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Postal history Vega
Postal History of Vega





Russian mute cancels used under WWI


Mute postmarks
Mute postmarks were introduced in Russian Military Administrative Districts of the Imperials Western Border from the beginning of the First World War by a regulation ordered by the Imperial Russian Army High Command.


Mute postmark is a cancel without date, year, or name of the place the postal item was delivered or posted, as shown here, and in many shapes.



Nice cancel from unknown place


Western Border
The military districts of the Western Border of Russia included among other Estonia, Lifland, Courland, Kowno, Vilnius, Grodno, Smolensk, Volhynia, Podolia, Kiev, Bessarabia, Kherson, and Russian Poland.


With immediate effect should the handling of mail in this area be made unknown to secure military secrets?

A. The cancellations of postage stamps on postal items at once was to commence in such a way that neither the posting place nor the date was shown.
B. Obliteration of names from the registration labels and markers. No other detailed order for the practical use was given.

The regulation concerning mute cancellations has not been verified in the articles, in the literature available, and is therefore a résumé of what have been described before in the literature.

The practical use

The military regulation did not mention senders address, prints and markings on envelopes, post cards, etc. and arrival post office’s cancellation’s.
The post offices in the area had to produce and introduce their own mute postal cancels. The mute cancels are probably therefore not registrate`d in central governments post archives, and are made of whatever was at hand for the immediate purpose. And the post office, or the sensor office did not always follow the regulation. Or it is possible they did not have rules for corrections of this or, the time, or was not allowed according to strict military rules.


According to this regulation, and in wartime, the emperor decided in “Provisional Statutes” of July 20th 1914 the action of censor of mail sent in the area and for mail sent abroad. The censors had to control the mail for reliving military movements and action at the western border of Russia. The censors overlooked the fact that mail cancelled with mute postmarks did not always perform accordingly to the regulations.

Used period

The mute cancels where in use from August 1. 1914, and maybe a week or two before that date (?), at the beginning of the first world war, and long into 1917-18 for some reason. In the end of 1914 the use of mute postmarks stopped when the senselessness in this was discovered. But in some part of the area the use of mute postmarks continued up to 1918.

Identification of the mute cancel
The mute cancel origin use place can be identified from a complete envelope, postcard, text, etc. by the senders’ address, receivers’ address, written date, registration labels, prints, and markings on the postal item. The arrival cancel confirms the use and the dates.
Pre printed envelopes, postcards, text on the item, etc. cannot always be considered as a firm evidence of the use of the postal item, and the mute cancels. That’s because it may have been used on a business journey, or brought to another post office for mailing, another place.
Similar mute cancel has been used at different post offices. And several mute cancel have been used at the same post office with large amount of mail, and maybe for a very short time, due to wear of the cancel.
The content in the text of the letter (cover) or postcard are also important when the place of use and dates are to be verified.

Philatelic classification and some thoughts
Mute cancels have been thoroughly examined by experienced philatelists of Russian philately and history throughout the ages.

The late Dr. Gregory B. Salisbury (USA) and Frits Freitag has classified mute stamps in groups’ in table A to H, with numbered under-groups, witch should make it easy to classify and identify the mute postmarks by their form, and establishment. A similar system does Elmar Ojaste (Estonian mute) and Juris Mors (Latvian censor and mute) build their research on. Hans Dietrich (Hannover) from Germany has a very interesting article about the use of mute postmarks and Russian empires military districts.

Though nobody has tried, or had the possibility to connect this to an area, map or to post offices, and military districts, there are still more to find and a great challenge to classify this theme of Russian postal history. There must be a huge amount of cancels and variety’s of mute cancels witch yet are not classified, or found, even if a grate work are done by several excellent philatelists, also those not mentioned here. Dates of use are also a very interesting theme, in additions to where it’s used. The mute postmark covered here are at the Russian side of the war. How did the other parties involved in the First World War treat their postal secrets or military secrets, and how did they look at the Russian attempt to keep their secrets this way? Another theme that is interesting are witch post office did get the order, and from whom, the emperor or the military, is it the same law-makers, or even the postal authorities? I can’t see that these questions are satisfactory answered yet. Even if the mute postmarks are studied and articles have been written and researches have been done thru available postal material. And its still hard to identify this postmarks or cancels. But that’s what’s makes mutes exciting to study.


Author, Title, etc.

K. Bohnert
Aus Dem Balticum.
Illustrirertes Briefmarken-Journal
# 18-21/1918 &, # 1/1919.

E. Brühl
Die stummen, Estonia.
# 4, 5, 7, 11, 13 & 17, 1932-1937.
Nmyje sjtjemledja, Rossica.
# 12-23, 1933-1936.

A. Osterat
I Maailmasoja ajal Estis kasutatud tummitemplidtest.
Eesti Margiringi Inglismaal Bulletaane.
# 4/1965.

Dr. A. Krassowsky
Masking (Mute) Cancellations of Russia during W.W.I.
The British Journal of Russian Philately.
# 58/1981.


Elmar Ojaste
Eesti Filatelist/The Estonian Filatelist.
# 29, 1983, s 108-117.
Stockholm, Sweden
Dr. G. B. Salisbury
The British journal of Russian Philately
Mute cancellations of world war I
# 12/1953, 13/1954, 16/1954, 17/1955.
London, England

F. Freitag
The journal of Russian Philately
The Mute cancellations of Russia at the beginning of world war I in 1914
# 18/1955

Dr. G. B. Salisbury and F. Freitag
The journal of Russian Philately
Mute cancellations of world war I
# 19/1955, 20/1956, 21/1956, 22/1957, 23/1958.

Hans Dietrich, Hannover
SCRP 4/1999.
Stumme Entwertungen 1914-1917
Mute Cancellations 1914-1917

Juris Mors
Postal censorship in Latvia
Imperial Russian censorship before world war I – Russian postal censorship markings 1914-1918 – World war I Mute cancellations.



Russian Mute 1914.   ……………………………………………………….……………….







August 5, 1914;

Russia WWI mute postmark 1914, on Russian picture postcard franked with 3 kop red definitive, tied with one circle mute postmark probably used in BIELOSTOK, Grodno Gubernaya and Wilno Military district, Russia. The card arrived OLGINO S.P.B the 5.8.1914. The brief message is dated August 2 - the first week of the beginning of the WWI and the mute cancel are probably one of the earliest.The card is printed in Wilna.


Bielostok in Grodno, Russia.

Russian mute 1915.............................................................................................................


December 5, 1915.   

Russia WWI mute postmark 1915, on picture postcard franked with 3 kop red definitive, tied with four circle mute postmark probably used in VELIKI LUKI, 3.12.1915, Pskow gubernaya and Petrograd Military district, Russia. The card arrived to PETROGRAD (St. Petersburg) the 5.12.1915. The card message dated December 3, 1915. There is some error in the text spelling on the card, witch is printed in Stockholm, Sweden. 

Veliki Luki in Pskow, Russia.



Russian Regions - Mute Cancels in WWI  found on letters, post cards or stamps 1914 - 1917

The Southern and Southwesthern Regions The Western Region The Northwestern Region The Viesla Region The Baltic Region
Bessarabia Vitebsk Kaluga Warsaw Vilna Province
Volhynia Grodno St. Petersburg Kalish Kovno Province
Ekaterinoslav Minsk Pskov Kyeltsy Kurlyand Province
Kiev Province 


Mogilev Smolensk Lomzha Liflyand Province
Podolia     Lyublin Estyland Province



Poltava     Petrokov  
Taurida     Plotsk  
Kharkov     Radom  
Kherson     Suvalki  
Chernigov     Syedlets  


The Caucasus The Occupied Teeritories Other regions    
Batum Oblast Galisia Vyatka Province    
    Don Oblast    
    Kuban Oblast    
    Moscow Prowince    
    Nizhnii Novogorod Province    
    Tver Province    






Danske Russlandssamleren


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