|VIRTUAL INTERNATIONAL PHILATELIC EXHIBITION|
|EXHIBIT: MILITARY CENSORSHIP IN IMPERIAL RUSSIA 1904 - 1917|
|EXHIBITOR: DAVID M. SKIPTON, UNITED STATES OF AMERICA|
Military Censorship In Imperial Russia, 1904 - 1917 - About the Exhibit
Difficulty of the topic. Any exhibitor of this topic is faced with a number of problems, not the least of which is the sheer scope of the undertaking. The Russian Empire in the early 20th Century was the largest contiguous political entity in the world, it had a huge army and a big population, and censorship encompassed the whole of them. It is impossible to do more than show selected portions, and there is no such thing as a "complete" collection, much less an exhibit.
Second, the study of Russian military censorship has been mostly limited to cataloguing the censor marks themselves, and where possible, equating them to a location or a military outfit. Over 2,000 markings have been recorded as of 2005, but many more must exist. Working back from that information plus the postcards and letters themselves, researchers have attacked the problem empirically, but that only goes so far and the assumptions they reach can be wrong.
Relatively little in the way of archival material has been uncovered, and indeed it may no longer exist. Part of the reason for this lack of documentation is secrecy: military censorship is a function of counter-intelligence, and because the Imperial Army wanted to keep its counter-intelligence operations secret, it did not publish them during the war. Then came the Civil War, the Soviets and the Red Army; they had the same concerns and no desire to publish what transpired in Imperial counter-intelligence because the Soviets adopted most of its procedures. To expose the workings of Imperial Russian military censorship would have meant exposing their own operations. Even today, Russian Federation military censorship methodology remains classified. Mail is mail, whether it is sent in 1915 or 2005, so it still has to be logged, sorted, examined, analyzed and routed in much the same way. The other part of the reason for lack of documentation is war. Many records were destroyed in WWI, the Civil War and WWII.
Third, military censorship is closely allied with military postal history. An understanding of how the military field post functioned is needed to make any sense of military censorship, and here again the same problems crop up: the sheer size of Russia's military and the theaters of military operations, the fluidity of the campaigns, and the annihilation of entire units. Even today, we have not accounted for all of the field post offices or their locations at every given point of the war. A knowledge of which units were subordinated to what formations at any given time would be extremely helpful in determining where the censor marks were applied, but such information, while voluminous, is scattered and incomplete.
Rarity of the material. With the exception of court, prison and exile mail censorship, which was a rather negligible percentage of the whole, military censorship encompassed the bulk of the Russian Empire's mail, both domestic and international. Regardless of where that correspondence entered the mail stream, it was examined under military censorship regulations. For the purposes of this exhibit, though, military censorship during WWI is treated as being comprised of three distinct, albeit overlapping, components:
The distinction is necessary due to the somewhat different concerns of censorship for each component, and those differences are addressed in the exhibit.
Component 1 above - enemy POW mail - is very common viewed as a category, although many of the censor marks that appear on it are scarce to rare.
Component 2 - military mail - is almost exclusively rare to very rare. Insofar as the Army's mail is concerned, Speeckaert states that, "With the exception of marks from the military districts of Petrograd (very common except with the numbers in the 5,000 and 8,000-series) and Odessa (common), all of these military censormarks must be considered as rare to very rare. The limited material and knowledge we have of these censormarks is insufficient to allow them to be given an indication even of approximate scarcity.". A number of items shown in this section of the exhibit are unrecorded by Speeckaert or any other author. Others in this exhibit were the sole examples Speeckaert had to illustrate those types. The same is true for the Navy mail section; this material is even more difficult to find than Army censor marks.
Component 3 - censorship of civilian mail
ranges from very common to very rare. The examples in this section have been
chosen for their scarcity or rarity, and they are arranged geographically.
If a blue dot appears at the upper left of the page, one or more of the censor marks on that page ranges from "very rare" (2-3 recorded) to just one recorded, or the usage itself is rare or important from the standpoint of establishing when a censorship policy or procedure was instituted. Those pages lacking a blue dot contain material that can range from extremely common to rare.
Production and layout of the exhibit. This exhibit was produced with a PowerPoint program and Microsoft Windows 98. Where possible, sources for the scanned pictures are given beneath the captions. With few exceptions, the censor mark examples were reproduced from the Speeckaert book and its two supplements (see bibliography).
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|EXPONET Code Nr.: 0428/2008 - Copyright © 2008 DAVID M. SKIPTON, THE ROSSICA SOCIETY OF RUSSIAN PHILATELY, UNITED STATES OF AMERICA|
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