Latvia map stamps - introduction


In Riga 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 Soviet Latvian troops followed them and were immediately reoccupying the territory.

Military maps as paper for stamps

With the war-induced shortage of paper in Latvia, the new Latvian postal administration chose surplus German military maps for printing their first stamps. The maps were from the series Karte des westlichen Rußlands. The paper quality was excellent. Latvians also used these maps to wrap fish in the Riga market, as Janis Ronis [†2000] of Brampton, Ontario, recalled from his boyhood.
    The maps were unfinished; that is, their backs were unprinted and they were not trimmed to a smaller size for folding. On finished maps the backs were printed with the map grid position and main town name, such as S18. Illukßt, and often included the map scale in the text RUSSLAND, 1:100 000. When folded into sixths, this information appeared on the top of the back of the map.
    The unfinished maps were in storage in Riga, the German military headquarters for the region. Although the map series contained maps of a large area east of Germany, these maps showed southern and eastern Latvia and most of Lithuania. Some of the maps had become obsolete when new editions replaced them; others were obsolete because WWI was over. The map paper is a dark cream colour.



Q17 Ponedele, block of 4, map is upside-down with respect to stamps, enlarged at 150dpi jpeg@80%. For a 600 dpi enlargement, click the stamp or map side.

The stamp design by Ansis Cirulis [in 1918 Zihrulis] shows 3 ears of grain with a ring around the grain stalks, and a rising sun with 3 stars in the rays around the sun. Each stamp sheet has 228 stamps in 12 rows of 19. This unusual arrangement allowed for a maximum number of stamps per printing sheet. The stamp is red. Most of the maps are black with thin brown lines to show altitude. Some maps are entirely in black, and some of these were replaced by newer versions in black with thin brown lines.


The Schnakenburg Printing Works in Riga printed the stamps. In late 1919 it became the Latvian Government Printing Office.


Receipts exist for 11,956 sheets [2,725,968 stamps] from the Schnakenburg Pringing Works. They include 4,750 sheets delivered before the government evacuated Riga for Liepāja on January 2, 1919, and 7,206 sheets presumed to be delivered after the government returned to Riga on May 22, 1919. The receipts for the initial 4,750 sheets show 1,874 perforated sheets and 2,876 gummed sheets. Gummed appears to mean imperforate. The original order by the Latvian government for stamps from Schnakenburg no longer exists and is not documented. The deliveries before the Latvian government evacuated Riga on January 2 are:




17 Dec 1918



19 Dec 1918



28 Dec 1918



2 Jan 1919






The original Zehsu (Cesis) postmaster's receipt for 11,400 5 kap postal stamps delivered on 23 December 1918. This was 50 sheets with a value of 570 rubles. The Soviet forces occupied Cesis later on the same day.

A photocopy of the original Zehsu (Cesis) postmaster receipt for 27,360 5 kap postal stamps delivered on 23 XII 18 (23 Dec 1918), which were intended for Walmeeres (Valmiera), but were left at Cesis instead because Soviet forces had occupied Valmiera two days earlier. This is for 120 sheets with a value of 1368 rubles.
   The other receipts of map stamps include 200 sheets to Liepaja on December 20, 1918; 700 sheets to Liepaja on January 1, 1919; 40 sheets to Kuldiga on December 27, 1918; and 20 sheets to Grobina on December 28, 1918.
   We do not know how many of the 7,206 sheets that were retrieved when the Latvian government returned to Riga on May 22, 1919, were imperforate. Catalogues report totals of 1,600,000 imperforate and 1,125,968 perforate, but this is only an estimate by E. Šneiders in an early Latvian postal stamp catalogue. The overalll total, 2,725,968, divided by 228 stamps per sheet is exactly 11,956 sheets. Neither the estimate of perforated stamps or imperforate stamps divides evenly by 228. There are more imperforate stamps than perforated. And many full sheets are ungummed.
   A written statement says that after the Latvian government evacuated to Liepaja the Schnakenburg plant continued printing stamps and deposited them at the DON Bank in Riga. And that after the Germans reoccupied Riga on May 22 the DON Bank turned over the 7206 deposited sheets to the Latvian postal administration. It is unclear what happened to these map sheets afterward. Very few letters were franked with this issue after May 22, 1919. (See The Postal and Monetary History of Latvia, 1918-1945, N. Jakimovs and V. Marcilger, 1991, Johannesburg, Republic of South Africa).

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Updated Mon, 2014-05-12 .
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