The Beginning of Latvia’s Postal Service and its First Stamp, Printed on Maps (1918-1919)

Two Frame Exhibit


In Rīga on November 18, 1918, in the aftermath of World War I, Latvia declared independence. The German army still occupied Latvia, which had been part of Russia. As the Germans gradually withdrew from Latvia, the pursuing Russian Bolshevik troops were immediately re-occupyring it. The issuance of stamps by Latvia was not only a necessity but also a matter of demonstrating sovereignty.

The design of the issue was composed by the well-know Latvian graphic designer Ansis Cirulis (Anzis Zihrulis). The
design depicts three ears of wheat representing the three main historical groups that made up the modern Latvian nation – the Curonians, the Zemgallians, and the Latgallians, in a ring – a circle of unity of the Latvian nation against the background of the rising sun; three stars symbolizing the three provinces of Latvia: Kurzeme, Vidzeme and Latgale. The fourth star symbolizing Zemgale was removed from the design during the approval of the project and the finished design became asymmetric.

With the war-induced shortage of paper in Latvia, the new Latvian postal administration chose surplus German
military maps for printing their first stamps. To make full use of a sheet of paper, 228 stamps were printed per sheet.
A large quantity of stamps was printed; the Latvian Main Post Office officially received 2.725.968 stamps, but VERY few stamps actually saw postal service. The stamps were produced in both perforated (less that 20%) and imperforate form. Supposedly more that 90% of printed stamps were lost or stoled due great chaos during Latvian War of Independence or ended up in dealer’s hands.

This is a two-frame exhibit that presents the history of the beginning Latvia’s postal service and the development of its post office network through the circulation of its first stamp, mainly in the period December 1918 to January 1919.

Frame 1

Frame 2