The Samovar

Disinfected mail

Gary - 4/2/2007 at 16:29

Mr. Tyukov asked me to post the following items until he becomes familiar with how the Samovar works. He is seeking information and wants to exchange ideas as well.
There is "Eurupa" newsletter published in Vienna in Armenian. Sent to Russia it was disinfected at Redut-Kale border post office. The postmark is not shown in Dobin's book.
Dear colleagues! I'm very interested in all the information about mail disinfection in Russia. I have articles from Rossica Journals from which I learned that there were articles in "Pratique" journal.
Will anybody help me with scans of these articles or with contacts to people from "Pratique" journal. Thanks in advance.

Redut-Kale.jpg - 137kB


Gary - 4/2/2007 at 16:29

Feodosiya.jpg - 98kB


Gary - 4/2/2007 at 16:30

Odessa.jpg - 108kB


Gary - 4/2/2007 at 16:30

Skuliany.jpg - 95kB

St. Petersburg

Gary - 4/2/2007 at 16:31

SPB.jpg - 109kB

achlenov - 4/2/2007 at 18:50

Why not contact Rossica librarian? If we have this journal in the library it might be accessible...

An internal usage

David Jay - 4/3/2007 at 11:01

Here is an example used on internal mail, a much traveled letter. St Petersburg 26/10/12 and 27/10/12 to Rakhine, Astrakhan (6/11/12 and 8/11/12), to Revel (13/11/12) then back to Astrakhan (20/12/12).
I can't decipher the scribbles on the cover, and help in that direction would be much appreciated. The disinfected mark would likely have been applied after the item left Rakhine, but there doesn't seem to be a corresponding postmark, unless perhaps it was applied in Revel.

Rakhinke_verso.jpg - 166kB

And the front

David Jay - 4/3/2007 at 11:02

Rakhinke_front.jpg - 167kB

Another example, front

David Jay - 4/3/2007 at 11:06

This letter seems a bit simpler. Sent from Novaya Kazanka, Astr. (27/7/1911 and 28/7/1912) to St Petersburg, where it was received on 1/8/1911. Presumably, these two letters come from the same outbreak of plague, which must have lasted for a while.
Here is the front.

NovayaKazanka_front.jpg - 251kB

here is the reverse

David Jay - 4/3/2007 at 11:07

NovayaKazanka_back.jpg - 232kB

Gary - 4/3/2007 at 13:04

David, are you sure of all the dates on the letter to Rakhinka? Have you drawn a time line for the marks? Just curious. Looks like it could have gone from SPb to Rakhinka to Revel' to Astrakhan'.

Gary - 4/3/2007 at 15:38

How about Revel', Narvskaya St. house #55? Not sure of the letter "a" in the street name.

mvarfolo - 4/3/2007 at 16:08

Originally posted by David Jay

Looks like His High Honor Dr Dmitry Yakovlevich Fedorov, regularly living in Revel (Narvskaya Street, No 55 ) wasn't home, but instead was in Rakhinka battling the plague - that's where the letter was initially addressed from St. Petersburg.

after the vertical line the sender specified "stationed (there) battling the plague"

The back side - the top is in almost unreadable shorthand, the bottom is ST Petersburg address of the sender.

So, According to the sender - the plague was in Rakhinka.
Astrakhan region is notorious for plague and cholera epidemics, even in contemporary Soviet history, there were multiple outbreaks. I remember my grandfather, himself a doctor, told me about living through these in Astrakhan' childhood.

When the letter reached Rakhinka - the Doctor wasn't there. So - there the Revel address is added, written on top by someone else - regular address for Dr. Fedorov. The letter spends couple of days in Rakhinka, somebody strikes out in red Astrakhan Guberniya/Rakhinka address as invalid, then this mail goes to Revel.

I think disinfection mark could have been applied anywhere after Rakhinka, or even at Rakhinka going outbound from the plague zone which I think would be more rational medically. But rational and provincial Russia of 1912 - I don't know...

What I don't get is why the letter went back to Astrakhan again. Was it too complicated for the postal workers in Revel or they didn't like the mail from the plague village. Or it traveled faster than the Doctor?
Or it wasn't disinfected , they send it back to Astrakhan, it gets disinfected there and then everyone is tired bouncing this mail around and it makes a nice philatelic item :)

In all seriousness, I wish I could read what's on top of the back - it's in a different handwriting, quite ineligible, but could be some kind of comment on the delivery status? after some thinking - reads "nezayavleno" and signature (?)

Did I make any sense?

achlenov - 4/3/2007 at 23:55

Quite a story! I agree with "nezayavleno" transription. Probably by a mailman...

David Jay - 4/4/2007 at 00:26

Thanks to both of you for translating the address. I didn't find "nezayavleno" in my dictionary, so once again I'm at your mercy....

achlenov - 4/4/2007 at 09:55

"Not claimed"

mvarfolo - 4/4/2007 at 21:27

Few questions on a very interesting mail disinfection subject, hope someone would be nice to have few answers.

Do you know of any other 19th-early 20th century methods of mail decontamination other than fumigation with formaldehyde fumes or sulphur?

As it relates to Russian mail -

were the envelopes only disinfected from the outside?

are there any known examples of tearing a hole or perforating the mail - so that the inside gets some fumes?

As postal regulations were concerned - who really determined the need to disinfect - local postmaster?

Are there any disinfection examples (stamped on the envelope) during the Soviet times? I wish I've seen the mail coming out Astrakhan leprosorium (the only one in the Soviet Union).

TB clinics outgoing mail wasn't disinfected, right?

Little risk from plague - that's more of an animal vector, but I can't find a straight answer - how long will the plague bacteria survive in hybernation on a surface without water - 1000 years, more? not long at all?

It's amazing, how little progress was made in regards to mail disinfection - in 2001 Postal Service used a 10% bleach solution to "sterilize" its mail sorting centers. That's so middle ages...

Anyhow, if you like old mail, there may be some risk involved! :) There's plenty of bacteria, virii, microbes who are capable of surviving for a very very long time.

IvoSteijn - 4/4/2007 at 22:11

The only other method I know about is submersion in vinegar. Obviously, this was rather messy!
Non-Russian disinfection methods frequently included perforating the cover to let the fumes reach the inside - I don't know if this was ever used in Russian disinfection stations as well. Sometimes one or more vertical slits in the outside of the wrapping were for the same purpose.

jlechtanski - 4/4/2007 at 22:35

T"Practique" is the journal of the DISINFECTED MAIL STUDY CIRCLE in the UK:

Notes on their display of disinfected mail:

Tyukov - 4/5/2007 at 15:13

Thanks for the links to Disinfected Mail Stady Circle.
As for methods of disinfectin, I think that letters which were brougt to a post office by the sender were disinfected and only then sealed. Pre-sealed letters (usually official) were punctured with niddls to fumigate the inside of the letter. There is such a letter in the attachment sent from Tiflis to Kishinev. There is no date, but the postmark of Tiflis of the type was used in 1821-1830. Another attachment shows the traces of disinfection by a liquid (maybe vinegar) on a letter sent in 1850 from Mariupol to Italy. In XIX century sulphur and other cemicals were used. But earlier, special mixture was used. According to Vigilev's book "History of the Russian post" the Senate issued on 10 December 1771 the circular, concerning the disinfection against the plague, were was a receipt for the disinfection staff. All the components should be mixed in crumbled condition: "juniper needls, juniper berries, wheat bram, lignum vitae (iron wood) - 6 pounds of each, and myrrah resin - 2 pounds. The staff was burned and the smoke was used for disinfection.
I am sorry for my poor English.

Mariupol.jpg - 30kB

Tyukov - 4/5/2007 at 15:19

Sorry for chaging the sequens of images.

Tiflis.jpg - 27kB

achlenov - 4/5/2007 at 16:09

Quite amazing! Chemistry/biology in philately!!! Maybe I should start collecting this stuff :)