Postal history 1891 – 1918























 – morten(@)

Est. July 1997




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Via Bergen




The killing of the Austrian heiress in Sarajevo is seen as the triggering cause of the outbreak of the first world war in August 1914. The divisions of the war meant that ordinary mail routes were interrupted. Much of the mail in Europe was previously routed via Hamburg and Bremerhaven, which was no longer relevant. Norway remained neutral to the war. Soon it became clear that the route between Bergen and Newcastle would be an important transport route for mail to and from all over Europe, as well as intercontinental.


In Bergen, transit mail from the UK to Sweden, Denmark and Russia had already been handled for a long time. In addition, mail was also handled from ships arriving from Arkhangelsk and Vardø. During the autumn of 1914, international mail flowed over the Bergen - Newcastle route.


At the congress in Bern in 1874, among other things, allowances for transit mail were passed on both land and sea. An agency was set up in Bern to keep statistics and carry out settlements between countries. Outdated and complicated routines and transactions were replaced by modern solutions. The post could still be cancelled and delayed in the event of war, but the first many years this did not apply to ordinary mail. The letter was supposed to arrive. But from the Congress of 1906, a new force-majeure provision was introduced which primarily applied to warring countries, but which would also hit post in transit.


The postal convention was not suspended as a result of the war. The mail was routed via new routes in line with the convention. The post that was previously directed via Germany was now redirected to England and there were large volumes to and from the Scandinavian countries, Russia and Germany. International mail in Northern Europe was thus largely routed via Bergen and the connection with England over Newcastle. From August 22, all mail from the UK to the Far East was routed via Newcastle and Bergen.


Already in 1912, a contract was signed between the state and the Bergen Steamship Company to increase capacity on the line, but it was not until August 3, 1914 that they were up to the agreed frequency, namely seven voyages each week. The route traffic across the North Sea to Newcastle went pretty well. The post flag was respected and contributed to it. Even so, both hijacking and torpedoing took place, mail could be seized by the Germans and some were simply ordered eased overboard. There were also boats with a lot of mail besides those that went on the route and during the submarine war from February 1917 the mail went with the ships available. Those who went on the route no longer had enough capacity. From the spring of 1917 all traffic on the route was in the form of a convoy due to the problems with the German submarines.


Every day there was a post with the Bergen railway from Christiania and the mail that was going east was sent on the same rails to Christiania. During the period when the ships went in a convoy, up to 6000 mail bags could be loaded in one cargo. All this was mapped and weighed as sack’s serving as documentation on transit mail. Mail from Finland to many countries also went via Bergen, but it was mail that had to take even greater detours. Mail between Russia and Greece had to take the long way around Bergen and England as it was no longer possible to send via the Ottoman Empire.


The Norwegian merchant fleet was marked with neutrality marks. This largely provided good protection until early 1917, when Germany declared unrestricted submarine warfare. After that, too, the merchant fleet sailed with neutrality badges when they were respected by Allied forces (the Entente). D / S Vega was the only scheduled ship on the Bergen - Newcastle line that was sunk during the war. In addition to mail, the ship was loaded with fish intended for export to England and this was probably the triggering reason for the lowering. Value and diplomatic mail were saved, while the rest of the mail is at the bottom of the sea.









Finland redirected foreign westbound mail via Torneå as an alternative route to the various shipmail routes or via St. Petersburg from August 5, 1914. The letter in the picture is sent from Helsinki to Leeds in England on September 6, 1914 with arrival in Leeds 18 September. It is sent in the period before a direct shipmail route between Gothenburg and Newcastle was established on September 18. The letter is routed via the Bergen - Newcastle route and to mapping in London before arriving at Leeds.


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Automatisk generert beskrivelse















October 1917



Domestic postal rates changed on October 1st 1917. Rates was increased and rates no longer stated in both Finnish and Russian currency. Rates stated in Finnish currency only. Rate for a letter up to 15 gram was set to 30 penni. Still Russian stamps was valid franking on both domestic and international mail.


For many years currency exchange rates between Finnish and Russian, Marks and Rouble, currencies was stable at 2,67 Marks for 1 Rouble. These changes during 1917. Due to reduction and fluctuation in the rouble value, actual exchange rates was distributed to post offices to avoid loss. In October only the official currency exchange rate between Marks and Roubles changed seven times. From October 5th (effective October 6th) the Finnish GPO informed post offices located along the railroad lines by telegraph on a regular basis. There they gave updates on currency exchange rates between Finnish and Russian currency.


On October 4th new prices was set for Russian stamps sold at Finnish post offices. Pre October prices was 2 kopeks for a 5 penni stamps, 4 kopeks for a 10 penni stamps and so on. New prices was 4 kopeks for a 5 penni stamp and 8 kopeks for 10 penni stamp. New prices was not distributed prior to October 4th, in fact they were delayed also after that date. Apparently distribution started on October 5th. In the newspaper Våastra Nyland (Ekenäs) on October 11 we can read about the new price for ordinary domestic letter franked with russian stamps at 24 kopeks. On October 9th the same newspaper had an article on postal rates without mentioning the new prices on domestic letters franked with russian stamps.


The earliest item I have noted with new stamp prices used is from October 11. This is a 5000 Mark money order from Ekenäs with  rate is calculated in Marks, but with Rouble franking.









Insured cover containing 500 roubles from Helsingfors on October 5th 1917. To Denmark.


Old currency exchange rate: 100 roubles equals 260 Francs. Amount to insure in Francs is 1300.


Rate: 40 kopeks for second weight class cover. 20 kopeks registration fee and 60 kopeks insurance fee (12 kopeks each 300 francs).












1000 Roubles money order from Turku on October 6th 1917. To Helsingfors.


Up to date currency exchange rate: 100 roubles equals 128 marks.


Rate: 50 penni up to 100 marks, then 50 penni each additional 100 marks. Making 6 marks 50 penni, corresponding to 5 roubles 7 kopek in Russian currency stamps.


Rate is computed based on circulär #16/1908 with currency exchange rates of October 5th 1917.











19 roubles 75 kopeks money order from Turku on October 20th 1917. To Lahti.


Up to date currency exchange rate: 100 roubles is less than or equal to 125 marks. 19 roubles 75 kopeks equals to 24 marks 69 penni or less.


Rate: 30 penni up to 25 marks, corresponding to 24 kopek franking in Russian currency stamps.







Sources and references:

Various postal circulars from the FGPO.

Suomen postitaksat 1875 – 2001.

Ruplan kurssin muutoksien vaikutukset Suomen kotimaan postitaksoihin loka-marraskuussa 1917, Filatelisti 6/2008.
















Stationeries stuff









1909 Russian nineteenth issue (auxiliary)

5 kopek envelope with 3 kopek overprint on 1889/90 seventeenth issue. Format 145 x 80. Rectangular backflap. Yellowish paper.


From Enso 1.II.11. To Stockholm, Sweden. 7 kopek additionally franking to meet the foreign rate.








1909 Russian third issue (auxiliary)

5 kopek - Закрытое письмо – lettercard with 3 kopek overprint on 1890 second issue. Type I overprint, 57˚ inclination. White paper.


The lettercard is unlisted in catalogues dealing with Russian stationeries used in Finland.


From Perkjärvi 6.VI.10. To St. Petersburg, Russia. 4 kopek additionally franking to meet the imperial rate.








Destination Harbin

3 kopek 1909 - ПОЧТОВАЯ КАРТОЧКА – postcard from Helsingfors  8.III.11. To Harbin, Russian enclave in Manchuria. Harbin 29.3.11 receiver (Julian).


3 kopek imperial postcard rate.








Destination Taiping

4 kopek 1906 - ОТКРЫТОЕ ПИСЬМО - postcard from Helsingfors 15.XII.08. To Taiping in the state of Perak, Federated Malay States. Via Penang JA 7 1909, with Taiping receiver the very same day.


4 kopek foreign postcard rate.


















Civil war 1918









Held mail to abroad

Registered cover from Helsinki railroad station on 26.I.18 to Svendborg, Denmark. All mail to abroad had to be censored. At this point, of time all censoring offices except Torneå and Helsinki was closed and the cover is censored Helsinki on 27.I.1918. Censoring in Helsinki closed down on January 28. The civil war started during night between 27 and 28 of January. On the same time, there was an ongoing postal strike. From the outbreak of the war all postal service to/from abroad from Red Finland was closed down. Only mail to Russia was possible. On this background, the cover was not forwarded prior to the outbreak of the civil war and was held back and stored in Helsinki until end of the war. Almost immediately after the war ended the international postal service was up and running. The cover arrived in Svendborg on 3.5.18.











Fältpost – Kenttäposti (Fieldpost)

Postcard sent from Wasaa and addressed to a nurse at Satakunta-fronten on the white side of war front in the civil war. The content of the card is regarding her husbands temporary address in Vehmainen. Vehmainen is just shortly east of Tampere and of that point of time in Red Finland. Marked Fältpost by sender. The card is frontstamped Kenttäposti at the field post office in Wasaa. Cachet type I according to Rainer Ahonius classification. From Waasa I.IV.18 to Siuro at the front the very same day.


When the card arrived Siuro she had probably left the front or was not found, and the card is directed to Leiro. This was a camp located at Kankaanpää. She was probably not found there either and the card is returned to Waasa again with arrival on 9.IV.18.


Apparently, husband and wife have been just kilometers away from each other but serving on each side of the front (But not in the war?).


The card is sent during the days of the battle of Tampere. The reds was defeated in Siuro on March 25 and on April 3rd, the white forces crossed the Tammerkoski canal in central parts of Tampere. The battle ended with the reds in Tampere defeated on April 6th.


The card is a 10 penni 1912 - ПОЧТОВАЯ КАРТОЧКА – postcard, response half. There was no postage required for field post.











Red Finland

Cover from Helsinki to Malmi on 9.III.18. 80 penni franking corresponding to red inland (within red areas) rate for a second weight class cover.

This is one out of two second weight class cover I have noted on the red side during civil war.








Red Finland

Postcard postmarked K.P.XP. No 12 to Helsinki on 18.III.18. 25 penni franking corresponding to postcard rate within red areas.









Red Finland to abroad

Postcard from Pihlajavesi 14.III.18 to Stockholm, Sweden. 25 penni franking according to red area postcard rate, which is 5 penni overrate to abroad. The card is the earliest I have noted from Red Finland to abroad during civil war. Probably not delivered to address until after civil war ended.










1890 – 1909 Russian Postal Cards Used in Finland 1890. The Finnish Philatelist, Vol. 12, No. 1 • February 2007, p. 5-9, Scandinavian Collectors Club, USA.


1909 Russische Postkarten verwendet in Finland (1) – 1890 – 1909 Russische Postkarten verwendet in Finland (2). German translation in the Philatelistische Nachrichten, PN 139/140, Die Forschungsgemeinschaft Nordische Staaten e.V., Germany.


Insured mail from Finland to Russia 1891 – 1918. The Finnish Philatelist, Vol. 11, No. 3 • August 2006, p. 8-11, Scandinavian Collectors Club, USA.


3 Kopek Ring Postal Cards: Recognizing Address Line Varieties, Type I & Type II -  Nårstad’s Remarkable Discovery Unmasks 110 Year Old Variety. The Finnish Philatelist, Vol. 6, No. 4 • August 2001, p. 18-20, Scandinavian Collectors Club, USA.