The standard postmarks of Latvia 1918 - 1945


The decree of the Imperial Russian Postal Department of 1903 concerning the design of the new standard postmarks is very detailed, enabling the reconstruction of any type. The initiation of the Latvian standard postmarks is in conformance with the late Russian type: a double circle marking with a date bridge inside the inner circle.


In early 1920-ies the standardization of the Latvian postmarks may be cleary distinguished regarding the two aspects:


  • Transition of the postmark text to the "new orthography", and partial      replacement of the Russian place names by the new Latvian names
  • Standardization of the basic design of the postmarks:
    • Double-circle, with the date bridge between the inner circle
    • Name of the post office on top, LATVIJA below
    • In the date bridge on the left side three stars, in the centre the date, mostly in Arabic ciphers, in the sequence day - month - year. On the right side of the bridge is an index letter, mostly capital.
    • The segments between the date bridge and the inner circle may contain bars, or may be blank.


For many centuries Latvian is written in accordance with the German style of the time: with gothic letters and spelled phonetically in the same way as German. The standard postmarks of Latvia already in the beginning are written by Latin letters. However, there was a long transition period from the "old orthography" to the "new orthography" which begun in 1921, but the accentuation marks above vowels were introduced as late as 1935.


The first standard postmarks with the text in the "old orthography" (used in RIGA and JELGAWA) were produced in the end of 1918. In 1919 several similar "old orthography" postmarks were produced. They had a star or an ornament to the left in the circular ring but an index letter (or an ornament) to the right. All these postmarks had the text "LATWIJA" below. Some of these postmarks were re-engraved in late 1930ies by changing the place name to the "new orthography" and also by changing "LATWIJA" to "LATVIJA". In Valmiera there were used two postmarks similar to the Latvian types but those were produced in Estonia and ar more like the Estonian ones. 


In the first years also re-engraved former German postmarks were used in places where the "Postgebiet Ob. Ost" had their operations. Also those are in the "old orthography" but some were later changed to the "new orthography".


In 1920 the Latvian Standard Postmarks were introduced. The text was in the "old orthography", there is always a date bridge between to the outer circle, three six-pointed (mostly) stars are located to the left and an index letter (capital) is in the date bridge to the right. The segments contain 5 or 7 vertical bars. The dates are either in Arabic or Roman numerals. Also combined versions exist where the numerals for the month from January - September is given with Arabic numeral but for October - December with Roman numerals.


In the mid of the 1930ies many of these postmarks were re-engraved in the "new orthography".


The "new orthography" standard postmarks introduced in 1921 are in design similar to the "old orthography" ones but now the segments usually are with 9 vertical bars. Also in these postmarks the date numerals are given with either Arabic or Roman ciphers, or the combination as above.


From 1935 on, where according the newest orthography this was required, for new produced as well as old postmarks, accentuation marks were added above vowels.


From 1937 on the segment bars gradually were removed from new produced as well as old postmarks. 


For these changing operations old postmarks were sent to the workshop for re-engraving (and reparation). During the period when the small post offices had sent their postmark (often the only one that they had) to the workshop temporary markings were used on mail. These were either manuscript cancellations or small rubber hand-stamps with additional hand-written date or a separate date stamp.