Finland‘s very first postage stamps were issued in 1856, when Finland was a part of the Russian Empire (having been part of Sweden decades earlier). Several stamps would be issued in the ensuing decades, until 1917, when Finland declared independence and began issuing its own stamps, inscribed SUOMI and FINLAND. Since that time, Finland has kept up a varied and, at times, experimental postage stamp history.
The first stamps issued by Russia for Finland can be difficult to identify as Finnish; the earliest stamps featured the Finnish coat-of-arms, a lion holding a sword, and had the value in the Cyrillic and Roman alphabets (for example, 5.KOP. and 5.???. for the 5 kopecks stamp; there was a 10 kopecks stamp as well).
In 1866, Russia allowed Finland to change its currency to 1 markka = 100 pennia, and its stamps reflected this change — in Cyrillic, and sometimes in Finnish. For example, a 1 markka stamp could use both ???? ????? and YKSI MARKKA. In 1875, the first stamps inscribed FINLAND and SUOMI were issued, but this would not become a hard and fast rule yet.
At times, Cyrillic-only stamps would be issued for Finland, and sometimes in kopecks; again, it can be tough to identify these as Finnish. Most Finnish stamps, however, do use markka and pennia, even if those words are rendered only in Cyrillic — and shortened, as pennia usually was (look for ????? and ???. for “markka” and “pen.”).
From the very first independent Finnish stamps, issued in 1917, Finland used both the English and Finnish name of the country on its stamps, almost without fail, making identification of all modern issues much easier; they all say SUOMI FINLAND.
There have been quite a few interesting items released by the Finnish postal authorities over the years. For example, Finland has shown a predilection for experimenting with unusually-shaped stamps in recent times. Interestingly, Finland tends to use “international” or non-Finnish subjects far less often than many other countries; nearly every Finnish stamp, it seems, depicts something near and dear to Finland’s heart: Finnish flowers, lakes, towns, people, and historical events comprise most designs.
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