Chapter 3.
Tiflis stamp.

Issue and circulation of the stamp of Tiflis city post.

Tiflis stamp 1857.

Tiflis stamp 1857.

As described in previous chapters, the release of the first stamps in Tiflis was sanctioned by the vicegerent of the Caucasus, and was an integral part of the reform of postal service. The stamp was released in a very short period of time. The organizers did not have enough time to thoroughly prepare the drawing. Therefore, most likely as the basis for Tiflis stamp they took the plot of the stamp of circulating national and city (for the St.Petersburg and Moscow) envelopes.

As described in previous chapters, the release of the first stamps in Tiflis was sanctioned by the vicegerent of the Caucasus, and was an integral part of the reform of postal service. The stamp was released in a very short period of time. The organizers did not have enough time to thoroughly prepare the drawing. Therefore, most likely as the basis for Tiflis stamp they took the plot of the stamp of circulating national and city (for the St. Petersburg and Moscow) envelopes.

If the inside the circle of the stamp of the national envelopes there was the national emblem of Russia, at the Tiflis city post stamps there was the emblem of the province of Tiflis (Tiflis). The signs of the post department (two crossed post horns) on the Tiflis stamps are located in the corners between the inner circle and a square frame, and on the envelope — in the circle under the coat of arms.

The inscription on the stamp, “TIFLIS”, “CITY:”, “POST”, “6 kop:” is located between the outer and inner frames, whereas the corresponding text on the stamp of the envelopes is placed in the outer ring encircling the inner circle.

The engraver made the clichés according to the sketch, using which colorless stamps with the drawing described above were boldly printed, the size of 22x22 mm, without teeth in the printing house of the vicegerent. The paper for the stamps was yellowish white, 0.2 mm thick. The glue was of the same color.

Today there is no accurate information about the person who proposed the drawing for Tiflis stamps. But most likely the designs for them were prepared either by N.S.Kakhanov, or on his behalf by the postmaster of Tiflis province post office P.I.Fogel.

The difference between the cost and the tariff set up for letters posted within a city was one kopeck. In this respect, the provincial post office remained true to its traditions. The price of stamps included the charge for their manufacture; in the same way as in 1848 one kopeck charge for the envelopes was introduced in the price of a stamp of the envelope. One may recall that in the preparation of the introduction of national stamps in Russia, there was a similar question: whether or not to include the costs of stamps manufacture in their price? After an extensive exchange of views between the Postal Department and the Ministry of Finance in May-June of 1856, it was decided not to include the cost of manufacturing the stamps in their price. This was justified by the fact that after the introduction of stamps in general use, they would make it easier for the population to use mail services. The volume of mail would increase and as a result the income of the post office would increase that would abundantly cover the cost.

Manufacturers of Tiflis stamp, apparently, had a different opinion and decided not to risk. After all, they would have to conduct all the reform activities at the expense of their existing assets, without an additional appropriation from the state treasury. Therefore, the cost of manufacturing the postage mark was included in the price.

Tiflis stamps most likely were printed by the strips of 5 pieces in the sheet (1x5). This way of printing the sheet is widely known, for example, due to the first stamps of Russian Levant, which were made later in 1863 by 4 pieces per sheet (1x4 — a vertical column).

The map of Tiflis neighborhood with the road to Kojori.

The map of Tiflis neighborhood with the road to Kojori.

That is why the sale of Tiflis stamps, regulated by the “Rules”, was determined to be not less than 5 pieces at a time. At that time, the stamps could not be printed in large sheets due to the absence of powerful printing presses for raised printing in Russia.

Relief is one of the attractions of the Tiflis stamp. This is the first mark of postage, completely made by stamping that was supposed to prevent forgery of “stamp printing”. As A.Vigilyev writes in his article “Following the track of Tiflis Unica: “If an ill-minded person can relatively easily make a colorful print, the production of embossed stamp is not for everyone to manage”. [44]

Starting from June 20, 1857, Tiflis stamps had become the custom for everyday life to pay city letters. This date of circulation of the stamps was convincingly proved by Boris Kaminsky, who had analyzed the file of the newspaper “Kavkaz” for the years 1857–1858 (the official organ of the Vicegerent of the Caucasus published in Tiflis). [45] In the newspapers of June 20 and July 14 in the section “Caucasian chronicle” official reports on the establishments of the city post in Tiflis were published as well as on the opening of coach—and-mail communication between Tiflis and Kojori, summer mountainous residence of the vicegerent, which was located twelve versts far from Tiflis.

In the newspaper “Kavkaz” from June 20, 1857 it was written: “...according to the application of the interim—manager of the Postal District Colonel Kakhanov His Imperial Majesty Vicegerent of the Caucasus wished to permit to open at the Tiflis province post office the department of the city post office”.

In the newspaper from July 14, it was reported: “ the request of the interim-manager of the Postal District in the Caucasus and beyond the Caucasus Colonel Kakhanov His Excellency the Vicegerent of the Caucasus wished to permit to open carriage-mail communication between Tiflis and Kojori from the 15th of this July”.

The terms on sending correspondence on the newly opened city post office, which served Kojori had been placed in the “Rules for the city post in Tiflis and delivery of magazines and newspapers home”. The rules were published in “Caucasian calendar” for 1858, and are given in the second chapter.

The time of the approval of these regulations becomes clear from the announcement of the Tiflis province post office, published in the newspaper “Kavkaz” on March 20, 1858, where, in particular, it was reported: “The rules are approved by His Imperial Majesty Vicegerent of the Caucasus on the 14th of June 1857 (General-Adjutant Prince A.I.Baryatinsky)... ” Consequently, the “Rules for the city post in Tiflis...” were approved six days before the arrival of Tiflis stamps in the post circulation.

From the filing of the newspaper “Kavkaz” it becomes clear the duration of circulation of Tiflis stamps. So, in the ad, placed in the next 1858 (June 12), Tiflis provincial post office informed the residents of the city about the opening of regular city postal communication between Tiflis and Kojori from June 15 to September 1’ on the basis of those same rules which were approved by his Excellency (vicegerent of the Caucasus) last year. “That is, in 1858 the stamps of Tiflis city post continued to operate”.

The painter P.N. Gruzinsky. The postman, 1861.

The painter P.N. Gruzinsky. The postman, 1861.

Thus, the assumption of some researchers (e.g., S.Kuzovkin) about a particular term of introduction of Tiflis stamps to pay for the city correspondence and about the duration of their staying in the postal circulation (just before March 1, 1858) was not confirmed by official documents. [22, 45] Actually since March 1, 1858 in the Caucasus and the Transcaucasian region by the Circular of the Russian Postal Department from December 10, 1857 nation-wide postal stamps of the Empire were introduced in the post circulation. Since that date the residents of Tbilisi began to use them to pay not only the letters from other cities, but even city letters. But the introduction of national stamps of Russia did not prevent the spread of Tiflis city stamps. Provincial postal authorities didn’t like the idea to use national stamps to pay for correspondence within the city post in Tiflis.

On March 20, 1858 Tiflis provincial post office placed the ad in the newspaper “Kavkaz”, in which it informed that many of Tiflis citizens put into mailboxes, set for the city correspondence, letters addressed to their own countrymen (the citizens of Tiflis) not in the envelopes with glued specially approved “stamp seals” (ie Tiflis stamps!), but in stamp kouverts or in the envelopes with glued national stamps of Russia. Provincial post office stressed the inadmissibility of the use of stamp kouverts and national stamps to pay for city letters within Tiflis. It warned all the residents that “the entire letters put into the mailboxes without the stamp of city post with the addresses in Tiflis will not be delivered and will remain in office, and will be put in a particularly instituted box to be returned to the senders”. That is, the postal service in 1858 continued to spread Tiflis stamps among the population and required citizens to use them for city correspondence.

Similar requirements for sending the city letters in Tiflis, of course, existed in the years that followed, because there were no five-kopeck stamps in Russia, and it was unlikely that they used five-kopeck envelopes of St. Petersburg. And N.S.Kakhanov being the manager of the postal district in Transcaucasia for 17 years, of course, strongly guarded his pet project from various attacks.

It is also known, that the stamps of city mail, issued in 1863 for the internal correspondence of St. Petersburg and Moscow, never circulated in Tiflis. The issue of national stamps in 1864 in denominations of 1, 3 and 5 kopecks led to the complete replacement of Tiflis city stamps.

Having released in into circulation the stamps to pay for foreign correspondence since July 1, 1864, the post department of Russia soon (on July 10 of the same year) placed an ad in the “Stock Exchange news” in which it informed that the letters that were sent internally could be paid by the same stamps. And on August 9, 1864 in the same newspaper the Department announced about the withdrawal from the circulation city 5-kopeck stamps, because the newly introduced stamps in 1, 3 and 5 kopeck gave full opportunity to pay for the city correspondence.

At that time “Stock Exchange News” was a press organ, which published all the official orders and associations of the Post Office of Russia. All the post offices had to subscribe to this newspaper in order to follow the changes, introduced inside the Post Office. Tiflis province postal office also subscribed to this newspaper.

The full text of the advertisement of the Postal Department of July 10, 1864, explaining the use of stamps in denominations of 1, 3 and 5 kopecks, was published in the newspaper “Kavkaz” on July 26, 1864. However, there was no advertisement dated August 9 published in the Tiflis newspapers about the withdrawal from circulation of the city stamps. But this ad, as well as the previous one, could not pass unnoticed for the Tiflis province post office. Obviously, it obeyed the requirement of the Postal Department of the Empire to use newly introduced stamps with low rate to pay for city letters. Perhaps the Office still had a certain amount of prepared Tiflis stamps. And so they spent them to complete depletion. The destruction of stamps would bring material damage to the post office. Therefore, most likely, Tiflis stamps were circulating till 1865–1866. It is clear from Table 4.

Here you can see that all stamps with the low nominal value sold in the Caucasus in 1866 in much larger quantities than in the following years.

Table 4

of Postal Department about the sale of national stamps of 1 kopeck value in post offices of Transcaucasian region

Years Amount of stamps sold
1 kopecks 3 kopecks 5 kopecks Total
1864 1 432 1 068 1 257 3 757
1865 24 055 9 723 12 008 45 786
1866 88 513 67 209 39 735 195 457

Note: The table is developed by B. A. Kaminsky based on documents that were kept in the funds of Central State Historical Archives of the USSR (1289 f.). [24]

The above analysis of official data shows that the Tiflis city stamps circulated probably within 7–8 years. Why, then, with such a long term of their postal circulation only a few copies of these stamps came to present time? The main reason, obviously, is that at that time in the South Caucasus there were no collectors, and the citizens of Tiflis and Kojori could hardly have an idea to save any stamps for memory, which didn’t have any sight (yellowish-white pieces of paper with a colorless embossed pattern).

In such a long period of circulating of Tiflis stamps there was no any arbitrariness of local postal employees. As it was previously mentioned, the territory of the Caucasus vicariate under the leadership of the vicegerent had a great degree of autonomy and independence. This fully applied to the postal service. Post offices of Transcaucasian region, serving the reception and delivery of correspondence, had never reported to the County Police, and were always at the disposal of the Post Office, first of all-Russian, but since the mid 40-ies of the last century — the local postal district, which completely depended on the vicegerent. But the stations serving postal rush, were for a long time under the management of the police department and were maintained at the expense of district charges. There had never been any district (zemsky) institutions in the Transcaucasian region.

The only conclusion comes out of it: Tiflis stamps issued in Transcaucasia by the postal district belong to the category of state stamps intended for the payment of letters, sent by the city post. A legitimate question arises: whether the vicegerent had the right to approve the issue of postage stamps for the state payment?

It has already mentioned that the appointment in 1845 of graph M.S.Vorontsov the vicegerent, the Tsar in a special rescript gave him such rights, which in the assigned region were equivalent to the imperial power. Subsequent vicegerents used the same rights in the region. Official documents clearly confirm this. The only limitation of their power was the question of spending money, which they could spend only within the limits approved by the Tsar. With regard to costs beyond the established limit, the vicegerent had to apply to the Tsar for permission. So it was, for example, with the organization of the first post office in Tiflis. When M.S.Vorontsov, at the end of 1848, decided to turn the city department into a permanent establishment with an independent staff, he had to ask the tsar about it. Although the staff was to consist of only three people.

To release the stamps and stamp envelopes it was not required to address to St. Petersburg, as they could be made with the funds allocated by the post office for office expenses. And as one kopeck fee was included in the purchase price of stamps and envelopes for their production, then the costs were covered to the extent of their sale. Therefore, the vicegerent could solve the question of manufacturing stamps and envelopes, using his own authority without coordinating the necessary costs with the tsar.

That was the way the vicegerents acted in different times. They confirmed both envelopes and stamps by their power. But graph M.S.Vorontsov, having approved the envelopes, decided to notify the supreme commander of the Postal Department. He did that only because the letters in these envelopes were to be sent outside the Transcaucasian region. A.I.Baryatinsky issuing stamps to serve the city post, which served Tiflis and Kojori borough, did not consider it necessary to inform anyone, due to this fact they remained a mystery for a long time for philatelists around the world.

The official badge of the employee of the Head-office of postal carriages in the Caucasus.

The official badge of the employee
of the Head-office of postal carriages
in the Caucasus.

If Tiflis stamp envelopes were to be used only on the territory of the Caucasus region, without going beyond it, they certainly would have been released in circulation and philatelists would now have in their albums some more interesting “whole things”.

So, the vicegerent of the Caucasus had sufficient rights to establish a city post and put into circulation special stamps with the status of the state ones for franking the local letters.

Stamps existed as postage stamps since June 20, 1857, and were circulating in the Caucasus for several years. And for some time, they were circulating along with national stamps. Due to the limited edition and regional use of these marks, they could not survive to this day in large quantities and are rarity.

The uniqueness of the Tiflis city post stamp is connected more to the fact that this was the first stamp issued in the two countries — Georgia and Russia. Prior to the beginning of the nineteenth century there was an independent Georgian state. At the end of the twentieth century the sovereignty of Georgia was again proclaimed. The stamp depicts the coat of arms of Tiflis, now Tbilisi — the capital of Georgia. All this allows us to say that the Tiflis stamp is not only the first stamp of the Russian Empire, but also the first stamp issued in the territory of Georgia. This amazing combination gives Tiflis stamp the special status and historical value. Not many countries in the world can boast of such an unexpected turn of their history, when their communication and relationships were intertwined through the fate of the first postage stamp. But life sometimes presents us with unexpected surprises. That was what happened with the Tiflis stamp.

The decision on the release of the first postal stamps of the Russian Empire took too much time. In 1851 the Manager of mail transportation by railway road A.P.Charukovsky was sent from Russia abroad to study the experience of using stamps. Having visited England, France, Belgium, Holland, Italy, Austria, Switzerland, and Germany and gathered a lot of information, he returned in Russia in 1852. However, the Crimean War prevented any innovations in the postal field. Only in 1855 he filed to a Supreme Commander of the postal department V.F.Adlerberg the project detailing the arrangements for the introduction of glued stamps in Russia. According to the Charukovsky, Russian stamp was supposed to have a round shape with a perforation pattern around the drawing; it should portray printed using multiple colors, national emblem. Furthermore, the paper for the stamps should necessarily be protected from forgery. The project was approved on November 12, 1856.

The new drawing of the first Russian postal stamp in the shape of rectangular was developed by a senior engraver of the Department of State securities F.M.Kepler and he submitted it to the consideration on October 21, 1856. Creating his design of the stamp, Kepler closely acquainted himself with all the materials that were brought by Charukovsky from abroad, among which there were samples and original designs of the stamps from different countries. As a prototype for the creation of Russian postal stamp Kepler took a sample of the Prague firm “Gottlieb Haase and Sons” (in German Gottlieb Haase Söhne) proposed for the Austrian stamps of rectangular shape.

On October 20, 1857 Alexander II approved three two-color printed samples in denominations of 10, 20 and 30 kopecks. On November 9, the Emperor “His Majesty gave a wish to command to call them postal stamps instead of punching stamps”. In November, there began the production of 10-kopeck stamps. The first Russian stamp was printed on white rigid hand-made paper, with a watermark in the form of the figure “1” 15 mm high. Due to the fact that perforating machine, which was ordered in Vienna court printing facility (in German Österreichische Staatsdruckerei), came only on the 19th of November and was nonserviceable, it was decided to sell the Postal Department and send to the provinces a part of circulation of 10-kopeck stamps non-perforated.

The printing of the stamps was performed by two printing presses. On one of them, which came from Berlin, a blue oval with embossed emblem of the post office was printed under strong pressure, on the second — a brown frame of the drawing. In the period from November 26 to December 19, 1857, post offices got 3 million pieces of non-perforated stamps. On December 22 1857, a final circular of the Postal Department № 3 “On the introduction of postal stamps for public use” was issued, the text of which read: “From the first of January next 1858 year simple private letters to all places of the Empire, the Kingdom of Poland and the Grand Duchy of Finland which are brought to the post office in simple couverts or without couverts at all, with the writing of the address at the folded letter itself, must be sent only with the attachment of the postal stamps respectively of the weight of the letters”. The same day, the stamps went on sale in the Moscow and St. Petersburg post offices. Within a few days about 8000 copies were sold.

Since January 1, 1858 the official use of the stamps began. They were used to pay for a simple internal correspondence on the whole territory of Russia, except the Caucasus, Transcaucasia and Siberia, where their application started on March 1, 1858. Since the supply of numerous post offices with postal stamps required time, the Postal Department ordered to frank the stamps with pen and ink, following the example of franking stamp envelopes.

An interesting fact is that first postage stamp of Poland had a similar to Tiflis stamp story of the birth. Kingdom of Poland (in Polish Krolestwo Polskie, as well as Congress Poland or “Kongressovka” from Polish Krolestwo Kongresowe, Kongresowka) is the territory, which was the part of the Russian Empire from 1815 to 1917. However, the first postage stamp of Poland was issued after the release of the Tiflis stamp, and even after the first Russian stamp. It was issued for the Polish Kingdom on January 1, 1860 (new style). Since January 1 fell on Sunday, the stamp actually came into the market only on the next day.

Its drawing was similar to Russian stamps of that period. In the center of the stamp there was an image of the emblem of the Polish Kingdom. The stamp was engraved by the engraver of the Polish bank Henrik Meyer (Henryk Mejer). The drawings, used by him, were discovered in the archives in St. Petersburg, but the artist’s name remains unknown. The stamps were printed in the state printing house in Warsaw, due to the orders of the Postal Service of the Polish Kingdom. A printing letter-press machine, used for printing stamps, was invented by Izrael Abraham Staffell (Izrael Abraham Staffel, 1814–1884) for printing in two colors. It could print 1,000 sheets per hour and was equipped with a counter, which ensured the correct calculation. Apart from these facts little is known about it today.

First postal stamp of the Kingdom of Poland 1860.

First postal stamp
of the Kingdom of Poland 1860.

Printing was carried out without the approval of the Russian Post Office. Regional Office in St. Petersburg approved the stamp only later, on March 4, 1860 (New Style). Issued stamps could be used only on the territory of the Kingdom of Poland and on the correspondence sent to Russia. It was necessary to pay in cash for the letters to be sent to other countries, and they were sent without sticking the stamps. It is believed that about three million of these stamps were printed. When on April 1, 1865 (New Style), the stamps were withdrawn from circulation; the rest of stamps in the amount of 208515 pieces had been destroyed. After that date, there were only Russian stamps in circulation.

Thus, as well as Tiflis stamp, the first stamp of the Kingdom of Poland, which was part of the Russian Empire, was published without the approval of the Government and the Emperor just to support the tasks of the local postal service. Moreover, if delaying of a decision on the introduction of imperial stamps in St. Petersburg can partly justify the release of Tiflis stamps, then the release of the first postage stamps in Poland after the release of the Russian state stamps, shows once again how relevant and urgent was at that moment the task to improve the performance of the postal service. Regional authorities, without waiting for bureaucratic decisions from the capital took the decision to issue local postage stamps, because life urgently required such actions. And the city authorities subsequently recognized these decisions as legitimate.