Chapter 2.
Tiflis mail of the 19th century.

Postal Service of the Caucasus in the second half of the nineteenth century.

After the accession of Georgia to Russia in the first place it was scheduled to continue the construction of post tract from Mozdok to Tiflis with the length of 258 versts with the construction of ten stations to serve the postal rush on it and one post office in Tiflis. But those plans were hold back by the scarcity of funds allocated.

In 1830, to simplify and accelerate the movement of office correspondence, the Post Agency reorganized the Russian post offices. By the nominative Decree of Tsar Nicholas I to the Senate “On the new structure of the mail system” from October 22 1830, the division of the territory of Russia into 11 postal districts was provided. (See. Table 1).

Table 1. Division of Russian territory into the postal districts in the first half of the nineteenth century.

Five provincial post offices were canceled, and provincial, regional, border and foreign post offices had to report directly to the Postal Department. Georgia postal institutions were included in the postal district VIII.

The city of Stavropol was determined to be the seat of Postal Inspector of the district; one of his assistants had to reside in Tiflis to supervise the post offices of the Transcaucasian region. Tiflis post office was elevated to the rank of regional office with a staff of 12 people (4 sorters were added). The new “Regulation on the system of the postal unit” was put into operation since January 1, 1831.

Further reorganization of Tiflis post office is associated with the general changes made by the tsarist government in 1840 for civilian control of the Transcaucasian region. According to the nominative decree to the Senate on April 10, 1840, the provinces lying between the Black and Caspian seas were to form Georgian-Imereti province and the Caspian region. Tiflis was determined to be the main city of Georgia-Imereti, and Shamakhi of the Caspian region. This decree came into force since January 1841. It is mentioned in the first chapter of this book.

By that time, the post offices had been established:

  • the regional one in Tiflis;
  • the county ones of the first class — in Baku, Erivan, Nakhichevan, Kutaisi and Redoubt-Calais;
  • second class — in Gori, Dushet, Ananuri, Telavi, Sngnahe, Yelizavetpol, Cuba, Derbent and Vladikavkaz.
Yamskaya rush. Postage stamp.

Yamskaya rush. Postage stamp.

County post offices were to report to the regional office of Tiflis. Further, with the abolition of earlier existing establishments in Georgia and the development of administrative management in the conquered areas of the region (which coincided with the intensification of military operations in the Black Sea and on the Caucasus line) — it is natural that the role and the importance of postal services in the South Caucasus should strengthen.

By the middle of forties there were operating the following types of postal service in Georgia and Tiflis:

  • Extra-mail, with which the correspondence was sent to the center on a regular basis, twice a week, according to a strictly determined route (St. Petersburg, Moscow, Novgorod, Tver, Tula, Voronezh provinces, the Land of the Don Cossack Host, Nizhny Novgorod, Odessa and Warsaw Provinces).
  • Heavy-mail — also to the center twice a week, with the division of correspondence to other places of the empire.
  • Easy-mail — to the postal places of the Caucasus and adjacent provinces.
  • Fly-mail — to border garrisons.
  • Relay mail — abroad, Vladikavkaz, according to a special work sheet with the payment of money for postal services.

There didn’t exist any telegraph lines at that time. The first telegraph line was opened in the Caucasus between Tiflis and Poti in 1860.

The formation of new province and region in the Transcaucasian region made Postal Department change the division of Russian into postal districts. In December 1840 taking into account the peculiarities of the region, it was decided to establish a new postal district for Georgian-Imereti province and for the Caspian region. [14] All post offices of Georgian-Imereti province and the Caspian region were transferred to the newly formed Mail District XII. Tiflis was identified to be the residence of the Postal inspector of a new district, and for his assistant — Shamakhi. The Cossacks were exempted from their obligation to accompany the mail in the Caucasus. They were replaced by postmen. The responsibilities of Tiflis post office had increased. With the addition of 10 postmen to accompany the mail its staff became 22 people. Tiflis regional post office in 1841 became known as provincial one. However, the order implemented in 1840 for civilian management of the Transcaucasian region, turned out to be in many ways uncomfortable.

In 1842, when inspecting the region, it was found out that due to its remoteness and the specific local conditions, the Ministry failed to establish there a proper supervision over the introduction of a new civil management. In addition, the intervention of the Ministries in the affairs of the Transcaucasian region often weakened the authority of the local manager. The Special Committee of the Caucasus established by the decree to the Senate of April 24, 1840, was only interested in the general direction of civil affairs in the region and failed to exercise proper supervision over the activities of new institutions in the Caucasus. According to the Minister of War Knyazh A.I.Chernyshev responsible for the general management of the affairs of the Transcaucasian region, to address the difficulties encountered, it was necessary to establish a special institution in St. Petersburg, which could keep all cases on civil management in Transcaucasia, having withdrawn them from Ministry, “until all the sections will get the complete control”, that was what he wrote to the Emperor Nicholas I on August 19, 1842. [15]

The painter Adele Ommer de Gel. Cossack picket, 40-s of the XIX century.

The painter Adele Ommer de Gel. Cossack picket, 40-s of the XIX century.

A temporary department was organized according to the Decree to the Senate on August 30, 1842. At the same time Caucasian Committee was also completely reorganized. In connection with this the reorganization of the main department of the Transcaucasian region located in Tbilisi also took place. On November 12, 1842 Tsar Nicholas I approved “Mandate to the General Directorate of the Transcaucasian region”, which determined the main goal: to rapidly establish “strong civil accomplishment” in the South Caucasus This “Mandate” raised the authorities of the Chief Commander of the region up to ministerial authority, acting in place. The Ministry could apply to the institutions reporting to them which were located in the South Caucasus only through the Chief Commander. Chief Directorate of the Council composition was limited to five members: three soldiers and two civilians. Military members of the Council in addition to their common duties were obliged to supervise departmental agencies which were out of local supervision: one was made responsible for training, the other supervised the customs and the third one took care of mail. In this regard, the positions of corresponding supervisors were abolished, including the position of postal Inspector of XII postal district.

The first member of the Main Directorate of the Transcaucasus region, who at the same time was managing mail department, was a lieutenant general and well-known Georgian poet Knyazh Alexander Chavchavadze, who came to this post on December 28, 1842. [16]

Thus, in 1840 the Transcaucasian region post offices were transferred from the direct control of the Postal Department of the Empire under the jurisdiction of the Chief Executive of the Transcaucasian region. The law of 1840 stated: “...the agencies, which are subject to special control, such as customs, educational and mail agencies, are under dependence and supervision of the Chief Executive of the Transcaucasian region which relating these agencies operates on the basis of regulations and rules, in particular for each of these existing agencies”. [17]

The final withdrawal of the twelfth postal district from under the control of Postal Department and all the functions to manage all the Agencies were transferred to the main authorities of the Transcaucasian region at the vicegerent graph M.S.Vorontsov.

In January 1845, when M.Vorontsov was appointed the vicegerent of the Caucasus, his authorities were determined by a special rescript of Nicholas I: “having laid on you, along with the title of Commander-in-chief of the troops in the Caucasus, the main command of the civil part in the region, as my vicegerent and consider it necessary, for the good of the service, to strengthen the authorities, which until now have been given to the chief superintendent of civil section, I, in my full confidence to you, command: all the cases, which according to currently existing order have to be submitted on behalf of the Chief Directorate of the Transcaucasia region to the Ministry to be solved, should be solved in place. Moreover, you are provided with an authority, when you find it necessary, to take all the measures required by the circumstances, in place, reporting to me directly all your actions, as well as the reasons these actions were caused by” [18] With this document the power of Knyazh Vorontsov was extended to the Caucasian region (later renamed in the Stavropol province by the decree to the Senate on May 2, 1847).

The vicegerent of the Caucasian region, Mikhail Vorontsov was a good administrator and a talented Russian official. He was born and brought up in England, where he received an excellent education. When he was the Head of the region postal roads were being laid and the bridges were being built. At the same time Tbilisi became a large administrative center, the city’s population increased, there appeared is a large number of beautiful new public and private buildings. All of this strongly demanded to improve postal service.

Table 2 illustrates the movement of mail only for the city of Tiflis in 1855. It shows the development of the cultural needs of the population of the Caucasian capital, which was primarily military and bureaucratic, in terms of coverage the city with postal services.

Table 2

The number of sent and received correspondence at the Tiflis province post office for 1855. [19]

  Simple Money Registered
Private 197.928 24.572 9.349
State 385.988 15.728 2.517
Private 263.549 41.288 12.213
State 695.263 19.504 13.809

Interesting statistics of the XIX century: in the late 50s for 100 inhabitants of the cities of the former Russian Empire there were 12,3 sent and received messages a year; for 100 inhabitants of the city of Tiflis there were 36 sent and received messages and in England for 100 inhabitants there were 300 messages. [20]

The painter Sir Robert Ker Porter. The interior of Russian post station, 1813.

The painter Sir Robert Ker Porter. The interior of Russian post station, 1813.

A cardinal measure, which contributed to the development of postal services, was the fact that postal stations of Tiflis province and the city of Tiflis had been withdrawn from the jurisdiction of the County Police and transferred as an experiment under the management of the postal authorities of the Caucasus for three years. This governmental action took place on October 26, 1857. [21]

The regional administration tried hard to facilitate the use of public postal services for the population. For example, there were declared opening and closure hours of post offices in the postal regulations of that time. But from “travelling persons, those who were not constantly living in the cities, such as neighboring landowners, farmers and roundabout residents” — letters were accepted at any inopportune time. [22]

I.I.Nazarov, appointed the member of Chief Management Board of the Trans-Caucasian Region and Manager of the postal department on January 1847, began to be called “Manager of postal department of the Caucasus and beyond the Caucasus”. In this position he replaced the Knyazh A.G.Chavchavadze. [23]

However, the authority given the to the vicegerent M.Vorontsov by the Tsar, had been fully used by him only in 1848 in the process of reforms carried out in the post office of Tiflis province.

Since the 70s of the XVIII century in Russia there formed a system of postal services and transportation of the passengers by “mail”, which was almost unchanged until the middle of XIX century. Postal relays (stations), arranged at the expense of the state, were given to the individuals to be maintained. They had to have 25 horses, 10 wagons on wheels or sled at every station, as well as all the equipment necessary for postmen and mail transportation (horse harness, suitcases, bags, saddles, uniforms of postmen). A stationmaster was also responsible for hiring postmen. Even the serfs, released on the rent by the landlord, were allowed to be hired for this tedious service. The revenues of the postal station keeper consisted of the statutory fee (12 kopecks per 10 verst’s), proceeds from the sale of food and alcoholic beverages at the post office, from the placement of travelers for the night. Everything, which concerned the work of the post office, subjected to strict state regulation.

In winter and in summer the couriers were to be driven with a speed of 12 versts an hour, and in autumn and spring — 11 verst’s an hour. Other travelers were ordered to be driven more slowly: in winter and summer — 10 v/h, and in the spring and autumn — 8 verst’s an hour. Everyone who enjoyed the services of the post office, as well as all the correspondence was recorded in a special log book.

In the reign of Emperor Nicholas I, vigorous measures had been taken to put in order earlier considerably neglected system of postal communications and postal stations. In 1837 he visited the Caucasus and signed a decree on the construction of mail houses every 3–4 postal stations on the Caucasian tracts. Along with the intensification of the movement of postal crews, the government of Nicholas I sought to establish a permanent staff of postal employees and station keepers. On these purposes the lease period of postal stations was increased from 3 to 12 years, and the rental amount was to be determined not at the auction, but according to official estimates fixed for each post office. In Nicolas’s list of activities to improve the situation in the Russian Empire there was the item of constructing on the main roads postal stations uniform in appearance and convenient for travelers.

A new sample of postal uniform for the postmen was introduced in the 40s: red cloth caftan with a white belt. It is worn over the ordinary dress. Peaked caps were also red. A postman wore on his chest a brass badge with the state national emblem and a strap with the horn over the shoulder. Special uniforms existed for mail conductors and coachmen. Later, in the years 1856–1857 the mail uniform was changed.

An interesting analysis of the postal service was done by B.A.Kaminsky, who described a postal rush in the Caucasus. He gives a more complete understanding of the need to reform the postal service, and a haste to issue a stamp of Tiflis city post office. [24]

In 1831, for the first time several postal stations were sold under the responsibility of the individuals — postal landlords. At the same time the question was raised about the management of the postal rush in the region on the same basis as in the internal provinces of Russia, and also it was mentioned that the supervision over the stations, which before was the responsibility of the heads of military guards, should be transferred to the Post Authority. At the end of 1833 there were already 90 postal stations in the region. But at these stations there were no station houses yet, and postal landlords were placed together with the Cossack posts in the huts or even in mud huts.

The painter V. Timm. A Conductor and a coachman of postal carriages, 1844.

The painter V. Timm.
A Conductor and a coachman of postal carriages, 1844.

Road uniform of the postman. Approved in 1853.

Road uniform of the postman.
Approved in 1853.

The uniform of the station master. Approved in 1856.

The uniform of the station master.
Approved in 1856.

The uniform of the postal employee. Approved in 1856.

The uniform of the postal employee.
Approved in 1856.

The uniform of the postman of 19th century.

The uniform of the postman of 19th century.

Georgia started to construct the station houses in the years 1834–1835. These houses were considered to be connected to military posts. By the nominal decree of 13 July 1830 to the sum of 80,000 rubles in silver, assigned to build these houses, a new sum of 50,000 was added.

The construction of all postal stations in Georgia ended in 1837, and the postal rush could switch completely from the Cossacks to the postal landlords. This fact made it possible to temporarily take the stations of the Transcaucasia region in the Post Office and appoint station masters for them. To reduce the costs, it was planned to have one station master for two stations — every other station.

A special situation, in which the postal rush was in the region, was finally legalized by the decree to the Senate on April 10, 1840. In the decree “The institution for the management of the Transcaucasian region” the supervision over postal rush and improved maintenance of postal stations was entrusted to the district managers through the rural police.

“The provision on the postal station management” was approved on November 18, 1842. It provided the transfer of all the stations in Russia from under the supervision of the police to under the management of the Post Authorities. But the postal stations in the Transcaucasian region remained in the same affiliation. [25]

The new system of transfer of the stations under private maintenance (bidding) introduced in the early 30-ies, received a greater spread since 1841, because the Cossacks were released of the obligation to accompany the mail.

In Russia, the stations at the auction were taken under supervision by wealthy people who knew the station business and who were able to endure any difficulties - even a poor harvest of forages, mortality of horses. In the Caucasus, on the contrary, to “the trading” poor people came, among whom there usually were the merchants, who were ruined in trade, contractors who failed to find job, retired officials and other small entrepreneurs unfamiliar with the peculiarities of postal rush and with the station economy.

Naturally, these postal landlords would only like to improve their own financial affairs. Therefore, having received the money in advance from the provincial authorities, they spent it on their own needs rather than buying the necessary property for the stations. Lack of unity of authority to oversee the accomplishment of the stations gave them ample opportunities to deviate from improving the postal service or from just maintaining the stations in good condition.

As a result of such activity the stations on the roads of Transcaucasian region fell into disrepair. Inept owners were removed from the supervision of stations, often without waiting for the expiry of the three-year period provided for by the contract. And again, the stations were sold to another postal landlord. It happened that during a three-year contract the stations were supervised by several postal landlords in turns.

In the report to the vicegerent of the Caucasus on May 15 1855, the councilor of the Chief Directorate of the Transcaucasia region F.E.Kotseb describes the drawbacks of the system to lease the stations from “the auction” in the Tiflis province: “for a long time the mail from Tiflis was sent by the bulls, for want of horses”. [26] There were also frequent cases when the travelers, who had been waiting for post-horses at the station for several days, had to go on foot along mountain roads.

The painter Andre Durand. A Kabak and Post Office on the road, 1839.

The painter Andre Durand. A Kabak and Post Office on the road, 1839.

Postal officials in the South Caucasus took no part in all this, except that they “monitored the progress of the mail”, because, as F.E.Kotseb stated in his report “rural police, no doubt, has more means to sustained supervision over serviceability of the stations than a post office with its limited staff”. The activity of the postal district manager was limited to correspondence with the governors about the stations faults noticed when visited by traveling postal officials.

Seeing the catastrophic consequences in the postal rush and station economy of some provinces of the Transcaucasian region, which was the result of selling them from the “auction”, Transcaucasia postal authorities repeatedly appealed to the vicegerent with a proposal to introduce other system of “evaluation” that existed then in all the other provinces of Russia and according to which the stations should have been given under supervision to reliable postal landlords for a long term — 12 years. The same recommendations in March 1848 were expressed to the vicegerent and Commander-in-chief of the Postal Department.

However, M.S.Vorontsov rejected these proposals, giving the governors only the instructions to take measures to improve the maintenance of the postal stations. But that hadn’t led to noticeable improvements of the stations. On the contrary, the amount of charges for maintenance had increased. For example, in 1848 it amounted to 277 321 rubles, but in 1856 it had already reached 378 525 rubles.

When appointed the vicegerent of the Caucasus, Prince A.Baryatinsky at the beginning of 1857 paid attention to the huge amount of the rural levy allocated annually for the maintenance of postal rush in the province. He decided to eliminate all that chaos. On January 30 1857, he appealed to the Caucasian Committee with a proposal to transfer, as an experiment, the stations of Tiflis province, which were in the worst condition as compared to other provinces, from the jurisdiction of the County Police under the management of the Post Office for three years. [27] The proposal was considered in the Caucasian Committee and approved on June 7, 1857 by the Tsar Alexander II. [28] But to introduce it in the “Complete List of Laws of the Russian Empire,” this decision was communicated to the chairman of the Caucasian Committee of the Minister of Justice, only on October 26 of the same year. S.Kuzovkin in the article “The Forgotten Philatelic Unica”, published in №1—3 magazine “Soviet collector” for the year 1929, mistook the date of the original to determine the arrival time of Tiflis stamps in the postal circulation. [29]

Nikolai Semenovich Kakhanov was appointed to be the performer of the decisions on reorganizations of the Post Office. He was a hereditary nobleman, a son of the councilor of the Main Directorate of the Transcaucasian region, Georgian civil governor Semyon Vasilyevich Kakhanov. In future, Nikolai Kakhanov rose to the rank of Lieutenant General. His daughter married into the family of Baryatinsky marrying Prince Victor Victorovich Baryatinsky.

On behalf of the vicegerent of the Caucasus, N.S.Kakhanov had to investigate the reasons of the poor state of the stations, as well as to find ways to reduce money for their maintenance. (Previously, describing the correspondence of Knyazh A. Baryatinsky with the emperor, we have noted that Alexander II especially emphasized the necessity of a serious economy of state expenditures in the Caucasus.) In addition, the vicegerent expressed to N.S.Kakhanov his wish to establish the movement of mail coaches in Transcaucasia if only using the main tracts.

About a year later N.S.Kakhanov provided the vicegerent with a report, in which he outlined the project of reorganization of postal rush in the Transcaucasian region. [30] Outlining the reasons for the increase cost of maintaining the stations, on the basis of the collected information and produced calculations, he argued that the amount of money coming from rural levy was enough. At reasonable and conscientious activities of the postal landlords it was possible even to get the remainder and savings.

The stamp “Postal troika”.

The stamp “Postal troika”.

However, he considered his assumptions to be practical only in case the government built comfortable space stations (or repaired those that had not yet come into complete disrepair). A person singing a contract on their maintenance, had to procure fodder and other items necessary for the maintenance of postal rush at his own expense, without recourse to the deposit.

Speaking about the possibility of the organization of movement of postal coaches in Transcaucasia, N.S.Kakhanov proposed to establish them on the same conditions on which mail coach institutions were kept in Russia — following the example already set up in St. Petersburg, Moscow and Warsaw. He considered it necessary to manifest a special care about the only overland communication route of Transcaucasian region with Russia — Georgian Military Road. Taking into consideration the importance of the tract, he gave the priority of reconstruction to the unsatisfactory postal stations between Tiflis and Vladikavkaz, as well as the overhaul of the road with the simultaneous organization of movement of mail coaches on the tract.

To activate the measures, proposed by N.S.Kakhanov to improve the postal rush in the Transcaucasian region, large funds were required. Just to construct only 13 station buildings, located on the Georgian Military Highway between Tiflis and Vladikavkaz, the estimate provided an amount of 601 891 rubles.

This project had been reviewed by a special commission in 1859 and approved by the vicegerent. Under this approved project it was planned to equip Georgian Military Highway and to establish the movement of postal carriages on it. There were no funds to improve other stations and routes in that period of time.

Postal card. Post office of Russia of XIX century. Post-coach.

Postal card. Post office of Russia of XIX century. Post-coach.

After the approval of the program to bring the project to fulfillment A.I.Baryatinsky instructed N.S.Kakhanov “to implement his proposed idea”. The construction of station buildings (designed by architect Simonson) was transferred to the contractor — Tiflis citizen Mehdi bey Aga-Usain-Oglu, who had requested a loan of 435,000 rubles on the conditions of thirty-three-year loan and related interest. To acquire the property necessary for first acquisition of “Institutions of postal coaches”, N.S.Kakhanov was sent on a business trip to Russia, Kingdom of Poland and abroad. There he placed an order for the manufacture of 26 four-seater coaches and 26 six-seater omnibuses, 103 vans, 60 sledges and 14 carriages. In 1861, the improvement of the Georgian Military Road was completed and the tract was opened to the traffic of postal carriages.

Due to lack of funds for the improvement of the other stations of the Tiflis province, they had been left in the same condition, and by the decree to the Senate on April 30 1861, they were once again handed over to the police department. Thus, as a result of reforms carried out over postal rush, only the stations located on the Georgian Military Highway were left under the management of the Post Office.

Final transfer of the postal stations of the Transcaucasian region from under the management of rural Police to under the management of the Post Office was held only in 1868 on the basis of the decree to the Senate on December 9, 1867 “On the transformation of the Caucasus and the Transcaucasian region”. [31]

Introduction to the South Caucasus, of the “estimated” system of managing post stations, instead of selling them from the “auction” came only since 1871.