The country of Lithuania, small but important in the events of Europe, has issued its own postage stamps since 1918. However, earlier stamps were used in 1916 by the occupying Germans, and these can be thought of as the first Lithuanian postage stamps.
The German stamps were regular DEUTSCHES REICH stamps with an overprint reading ‘Postgebiet Ob. Ost.’ in the Fraktur typeface; Postgebiet referred to the area of postal administration, and “Ob. Ost.” was an abbreviation of “Ober Ost”, the general term that was itself a shortened form of Oberbefehlshaber der gesamten Deutschen Streitkräfte im Osten, translated as the “Supreme Command of All German Forces in the East”. These stamps were used not only in Lithuania, but in several other former Russian provinces. The stamps were used from 1915 until 1918.
In 1918, Lithuania became a Kingdom, but only for a few months; no stamps were issued until it had changed yet again, to the State of Lithuania, an independent republic. The first stamps were very simple, crude pieces that hardly resemble traditional stamps; they featured the inscription Lietuvos paštas (“Lithuanian Post”) and the value inside a simple border made of circles. Soon, in the same year, conventional-looking stamps were released; the inscription on these was LIETUVOS PAŠTO ZENKLAS (“Lithuanian Postage Stamp”), and there were several denominations issued. The inscription was variously simplified to LIETUVA or LIETUVA PAŠTAS on several stamps in the ensuing years, but there was no set rule.
The final Lithuanian stamps issued before World War II were in 1940; soon afterwards, the Soviet Union invaded Lithuania, and overprinted existing Lithuanian stamps from the late 1930s with ‘LTSR 1940 VII 21’ (for Lietuvos Taryb? Socialistin? Respublika, the Lithuanian version of “Lithuanian Soviet Socialist Republic”). Germany invaded Lithuania in 1941, occupying it until 1944; there were no new stamps during this chaotic period, but afterwards, Lithuania remained a Soviet Republic and used regular Soviet stamps until 1990.
In October 1990, Lithuania issued new stamps although their independence had not yet been recognized; they were one of the first soon-to-be former Soviet republics to issue new stamps, and these new stamps were used in 1991. The stamps of modern, independent Lithuania are, as before, inscribed LIETUVA. Lithuania has shown a tendency to be somewhat experimental with their stamps — stamps with traditional subjects such as the Olympic games, national heroes, and animals, often feature unusual designs and colors. Souvenir sheets can be seen with some of these interesting designs.
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