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