By Rick Miller
A dead country is one that no longer exists as a stamp-issuing entity.
The 20th century saw the coming and going of many countries. Some were born and also died in the 20th century. Those spun off or extinguished in the formation of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics can be particularly confusing, if you aren't familiar with the geopolitics of the region.
No. 1 on the list is the Soviet Union itself.
The Soviet Union was founded on Dec. 30, 1922. A 5-ruble Fordson Tractor stamp (Russia Scott 244) from the first set of stamps issued by the Soviet Union is shown in Figure 1.
Americans generally have had trouble distinguishing the Soviet Union from Russia. For stamp collectors, this is compounded by the Scott Standard Postage Stamp Catalogue listing the issues of the Soviet Union under Russia. While the Soviet Union was a federation of 15 theoretically equal sister republics, Russia was the dominant partner.
The Soviet Union was officially pronounced dead on Dec. 31, 1991. By that time, it was an empty shell, as nearly all of its constituent members had already departed.
A 10-kopek V.N. Tatischev stamp (Russia Scott 6052) from the last set of stamps issued by the Soviet Union is shown in Figure 2. As can be seen from the high Scott numbers, the Soviet Union was one of the world's most prolific issuers of stamps during its lifetime.
Some dead countries preceded the founding of the Soviet Union and saw their demise in its formation. One was the Russian Soviet Federated Socialist Republic, founded Nov. 7, 1917, and subsumed in the Soviet Union at its founding on Dec. 30, 1922.
A Russian Soviet Federated Socialist Republic 22,500-ruble Workers of the World Unite stamp (Russia Scott 206) is shown in Figure 3.
The Transcaucasian Soviet Federated Socialist Republic was formed in March 1922. This entity was a forced union of three Caucasian republics: Armenia, Georgia and Azerbaijan. The three had enjoyed brief independence at the breakup of the Russian Empire in 1918, but by 1922 all had been conquered the Bolsheviks. The brief interlude as a Transcaucasian federation was just a way station on the road to integration into the Soviet Union in 1924.
A 75,000-ruble Oil Fields stamp (Scott 15) is shown in Figure 4.
The Far Eastern Republic is one of the more shadowy and shaky stamp-issuing entities ever to exist. A Far Eastern Republic 4-kopek Coat of Arms stamp (Scott 51) is shown in Figure 5.
On April 6, 1920, the Bolsheviks established the Far Eastern Republic in southern Siberia, east of Lake Baikal and north of Mongolia and Manchuria, as a buffer state between the Russian Soviet Federated Socialist Republic and the Japanese Expeditionary Force, which was part of the Allied intervention in Russia during the Civil War.
The republic's borders and capital were in constant flux as a result of gains and losses between the counter-revolutionary White forces, the Red army, Czech Legion soldiers and Japanese troops.
When the Japanese Expeditionary Force withdrew, it took with it the need for a buffer state. After the Japanese withdrawal from Vladivostok, the Far Eastern Republic merged by decree with the Russian Soviet Federated Socialist Republic on Nov. 15, 1922.
Far Eastern Republic occupation stamps (Scott N1-4) were issued by the Cossack General Semenov, nominally a White leader, but really a glorified bandit.
Siberia was an independent republic from June to November 1918. However, this entity issued no postage stamps. In November 1918, the provisional Siberian government merged with the White Ufa Directory to form the Provisional All-Russian government under Supreme Leader Adm. Aleksandr Kolchak.
This provisional government did not claim to be an independent Siberian republic. It claimed to be the legitimate government of all Russia. The stamps it issued (Scott 1-10) were Russian stamps surcharged with new values. A Siberian 1-ruble-on-4-kopek Russian stamp (Scott 4) is shown in Figure 6.
Admiral Kolchak was captured by the Bolsheviks and executed on Feb. 7, 1920.
The balance of the stamps listed under Siberia were issued by the Priamur Provisional government, which was in existence from May 27, 1921, to Oct. 25, 1922. A 20k-on-3½r Russian stamp (Scott 61) issued by this government is shown in Figure 7.
These stamps could, with as much or more justification, have been listed as Far Eastern Republic occupation stamps, rather than Siberian stamps.
A White coup detached Vladivostok and the surrounding area from the Far Eastern Republic. The Priamur Provisional government existed only so long as it was defended by Japanese troops. Once the Japanese withdrew, soldiers of the Far Eastern Republic quickly retook the area.
A hodgepodge of governmental and military authorities are also represented in the stamps listed under South Russia.
The area north of the Caucasus Mountains between the Black Sea and the Caspian Sea, including the Crimean Peninsula, was a staging area for several White generals and governments. Stamps were issued by the Don Cossacks (Scott 1-10), the Kuban Cossacks (20-49), the Crimean government (51-59) and General Denikin (61-71).
A Crimean government 50-kopek Eagle Crest stamp (South Russia Scott 52) is shown in Figure 8.
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