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Highlights of Russian Postal History
This section outlines some highlights of Russian Postal history which seem relevant to Przedborz, which was under Russian control from 1815 to 1915.1
Warning: I've been warned that Russian Philatelic History is very complex and difficult to understand. Some of the following is an image I've pieced together, and is probably not quite accurate or is even totally wrong. It is a beginner's start.
This page is only about The Russian State Post Office system, in which the Przedbórz office was a otdelenie:
- It was inspired by an email exchange with Martin Spufford, and expanded by several exchanges with David Skipton. The mistakes are solely mine.
- The City Post System was separate, and probably equally confusing. Warsaw had its own City Post; I don't know if there were any others in the Kingdom of Poland.
- The Russian State system changed significantly during the 100 years that it occupied Przedbórz:
- Post office designations changed several times.
- The number of post-office classes varied over time as did the powers of each class.
- Some Russian terms have more that one meaning, as will be seen below.
- The following descriptions probably can't be associated with a specific period, such as 1835-69 or 1870-1915, etc. They are meant to identify some of the characteristics of the postal system at various times, rather than on a specific date.
- The following discussion omits any reference to the telegraph system. During some periods the post and telegraph services were separate; at other times, some handled both, or some handled telegrams and only certain types of mail, etc.
I've never seen a reference to telegraph service in Przedbórz, and have no idea how it was handled. But a telegraph line from Konsk to Przedbórz is shown on Gersher Galicia's 1912 Telegraph/Telephone Network 1:750,000 map of the Eastern Austro-Hungarian Monarchy. The legend is in the lower-left corner of the map, and appears to indicate that the line was a government telegraph line. There was an intermediate station at Ruda Maleniecka, and a branch to Radoszyce. The latter was on the old major east-west trade route from Piotrkow Trybunalski to Lublin.
- The highest class was the pochtamt, which can be interpreted as a "general post office", "main post office", etc. These would handle all postal services.
- For example, the Warsaw pochtamt might have handled all incoming and outgoing foreign mail.
There was a period in the 1800's when all foreign mail coming in to the US was routed through the Washington D.C. GPO.
(per Bill Barlow in my local stamp club.)
One wonders if this applied to mail coming from Canada or Mexico, however.
- The Warsaw pochtamt was the only one in the Kingdom of Poland. In Imperial Russia, there were pochtamt in Moscow, St. Petersburg, and in 2-12 other cities throughout Russia.
- Next there were (main) branch post offices2, or kontora. These might also be called regional, or first-class post offices, with all services except those reserved for the pochtamt in Warsaw, St. Petersburg, etc.
The kontora came in various classes: David Skipton says there were four classes in 1891, for example.
(End of kontora discussion.)
- I believe these also exchanged mail with the "lower-class" or "sub-branch" offices in their region, as well as with the other kontora and the GPO.
- For example, Przedbórz exchanged mail with the branch-office in Konsk or wherever it might have been from time to time. So the Przedbórz office would have separated the mail for its jurisdiction (the town plus 20-30 outlying villages and hamlets) and would have sent everything else to Konsk.
- The next post office class was the otdelenie ("branch sub-offices" or "2nd class offices").
- Everyone seems to agree that Przedbórz was an otdelenie, as proved by the 1892 cancel. Under the Austrian administration it exchanged mail with the branch office in Konsk, and there is no reason to believe that was different under the Russian administration.
- Przedbórz could accept and hand out any kind of mail. At least that was the case in 1881, when it was lower-ranked (per Skipton.) You'll see below that some stations were much more restricted.
- Sometime between 1891 and 1892, Przedbórz was promoted in rank to an otdelenie.
- Ekspeditsiya were the next level. In the rural areas these would probably be post offices. But these also existed in the GPOs in Warsaw, St. Petersburg, Moscow, etc. In that context they might be considered departments, although Skipton calls them postal dispatch offices.
- For example, in 1830 the St. Petersburg GPO (pochtamt) had the following departments (ekspeditsiya), as quoted from Prigara, PDF pg. 26:
Some of these terms don't make any sense to me, but others are analogous to the organization of the U.S. Postal system in 2008.
- "receipt of ordinary correspondence and dispatch of light mail
within the country"
- "receipt of money (all kinds of mail)"
- "sorting of all arriving mail and distribution of ordinary mail"
- "sorting and distribution of money"
- "outbound foreign and Odessa extra-mail" (sic)
- "mail arriving from abroad and registered letters"
- "heavy mail and relays"
- For example, there is a regional parcel-handing facility in Richmond which handles parcels for some or all of the San Francisco Bay Area. (SG: double-check this.)
- And it is fairly common to have specialized bulk mail facilities in the larger U.S. metropolitan areas.
- Perhaps ekspeditsiya were what we might call 1st-class offices, and kontora should be called "GPO Branch Offices".
- I don't know what the smaller (3rd-class, 4th-class, etc.) post offices were called. In Russia proper, these were often one- or two-person offices, and that was probably true in Poland as well.
- I've seen the equivalent in very small towns in the U.S., as well as in sub-stations such as those found in neighborhood drug stores or small-town general stores, etc.
- Some postal stations handled both ordinary and registered mail; some handled only ordinary mail, and (according to Skipton) some only provided fresh horses, and didn't handle mail at all. But Poland was smaller, more densely populated, and according to some, more literate. So if probably had few, if any, "fresh-horse offices".
1. This section is based on email correspondence with Martin Spufford and David Skipton, as well as the Rossica/Skipton translations of Bazilevich
and of Prigara
2. There are some issues about the nominclature:
"Branch post office" is probably the accurate translation of the Russian term, but the practical meaning is that of the "main post office" in a "postal sub-district."
The word "postal district" is technically reserved for a pochtamt, so with the help of circular reasoning, I have invented the "postal sub-district" as the area served by a kontora
- A "postal sub-district" might be been as large as a voivodship (province), or as small as a powiat (county).
- While the "sub-district" boundaries often coincided with the corresponding political subdivision, sometimes they were quite different.
- I used to think the Konsk post office was a kontora, but now I'm starting to think it was smaller (or "lower-class").
3. Some related anecdotes from the U.S. Postal service can be found here
© 2008-13 Sam Ginsburg
Last modified 17 Mar. 2013