Ukrainian Philatelist No. 113 (2015)
OVERSEAS MAIL FROM UKRAINE IN 1918 AND EARLY 1919
The great work of unearthing the archival documents concerning the topic under consideration was made by Viktor Mohilnyi (references 2-7, 9-13, 15) and Vyacheslav Anholenko. This article is based mainly on their research published in the journals Ukrains’kyi Filatelistychnyi Visnyk (UFV) and Filatelistychna Dumka.
Postal communications between Ukraine and foreign countries were restricted after the Central Rada Government proclaimed by its Third Universal of 7/20 November 1917* the autonomy of the Ukrainian National Republic (UNR) (but still a part of the Russian State), and were broken off when the Soviet Government in Petrograd declared war on the UNR in December. After Romania entered WW1 on the side of the Entente, the mail from Ukrainian territory to other countries remained possible only via Russia. At the beginning of 1918, only the eastern, southern and some central parts of Ukraine, at that time under the Soviets, retained the possibility of sending mail abroad through Petrograd and, occasionally, Odesa. As to Kyiv and neighboring areas, the overseas mail taken in by the postal authorities (mainly in January 1918) could be forwarded via
Soviet Russia during the short period of the occupation of this area by the Soviet troops under Colonel Muravyov in February (Figure 1).
However, following the conclusion of the Brest- Litovsk Peace Treaty on 27 January/9 February between Ukraine and the Central Powers, the Soviets were driven out of Ukraine during the period of February to April 1918 with the help of German and Austrian occupational forces. Postal communications abroad would be restored only a few months later when the Central Rada Government was replaced by the Hetmanate (Ukrainska Drzhava, UD) under General Pavlo Skoropadskiy.
Actually, the problem of restoring normal postal communications with other countries after concluding the peace treaty was still being discussed in March.
* At the end of January 1918, Soviet Russia introduced the Gregorian calendar (N.S.) instead of the Julian one (O.S.)used before. Thus the 1st of February became the 14th. The Central Rada government followed this example soon afterwards: 16 February became 1 March. To avoid any misunderstandings, the dates in this article are given both O.S./N.S. up to 1 February 1918 and only N.S. after this date.
1. Ordinary letter posted on 7/20 Jan. 1918 in Kyiv and addressed to Lausanne, Switzerland. Franked with 25 kop. according to the UNR rate of 15 Jan. 1918. The letter was forwarded to Petrograd during the short period of Soviet administration in Kyiv in February, and then from Petrograd to Switzerland via Germany after establishing postal communications between Soviet Russia and Germany. Arrived in Lausanne on 8 Aug. 1918.
In particular this applied to Germany, Austro-Hungary, Bulgaria and Turkey. The UNR Ministry of Post and Telegraph planned to join the Universal Postal Union, developed, and intended to introduce as from 1 April, foreign postal rates which were a little higher than the inland rates of 15/28 January. They were three times the corresponding rates of Imperial Russia before 1/14 September 1917 and equal to the rates used in Soviet Russia as from 10 March 1918. However, the Central Rada did not approve this project .
Austro-Hungary was the first foreign country with which the postal communications were restored. This happened on 22 June and concerned ordinary letters and postcards. The mail to Austro-Hungary was to be sorted, sealed in post-packets and handed over for forwarding to the nearest Austrian field post establishment at the following railway stations: Katerynoslav, Lysavetgrad, Olviopol, Odesa, Kherson, Birzula, Vapnyarka, Mohiliv-Podilskyi, Zmerynka, Kyiv, Proskuriv, and Volochysk . The mail was to be prepaid according to the inland rates then in force (those of 15 January 1918: 25 kop. for a letter, 10 kop. for a postcard). The inland rates were retained later in the mail exchange with other foreign countries or lands occupied by their forces. In a later document dated 29 September the following mail transfer points were added: Mikolaiv, Ovdiivka, Shostakivka, Mariupol, Pavlograd, Oleksandrivsk, Znamyanka, and Tiraspol. In that document, there was stressed the non-permissibility of handing over such mail directly to the Travelling Post Office (TPO) 47-48 Zhmerynka – Volochysk and mail was ordered to be sorted in separate post-packets for: 1) Galicia and Bukovina, 2) Hungary and 3) other regions of Austro-Hungary .
Some items of mail addressed to Austria proper, incuding Galicia and the present Czech Republic, are shown in Figures 2 to 10. Most of them were examined by the Austrian censors in Vienna and Lviv (if to Galicia). No items of mail to Hungary were found.
Mail exchange with Germany was established a several weeks later - from 16 July - also at the inland postal rates. Besides ordinary letters and postcards, specimens of goods were allowed for forwarding. Contrary to the case with Austro-Hungary, the delivery of mail was centralized: the mail in post-packets was to be collected at the Ukrainian sorting office at the railway station in Kyiv and from there handed over to the German field post office No. 2010 at the Kyiv goods railway station to be forwarded to Germany .
Unlike the mail to Austro-Hungary, items of mail to Germany are rarely found with censor markings (Figures 11 to 20). The exceptions were mainly from Breslau (presently Wroclaw in Poland). There was no Ukrainian military censorship up to 10 November, when it was established in connection with the uprising of UNR followers under S. Petlyura  (Figure 18). Mail to Germany continued to be forwarded via Kyiv up to the end of 1918, and even in March 1919 but only from the Odesa area not yet occupied by the Bolsheviks (Figure 21).
Figure 2. Ordinary postcard to Austria franked with 11 kop. (1 kop. over the UNR rate of 15 Jan. 1918) and posted at TPO No. 310 Odesa-Backmach on 29 Apr. 1918, i.e. about 6 weeks before the official restorationsof postal communications with Austro-Hungary. Examined by the Austrian censors in Vienna.
The applicable documents did not cover the possibility of sending mail to other foreign countries via Germany or Austro-Hungary. Mail sent to those countries in a state of war with the Central Powers was returned (Figure 22). However, it turned out that it was possible to send mail to a neutral country such as Switzerland, although after the end of the war (Figure 23). It also looks as if postal communications with Bulgaria and Turkey, two of the countries with which the Brest-Litovsk peace treaty was signed, were not restored.
The same day, 16 July, mail exchange was started with the Generalgouvernment in Warsaw (the former Russian Poland). The order of forwarding remained the same as with Germany but only ordinary letters and postcards were allowed . These communications were stopped, however, on 19 November . This mail was examined usually at the German military censorship office in Lublin or Breslau (Figures 24 to 27). There were cases when, breaking the established order, items of mail to Warsaw were directed through the Austrian field post (Figure 28).
Then the turn of Soviet Russia came, and postal communications were restored as from 27 July in the course of long negotiations for concluding a peace treaty between Ukraine and Soviet Russia which started on 23 May. This process is described in detail by V. Anholenko .
Figure 13. Ordinary postcard addressed to a Russian POW at a camp in Westfalen, Germany,
franked with 10 kop. according to the UNR rate of 15 Jan. 1918 and mailed on 14 Aug. 1918 from Sumy, Kharkiv province.
An armistice was signed on 12 June that opened the way for restoring the postal communications as well. However, a peace treaty was never concluded. According to
the postal agreement, it allowed for delivery of ordinary and registered letters and postcards as well as business papers and specimens of goods (but no printed matter). All this mail was to be prepaid in accordance with the inland rates of both parties. The ordinary mail to Russia was to be sorted and sealed in post-packets at post offices and TPOs according to provinces (hubernias) of Russia; the post-packets, in their turn, were to be enclosed in postal bags to
Moscow; all registered mail was to be directed in post-packets to Moscow. All this was to be directed to Kyiv where it was loaded on the Ukrainian TPO No. 178 Kyiv – Korenevo and then handed over to the Russian TPO Korenevo – Moscow at the Korenevo station [8, 9].
It looks also as if the established order for forwarding mail through the German and Austrian field post systems was gradually breaking down after the beginning of the evacuation of German and Austrian troops from Ukraine following the capitulation of the Central Power States. While this order for the mail to Germany still persisted in Kyiv and the areas adjacent to it probably up to the end of December 1918, other ways of mail delivery began to be used in the south of Ukraine, first of all, the area of Odesa and Mykolaiv where political control was divided
between the Entente forces landed there in December, White Russian Volunteer Army, and Ukrainian Directory administration. For instance, the mail from Odesa to Germany could be carried to Europe by sea through the Turkish straits. Also, less attention was given to the observation of correct franking (Figure 29).
The exchange of mail between Ukraine and Soviet Russia was interrupted more than once, for example, between the 8th and 10th August because of tense situation on the Ukrainian-Russian border. Items of mail to Russia from the initial period are rarely found today. We did not succeed in finding a single cover from the period July to September except a special case described a little later. V. Anholenko depicted in his article  a cover to Moscow registered at Kyiv on 1 October 1918 which was received in Moscow as late as 26 February 1919 when a Soviet administration was already ruling in Kyiv.
This late delivery concerns also the items shown in Figures 30 and 31. It looks as if postal communications between these countries were interrupted again when the peace negotiations were broken off forever on 8 October, although no official document on this matter was found.
The exception mentioned above concerns an ordinary postcard correctly franked and posted in
Rzhishchiv, Kyiv province on 3 April, i.e. when no postal communications with abroad existed yet (Figure 32). The card was addressed to Yur’ev, Livland province (presently Tartu in Estonia) then under the German occupation. As the postal communications of Ukraine with the Baltic area were restored much later (see below), the postal official probably decided to direct this card via Russia which already had postal communications with Germany and areas
occupied by its troops. It arrived in Moscow on 10 September (probably dispatched from Ukraine at the end of August or beginning of September) and afterwards was handed over to the German party.
Finally, postal communications with Lithuania and the Baltic provinces (Kurland, Livland, and Estland) were restored on 1 November, just a week before the revolution in Germany and its going out of the war. Only ordinary mail was allowed  (Figures 33 to 36).
It should be mentioned that besides Soviet Russia, territories of the former Russian Empire which were not ruled by the Bolsheviks, such as the Don Republic, Crimea etc., or nearly annexed by that time by a foreign country ,such as Bessarabia, were regarded as ‘abroad’ with respect to Ukraine. Prior to the beginning of establishing postal communications with Austro-Hungary, Germany etc., acceptance of mail abroad was banned except for the Crimea and Bessarabia as from 6 April , then mail registered and with declared value as well as money transfer and parcels to Bessarabia as from 5 June  and of any mail to Caucasus as from 7 June . Lastly, forwarding of mail to Crimea was abolished as from 18 June  until a special order that was confirmed on 26 June . It remains still unknown how communications with the Don Republic were developing. At least, an unimpeded exchange of mail with the Don Republic and the Crimea was announced on 21 September  but it looks as if the mail to the Don Republic was forwarded earlier as well. Nevertheless, it follows indirectly from the document referred to that some interruption of mail exchange with the Don Republic did take place (probably, in a period after May and before mid-September as one can conclude from the examples of mail available), although no appropriate document was found.
As in the case of Ukraine, both the Crimea and a considerable part of the Don area were at that time occupied by German forces. Ukraine had no special postal agreements with the Don Republic or the Crimea. However, there had been serious disagreements between Ukraine and both the above-mentioned lands which led, along with other things, to temporary interruptions of postal/telegraphic services.
The exchange of mail with the Don Republic was abolished again ‘until a special order’, on 28 December . On the other hand, all postal communications with Kuban were restored as from 14 November , although no corresponding covers are known to us. It is known from the literature  also that forwarding of mail from Transcaucasia to Ukraine was organized by the end of 1918 through the Ukrainian Diplomatic Mission in Caucasus and Ukrainian Consulate in Batum and farther via Constantinople, Constanta, Yassy, Kishinev and Vynnytsia. Again, no examples of such mail in both directions were found up to now. Some examples of mail to the Crimea and Don are shown in Figures
37 to 42.
There was also an order permitting, as from 19 November 1918, mail to be sent to the Kholm area (the southeastern part of Lublin province of the former Russian Poland occupied by Germans) on which Ukraine as well as Poland had pretensions. Such mail, including that to private persons, was to be forwarded in post-packets addressed to the Ukrainian provincial commissariat in Brest-Litovsk through the German field post No. 198 . However, the German military authorities never allowed postal communications between Ukraine and the neighboring Belarus.
I would like to express my gratitude to Mr. Thomas Berger for illustrations of covers from his collection (Figures 4, 8-10, 12, 17, 19, 21, 23, 26, 33, 34, 36-39).
1. V. Anholenko. “Do taryfnykh pam’iatok 1918-1919 rokiv”. Filatelistychna Dumka, 2013, No. 1(7), p. 11-21.
2. Ukrains’kyi Filatelistychnyi Visnyk (UFV), 1990, No. 3(7), p. 27-28.
3. UFV, 1990, No. 3(7), p. 28-29.
4. UFV, 1990, No. 3(7), p. 29.
5. UFV, 1991, No. 5(14), p. 52.
6. UFV, 1990, No. 5(9), p. 51-52.
7. UFV, 1990, No. 5(9), p. 52.
8. V. Angolenko. “Pro poshtovyi styk Ukrains’koi Derzhavy ra radyanskoi Rosii”. Filatelistychna Dumka, 2012, No. 1(4), p. 1-15.
9. UFV, 1990, No. 5(9), p. 52-53.
10. UFV, 1990, No. 5(9), p. 54.
11. UFV, 1991, No. 1(10), p. 3.
12. UFV, 1991, No. 1(10), p. 4.
13. UFV, 1991, No. 1(10), p. 5.
14. E.S. “Voikhanskyi. Pochtovye marki Azerbaydzhana”. Svyaz’, Moscow 1970, p. 27.
15. UFV, 1991, No. 2(11), p. 14.