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Latvia’s Map stamps of 1918

On 9 September 1918 the Latvian postal authorities give an order for the printing of 3.000.000 stamps. The value must be 5 kapeiki. In total 11.956 sheets of 228 stamps were printed: 2.725.968 postage stamps.

After Germany signed the Armistice with the Allied Powers on 11th November 1918, Latvia quickly proceeded to declare its Independence on 18th November 1918 – though German troops and administrators remained in Latvia until late in December.

The Latvian government in Riga took delivery from the Riga printer of the first instalment of Map stamps on 17 December.

The first stamps were delivered on 17 december 1918 on the main-postoffice of Riga. Some consider 27 december -the main postoffice of Riga under control of Latvia- as the first day of issue of the first Latvian stamp.

The stamps were printed by printing house Schnakenburg in Riga, later -end 1919- the Latvian state-printing house. After the war in Latvia there was lack of paper, so the stamps were printed on the back of German military maps.Collectors can specialize in plate errors, but also in types of maps.

Front side of the stamp

Backside of the stamps

The first illustration below shows a blank philatelic cover cancelled 18th December 1918 but this is unusual – most Riga cancellations on Map stamps are dated for the last five or six days of December. Then the trouble begins.

The Latvian Government evacuated from Riga on 2 January 1919 and on the 3 January 1919, Soviet Latvian troops entered the city.

The government evacuated first to Jelgawa (Mitau / Mitava) and then to Liepaja (Libau, Libava).It returned to Riga on 22 May 1919 and took delivery of more Map stamps (which may simply have been kept in store during the Soviet occupation). But it seems doubtful that these new supplies were issued.

So if you are looking for postage used Map stamps, then for Riga they will only be found in a 14 day period from 18 December to 1 or 2 January. After that, they can be found from other cities and towns – but rarely – and they were soon replaced by further issues with a wider range of values – the Map stamp only exists in one 5 kopeck denomination.

These unaddressed items are not so common – either they had addresses written in soon after or they were “harvested” for used copies of the Map stamps and so no longer exist.
A bit more ambitious are Registered covers like this one. But it has no cancellation on the back and is one of a batch which were probably handed straight back to the “sender”. 

The 20th century threw Latvia into endless trials and turbulences: a revolution, two world wars, freedom fights, several occupations, deportations, refugees and a large exodus among them. However, this was also the century when the Latvian state was created. In the aftermath of World War I, realising its right of self-determination the Latvian nation became a sovereign in the territory which since times immemorial had been inhabited by Latvians.

In June 1940, Latvia was occupied by the Soviet Union. Fifty years later, on May 4, 1990, Latvia proclaimed its independence again and obtained full independence on Aug. 21, 1991.

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