Russian/Soviet Postal Tariffs

Putting your stamps into context

  Postal rates have never been as simple in Russia (and the Soviet Union) as they arguably are in most other countries.  There are different rates for mail within a city, for mail between reasonably nearby cities, and for mail to distant cities (within Russia) as well as rates for international mail (at various levels for various destinations), airmail, registered mail, etc.  When you think about it, Russia is such a huge country that it makes sense to charge more for a letter that travels 6500 miles from Vladivostok to St Petersburg (!) than a letter which travels 'only' 400 miles between St Petersburg and Moscow.

Comparing the rate to mail a letter on two different dates is made still more complicated due to the occasional revaluation of the Russian currency.  Most recently, on 1 January 1998, the ruble was revised in value so that one 'new' ruble was worth 1000 old rubles, and other (usually less drastic) revaluations have occurred sporadically during the previous hundred years before that.

Understanding the applicable postal rates puts stamps into context.  If you're looking at, for example, a 10 kopeek stamp issued between 25 Feb 1933 and 6 Feb 1939, it is interesting to know that this stamp could be used to pay for a letter posted to an address in the same city it was mailed from, whereas a 20k stamp during the same period was used on letters mailed between different cities.  And so on and so forth for all different time periods and rates.

This article summarizes the key postal rates that have applied from the start of the adhesive period (ie 1 January, 1858) through to the present day.

It doesn't take much imagination to read between the lines of the bare rate information and glean information on all sorts of interesting things about life in general as these rates evolve.  For example, consider the implications of the free postage between 1 January 1919 and 15 August 1921 - what brave idealistic notion was this, and what a sad transition back to no longer free postage at the end of it, and at such outrageous inflationary period rates as well!

Or consider the period when mail within Leningrad (as it was then called - now St Petersburg) and Moscow was charged more than mail in other cities.  How would you feel as a citizen of Moscow being told that your intercity mail was now more expensive than mail in nearby Perm (this arrangement lasted almost ten years).  Note the inconsistency in postcard rates - sometimes the same as regular mail and sometimes as little as one third the rate.  And note the sudden changes in rate differentials - clearly this was a system with very little guidance or inertia, but rather one wildly casting about for the correct charging formulas, or perhaps a political plaything that was subject to the random whims of politicians.

Of course, one also has to view these rates during the periods of extreme disruption such as the Civil War and the other inflationary period immediately after 'Independence' with a grain of salt.  It has been suggested by some commentators that, particularly during the chaotic early 1990s, that postal rates were not closely adhered to!

There are four main types of postal rate - rates for postcards, for letters within a city, for letters between cities, and for international letters.

These four base rates can be further split into rates for regular mail and registered mail.

In addition, there are airmail rates, special delivery rates, and various other rates as well.

At different times, rates for letters between cities are further split into mail within Asian Russia or within European Russia, or mail between the two parts (the divide between Asian and European Russia is generally considered to be the Ural mountain range, very slightly to the west of Ekaterinburg (or Sverdlovsk as it was called between 1924 and 1992).

Note :  This project remains a 'work in progress'.  At present accurate data is available for the period 1918-1940 and 1992-96.  We expect to shortly extend this and add from 1940 to about 1970.  Additional data will be provided as it may come available - if you have any information on postal tariffs that can help this project, please let me know.

Domestic Rates

International Rates

Airmail (from 4 June, 1922) and Special Delivery Rates


This page last modified on May 15, 2010