dump Fannie Mae/Freddie Mac bonds (this is back during the financial meltdown) to punish the U.S.

The Chinese politely declined their offer, but seem to have second thoughts now over America's arms deal with Taiwan.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Rachmaninoff Vespers

The Rachmaninoff Vespers, or All Night Vigil, is a set of pieces for a cappella choir. The piece was completed in less than two weeks and was one of Rachmaninoff's favorite compositions. The work as a whole remains a vital part of the choral repertoire. The set is as follows:

1 Приидите, поклонимся Come, Let Us Worship
2 Благослови, душе моя (греческого роспева) Praise the Lord, O My Soul (Greek Chant)
3 Блажен муж Blessed is the Man
4 Свете тихий (киевского роспева) O Gentle Light (Kiev Chant)
5 Ныне отпущаеши (киевского роспева) Lord, Now Lettest Thou (Kiev Chant)
6 Богородице Дево, радуйся Rejoice, O Virgin (Hail Mary)
7 Шестопсалмие The Six Psalms
8 Хвалите имя Господне (знаменного роспева) Praise the Name of the Lord (Znamenny Chant)
9 Благословен еси Господи (знаменного роспева) Blessed Art Thou, O Lord (Znamenny Chant)
10 Воскресение Христово видевше Having Beheld the Resurrection
11 Величит душа моя Господа My Soul Doth Magnify the Lord
12 Славословие великое (знаменного роспева) The Great Doxology (Znamenny Chant)
13 Тропарь: Днесь спасение (знаменного роспева) Troparion: Today Salvation is Come (Znamenny Chant)
14 Тропарь: Воскрес из гроба (знаменного роспева) Troparion: Thou Didst Rise from the Tomb (Znamenny Chant)
15 Взбранной Воеводе (греческого роспева) O Queen Victorious (Greek Chant)

Perhaps my favorite is the Eighth song.

First Russian Mobile Phone- Unit 8

I found this interesting article on

This is the photo of the first Soviet cellular phone. The development of such devices has started in 1958 as a cooperative project by the group of the Soviet scientists from different cities.

It was a fully functional mobile phone that was placed in the car of the Soviet elite. It had a full duplex link and in order to dial a phone one had just pick up the receiver and dial a number using this big square buttons with letters and digits on them. On the first models there were even old-style round dial.

In a common Soviet town the phone base station had only 16 radio channels, but it was enough to serve the local Communist elite with a mobile phone link.

There was used a 150 MHz frequency, so the antenna placed on the roof of a high building could give a coverage area of 40-50 miles.

The first devices were started in production in 1963, and till 1970 more than 30 Soviet cities were covered with this elite mobile phone network. As far as the author knows, in USA there was also such kind of mobile telephone system but it started a bit later – at 1969.

The system had even some modern day features as “conference-call”. And there was a hierarchy in using this system. People who hold higher Communist positions could throw of the line the lower posts when they needed to talk urgently but all the lines were busy. Some could call only local numbers and more advanced Communists could call worldwide.

In the late 70s there appeared a new, less monstrous model of the Soviet mobile phone. It could be conveniently placed between front passenger chairs in the car, not in the trunk as before.

The Soviet authorities even didn’t think about providing the service to common people. The mobile phone could give another level of freedom to its owner, and it was not what they expected from the citizens.

~M. Эzra Keith

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Pavlovsky Posad Shawls - Unit 8

Stumbling failed me this time, but I did get to this indirectly by browsing English Russia:

The town of Pavlovsky Posad is known for its exquisite shawls with intricate needlework and elaborate designs. An ancient Russian town about sixty kilometers from Moscow, it is widely known as the home of hereditary textile workers. The Textile Finishing Factory has been creating shawls since 1795. The secret dye formulas were created by various artisans and have been passed down through generations of textile craftsmen at Pavlovsky.

The shawls are rather pretty and amazing to look at. I found some examples through a simple Google search, and if you want to do the same and see some more just image search "Pavlovsky Posad shawls."

For the full article on the Russian Life site click here.

Part 2 of what is now a 3 part series on Russian military heroes:

Early life: Alexander Vasilivich Suvorov was born on November 24, 1729 in Moscow. His family was nobility from Novgorod and his father was already an established general. He was a sickly child and his father expected him to enter the civil service. However, when he was twelve a neighbor general named Hannibal, who was a black general presented as a gift to Peter the Great, was so impressed by Suvorov's knowledge that he personally insisted that Suvorov be allowed to choose his career. He joined the Army at the age of 17 as a private.

Military career: After joining the military at 17 he participated in the Seven Years War where he served with distinction. He rose to the rank of colonel in 1762 at the age of 33. Then he served in Poland where he captured Krakow and paved the way for the first partition of Poland. He was then promoted to major general where he was sent to Turkey. He spent most of his military career between Turkey and Poland where he never lost a battle. He died in 1800 with the rank of Field Marshal, after fighting French Revolutionary armies in Austria including most of Napoleon's best generals, after given a military triumph through Moscow. He was buried at the Church of the Annunciation at the Alexander Nevsky Monastery (remember him?) with the simple inscription "Here lies Suvorov".

Personal quirks: Suvorov was the general every enlisted soldier wishes he served under. He would routinely joke with his men, sleeping where they slept, and eating what they ate. He was a firm believer in finding alternative solutions to problems and teaching his men to think for themselves. The best example of this was at his funeral. When the procession was carrying his casket through the church door they could not fit the coffin through the door, several of his former soldiers jumped out from the crowd yelling "Suvorov must pass no matter what!" and turned the casket on its side. Below are a few of his more memorable quotes.

"What is difficult in training will become easy in a battle",
"The bullet is a fool, the bayonet is a fine chap",
"Perish yourself but rescue your comrade!".
"attack with the cold steel–push hard with the bayonet!"

Legacy: Suvorov is widely remembered as one of the greatest generals of all time by Russians, comparable to Alexander the Great and Genghis Khan. He also has a medal named after him, the Order of Suvorov, which is given to generals who complete a decisive offensive campaign against the enemy.

Rimsky- Korsakov Presents a Fairytale: Scheherazade

I could write hundreds of book on Russian music history and music literature but this week around I'll keep things short sweet and too the point! I'd like to share a work by the famous Russian composer Nikolai Rimsky- Korsakov entitled Scheherazade (Шехерезада ) or his Symphonic Suite Op. 35. Written during the winter of 1887, Scheherazade is considered one of Nikolai's most popular works with it's rich colors and clear sense of line. In my own orchestral experiences I was taught by my professor (who grew up in the soviet union) that this idea of musical fairytale is exactly what makes the composition so Russian in nature. For all the famine and suffering the peasants of Russia faced, the tradition of storytelling is what kept their culture alive through the rough patches and that to me is what makes Scheherazade beautiful.
About the story, Scheherazade comes from The Book of One Thousand and One Nights (A.K..A The Arabian Nights). Korsakov begins began his program notes in the premier with the opening lines:

“The Sultan Schariar, convinced that all women are false and faithless, vowed to put to death each of his wives after the first nuptial night. But the Sultana Scheherazade saved her life by entertaining her lord with fascinating tales, told seriatum, for a thousand and one nights. The Sultan, consumed with curiosity, postponed from day to day the execution of his wife, and finally repudiated his bloody vow entirely.

In a nutshell this is the story. A barbaric and woman-hating Sultan has decided that each night he will take a new wife to bed and in the morning he will give the order for her to be beheaded. Scheherazade hears this story and decides that she will offer herself as the Sultan's next bride to put an end to the slaying, despite her father's desperate pleas to stay home. When she arrives she commences the marriage but as they prepare for bed Scheherazade stages a conversation with one of the servants in which she reveals that she is a world renowned storyteller. Eavesdropping, the sultan demands to hear one of her so called stories and so she obliges him. The Sultan becomes so enthralled by her abilities that he allows her to live one more night on the condition that she will share another story. On thousand and one stories later, the Sultan is a changed man who has seen the error of his ways. He proclaims his true love for his beloved Sultana, Scheherazade.
To play the role of Scheherazade, Korskov casts the orchestra's concertmaster (solo violinist) with each movement containing the same winding and ethereal solo. Occasionally the violinist is accompanied by a counter melody in the solo cello or solo woodwind. Each movement is presented as one of the stories Scheherazade would tell. The first movement, The Sea and Sinbad's Ship, is an introduction in which the lugubrious theme of the Sultan is contrasted by the violin solo. The orchestra plays a broad fanfare than begins to paint the picture of the orient that Korsakov was trying to achieve. The second movement, The Kalendar Prince, is a fantastic narrative where a kaleidescope of ideas are explored. The third movement, The Young Prince and The Young Princess, is a love story with a dance presented first by the strings and then expanded/embellished by solos throughout the orchestra. Finally the last movement entitled Festival At Baghdad. The Sea. The Ship Breaks against a Cliff Surmounted by a Bronze Horseman offers a triumphant conclusion and finally a peaceful decent into sleep by the star of the show, the narrator Scheherazade. Below I have included recordings of this lovely work of art. Please listen and enjoy!

I kind of want one

EnglishRussia never fails to deliver articles about bizarre goings-on in Russia, and this instance is no different. I found an article about a guy who decided that merely wearing a tinfoil hat was not enough to protect his brain from alien and/or government mind control rays. His wife wouldn't let him cover every interior surface of their house in tinfoil, so he moved into their garage and proceeded to foil the place up. (click for pictures)

I really like the article's introduction, too:

"The best way to get yourself hundred percent proved protection from brain slugs and alien brain-control transmissions you can wear a tin-foil hat. That’s a well known fact. But in order to get two hundred percent protection you need to move further and take some more serious approach for your brain security."

That's right, folks. You heard it here first. In today's world, with our incredible technologies, brain security ought to be number one on your list. Bust out that tinfoil and get to redecoratin', quick, before the government knows what you're doing!

That said, I kind of want a tinfoil shack...

Unit 8 Blog

Hillary Clinton Tries To Take Advantage of Her Russian Counterpart

On Thursday, Sergey Lavrov, head of Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, conducted a joint news conference with Hillary Clinton, US Secretary of State, in Moscow. They both listened to a report regarding the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty.

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, left, speaks as Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov looks on during their news conference after the talks in Moscow (AP photo)
U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, left, speaks as Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov looks on during their news conference after the talks in Moscow (AP photo)

According to news agencies, Lavrov reminded journalists that in February and March of this year Dmitry Medvedev and Barack Obama talked on the phone about the issue. The Minister stressed that Russia and the US should stick to the agreements reached by the Presidents during their February conversation, and in particular, the conversation they had on March 13.

Russian Foreign Minister said that "We are at the end of the final straight and we hope that very soon the negotiators will announce that their work has been completed."

He added that it would take some time, but only because of technicalities. He said that he saw no signs that something was wrong.

Pavel Zolotarev, deputy director of the Institute for the USA and Canada:

“I believe that there have not been any critical issues that would not allow signing of the agreement since December of 2009. Disagreements we have now are mostly caused by certain stubbornness of both parties who want to demonstrate the strength of their position. Maybe, in many ways for the American party it has to do with upcoming ratification of the agreement in the US Parliament.

"As for the Russian Parliament, I think there will be no problems, despite the statements of Boris Gryzlov, if the Russian President signs the agreement.

"As for the disagreement… The American party suggests leaving the article in the agreement regarding the exchange of telemetry data during missile testing. Russia has the reason to say “well, it is not the cold war any more, why do we need these detailed characteristics?” If you want to keep out rockets at gunpoint and need to know these parameters, then let’s be frank, we will consider that we are correct in our concerns and your missile defense systems are aimed at Russian rockets. We can find a compromise here as well.

"If Americans insist, it has to go both ways. On the one hand, Americans receive our telemetry data about our missiles being tested, but then they have to provide us with their telemetry data about their new missiles that will replace the current ones.

"I do not understand the jousting. If the missile defense system will be further developed, threatening Russia, it will be the last agreement. It is obvious to everybody.

"Now we have the last, very significant stage ahead of us, and it is very important both for the US and Russia. This is the conference regarding Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty. The main threat is not in the nuclear weapons of the US and Russia, it is in proliferation of nuclear weapons.”

Komsomolskaya Pravda

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Year 2 Unit 8 Blog - History of the Russian Postal System

Year 2 Unit 8 Blog - History of the Russian Postal System
So Russia has given us great literary classics (Tolstoy, Dostoevsky, Turgenev, Pushkin, Gogol, Lermontov, etc.,) along with great music (Mussorgsky, Tchaikovsky, Glinka, Rimsky-Korsokov, Borodin,Cui, etc.,) and other great cultural gifts.

Now add artistic postal materials to the list.

In Russia, envelopes and stamps are pure works of art with a rich history.

From Wikipedia -

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 1716 the first post offices opened, in Moscow and Saint Petersburg.

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.

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.

Local postal systems used stamps referred to as Zemstvo stamps, from the term for local government begun under Alexander II in 1864.

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 laid paper watermarked with a pattern of wavy lines and "EZGB" in Cyrillic.

The "grain" of the laid paper was usually horizontal, but for a minority of each value the grain is vertical.

In September 1865, the Shlisselburg district became the first of the zemstvo offices to issue stamps; the system was officially organized by a decree of 27 August 1870.

In 1874, Russia became one of the original 22 countries forming the General Postal Union (later the Universal Postal Union).

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.

At the end of 1904 Russia issued its first semi-postal stamps. The four values were each sold at 3k over face to provide for orphans of casualties in the Russo-Japanese War.

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 cardboard 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

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 1912, 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.

Now for a timeline -

Ninth Century

Wow. Twelve hundred years ago.

Way back then, the earliest known Russian writings referred to messages being sent from person to person, between one town and another.

We don't really know how these were sent, but the one thing that we do know for sure is that the "mail" in some form or another dates back a very long way!

And just to put this into perspective, the very first ever known postal document predates this by quite a bit.

Tenth Century

The casual methods of communication evolve into a system of messengers across the land, enabling territories to summon troops, and for governments to pass important messages (about such things as taxes!) to the districts that they governed.


Letters that were sent from one town to another were typically in the form of a roll, with a tied on address label, and the whole thing sealed with either a wax or lead seal.

Needless to say, none of the wax seals have survived, but the earliest known lead seal dates back to 1079, and records that the document so sealed was from the governor of Tmutarakan, a gentleman by the name of Ratibor.


The earliest known cover from Russia is what is known as the "La Tana" cover sent this year to Venice.

La Tana is nowadays known as Azov.


By this time, the postal system had improved to the point where there were some 1600 different postal stations spread across the country.

Mail travelled fairly efficiently and regularly - for example, a letter from Moscow to Novgorod (a distance of about 350 miles) would usually take 3 days in transit.

(Dare I point out that today mail between those two cities frequently takes considerably longer!!!)


A war between Russia and Poland ended and as part of the peace treaty, the two countries agreed on the establishment of a regular postal route between Moscow and Warsaw.

This marked the start of Russia's first regular international postal service.


The first post offices to be established under Peter the Great's new uniform postal service structure were opened in Moscow and St Petersburg.

Along with all his other reforms, he paid attention to the postal service, and endeavored to create an overarching uniform structure to what had developed into a complex mess of different jurisdictions, different government departments, and various private contractors.

Peter the Great's reforms and improvements to the postal service established the rudiments of a uniform postal system throughout the entire vast country that is Russia, and a code of procedure that safeguarded the fast and safe delivery of mail.

28 November 1765

The first known Russian postmark can be traced back to this date.

It takes the form of a single line with the word ST.PETERSBOVRG appearing exactly as written here - in English not Cyrillic.

It is on a letter that was sent from St Petersburg to Pernow.

General practice prior to about this time was to record in some form of ledger at the receiving post office details about each letter, where it was going to, and what the amount charged was (based on weight and distance).

Sometimes some hand written details would be written on the back of the letter to record these facts, and sometimes not.

16 August 1781

The first official reference to postmarks occurs on this date in a note from the head of the Riga Post Office that recommends the introduction of postal marks in all post offices as proof that the appropriate fees had been collected.

This recommendation was speedily acted on, and in the postal regulations of 1782 is a requirement that each post office will have a postmark that states the name of the town as proof that postal charges have been collected.

This original concept of postmarks was based solely on a way of demonstrating that postal charges had been paid, rather than as a way of recording any details about the delivery of the letter.

The concept of recording the date that the letter was received by the post office came later, and was slowly introduced between about 1816-1818.


In a major step towards adhesive stamps as we know them today, the postal authorities introduced envelopes that were pre-stamped to record the payment of a 5-kopek postal fee for the local posts in St Petersburg and Moscow.

1 December 1848

The concept of the pre-stamped envelopes proved popular and successful, and so was extended to all post offices throughout Russia

September 1856

The rapidly increasing popularity of the postal services means that further efficiencies are needed, and so it is decided to introduce adhesive postage stamps.

The stamps are printed, distributed, and even placed on sale in mid/late December of 1857, but (in theory) are not to be used until 1 January 1858.

1 January 1858J

Russia officially adopts its first stamp - an imperforate 10 kopek stamp, good for the postage of a letter weighing up to 1 "lot".

A "lot" is a measure of weight, approximately equal to just under half an ounce (0.45oz) or 12.8grams.

An announcement on 10 December 1857 referred to not only this stamp but also 20k and 30k stamps as well, and they actually went on sale shortly after that date, quickly becoming available at all post offices throughout the country.

They were not valid for use prior to 1 Jan, 1858, but SG reports there are known examples of them being used in December, however.

10 July 1864J

A new design of stamps was issued - the first stamps lasted a long time!
These new stamps were for new lower values - 1, 3 and 5 k.

Shortly afterwards (June 65) they were reissued with a different perf, and at the same time a set of 10, 20 & 30k stamps were also reissued on the same design as originally (just using the new perf gauge).

The reason for the new lower values has to do with international mail.

Until this time, all mail sent abroad had to be prepaid in cash only (see item below dated 1874), but in 1864 the Postal Department decided to allow international mail also to be paid using stamps, and so they needed to introduce some smaller value stamps so as to be able to make up the various irregular fees for international postage.

September 1865

The first zemstvo post office opens and issues stamps in the Shlisselburg district of the St Petersburg region.

27 August 1870

On this day an Imperial decree was published regularizing and authorizing the establishment of the Zemstvo postal system.

9 October 1874G

Russia was one of the 22 countries that formed the General Postal Union on this date in Berne, Switzerland.

The date has been commemorated ever since as "World Post Day".

This arrangement greatly simplified all aspects of conveying mail internationally, and also allowed for simplified and generally lower postal rates as well.

For example, prior to this convention there were some 1200 different rates for the transport of mail between the 22 different member countries - subsequent to the convention this reduced down to - only one!

The developments and efficiencies brought about by this convention caused a rapid and substantial growth in international mail.

The concept proved very popular amongst countries, with many more countries joining the original 22, and in 1878 the name of the organization was changed to the "Universal Postal Union".

19 June 1875J

New stamp values were released, and with a new design as well.

A 2k and 8k stamp came out at this time, and a 7k was added in March of 79.

In addition, the 10 and 20k stamps finally came out in this design, too - the first change since 1858, 17 years previously!

One of the stamps issued in 1875 for 8 kopecks.
14 December 1883J

Another new design is released, a mere eight and a half years since the last design!

This also saw the first issue of 14k, 35k and 70k value stamps.

January 1884J

Shortly after the issue of the 70k stamp, which was the highest value stamp issued to date, new stamps are issued in January 1884 for 3.5 rubles and 7 rubles.


The first issue of 4k, 50k, and 1R stamps appear.

A 7 kopeck stamp issued in 1883 and used in 1889.

18 December 1904

A set of four stamps were issued and sold for 3k over their face values (face values were 3, 5, 7 & 10 k) with the extra 3k being donated to a fund for the orphans of soldiers who participated in the Russian-Japanese war that had recently ended with Russia's disastrous naval defeat.

Only a relatively small quantity of these stamps were printed - 278,000; 208,000; 332,000 and 191,000 respectively.

1 January 1905J
The first issues of a 15k and 25k stamp appear.

1 June 1906

The first issues of a 5R and 10R stamp appear.

2 January 1913J

The first issues of a 2R and 3R stamp appear.

9 October 1913J

The Russian Postal Service converts to metrics and the use of "lots" as a measure of weight is replaced by multiples of 15grams (just over half an ounce - 0.53oz).

October 1915J

Russia is starting to fall apart.

A shortage of coins caused the government to print "currency stamps" - these were normal stamps on one side, but on the other side was written (in ancient Russian script) "having circulation on a par with silver money".

The stamps were printed onto card instead of paper, and no gum was applied to the reverse.

Although intended primarily as a substitute for coinage, some were used for postal purposes.

World War 1 (which started late in 1914) disrupted Russia's international postal routes (which tended to go via Germany or Austria, both countries that Russia was now at war with) while at the same time, internal mail volumes rose sharply due to correspondence between soldiers at the front and their families back home.

Add to that the first twinges of inflation, and a shortage of postal staff, and the postal service was having a very difficult time (as was the rest of the country - one must keep a perspective on such things, mustn't one!).

2 March 1917J (= 15 March 1917G)

After an uprising in St Petersburg (recently renamed to Petrograd) the Tsar abdicates.

A provisional government is formed under Prince Lvov, which is replaced by a second provisional government under Kerensky on 7 July J (= 20 July G).

During this time some stamps were issued as part of existing sets, all still bearing the distinctive double-headed eagle emblem which was the symbol of the (up until then) ruling Romanov dynasty.

No special new stamps were issued apart from some more currency stamps.

25 October 1917J (= 7 November 1917G)

With the support of the armed forces, Vladimir Ilyich Lenin seized power in Petrograd.

Elections a couple of weeks later showed them to be in a minority position, and the country rapidly fell into civil war for the next several years, with various alternate groups fighting against the Bolsheviks.

The civil war was essentially over by late 1920, to be replaced by a period of hyperinflation, settling down again in 1923.

What was formerly Imperial Russia now became known as the Russian Socialist Federal Soviet Republic (abbreviated RSFSR).

This is a dreadfully confusing (or amazingly interesting - depending on your point of view) period of Russian postal history.

Many of the breakaway groups issued their own stamps, all manner of different surcharges were applied to pre-existing stamps, and confusion and chaos generally reigned supreme!

January 1918J

The new Soviet government initially continued to use existing stamps - it was way too preoccupied with a desperate struggle for survival to consider such lesser things as new stamp designs!

However, in January 1918 they authorized the postal use of some three Postal Savings Bank stamps - a 1k, 5k and 10k stamp, all still bearing the Romanov double-headed eagle.

7 November 1918

The first RSFSR stamps were issued today - a 35k and a 70k stamp showing an image of a sword cutting through chains.

Important note : Although not generally credited as such by the major catalogs, White suggests that this stamp was actually designed and "prepared" during the brief period of the Kerensky Government the previous year.

If so, I think it significant to appreciate that the stamp that is generally considered to be the first issue of the RSFSR government actually was not, but rather is the only issue of the Kerensky government!

Note that even after this date - more than a year after the revolution - the government continued to issue new stamps in old imperial patterns, such as the 1R, 3R and 7R stamps issued in November and December of 1918.

One of the first stamps issued under the Soviet Government in 1918, known as "Sword Breaking Chain", worth 35 kopecks; it is more valuable when its used because so few were used in postal services since pre-Revolutionary stamps still existed.

1918-22 period

Note that this largely anecdotal information on collecting in Russia is based on material kindly provided by Anatoly Kiryushkin of the WSRP.

The Civil War has a massive impact on philately in Russia.

Most serious collectors either were forced to flee from Russia, or were casualties, either on the battlefields or in the basements of the notorious Cheka secret police.

As for their collections - confiscated, destroyed, or stolen.

A stamp from stamp worth 250 rubles in 1921 that was marked up to 7,500 rubles in 1922.

19 April, 1922

An obligatory tax stamp was issued on this date.

This was the first of such stamps (others followed).

There were four different designs in the set, with values shown as 2T, another 2T, 4T and 6T.

The "T" (which is the same letter in both English and Cyrillic) stands for "thousand" and means that the stamp values are actually 2000R, and so on.

These stamps had no stand-alone postal value but were added as a surcharge to registered letters, money orders and parcels in addition to the regular applicable postal charges (and stamps).

Proceeds from the stamps went to help famine relieve in the Roston-on-Don region.

15 July, 1922

Sort of the first airmail stamp was issued on this date.

It was actually a Consular Fee stamp issued only at the Russian Embassy in Berlin, and showed values in both German Marks and Russian Rubles and were used for mail transmitted from the Embassy back to Russia via the Berlin-Moscow air service.

19 August, 1923

The first Soviet stamps are issued.

Interestingly enough they are commemoratives, not definitives (these came later, in October), and were issued to denote an Agricultural Exhibition in Moscow.

1923-30 period

Those who survived the previous period returned to philately plus the state programs of education started to use philately as a form of distributing knowledge to the population as a whole (fascinating concept - I must say it works as I recognize a lot more Russian painters, writers, etc, after having seen them repeatedly on stamps!).

Numerous philatelic societies were established and a new generation of collectors joined the hobby.

1931-41 period

During this period - the era of the worst totalitarism in the history of the USSR (under the rule of Stalin) the authorities became to understand that collectors have too many contacts and know too much outside of the confines of official propaganda.

Moreover philatelic societies (as any other unofficial community of more than one person) were looked upon suspiciously as potentially counterrevolutionary organizations.

Accordingly well-known and active collectors either went to labor camps or were killed.

During this period the collections of such unfortunates were accurately confiscated and sold to finance the rising Soviet military industry.

April 1940

The role of stamps as a wartime propaganda vehicle is applied for the first time.

Curiously enough, World War 1 (1914-18) went entirely unremarked, philatelically speaking, in Russia.

However April 1940 sees the release of the first war themed stamps for World War 2, with a series of five stamps recording Russia's occupation of new territory.

Interestingly Scott, Michel and Liapin record this as the Red Army being welcomed to Western Ukraine and Western Byelorussia whereas SG says the stamps denote the occupation of Eastern Poland.

The cheery Russian soldier holding a happy child on the 10k, and the friendly villagers welcoming a tank crew on the 30k stamps bore little reality to the grim brutality that was occurring.

These early stamps had yet to record the horror of war, which subsequently was more realistically portrayed philatelically.

13 August 1941

Philatelic support for the change in Russia's war fortunes is quick to follow.

Less than two months after their change in sides, they release a stamp encouraging men to volunteer for the Army.

The stamp shows a soldier-bidding farewell to his mother, underneath which is the slogan "Be a Hero!"


Collectors who survived the previous period continue to die either at front during the "Great Patriotic War" or have their collections confiscated by, this time, German administrations if they find themselves within occupied territory.

In 1944 and 1945 things went other way round - Russian soldiers and officers (with any interest to stamps) "confiscated" private collections in Hungary, Romania, Austria and Germany and a flood of stamps went to Russia to fill children’s collections with rarities.

While these "enthusiastic amateurs" brought home stamps as part of their war "souvenirs", the officials did it more seriously, moving to Russia entire postal archives, State collections and especially accumulations of stamps formerly confiscated by the Nazis all over Europe.

(Anatoly writes that while a beginning collector, he knew a Polish Jew who was a stamp dealer before the war.

The whole war he spent in a concentration camp and survived because of his philatelic knowledge - the Nazis needed specialists to sort out confiscated collections.

When the Russians took Poland he was brought to Russia together with stamps and continued the work in NKVD camps till 1951).


During this - a relative golden era in Russian philatelic terms - there was the rising of a new generation of collectors.

Shops are full of nice stamps at prices next to nothing, and collectors were not so afraid to communicate with one another, as after the war the value of human life was ascribed a modest amount of value.

Stamp clubs were established in major cities under the overall management of official societies such as the Artists' Union, Theatre societies and similar organizations.

4 July, 1957

Russia releases a stamp to commemorate the world "International Geophysical Year" showing a telescope and the sky.

This is significant as I believe it to be the first overtly space themed stamp released.

This first stamp is the precursor of what is soon to become a common and popular theme.

Indeed, in the remaining half of this year eleven space themed stamps are released.

5 November 1957

A dramatic illustration of the importance of stamps to national pride and propaganda is provided today. Barely a month after Sputnik 1 was launched, a stamp is released to commemorate this achievement.

This stamp proves so popular that its first print run of 3 million is quickly sold out and a second print run of 2.5 million is released on 28 December.

This stamp was followed up a few weeks later by an overprint of a stamp commemorating the birth centenary of Russian rocket pioneer K E Tsiolkovsky.

The stamp was originally issued on 7 October (2 million copies), just three days after the Sputnik launch, and was overprinted to say "4 X 57 First Artificial Satellite of the World" and a print run of 115,000 (yes, this short print run does make this quite a valuable and collectible stamp, but beware - counterfeits are known to exist) was released on 28 November.


Stalin dies and Kruschev takes over power.

This was a period of liberalization in the USSR.

Many local philatelic societies and clubs were established all over the USSR, but, please note, they were not societies or clubs from the British or American point of view.

As no philatelic dealers, apart from state philatelic shops and mail deals of individual "collectors" existed, the societies and clubs' main function was a place for collectors meeting to exchange, sell and buy stamps.

From 1958 - 10 kopeck postage stamp depicting a 16th century mail courier for centinial anniversary of Russian postage stamps.

From 1958 - 10 kopeck postage stamp depicting a medieval scribe for centinial anniversary of Russian postage stamps.
1 January, 1961

The USSR revalued its currency.

Ten old ruble were now worth one new ruble, ten old kopecks were now worth one new ruble.

A new set of definitives were released on 1 January showing the new values, with values 1,2,3,4,6,10 & 16 kopeck.

12 April, 1961

Russia's dramatically extends its lead in the space race today when Colonel Yuri Gagarin becomes the first man in space.

This date - 12 April - becomes an annual anniversary usually denoted by the issue of a set of space themed stamps for "Cosmonauts' Day".

13 April, 1961

Wow. The very next day, Russia release a set of three stamps commemorating Gagarin's accomplishment! Definitely a pre-planned and coordinated event.


The relationship between local stamp clubs and their local authorities varied widely from region to region.

Some local authorities supported the hobby while others paid little attention.

At the same time, "competition" in the form of trading via local "flea markets" was becoming more intense.

So in 1966 the National Philatelic Society (VOF) was established.

This was an interesting time in the Soviet Union with "double standards of thinking" and the VOF was a good reflection of this in Philately.

The society founders (activists of local societies) promoted the idea of the society (to the various relevant authorities) as a means of publicizing USSR stamps and the Communist Party ideals.

Both sides knew well that it was rubbish - really, collectors simply needed a place for official meeting to deal with stamps and guarantees to protect themselves from local authorities' unpredictable suggestions.

The higher authorities understood this, but needed a decent reason to support philately, which was considered by all to be the publicizing and promoting of the underlying Communist agenda.

12 April, 1970

Rather like the Sherlock Holmes tale where the clue was the dog that did not bark, the remarkable thing about today is the thing that did not happen!

Was it just a coincidence that, subsequent to "losing" the "space race" last year, this year is the first year in many years that the Soviet Union does not issue a set of stamps to commemorate their 12 April "Cosmonauts' Day" anniversary of Yuri Gagarin's first manned space flight? :)

12 June, 1990

The beginning of the end.

On this date, the Russian republic's legislature, under Boris Yeltsin, passed a radical declaration of sovereignty, proclaiming Russia's laws take precedence over those of the central Soviet government in the republic's territory.


A time of huge social turmoil in Russia.

A bout of almost hyper-inflation saw the ruble drop in value from its earlier "official" exchange rate which was in the order of 1R=US$1 to as low as 6000 to the dollar - which was not just a notional number that economists use but a reflection of the reality of the declining value of people's life savings. Pensioners and others on fixed incomes saw their purchasing power and life savings drop to poverty levels, and the government did nothing to compensate.

This forced many long-time collectors to sell their stamp collections in a desperate attempt to raise money to live on, bringing a lot of additional material into the market.

1 January 1998

Russia revalues its currency so that one new ruble equals 1000 old ruble. A new set of definitives are released on this date showing the new values (10, 15, 25, 30, 50 kopeck and 1, 1.50, 2, 2.50, 3 and 5 ruble).

While America does have similar stamps and envelopes, Russia makes so many that are educational – famous people who worked for science, painters, composers, writers, and so on – that it becomes impossible not to know who these people are.

Russia also honors people who are not Russian in their postal materials: anyone who is important to history shows up on Russian postal materials.

A stamp depicting an Irish Setter.

An envelope depicting Viktor Mikhailovich Glushkov who was the founder of the Institute of Cybernetics in the Soviet Republic of Ukraine.

An envelope depicting Mohammad ibn Musa al-Khawarizmi the father of algebra and an important Islamic scholar who preserved many pieces of classic learning of the Greeks and Romans.

An envelope depicting various dog breeds including a Japanese Chin, a Poodle, a French Bulldog, and others – with no Russian dog breeds in sight.

An envelope depicting Sergei Alekseyevich Lebedev who helped create the first two supercomputers in the Soviet Union: the MESM and BESM.

Unit 8; ypok 8; year 2; Postal; Artwork; Stamps; Envelopes

Music for all ears

I will be the first one to admit my music tastes are eclectic- one minute I might be listening to country, the next Eminem is blasting from my iTunes. I've recently started adding a bunch of Russian music to my library though; including but not limited to Timati and t.A.T.u. After getting the SRA newsletter I decided to try listening to Женя Милъковский and I'd have to say that I love this kind of music. Check it out; just give him a listen! Although he might need to work with his stylist... these clothes! And the hair; but just because he's no Justin Timberlake doesn't mean his music's not good, on the contrary, it makes him sound better!

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

"I'm very glad, because I am finally returning back home"

My big Stumbled upon this video clip, and it was too weird not to share. Per the info in the sidebar, it is Edward Anatolevich Hill, a Soviet-Era pop star. At the bottom of the clip on, someone posted in Russian asking if it is mushrooms that give such an effect as this incredibly creepy behavior. Enjoy.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Russian Dwarf Hamsters! UNIT 8

It was discovered by W.C. Campbell in 1902 in Tuva, an area that has historically been geographically linked with both China and Russia"First of all, you should know that the term Russian dwarf hamster can actually refer to three distinctly different species of dwarf hamsters. This includes the Roboroski’s dwarf hamster, the Campbell’s Russian dwarf hamster and the Winter White Russian dwarf hamster.

At 8-10 centimeters in length, the Russian Winter White is similar in size and appearance to the Campbell’s Russian dwarf. In fact they are very often mistakenly considered as one and the same species. The smallest of the three species, the teeny weeny Roboroski hamster grows to a maximum of only 4-5 centimeters. Now that’s tiny!"

There is more on the difference on the species and the care they require on this website


This ice sauna is in a town known as Baikalsk, near Irkutsk. Because the winters here are long and cold, just about anything can be made of ice. In this sauna, temperatures that would boil water are separated from the ice walls by a thin, 1" partition.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

you all are SO AHEAD OF THE CURVE!

With Russia rising, students show interest

By Michael Birnbaum

Russian used to be hot, the must-learn language of ambitious Americans looking to talk to their rivals. But the end of the Cold War put the language in a deep freeze -- one from which it's just beginning to emerge.


Monday, March 1, 2010


Desire to learn Russian heating up again
By Michael Birnbaum
Washington Post Staff Writer

Monday, March 1, 2010; B01

Russian used to be hot, the must-learn language of ambitious Americans looking to talk to their rivals. But the end of the Cold War put the language in a deep freeze -- one from which it's just beginning to emerge.
Students now see Russia as a place to make money, and, with the highly charged rhetoric of Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, the country appears to be a bit of a rival again. Russian programs in high schools, which had been shrinking since the fall of the Iron Curtain in 1991, may have stabilized, educators say.

"The worse it gets as far as our relations are concerned, the better it is for our enrollments," said John Schillinger, a professor emeritus at American University who has been tracking Russian class enrollments nationwide since 1984. "That's kind of what's going on now."