LITHUANIA : INDEPENDENCE 1918-1940
On a congress in Vilnius, from 18 to 23 September 1917, a National Counsel 'Lietuvos Taryba' was chosen. This counsel consisted of 20 members with Antanas Smetona as chairman. In Vilnius on 18 February 1918 the Taryba proclaimed the independence of Lithuania. The day of this proclamation, 16 February 1918, was considered as Independence-Day. With the day of armistice (11 November) the first Ministry Voldemaras enters upon one's duties. Mi. 660, issued 16 February 1998, commemorating the 80th anniversary
of the Independence-declaration.
Text of the declaration on the stamp.
This picture and all pictures below on this page, if not mentioned otherwise: scanned about 300 dpi. Then set right and cut out - noted the actual print size-,
resized 25 % of this image and saved as jpg..
START OF THE POST
On 16 November 1918, with the first postal regulations, the electrical engineer Benediktas Tamosevicius was appointed in the Ministry of Communication to manage the Post-, Telegraph- and Telephone-communications. This we can see thus as the beginning of the independent Lithuanian Post.
Further the executive staff consisted of J. Ducinkas, appointed 20 November 1918, Adolfas Sruoga, appointed 29 November, and J. Augunas, appointed 19 December.
The German authorities co-operated not really: even an office was not available within the Main Postoffice of Vilnius. However there were rooms empty and one decided to 'sqatt' in a room. The former room of the postmaster of Vilnius seemed well suitable for it and on 9 December L. Ducinkas broke open the door, which led to the inner courdyard. He repaired the broken glass panels and connected the room with the electricity.
The Germans protested indeed, but did not carry into effect their menaces and in this room the Lithuanian Post began her activities. After negotiations the Lithuanians could take over for 150.000 Auksinai surplus material from the Germans.
Also the Poles worked against so much as possible and hired even somebody to remove posters.
On 24 December 1918 the occupation-authorities ordered that the Lithuanians could take over the post-offices direct. This announce was without any prior notice, more a 'ultimatum'. B.Tamoševicius became Lithuania's Postmaster on November 16, 1918. A. Sruoga was made Assistant Postmaster. On December 26, 1918 the Lithuanian Post Office Administration get the control over the post in: Vilnius, Kaunas, Gardinas, Vilkaviškis, Naumiestis, Šakiai, Kėdainiai, Kretinga, Alytus and Kuršnai.
At the same time also they came to an arrangement for the post-transport along the railways of the Germans: in the beginning only one seat in the car of a passenger train. Later the Lithuanian Post could use a secrion of 8 seats for the post. A board with 'Lietuvos Patas' was been hung -something provisional- on the window.
Information about the beginning of the Lithuanian post:
- The 70th anniversary of Lithuania's Post Office / J. Variakojis. - LPS 1966 ; XII - LITHPEX. - p. 12-15
|1918, 18 february||Proclamation of independence, as independence-day: 16 february|
|1918, 3 march||Peace of Brest-Litowsk, Russia cedes Lithuania|
|1918, 11 november||Capitulation of Germany, Lithuania independent with Vilnius as capital|
|1918, 26 december||First Lithuanian post office in Vilnius|
|1918, 27 december||First Lithuanian stamps at the counter in Vilnius|
|1919, 3-4 january||First occupation of Vilnius by Polish warriors|
|1919, 5 january||Government of Lithuania moved to Kaunas|
|1919, 5 january||First occupation of van Vilnius by bolsheviks (LSSR-LITBEL)|
|1919, 19 april||Second Polish occupation of Vilnius|
|1919||Peace-conference of Paris: Lithuania independent|
|1920, 12 july||Russia recognizes Lithuania with Vilnius (Peace of Moscow)|
|1920, 26 august||Second Lithuanian government-time in Vilnius|
|1920, 9 october||Third Polish occupation (general Zeligowski)|
|1920, 10 october||Proclamation of state "Central Lithuania"(Vilnius-area)|
THE FIRST STAMP: VILNIUS ISSUE
Because the German stamps can not be used, it was necesary to print stamps at very short notice. Benediktas Tamosevicius, since 16 november 1918 the first postmaster of Lithuania,
has thus not so many possibilities.
He has tried to take over the stock stamps of Ob. Ost, but this directed to nothing. So over-printing was not possible and Ob.Ost ended his activities on 26 December. After all the first stamps of Lithuania are been really 'necessity-edition': in the night of 26 to 27 december the first stamps were printed, the first 'Vilnius-edition'. They are printed in the printing-office of M. Kukta in Vilnius, but their experience limited itself to books and forms. There was no real design: only the stock of letters of the printing-office could be used and Jonas Strazdus, an employee of the printing-office maked the 'design'. On 27 December the stamps arrived at the counter. In the first instance they were not used in Vilnius for postage, because there were on order 'more beautiful' stamps in Berlin.
Mi. 1, the first postage stamp of independent Lithuania. the first 'Vilnius-issue', issued 27-12-1918, last day of validity 30-9-1922 (last known datestamp is 7-1-1920).
The first Vilnius-issue: Mi. 1 (10 shatikų) and Mi. 2 (15 shatikų), with the value indication in thin numerals (the second Vilnius issue has thick numerals). The stamps are printed in sheets of 20 stamps, 4 rows of 5 stamps.
The stamps are on the border of the sheet not perforated.
Original print size of this image: 2,921 x 3,158 cm (is something more as the postal item), this image is resized 50 %
As you see there is a reversed 'h' used in the word "shatikų" .
The stock of letters of the printing-office was bad, and therefore it is good possible to reconstruate the positions of the stamps in the sheet of 20 stamps on the basis of faults of the print-plate. For the word "shatikų" there were even not enough letters, so some emergency measures were necessary.
good letter -----------reversed 'h' ----------reversed 'n' with
(7 times)------------------(12 times)-------------comma (1 time)
In the sheet we have 20 fields, 4 rows of 5 stamps, first row 1-5, etc.
The good letter (for the Lithuanian genitiv) is used in field 1, 5, 11,12,14, 15, 16
The reversed 'h' is used in field:2, 3, 4, 6, 7, 8, 10, 13, 17, 18, 19, 20.
The reversed 'n' with comma is used only in field 9.
The stamp above (Mi. 1) must be no. 20 in the sheet: not perforated right and under. There is used a reversed 'h' indeed.
In the Charles Matuzas collection were two postcards with the first Lithuanian stamps. One card was sent from Vilnius to Kaunas by Dr. Jonas Basanavičius, a signatory of the Act of Independence of Lithuania. The card is dated 27-12-1918, the first day of issue, and with the one-line postmark of Vilnius. A picture -in color - you can see in the article: The Charles Matuzas collection at Cherrystone / Vitaly Geyfman. - LPS 2012 ; No. 240. - p. 34-47: see page 34. In this article also pictures of rare imperforated horizontal pairs of 10 sk and 15 sk.
On the site of Cherrystone you can see the items also: First Vilnius issue
Four days later, 31 December, came out the second edition Mi. 3-8: only the numerals are replaced by more thick numerals.
Here you see Mi. 3. I do not trust this one: the paper is too white, so it can bee a falsification.
Both issues are printed on -not gummed- 'sämisch' book-printing-paper, without watermark. The perforation was made only between the stamps.
Original print size of this image: 2,464 x 3,108 cm (is something more as the postal item), this image is resized 50 %
Values of the second Vilnius-issue: 10-15-20-30-40-50 sk.
The field-identification can on the same way as the first issue: the same -more used and damaged- plates.
Mi. 5 of the second Vilnius-issue
The cancellation of Vilnius itself was a not-dated black one-line-postmark.
The Main Post-office of Vilnius was transmitted by the Germans just on 1 January, after the Telegraph- and Telephone-system has been made useless.
Original print size of this image: 2,337 x 2,913 cm (is something more as the postal item), this image is resized 50 %
- Litauen : Handbuch der Briefmarken des unabhängigen Staates / Martin Bechstedt
Teil 1 Die Marken der Auksinas-Währung 1918 - 1922. - cop. 2005. - 217 p.
About Vilnius and Kaunas-issues: p. 24-88
A new Handbook in German.
- Pirmosios Lietuvos Pasto Zenklu Laidos = The issues of the first Lithuanian stamps / Juozas Zygas. - 2 volumes, in Lithuanian and English.
A A very extensive study about this subject.
- De eerste en tweede Vilnius uitgave / [H. Zuijdwegt, Wim Bachman]. - In: HBG 1984 ; 4
Study about first and second Vilnius-issue, in the Dutch magazine HBG
- Litauen - ein Geheimtip für Sammler und forschende Philatelisten (IV) / Hermann Logsch. - In: DBZ (Deutsche Briefmarken Zeitung) 1982 ; nr. 14. - p. 2625-2629
About: Vilnius-issues, Mi. 1-8, and first Kaunas-issue, Mi. 9-12
In the night of 3-4 January 1919 the city was occupied by Polish troops. The government turned aside to Kaunas, but J. Ducinkas and A. Sruoga stayed still in Vilnius active to 6 January. After the first occupation by the bolshevists (5 January) a whole new post-organisation was established, in wich in the first instance the Lithuanians were taken up, among others Sruoga and Ducinkas. After the commissioner Srotel has been succeeded by Gurvic, the situation changed.
The last one was not kindly disposed towards the Lithuanians and the oppression begun. Sruogo could fly, but J. Ducinkas was arrested and liberated not until the re-occupation of Vilnius by the Poles (19 April 1919). Beyond the official Russian Post, also -unofficially- the Polish Post continued working. The strong reorganised Lithuanian army approached Vilnius already, but the Polish armies, led by Pilsudski, could occupy the town earlier. The Supreme Council of the Allied and associated powers established a line of demarcation on 26 April, by which Vilnius temporarely came to the Poles. In 1920 the Polish Post is already really active in Vilnius.
By the second occupation by the Red Army (15 July 1920), there were postal activities of the Russians, postal activities of the Lithuanian were tolerated by them, and the Polish post continued -underground- also. The Lithuanians could set up an own post-office in the building of the former State-Bank.
Also the Russians had an own post-office. Even the bolshevist post-office could be reached by the main entrance, and one had access to the Lithuanian Post by a side-entrance. It is not clear if this was of the 'civil' Lithuanian Post or the Sovjet-Lithuanian.
Short before, on 12 July 1920, in Moscow the peace-treaty was brought about, by which Lithuania was recognized, including the area around Vilnius and Gardinas. On 25 August the Russians give over Vilnius to the Lithuanians and on 26 August the Lithuanian government is removed to Vilnius.
This endured to the third Polish occupation by troops of the Lithuanian-Whiterussian front. Postal items from this period are very rare, special from the official bolshevist period is really nothing known.
More literature about Vilnius:
- Lithuania - postal history background : [december 1918]. - In: BLPSNY (Bulletin of the Philatelic Society of New York) 1985 ; 135. - p.8577-8579
- Lithuania - postal history background : [january 1919]. - In: BLPSNY 1986 ; 136. - p.8606-8608
- Die Vorgeschichte der Mittellitauen-Post vom Abzug der deutschen Truppen bis zur Staatsgründung 1920 : eine Quellenstudie / von Gerhard Hahne. - In: Mitt.blatt Bundesarb. Polen im Bdpe.V 1989 ; 5. - p. 25-41
About: Vilnius-area 1918-1920
- Wilna-Zeittafel. - In: Lituania 1996 ; nr. 5. - p. 235. - In German: Vilnius chronological table
- Wilnas Post 1918-1922 / Gerhard Hahne. - In: Lituania 1996 ; nr. 5. - p. 289-294
About: postal history of Vilnius 1918-1922
THE KAUNAS ISSUES
Vilnius was only a short time in the transition-period after World War I, capital of Lithuania.
The "provisional"seat of government became finally the town of Kaunas.
In Kaunas the first agreement about postal traffic between Lithuania and a foreign country, in this case Germany, is concluded on 1 January 1919. In this treaty was decided which mail was permited, which languages were permited. On the German side Post-office 1 in Königsberg became the point of exchange, and on the Lithuanian side the post-office in Kaunas. Karl Ziegler (Militär-Postdirektor by Oberbefehlshaber Ost) signed for Germany, R. Sliupas (representative of the Lithuanian government in Kaunas) signed fot Lithuania. On 2 January the government fled from the Pole to Kaunas.
The first stamps -the 1st and 2th Vilnius-issues- (M.1-8)- were issued still in Vilnius.
After this, on 29 january, in Kaunas were issued similar stamps: the 1st printing of the first Kaunas-issue (Mi. 9-12: values 10, 15, 20 and 30).
The Kaunas-issues are to distinguish very easily from the Vilnius-issues. The Vilnius-issues have the wrong designation 'pašta'. By the Kaunas-issues this has been corrected in the right 'pasštas'.
Original print size of this image: 2,540 x 3,006 cm (is something more as the postal item), this image is resized 50 %
In the article mentioned above - The Charles Matuzas collection at Cherrystone / Vitaly Geyfman. - LPS 2012 ; No. 240. - p. 34-47- is also a picture of a sheet of the 15 Skatikų with on position 16 (left-under) '5' instead of '15". (See page 35)
The three Kaunas-issues are to distinguish easily also again: the first Kaunas-issue has 'skatikų' in full as indication of the currency. The second Kaunas-issue used the abbreviation 'sk' after the value indication. The third Kaunas-issue used 'sk' before and after the value indication.
The stamps of the first Kaunas-issue (all resized 50 %):
The stamps of this first Kaunas-issue were printed in sheets of 20: five stamps side by side and four rows of five under each other. Only the values 10-15-20 and 30 were issued now, probably because the higher values were in stock from the 2e Vilnius-issue.
On 7 february followed the 2th impression of the first Kaunas-issue. All four values (Mi. 9-12) are reprinted by the second printing.
Mi. 11 and 12.
The reconstruction of the original positions of the stamps in a sheet, can be done with the Kaunas-issues largely via the box of the stamps. For the upper end and the under end (of the box) are used canted o's. The little bars with the letter o, were canted, but the white space above and under a print letter is different. Under a print letter there is more white space. Because the letter o in the upper end and the under end of the stamp not consequently are canted to the same side, the distance between the ovals in the box of the stamp is different.
So when the bars are canted and placed consequently with the under side against the upper side of the next letter: gives N(ormal) space. But two unser sides against each other gives a W(ide) space, and so two upper sides against each other a S(mall) space.
The distance between the ovals can be: S(mall) = about 1,5 mm or N(ormal) =about 2 mm or W(ide) = about 2,5 mm. In the magazine HBG 1985 ; 5 Ruud van Wijnen has published a summary of the positions of the first Kaunas issue and so we look with his description to Mi. 10 again.
This stamp must be position 16 (left-under): no perforation left and under. We see that the ovals are placed according the description of this position
The distance between the ovals or pearls above must be: S.W.N.N.S.
The distance between the ovals or pearls beneath must be also: S.W.N.N.S.
There are also some other characteristics for field 16, and also these we see in this postage stamp:
|O5, the 5th oval beneath, must have a dot inside: you can see it after some enlargement (easy with the computer!)||i of 'skatikų' has no serif||2th oval beneath: white dot right-above|
Literature about this subject:
- De eerste KAUNAS uitgave / Ruud W. van Wijnen. - In: HBG 1985 ; 5. -  p.
By the second Kaunas-issues this is different.
On 15 february followed the 1st printing of the second Kaunas-issue (Mi. 13-19), but only the values 10 sk., 15, 20, 30, 40 and 50 (Mi. 13-18) are printed then. This happened well on the same way as the first Kaunas-issue in sheets of 20 stamps.
On 27 february the 2th printing came also of this values (Mi. 13-18). About 1 March also followed the 3rd printing of the values 20 sk, 30, 40 and 50 (mi. 15-18), also on the same way in sheets of 20 stamps.
The 15th march -so the 4th impression, but the date is uncertain- makes one's appearance with only the value 60 sk. (so for this value the first impression), but this value was printed together -on one plate- with the second impression of the third Kaunas-issue.
For the second Kaunas-issue are used the plates of the first indeed, but a great number of stamps is be found now on other positions. The five stamps of the first row stayed on the same position. By the second, third and fourth row the stamp came in reverse order: 1-2-3-4-5//10-9-8-7-6//15-14-13-12-11//20-19-19-17-16.
A well-known printing error occurs of Mi. 10 of the first Kaunas-issue: by the falling off of the '1' came into existence a value of 5 skatiku (instead of 15). Also there is a well-known printing error of the second Kaunas-issue: by Mi. 15, 20 sk., the 'p' of pastas is falled off in parts of the second impression. Falsifications of this two stamps are known. There are also false sheets of the first and second Kaunas-issue in stereotype-printing. This is a special printing-process, that was used for the second impression of the third Kaunas-issue.
The "Mariampole"-falsifications (or reprints) of the first and second Kaunas-issues, 'issued' after 1 march 1919
The only -antedated- postmark on this 'falsifications' is of the place 'MARIJAMPOLE *a*'. Letters with the first and second Kaunas-issue and this postmark are never found, so one always doubted of the authenticity.
|Mi. 11||Mi. 12||Mi. 13||Mi. 14||Mi. 15|
Investigation of Walter Norton makes it plausible that the stamps are maked on request of the Lithuanian Peace Delegation, which was in Paris from 16 january 1919.
They need money for their cost of living, and therefore they have sended a request to Lithuania for stamps, which they then could sell to dealers.
Also for many later falsifications we have to thank A. Sruonga and his assistants. A criminal procedure began againt Sruonga and Augunas, the director of the post-office in Memel in December 1934. By Sruonga a mumber of plates of the Kaunas-issues was found at his arrest. From all issues Sruonga let make deviations, perforation-faults, etc. and he reserved it for himself for selling to dealers and collectioners. By manipulation he forced up the prices of some stamps. Many Sruonga-making is found again automatically in catalogs, because he took care of selling the stamps in little amounts at the counter and so it was used postal. In 1935 Sruonga was condemned to 15 year house of correction and the others a half to 3 year.
Literature about Sruoga:
Der litauische Postdirektor als Grossbetrüger. - In: Illustriertes Briefmarken-Journal 1935 ; 7. - p. 103
About: trial and conviction (1935) of Sruoga, former General-manager of the Lithuanian Post and producer of many falsifications/errors/variations, article in German
Cover with Mi. 20-26, the third Kaunas-issue.
Original print size of this image: 15,147 x 12,708 cm (is something more as the postal item)
There came also yet a third Kaunas-issue (Mi. 20-26): on 1 march 1919 the 1th impression, only of the values 10 sk, 15 and 20. By the second printing on 15 March all values (Mi. 20-26) were printed.
The 1st impression of the third Kaunas-issue had many print faults of the second Kaunas-issue. The same plates are used.
The second impression was maked on a newspaper-printing-press, according to an entirely other printingprocess, the stereotype printing. By this printingprocess a printing-plate was maked from more plates. The printing-plate got also a special composition: a sheet of the 7 values of the 2th impression of the third Kaunas-issue (Mi. 20-26) together with the 4th impression of the second Kaunas-issue (60 sk).
Hereby the original plates were used as basis, and only the value indication and the abbrevation for the currency "sk" were set up again. So 7 times 20 stamps of the third Kaunas-issue came on the printing plate, and to filling the sheet also 1 time 20 stamps of the second Kaunas-issue (60 sk).
The plate looked like follows: at the top 20 stamps (4 rows of vijf stamps under each other) of 'sk 30 sk' (Mi. 23), 20 stamps of 'sk 20 sk' (Mi. 22), 20 stamps of 'sk 15 sk' (Mi. 21) and 'sk 10 sk' (Mi. 20). Under this again 4 blocks: 20 stamps of '60 sk' (so of the second Kaunas-issue), 20 stamps of 'sk 60 sk' (Mi. 26), 20 stamps of 'sk 50 sk' (mi. 25) and 20 stamps of 'sk 40 sk' (Mi. 24).
The 'Nederlandsch Tijdschrift voor Postzegelkunde' speaks in 1919 already about a 'strange manner of composition'of this plate:
|sk 30 sk||sk 20 sk||sk 15 sk||sk 10 sk|
|60 sk||sk 60 sk||sk 50 sk||sk 40 sk|
After strong pressure the stamps, which were ordered from the company Hermann in Berlin, arrived. These 'Berlin printings' are printed on greyish blue paper, with a watermark of narrow wavy lines, the so-called 'empire-bread-paper'. Theu are produced in lithography.
about the quality the Nederlandsch Tijdschrift voor Postzegelkunde (1919, nr. 6, p. 88) reports: "In the printing-office the stamps were the last thing they were concerned about in comparison with the State-printing-office. Stamps, down the middle toothed, and other sheets, destined for destruction, are delivered: everything gives an impression of working with with the utmost speed, and that there was no time to select the spoiled sheets. that looks promising for the ... fool and their smiling dealers."