The Emperor's Mail

by David M Skipton, Posted: 2009-01-04 Samovar Email the Link to this Exhibit

Exhibit Categories: ImperialPostal History

The Emperor's Mail

Topic Summary:

This exhibit demonstrates how Imperial Russia's postal system handled the mail for the extended Imperial family (and some of its servants), and gradually expanded its service to members of the Imperial Court and Cabinet, a few ministers and foreign diplomats. It also includes examples of mail to and from the private offices of Imperial family members, which mail was handled through normal postal channels due to the large-scale correspondence they conducted (such as petitions and requests for charity from the people).

This extension of service to levels well below the tsars and their extended families was due in part to the rapid industrialization, expanding foreign trade and literacy in 19th-century Russia, which led to dramatic increases in the volume of mail. To keep up, the postal bureaucracy was forced to expand, become less involved with Imperial-family or government correspondence (as a percentage of its total operations) and ever more concerned with moving and delivering the growing piles of private and commercial mail. That part of the Post which dealt with Imperial mail gradually grew less exclusive and more inclusive, especially during World War I, when even Allied military attaches could use it. The evolution of this special service can be seen in its postmarks, going from an office at the top rung of the postal bureaucracy to a mere section within it, one of many.

Throughout its existence, it was referred to generically as the "special office," regardless of its specific name at the moment. All seven of the known postmark types of the Postal Director's Office / Imperial Mail Delivery Section / Government and Diplomatic Mail Delivery Section from the latter half of the 19th century to 1917 are represented here. Although the Tsar was deposed in the February 1917 Revolution, the new Provisional Government continued to use this special postal service, changing only its name and some of its clientele.

Outline of the exhibit:

  • Imperial Mail in the First Half of the XIX Century.
  • The "Special Office" and Its Postmarks.
  • The Postal Directors Office.
  • The Imperial Mail Delivery Section (including Imperial mail it did not handle).
  • The Government and Diplomatic Mail Delivery Section (Kerensky's Provisional Government, Petrograd).