The Samovar

Meaning of this handstamp?

Jeff - 3/31/2012 at 09:46

I have found this handstamp on a number of covers. Text is in French with a rough guess:

Reve (?) a Moscou
aves les soupapes,
mal collees

Can the postal history experts tell me what this handstamp represents, why it was applied, and by whom?



russia.jpg - 48kB

Maxime Citerne - 3/31/2012 at 10:06

This handstamp reads:

Reçu à Moscou
avec les soupapes mal collées
Employé ________________


Received in Moscow
with valves badly glued
Employee ______________

Do you have any full scan of such covers? Maybe other indications might shed a further light...


Jeff - 3/31/2012 at 10:18

I have a cover, no scan as of yet. This handstamp image was captured off of ebay today. I was looking at my cover last night and then noticed a similar (or same) stamp on the eBay cover so I thought I would ask around. Thanks for your prompt reply.

I assume that "valves badly glued" probably refers to the fact that the envelope is not completely secured. On my cover, the edges of the flap of what appears to be a handmade envelope are secured using adhesive pieces from a sheet of stamps.

Maxime Citerne - 3/31/2012 at 11:36

Quote: Originally posted by Jeff  
I assume that "valves badly glued" probably refers to the fact that the envelope is not completely secured.

I don't think so. In French, 'valves' (soupapes) can ONLY refer to the parts of a built mechanism; it simply cannot be used as a symbolic or more 'second degree' meaning.

It is therefore probably related to a commercial cover, from a company dealing with some industrial components like valves, pumps, etc.

Anyhow, it is certainly an interesting mark ... hardly seen.

What is the origin of your cover, and the destination, and the adressee, and the date? :)

See attached scans

Jeff - 3/31/2012 at 20:15

Sorry, the quality is not the greatest. The cover is a 'difficult' one to scan.

img007.jpg - 213kBimg008.jpg - 200kB

David Jay - 4/1/2012 at 00:12

This is one of a number of similar marks used in Soviet times to "excuse" the fact that the letter had been
clumsily censored, leaving obvious traces. "Censored" here means secret surveillance (perlustration), not open, war-time censorship that was not secret. This mark indicates
a silly pretense that the letter had some problem before they got their hands on it. One wonders if it wouldn't have been less obvious to ignore the damage to letters.
One sees only rarely indications that a letter was perlustered in imperial times. In Soviet times, it is common -- paper quality was poor, making difficulties
for the censors, and they were in a hurry. The result is a lot of crude damage to letters.

Maxime Citerne - 4/1/2012 at 01:45

Thanks David for the info!

And the worst (or comical) is that the Soviet censors didn't even bother to create a handstamp with appropriate and correct French language :o

Rasputin - 4/1/2012 at 06:39

Markings like these, the so-called "RIDC" (Received in damaged condition) markings, are encountered frequently on Soviet mail beginning in the mid-1920s, predominantly from Moscow and the Leningrad 1st Dispatch Office. Their use fell off significantly during WWII, although they started back up with a vengeance in the 1990s and continue to the present day. Not all are evidence of botched ingress or egress during perlustration, although the one that Jeff shows certainly is. Some of them are quite innocent - mail does indeed get damaged on occasion during regular postal processing. Many, though, show signs of wrinkling from having been steamed open, or display torn flaps.

"Avec les soupapes mal collees" would best be translated in this context as "with the flaps poorly sealed."

These markings (up to WWII) will be addressed in Part 3 of the current Rossica series on Soviet mail surveillance, together with a table of all recorded types updated from the articles in Rossica entitled “Damaged” Mail and the Soviet Post," Rossica No. 119, October 1992, pp. 44-56 & "More 'Damaged' Mail," Rossica No. 130, April 1998, pp. 47-58. A number of researchers have called attention to the RIDCs, among them Ron Knighton ("More Soviet ‘Damaged’ Markings," in BJRP #63, 1986, pp. 81-84), Meer Kossoy ("Official Cachets and Notes of the Type 'Received in Damaged Condition,'” in The Post Rider, No. 51, Nov. 2002, pp. 99-106) and Robin Joseph ("An Interesting Soviet Marking of 1935," in BJRP #62, Dec. 1985, pp. 38-39.)

During Imperial times, a damaged letter was REALLY fussed over, often coming with a full handwritten explanation of what happened and a sometimes legible signature of a postal official. During Soviet times, the markings often had either no line for a signature at all, or they had one but the, ah, "postal official" neglected to sign it. Here are three examples: 1) legitimate damage pre-1917, 2) the so-called "Rosetta Stone" example with both French- and Russian-language RIDCs on one cover (highly unlikely to be the result of postally-inflicted damage) and 3) what REAL damage looks like when a thick pack of postcards goes through a high-speed mail sorting device. (This last one is remarkable in that it accepts responsibility for having done injury to the cover, rather than simply stating the obvious or, even worse, putting the blame on someone else: "Your letter was damaged during mechanical processing. We apologize. L'vov PZhDP. Signature______" This one is most probably legitimate.

Moscow Damaged 1906.jpg - 396kBRosetta Stone rev.jpg - 432kB

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Jeff - 4/1/2012 at 09:13

Many thanks for all of the feedback. One question I do have with my cover: it was mailed from the Soviet Union (possibly Ukraine? by Yakov Orlov?) to Newton, Kansas, but there is a Berlin mark on the back. Was this a common stop for international mail?

Rasputin - 4/1/2012 at 15:00

The Soviets had an established air link with Berlin through which items like this to the U.S. (and elsewhere in Western Europe) were routed. Per the return address, the cover originated in a village not far from the Kochubeevka P.O. in Kherson Okrug (Ukraine), although that is not where it was postmarked.

vasia - 4/2/2012 at 03:58


note also that the handstamp you show in your first scan has a spelling error: "aves" instead of "avec" (recorded by Skipton in his Rossica articles). The handstamp on your cover is probably of the same type.