The Samovar

Did he (she) escape?

David Jay - 5/19/2007 at 14:05

Here is curious letter sent from Zhitomir 22/9/1914 (at the beginning of WWI) to Schlisselburg, where it was received 23?/10/1914. There is censor mark from the the local prison on the front that has been crossed out. Below that there is scribble (written at an angle) that I can't make out at all -- this might be a key to at least part of the problem of understanding this letter. From Shlisselburg, the letter was sent to St Petersburg, where it was received by the city post 1/10/1914. On the same day, it was given a red-triangle by the 20th (?) GPO. These are given to letters where the address is inadequate or not in the area served by the GPO. This seems to be the end of the story -- doesn't look like the letter was ever delivered.

I would infer that the prisoner was no longer at the prison -- the prisoner might have been released or transferred elsewhere -- were politicals sent elsewhere at the beginning of the war? Why was the letter sent to St Petersburg? Was this perhaps the original home location of the prisoner? Given that there is no forwarding address on the letter, I don't see how the prisoner could have been found by the post, or why the letter was sent to this particular office.

There is another weird feature -- there are no less than four poorly legible postage due marks. The one under the Zhitomir cancel has been crossed out, but looks like it might say "Zhitomir". There is one at bottom left
that indicates that 6k was needed, but the location is unclear. This would be correct actually -- the postage rate for domestic letters was raised 21/9/1914, the day before the letter was sent. There are two more really illegible due marks at bottom center, one of which has been filled in to say "12", indicating that the letter was underpaid by 6k. This makes no sense, unless it is somehow connected to the address search.

curious_low.jpg - 275kB

the due marks

David Jay - 5/19/2007 at 14:06

ere is an attempt make the three due marks at the bottom more legible by fiddling with the contrast.

curious_small.jpg - 73kB

David Jay - 5/19/2007 at 14:08

It occurs to me that what I originally took to be a "12" may be a "22", indicating 11k due, for a total franking of 18k -- but why?

jlechtanski - 5/19/2007 at 15:20

Could it just be that the handwritten address of Schlisselburg was misinterpreted as Petersburg and sent there by mistake. Upon arrival at St. Petersburg, it was flagged with the red triangle and sent to Schlisselburg.

The postmark dates seem to indicate that sequence of events.

David Jay - 5/19/2007 at 18:40

Ah, good point -- but what about the due marks, the black scribble, and the red and blue crayon?

jlechtanski - 5/19/2007 at 19:04

I don't think the prison censor mark is crossed out.

It looks like a blue 1110 or #10 (I see what looks like a blue crossbar) and may be the cell number.

I have seen other prison letters where crayon numbers were said to be cell numbers.

The address seems to be to Schlisselburg Fortress and the prison censor mark seems to be the notorious Schlisselburg Fortress Prison.

Tyukov - 5/20/2007 at 04:18

The scribble written at an angle means "Doplatit'" (=To pay).

From David Skipton

David Jay - 5/20/2007 at 23:49

The following is from an email about this item that David Skipton kindly sent this AM:

"Your Shlissel'burg cover is addressed to a Bolshevik, Ivan Petrovich
Voronitsyn (1885-1938), who joined the RSDRP in 1902 and got arrested for
the first time in 1903. He escaped abroad from exile at Pinega,
Arkhangel'sk Province in 1904, but the Party sent him back into Russia,
where he was arrested a second time -in Moscow - in Feb. 1905. The
authorities let him out in September 1905 on probation, whereupon
Voronitsyn went straight to Sevastopol'. He was the Chairman of the
Council of Worker, Sailor and Soldier Deputies during the naval mutiny at
the base there, and once the uprising was put down, Voronitsyn was
arrested again and this time he was sentenced to life at hard labor
(November 1906). He served time at Smolensk, Shlissel'burg, Vologda,
Yaroslavl' and Butyrki in Moscow, and didn't get out until the February
1917 Revolution.

The blue-pencil "pr" is a censor notation, meaning "prosmotreno" -
examined, and I agree with Mr. Tyukov that the black-ink inscription below
is "Doplatnoe." The cover was sent from Zhitomir and went by mistake to
the St. Petersburg 20-something Postal Branch Office, which slapped the
red triangle on (denoting misrouted mail) and sent it on to Shlissel'burg
and the Hard-Labor Prison there in the fortress. The six-kopeck postage
due is correct, as you have noted. As for the 12-kop. due, I think some
postal clerk just made a mental error and doubled the 6-kop. due. There
is a red-pencil marking underneath the 'pr' - that's an archivist's entry,
probably the number assigned to Voronitsyn's correspondence. As for the
blue-pencil 1110 or 110 or maybe even IYuO, I'm not certain. If it's a
cell number, then Voronitsyn could only have been held in Building 4: none
of the other three prison buildings on the island had that many cells.

In any event Voronitsyn was still in prison well after your cover was sent
- there is no chance of it being sent to him after his release. The only
thing that got him out of prison was the mob that advanced on
Shlissel'burg during the February 1917 Revolution."

I've attached a page from David's exhibit, if it will post.

Attachment: dagShliss Voronitsyn.PPT (478kB)
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