Russia has generated a huge number of beloved and collectible postage stamps since its first issue in 1857. From that time until the present, Russian and Soviet postage stamps are absorbing enough that they can occupy a lifetime of collecting and studying.
Some of the earliest and most collectible Russian stamps were the zemstvo stamps, produced by great numbers of local post offices between 1865 and 1917. Also around this time, the Russian Empire was operating several post offices within the Ottoman Empire; special stamps for these Turkish post offices (most, but not all, being overprinted Russian stamps) were used and are collected by many enthusiasts today. Russia also used special overprinted stamps for its post offices in China.
World War I, and especially the revolution and civil war, yielded more collectible postage stamps. In 1919, both the Army of the Northwest and the Army of the North, two groups fighting the Communists who were taking power, used their own stamps (in the case of the latter, actually printing new ones specifically for their use).
In 1918, Russia became the Russian Soviet Federative Socialist Republic, and in 1923 changed into the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR). Most Soviet republics of the ensuing decades would use Russian stamps, which were inscribed ПОЧТА СССР (USSR Post).
Russian stamps of the 1950s and 1960s tell the story of Russia’s growing power and cultural pride, and of the Cold War. Several interesting stamps, covers, and special philatelic collectibles reward the diligent hunter from these years.
When the Soviet Union broke apart in 1991, the Russian Federation was born (again) and stamps began using the inscriptions РОССИЯ and, usually in smaller type, ROSSIJA (a transliteration of РОССИЯ into the Roman alphabet).
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