Front Cover
 Title Page
 About the Author
 From the Author
 Translator's Forward
 Table of Contents
 The Post at the End of the XVIII...
 Part 1: The Post in the First Half...
 Part 2: The Post in the Second...

Group Title: Pochta v Rossii.
Title: Russian posts in the XIX Century
Full Citation
Permanent Link: http://ufdc.ufl.edu/UF00020469/00001
 Material Information
Title: Russian posts in the XIX Century
Series Title: Rossica translation
Uniform Title: Pochta v Rossii
Physical Description: vi, 196 p., 24 p. of plates : ill. ; 23 cm.
Language: English
Creator: Bazilevich, K. V
Publisher: Rossica Society of Russian Philately
Place of Publication: U.S
Publication Date: c1987
Subject: Postal service -- History -- Russia   ( lcsh )
Postage stamps -- History -- Russia   ( lcsh )
Stamp collections -- Russia   ( lcsh )
Statement of Responsibility: compiled by K.V. Bazilevich; translated by David M. Skipton.
Bibliography: Bibliography: p. 195-196.
General Note: Translation of: Pochta v Rossii.
Funding: Made available to the University of Florida Digital Collections under special distribution agreement with the <a href="http://www.rossica.org">Rossica Society</a>.
 Record Information
Bibliographic ID: UF00020469
Volume ID: VID00001
Source Institution: <a href="http://www.rossica.org">Rossica Society</a> Library.
Holding Location: <a href="http://www.rossica.org">Rossica Society</a> Library.
Rights Management: All rights reserved by the source institution and holding location.
Resource Identifier: notis - AAB2684
lccn - 8761829

Table of Contents
    Front Cover
    Title Page
        Title 1
        Title 2
        Title 3
    About the Author
        Page i
    From the Author
        Page i
    Translator's Forward
        Page ii
    Table of Contents
        Page iii
        Page iv
    The Post at the End of the XVIII Century
        Page 1
        Page 2
        Page 3
        Page 4
    Part 1: The Post in the First Half of the XIX Century
        Page 5
        Administrative structure
            Page 6
            Page 7
            Page 8
            Page 9
            Page 10
            Page 11
            Page 12
            Page 13
            Page 14
            Page 15
            Page 16
            Page 17
        The system of postal station maintenance
            Page 18
            Page 19
            Page 20
            Page 21
            Page 22
        Transporting travellers by post
            Page 23
            Page 24
            Page 25
            Page 26
            Page 27
            Page 28
            Page 29
            Page 30
            Page 31
            Page 32
            Page 33
            Page 34
            Page 35
            Page 36
            Page 37
            Page 38
            Page 39
        Transporting the mail
            Page 40
            Page 41
            Page 42
            Page 43
            Page 44
            Page 45
            Page 46
            Page 47
            Page 48
            Page 49
            Page 50
            Page 51
            Page 52
            Page 53
            Page 54
            Page 55
            Page 56
            Page 57
            Page 58
            Page 59
            Page 60
            Page 61
            Page 62
            Page 63
            Page 64
            Page 65
            Page 66
        Postal relations
            Page 67
            Page 68
            Page 69
            Page 70
            Page 71
            Page 72
            Page 73
            Page 74
            Page 75
            Page 76
            Page 77
            Page 78
            Page 79
            Page 80
            Page 81
        Postal revenues
            Page 82
            Page 83
            Page 84
            Page 85
            Page 86
            Page 87
            Page 88
    Part 2: The Post in the Second Half of the XIX Century
        Page 88a
        General conditions
            Page 89
            Page 90
            Page 91
        Postal operations and tariffs
            Page 92
            Page 93
            Page 94
            Page 95
            Page 96
            Page 97
            Page 98
            Page 99
            Page 100
            Page 101
            Page 102
            Page 103
            Page 104
            Page 105
        The postal budget
            Page 106
            Page 107
            Page 108
        Postal branches and personnel
            Page 109
            Page 110
            Page 111
            Page 112
            Page 113
            Page 114
            Page 115
            Page 116
            Page 117
            Page 118
            Page 119
            Page 120
        Transporting the mail
            Page 121
            Page 122
            Page 123
            Page 124
            Page 125
            Page 126
            Page 127
            Page 128
            Page 129
            Page 130
            Page 131
            Page 132
            Page 133
            Page 134
            Page 135
            Page 136
            Page 137
            Page 138
        Postal relations
            Page 139
            Page 140
            Page 141
            Page 142
            Page 143
            Page 144
            Page 145
            Page 146
            Page 147
            Page 148
            Page 149
            Page 150
            Page 151
            Page 152
            Page 153
            Page 154
            Page 155
            Page 156
        Page 157
        Page 158
        Page 159
Full Text

by K.V. Bazilevich


by K.V. Bazilevich
translated by David M. Skipton

"Rossica Translation No. 2"
Copyright 1987. All rights reserved.
Library of Congress Card No. 87-61829




This translation is dedicated to
my parents, Shirley and Larry.


Konstantin Vasil'evich Basilevich (1892-1950) was a noted Soviet historian on the Muscovite
State up to the XVII century. In the 1920's he worked in the Moscow State Historical Museum, and
it was during that period that this book was published. The next decade saw him contributing
heavily to the understanding of early Muscovite politics and economics through use of many
original sources. He was the senior historian at the Institute of History of the USSR Academy of
Sciences from 1936 to 1950, during which time he was embroiled in "...intensive and acrimonious
debate" over his reinterpretation of the XVI and XVII century monarchy, and attacked for
"bourgeois cosmopolitanism" in 1948-49. Nevertheless he received the Lomonosov Prize
posthumously, and is today considered to be an example of "the best characteristics of Soviet
scholarship". (Source- J.L. Wieczynski, "The Modern Encyclopedia of Russian and Soviet History",
Vol. 3, pp. 179-181, Academic International Press, 1977.)


This essay on the historical development of the Russian Post in the XIX century was written for a
broad range of readers. The author has, therefore, confined himself to a popular account and in-
cluded in it a number of scenes reflecting not only the daily life of the Post, but also its overall con-
dition at one point or another in time. The task of this essay is to portray the development of postal
relations over a period of 100 years, during which time life changed greatly from the economic and
social conditions found in the country at the threshold of the XIX century. In this process of
historical development the Post was one of the elements of the nation's economy and culture. In
attempting a popular account, the author also had in mind a more serious intent to show that
from the standpoint of research the history of the Russian Post cannot be considered fully written.
While there is no pretense of a scholarly study (an impossibility within the confines of this essay),
even so the author could not abandon the desire to dwell at some length and in somewhat greater
detail on certain special questions, and to present some statistical data which, perhaps, will be
wearisome for the non-specialist reader.
Research conducted by the author on material from the former archives of the Postal Depart-
ment and the Main Post-and-Telegraph Administration serves as the basis for this essay. The author
could acquaint himself with only a very small part of these valuable archival materials, the greater
portion of which still awaits research.
This essay could not have been written had not the author received the full cooperation and
assistance of the NKPT and the Editorial Board of "Zhian' i Tekhnika Svyazi". Published as part of
a [monographic] series of the periodical "Zhizn' i Tekhnika Svyazi", this essay is a natural extension
of the work by M. Shedling, previously published [in 1926] in the same series under the title
"Outline of World Postal History", inasmuch as his coverage of Russian postal history ends at the
beginning of the XIX century.

K. Bazilevich


Konstantin Vasil'evich Basilevich (1892-1950) was a noted Soviet historian on the Muscovite
State up to the XVII century. In the 1920's he worked in the Moscow State Historical Museum, and
it was during that period that this book was published. The next decade saw him contributing
heavily to the understanding of early Muscovite politics and economics through use of many
original sources. He was the senior historian at the Institute of History of the USSR Academy of
Sciences from 1936 to 1950, during which time he was embroiled in "...intensive and acrimonious
debate" over his reinterpretation of the XVI and XVII century monarchy, and attacked for
"bourgeois cosmopolitanism" in 1948-49. Nevertheless he received the Lomonosov Prize
posthumously, and is today considered to be an example of "the best characteristics of Soviet
scholarship". (Source- J.L. Wieczynski, "The Modern Encyclopedia of Russian and Soviet History",
Vol. 3, pp. 179-181, Academic International Press, 1977.)


This essay on the historical development of the Russian Post in the XIX century was written for a
broad range of readers. The author has, therefore, confined himself to a popular account and in-
cluded in it a number of scenes reflecting not only the daily life of the Post, but also its overall con-
dition at one point or another in time. The task of this essay is to portray the development of postal
relations over a period of 100 years, during which time life changed greatly from the economic and
social conditions found in the country at the threshold of the XIX century. In this process of
historical development the Post was one of the elements of the nation's economy and culture. In
attempting a popular account, the author also had in mind a more serious intent to show that
from the standpoint of research the history of the Russian Post cannot be considered fully written.
While there is no pretense of a scholarly study (an impossibility within the confines of this essay),
even so the author could not abandon the desire to dwell at some length and in somewhat greater
detail on certain special questions, and to present some statistical data which, perhaps, will be
wearisome for the non-specialist reader.
Research conducted by the author on material from the former archives of the Postal Depart-
ment and the Main Post-and-Telegraph Administration serves as the basis for this essay. The author
could acquaint himself with only a very small part of these valuable archival materials, the greater
portion of which still awaits research.
This essay could not have been written had not the author received the full cooperation and
assistance of the NKPT and the Editorial Board of "Zhian' i Tekhnika Svyazi". Published as part of
a [monographic] series of the periodical "Zhizn' i Tekhnika Svyazi", this essay is a natural extension
of the work by M. Shedling, previously published [in 1926] in the same series under the title
"Outline of World Postal History", inasmuch as his coverage of Russian postal history ends at the
beginning of the XIX century.

K. Bazilevich


Rossica's second book-length English translation, "The Russian Posts in the XIX Century", is in-
tended as a companion piece to the translation of S.V. Prigara's "The Russian Post in the Empire,
Turkey, China, and the Post in the Kingdom of Poland". Bazilevich provides a reasonably detailed
overview of the postal history which Prigara, due to the scope and angle of his work, could only
touch upon. For the philatelic student who wants to know what was behind the stamps, stationery
and cancellations, Bazilevich's essay is must reading. This book does not address long lists of
stamp issues, nor does it give much of any information on the things philatelists collect. It is sheer
postal history and background information, the bones and muscle behind the "paper flesh" that
goes in our albums.
Even though K. Bazilevich completed this work in 1927, none of it has become outdated, and the
rarity of this book in Russian (550 copies printed, and only one has come to light in the U.S.) made it
almost inaccessible to the great majority of philatelists on this continent. With both the Bazilevich
and the Prigara, the beginning student can start with a greater knowledge and appreciation of what
is being collected, and the "old hand" can add to his arsenal .
Because this book was originally written in the Soviet Union, there are places in the text where
whiffs of Marxist doctrine can be detected, but for the most part the work is remarkably free of
political slant. I have tried to adhere as closely as possible to the original, so readers are free to
make their own conclusions.
The transliteration system used is essentially the same as that in the Prigara, with this exception:
where the "t" (i kratkoe) was rendered as "j" in the Prigara, here it is the same as for "" "i".
Many of the illustrations throughout this translation were not part of the original. They have
been culled from a variety of books, pamphlets, official documents and covers to give the reader a
better idea of what is being discussed at that point in the text. Each added illustration is so marked
in the caption.
A great round of applause is due Bob Trbovich for his painstaking and scholarly proofreading
job. Many passages gained a new lease on life and comprehension because of his efforts, and the
entire work is an improved production because of him. My thanks to him, to Norman Epstein for
the tremendous gift of the 1872 Moscow Polytechnical Exhibition pictures and a lengthy
photography session, to Gordon Torrey for hours of photography work and the loan of material
from his collection, to Howard Weinert for his loans of outstanding covers, and to the many others
whose suggestions and encouragement helped to make this translation possible.

David M. Skipton
Greenbelt, Maryland

Fro m the a u tho r................... ..... .. ..... .... .. ...... ..........................................................

T ra n sla to r's Fo rw a rd ............................ ............................................................................................... ii

The Post at the end of the XVIII century. Russia at the end of the XVIII century. The relay post.
Postal stations. Methods of sending mail. The various kinds of posts (heavy, light and extra mail).
The number of post offices. The number of posts dispatched in Moscow and St. Petersburg............ 1

Part 1. The Post in the first half of the XIX century.
Administrative structure. The set-up of the postal administration according to the Organizational
Tables of 1799. Changes in the Main Postal Administration at the beginning of the XIX century.
Shortcomings of the administrative structure in 1799. A study of postal affairs abroad. The 1830
reforms.......................................... ............. 6

Personnel. Assessment of jobs. The social structure of postal officialdom. Financial status of the
employees. Salaries in the Postal Departments of Russia, Prussia and England. General conditions
of postal service. Stationmasters. The status of "low-level workers". Uniforms of officials and
postillions. Status of the yamshchiki. Difficulties of the postal relay system.................... ....... 9

The system of postal station maintenance. The commercial system. Dispersal of post horses. The
unrestricted posts and their spread. Unrestricted posts in the Studzinskii contract. The estimation
sy ste m ............. ........................ ....... .................................................................... 1 8

Transporting travellers by post. Various means of travel: "by the long way", "by the unrestricted"
and "by the posts". Travel orders. The Schedules of 1721 and 1824 on the number of post horses to
be given travellers on travel orders. Means of conveyance. Condition of the roads. Postal stations.
Speed of travel. Appearance of the coaches. The spread of joint-stock postal-carriage companies.
Postal coach-and-brichka sections............................................................... ........................................ 23

Transporting the mail. The variety of methods used to carry the mail. Mail transportation in nor-
thern European Russia, Siberia and the Caucasus. The appearance of the first steamships and mail
transportation by steamer on the Baltic and Black Seas. The beginning of railway mail transporta-
tion ................................................................ 40

Postal relations. The Post's accessibility for the rural populace. The opening of acceptance and
delivery (operations) for ordinary correspondence at postal stations ("rural mail"). "The errand
post around the districts". Postal communication between landowners. Postal relations between
district seats. Organization of the "dispatch rider post". Exchange of mail on dispatch rider post
roads. The significance of the dispatch post for individual towns. S. Aller's plan to organize a city
post. Organization of a city post and its activities in St. Petersburg and Moscow. Postal relations
with foreign states. The postal conventions with Prussia, Austria and Sweden. Organization of
postal relations with Turkey. The general character of postal relations in the first half of the cen-
tury .............................................. ................................................ 67

Postal revenues. The change in weight-rate charges. Establishment of a single postal rate. In-
troduction of "stamped envelopes". Insurance fees. Increase in weight and insurance-rate collec-
tions ................................................................ ................................................... 82

Part 2. The Post in the second half of the XIX century.
General conditions. Russia's development in the second half of the century and its influence on
postal relations. The growth of industry. The development of cities. Changes in urban life.
Development of correspondence among the rural populace. Development of periodicals. Joint-
stock com panies. N ew kinds of credit...................................................................................

Postal operations and tariffs. The newspaper operation. Rate change for sending newspapers. Sen-
ding books and printed matter by Post. Wrapper mail. The general backwardness of Russia's
postal operations at the end of the 1860's. Introduction of new operations in 1871: postcards, let-
tercards, registered parcels, money parcels. Sending cash. Introduction of money orders. C.O.D.
mail. General changes in the weight rates. Issuance of postage stamps. Weight rates for packages.
In su ra n c e ra te s...................................................................................................

The postal budget. Growth of indirect taxes in the State budget. The postal regalia's role and
financial policies of the State with regard to the Post. Characteristics of postal revenues. Revenues
from sale of postage stamps and stationery. The relationship between expenditures and income in
the Postal Department. Allocations for development of postal establishments................... .......... 106

Postal branches and personnel. Postal Department administrative reforms in the 1860's. Merger of
the Post and Telegraph. The 1884 reforms. Railway Mail Transportation Administration. Gradual
democratization of the employees. Status of postal employees according to official accounts of
the 1860's. Abolishment of the mandatory acceptance of retired officers and noncoms into the
Postal Service. Characterizations of the employees in official reports at the beginning of the
1870's. Organizational tables of 1867. Gradual abrogation of lineage restrictions. Emancipation
of "lower-level employees". Organizational tables of 1884. Financial status of employees at the
end of the XIX century. Working hours in postal establishments. Changes in uniform and the
switch to civilian department clothing. Holdovers from the military regime. Saluting by officials
and postillions. Petition of the St. Petersburg postillions to Alexander 11.................. ...............109

Transporting the mail. General changes in mail transportation in the second half of the century.
Development of railway mail transportation. Carrying the mail by steamship on lakes and rivers.
Mail on ocean-going steamers. "The Russian Steamshipping and Trade Company" (R.O.P. i T.).
Carrying the mail on the White Sea and Arctic Ocean. Correlation between various methods of
m ail transportation...................... 121

Postal relations. The development of local posts in St. Petersburg and Moscow. Organization of ci-
ty posts in Saratov, Kazan', Odessa and Kiev. Spread of local posts. Rise of the Zemstvo Post.
Organization of the Zemstvo Post. The Government's relationship with the Zemstvo Post. In-
troduction of postal operations at volost' administration offices. Private posts in the villages. Ac-
cessibility of post offices for the rural populace. Development of postal relations with foreign
countries. Formation of the "Universal Postal Union". Postal relations with China. Increase in the
number of postal establishments. Postal relations between separate localities. Opening of new
post offices. Degree of service provided by the Post to Russia's populace and that of other coun-
tries. The increase in amount of mail in the second half of the century. Ratio between the number
of postal establishments in Russia and in other countries. Conclusion ...................... 139


Russia at the threshold of the XIX century was a vast country with a population unevenly scat-
tered over the territory of the world's largest state. On the one hand the central regions, being the
oldest foundation of the Great Russian State, were more densely populated than the western areas.
On the other hand the western areas, annexed much later, were noticeably different from the rest
of the country in their national and economic character. From the upper reaches of the Volga
towards the north the population thinned out appreciably, clustering along the banks of rivers and
tributaries. To the south stretched the fertile but still unpopulated steppes of New Russia, wrested
from the Tatars and Turks but a short time before. In the east the Russian populace mixed with the
natives; beyond the Volga began the forests and steppes. There the inhabitants were more
nomadic in their lives and activities, although there were fortifications interspersed among them,
manned by cossacks and military personnel. At the Urals, the European territory of Russia gave
way to Siberia -a region of thick forests and impenetrable taiga, where the few settlements were
separated from one another by hundreds of versts.
Thus, of the whole vast territory of the country, only an insignificant part was comparatively
densely settled. The remaining expanses of forest and steppe still awaited colonization not only
the north and Siberia, but the entire southern and eastern parts of European territory were as yet
almost uninhabited.
As is generally known, the development of the city and the size of its population are among the
best indicators of the level of economic development. At the end of the XVIII century the urban
population comprised only 4.1%; that is, for every 4 people living in a city there were 96 rural
residents. With the exception of an insignificant number of landowners, the rural population con-
sisted of peasants who were divided into two major categories State- and privately-owned. The
number of the latter somewhat exceeded that of the former (privately-owned peasants comprised
55% of the total).
The expansion of the Post was closely connected with the development of roads. As far as traffic
was concerned, the most significant roads were usually those bustling with commercial activity and
linking markets with the larger urban populations. Then there were the roads having an ad-
ministrative or political use, often coinciding with those mentioned above. These, for instance,
were roads connecting a political center of the State with outlying areas, or roads leading to
borders. A few roads paved the way for a stream of colonizers to new, uninhabited places. If there
were no other primary reason for individual roads, as a whole they reflected the need for com-
munication. Wherever human life was kindled and activities developed, there evolved a network
of roads, cutting through forests, mountains, steppes and swamps, covering the newly-won regions
with their thin web.
Thus, if one accepts the fact that the diffusion of postal communications (seen as both the con-
veyance of passengers and correspondence) is impossible without a concomitant development of
roads, then it follows that the Post comes into contact with all aspects of public and political life.
To a certain extent the Post can be seen as a mirror that reflects the overall cultural conditions of a
country. Let us see, in a rough outline, what the state of postal communications was at the end of
the XVIII century, and how well they met the requirements the Russia of that time could lay upon
The skeleton of the Post was the "yam" or relay system, the maintenance of which for the most
part fell upon a special class of peasants called "yamshchiki" (postriders). The relays ran between
postal stations (yamy), around which the yamshchiki lived and kept their horses. These men were
exempt from taxation as well as other government obligations, with the exception of conscription.
In those areas where there were no yamshchiki, the postal obligation was fulfilled by peasants over
and above their normal government taxes. By the decree of 19 January 1797, urban and rural
residents (the lower middle and merchant classes) were also held responsible for the postal obliga-
tion. With the exception of a few roads where the yamshchiki received travel expenses (progony),
the postal relay system was basically a profitless duty for the populace, in spite of the constant
complaints of yamshchiki about their arduous service. This system, the beginning of which dated


back to the end of the XV century, had great shortcomings. It led to exceptional abuses which com-
pletely ruined the system itself, and by the end of the XVI l century it was already an anachronism.
The majority of cities were connected by the postal station system. Catherine Il's ukaz of 1781
proposed a network of post roads connecting not only provincial capitals with district seats, but all
district seats among themselves as well. This project wasn't to see fulfillment in either the XVII
century or the century to follow. Traffic between the majority of district towns (in actuality no
more than large villages) was so insignificant that the maintenance of permanent postal stations
would have been an unnecessary burden on the populace, or it would have led to large expen-
ditures from the Treasury. By the beginning of the XIX century, the entire country had but 3,222
postal stations, at which 37,840 horses were kept. (1)

An 18th-century Russian village on a postroad during the reign of Catherine the Great (1762-1796). (From an engraving by Leprens, in "II-
II FIR ...:- .._ : --- 7

lyustrirovannaya Istoriya Ekateriny II", by A.G. Brueckner, vol. 3, p. 627. St. Petersburg, 1885.)
Mail transportation was accomplished in a number of ways. For a long time the mail was carried
by the yamshchiki, who passed it from one to another at the stations, and who were the cause of
constant complaints about careless and inaccurate delivery of letters and packages. In one inci-
dent, a report from Kiev concerning "most pressing matters" finally reached Moscow after 36 days.
(2) A general picture of how the yamshchiki carried the mail is given in an official ukaz of 1769:
"The postmen, carrying the mail to a station, throw it into huts, delivering it to no one in particular;
or, for example, the postman of another station, if he finds mail in a sack or unsealed bag, and it
seems that the number of packages is too great, he takes only a few and leaves the rest for another
time; couriers often find letters thrown in peasants huts 'without anyone having been informed of
this'; the abandoned mail 'is easily buried in oblivion, and sometimes it is completely lost'."
Moreover, rather than properly handle the mail, postmen simply threw sacks of letters onto the
carts of passing travelers. This picturesque account remained essentially valid for several decades.
In the second half of the XVIII century it became customary in several places to dispatch mail


with specially-assigned people responsible for its safekeeping and timely delivery. Thus, the mail
on the post road from St. Petersburg to Moscow was accompanied by postillions of the St.
Petersburg General Post Office (GPO). On the road to Arkhangel'sk, where the mail was carried by
yamshchiki, the St. Petersburg GPO preferred to send it with passengers. On the Narva post road,
postillions accompanied the mail over the first part of the route and then, from Narva to Riga,
soldiers took over. Later, postillions were assigned to accompany all road mail. (3)
There were several categories of mail at the end of the XVIII century. Heavy official packages
and parcels weighing more than 5 pounds were sent with the "heavy post" (yamskaya). The light
post encompassed light parcels, official packets of normal size and private letters. A special kind
of post were the relays (ehstafety). At the very end of the century still another kind of post ap-
peared which would later undergo a considerable expansion. In 1799 an ukaz was issued which
provided for all letters and parcels with foreign or Muscovite mail to St. Petersburg to be transport-

A feldjaeger (messenger) of Catherine's reign, travelling in a postcart It is unlikely that any
feldjaeger could have struck such a nonchalant, upright pose for very long without being
thrown out of the jolting cart at the first rut, of which Russian roads had many. (From "II-
lyustrirovannaya Istoriya Ekateriny II", by A.. Brueckner. vol. 2, p. 487.)
ed directly by special couriers, without stops at intermediate stations. This was called the "extra-
post". A report of the Moscow CPO in 1802 gives us some idea of how this mail was carried the in-
structions specified that the extra-mail was to be sent on no more than two horses. In the spring of
that year, when one of the extra-mail dispatches was being prepared, two large trunks were filled
with correspondence, "which, being placed in the kibitka (a hooded cart TR), came up to or above
the top, leaving the postillion accompanying the mail no place to sit." The mail had to be sent on
two carts, "causing the extra-post to make haste and endangering the postillion's life over the en-
tire route to St. Petersburg, which at any rut in that evil road threatens one with a dangerous spill."
As for the kinds of mail sent, a third type was added in 1781 to the already-existing two (letters
and packages) the transfer of money by Post. At first currency bills were accepted, with gold and
silver coins coming later.
The number of post offices in provincial and district capitals was subject to rather considerable
fluctuations. For instance, in 1786 those offices whose postal collections didn't cover their
operating costs were ordered closed: "to enhance postal revenues and ensure that they don't
diminish, post offices must be established in such a way in the towns and the salaries of
postmasters and postal workers calculated so that they may directly correspond only to a need or
profit, and in such a way that they may support themselves with income from their own collections,
and not burden the Treasury." On the force of this decree 97 offices were closed and 65 offices
were downgraded to postal dispatch offices, consisting of one clerk and a postillion. Among the

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latter offices, for instance, we find ones in Samara and Syzran'. Several years later it was decided
to keep those offices where the postmasters had agreed to serve without pay "to serve only for
honor, to expect rewards with promotions to higher ranks and for the advantage of protecting his
house against the burden of any civil obligation." (5) By the beginning of the XIX century there
were 458 postal facilities within the Postal Administration. (6)
Of all the roads where postal stations existed and where, consequently, relays for conveying
travellers were maintained, few actually carried much mail. New posts were established according
to an existing need, both for government institutions and private correspondence. The volume of
the latter was quite insignificant, and it was conducted almost exclusively between two or three
dozen of the larger cities distinguished by their commerce and number of inhabitants. The follow-
ing examples will graphically illustrate how seldom mail was sent even from the biggest cities in the
Empire. Up to 1793 mail was dispatched but twice weekly on the various routes from Moscow to
St. Petersburg, Smolensk, Byelgorod, Voronezh, Astrakhan', Siberia and Arkhangel'sk, and to other
cities the frequency was only once weekly. At the beginning of the following century the St.
Petersburg GPO dispatched mail on 8 posts 5 bi-weekly, 2 weekly and 1 bi-monthly. On the post
road to Moscow at the end of the XVIII century, 4 light and 4 heavy posts left each week. (7) The
major portion of correspondence was of an official nature, not only in district seats but in many
provincial capitals as well. The immense and sparsely-populated areas of the outlying districts
were completely devoid of postal communications.
All of this serves as evidence of the country's characteristic features which we noted earlier: the
predominance of a rural population, the overwhelming majority of which carried on no cor-
respondence whatsoever; the feeble development of urban life; the concentration of economic life
in a small number of commercial centers; the low level of the populace's cultural development,
and so on.
Such then was the general role played by the Post on the threshold of the XIX century, as one of
the elements of culture.


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In the second half of the XVIII century, for the most part in the last quarter thereof, a general ad-
ministrative organization of postal establishments gradually took shape. The highest administra-
tion of these offices, which had formerly fallen upon the Collegium of Foreign Affairs (Kollegiya in-
ostrannykh dyel), shifted to the "Main Postal Affairs Board" (Glavnoe Pochtovykh Dyel Pravlenie)
in 1782. Several of the principal GPO's (St. Petersburg, Moscow, Malorossiisk and the Ol'viopol'
border office), under whose direction the provincial GPO's and post offices were placed, became
the second administrative level. Finally, the smaller postal establishments, district offices, were
subordinated to the provincial GPO's.
This administrative organization got a more systematic character and consistency from the Pro-
visional Regulations of 1799. At that time we find directorates (direktsii) placed under the manage-
ment of six GPO's (St. Petersburg, Moscow, Malorossiisk, Lithuanian, Tambov and Kazan') and in
1800 a seventh, the Siberian. Each directorate administered the postal establishments belonging to
several provinces. The distribution of the provinces by GPO directorates was as follows:

St. Petersburg GPO ...................................... 8 provinces.
M oscow GPO............... ............. .................. 12 provinces.
Malorossiisk GPO .....................................5 provinces, later 9.
Lithuanian GPO ................... ..................... 5 provinces, later 8.
Tambov GPO ........................ ................ 6 provinces, later 9.
Kazan' GPO.................. .........................4 provinces.
Siberian GPO.................. .. ....... ........... 2 provinces, later 6.

All posts were divided into five classes, or categories: 1) The Dubossary Border Office, 2) Provin-
cial Border Offices and Port Offices, 3) ordinary Provincial Offices, 4) Border and Port Offices, and
5) City Offices. A special staffing was provided to city and district postal dispatch offices in those
places where there was an insignificant amount of postal exchange, and also to the Field
Pochtamts (main Post Offices). The limited operations permitted a restriction in the number of
employees there (similar to the postal branch offices that came later). The staff of a provincial of-
fice consisted of a postmaster, his assistant, an accountant, a non-commissioned officer, 12
postillions and 2 guards. The staff of a city was even smaller: a postmaster and his assistant, 6
postillions and one guard. Official pay scales were set without regard to the profitableness of a
given office. Thus, a provincial postmaster received 600 rubles annually; a city postmaster 400
rubles; a postillion 30 rubles. Postal stations were managed by postal supervisors, the number of
which depended upon the importance of the road. On the main and "most notable" roads, each
station was supposed to have 1-2 supervisors; on district roads one supervisor for 2-3 stations.
Postmen who transported the mail were located at the stations.
Further changes which occurred in the Main Postal Affairs Board at the beginning of the XIX cen-
tury were closely connected with the plan to re-organize the main administrative apparatus. When
the Ministry of Internal Affairs was formed in 1802, the Main Postal Affairs Board was "placed
under the direct supervision of the Minister." Actually it was not attached to the Ministry until
1806. In 1811 it became the Postal Department of that Ministry, and the President of the Main
Postal Affairs Board was made the Department Director. In 1819 the Postal Department was again
taken from the Ministry, and placed under the authority of the Minister of Spiritual Affairs and
Public Education, Prince A. Golitsin, to whom was given the title "Chief Commander of the Postal
Department". (9)
All of the above changes affected only the top echelons of the administrative apparatus.
Neither the staffs nor the general character of the administrative structure of the postal
establishments, created by the reform of 1799 and continuing unchanged over the course of 30
years, were disturbed. In the meantime, practice showed that this system failed to meet the
demands confronting it. Its weakest link was the combination of two different tasks in the
pochtamts that of conducting [day-to-day] postal operations and that of serving as administrative


overseer for the management boards. Owing to the spirit of strict centralization which reigned in
all spheres of government, the pochtamts would undertake nothing without notification and ap-
proval from a higher level. Thus they formed an unnecessary and completely useless ad-
ministrative level. At the same time, there was no management board supervision over the postal
establishments. Postal directors could not be removed without special authorization, and they
would send officials "in the lesser ranks" on inspections. No special funds were allocated to reim-
burse them for travel expenses, and the postal directors had to appropriate money for these of-
ficials from their own pockets, on a wretched salary. In the majority of cases the post office chiefs
were of higher rank than those inspecting them. The latter had not only no authority, but were
often tempted by the opportunity to ease their financial difficulties. (10)
The new Postal Department reform was very broadly conceived and applied not only to the ad-
ministrative apparatus but to the technical aspect of postal operations as well. Special officials
were sent to England and Prussia to gather information on the state of postal affairs abroad. In
1827 the postmaster Giezerud, assigned to the Kingdom of Bavaria, presented a report on the
postal situation in the German Possessions, France, Italy and other countries. The postal organiza-
tions in Russia's newly-acquired areas were also scrutinized, especially in Poland. A special com-
mittee was formed to analyze and study all of the information gathered. (11)
In 1830 an administrative reform was carried out and new regulations established, with other in-
novations in postal operations and economy following in the next few years the introduction of a
city post patterned after those of London and Berlin, organizing communications using special car-
riages and carts (briki half-covered conveyances for heavy mail TR) and the organizing of a so-
called "unrestricted" system of postal station maintenance.
Putting aside for the time being a discussion about these innovations that were influenced by
western European postal organizations, we will limit ourselves here to an examination of the new
administrative apparatus. The foundation of the reform was based upon the English postal system,
which by its speed, economic results, organization and level of service to the populace was con-
sidered the best among the European states. The organization of the English Post was very simple
and it operated on a bare minimum of the number of administrative elements needed to function.
The highest organ of postal management was the London Post Office, the Director of which was
also the manager of the country's entire postal apparatus. Directly subordinate to him were the
postal inspectors, who headed the postal districts. Besides that, the various postal establishments
subordinated to the districts also had [the privilege of] direct communication with the London Post
Office. A salient feature of the English Post was that postmaster duties in small towns were carried
out by private citizens who usually were shopkeepers or booksellers. In Prussia the administrative
set-up was similar to that of the English, and postal establishments there also belonged to districts
under the supervision of postal inspectors.
The postal arrangement adopted in Russia was an exact copy of the English system, and a partial
copy of the Prussian. All the post offices, with the exception of the St. Petersburg and Moscow
GPO's, were stripped of their former administrative rights and turned into provincial post offices
(gubernskiya pochtovyya kontory). The duty of Postal Department Director was combined with
that of the St. Petersburg Post Office Director into one job. As before, the highest personage in
management was the Postmaster General (glavnonachal'stvuyushchii), for whom a council (sovet)
was formed. All postal establishments, with the exception of Moscow and St. Petersburg provinces,
were divided up among 11 districts, at the head of each of which stood a Postal Inspector. The
district postal units (uyezdnyya pochtovyya kontory), were placed under the supervision of provin-
cial and territorial oblastt') PO's. These latter PO's, and also Border PO's plus those located in
Moldavia, Wallachia and Constantinople, enjoyed direct communication with the Postal Depart-
ment. This direct access of the provincial and territorial PO's to central postal management reduc-
ed the amount of [bureaucratic] correspondence and expedited administrative dealings.
In spite of the introduction of several new positions and an increase in the staffing of large of-
fices, thanks to this curtailment in the number of administrative levels the overall reduction in the
number of employees in the Department came to 3,173 officials and workers.


Abolishing the provincial pochtamts yielded a yearly savings of 235,000 rubles. The reform of
1830 introduced precise regulations for postal service and a uniform method of postal operation.
New positions appeared controllers, inspectors, sorters, receivers, mail carriers, mail clerks and
bonded clerks while at the same time others, old office titles which no longer applied to the
methods of postal operations, disappeared recorders, registering clerks and office clerks.
Subsequent changes in postal establishment administration took place in the second half of the



The personnel structure of the postal establishments had several gradations, gradually descen-
ding from the highest levels of the Service. (12) At the topmost rung of this rank-and-position lad-
der stood the "Postmaster General of the Postal Department", Prince A.N. Golitsyn from 1819 to
1842, and after him, Count V.F. Adlerberg from 1842-1857. The status of these high officials who
reported personally to the Tsar was of course much greater than that of any of the other executives
in the Postal Department. Until the 1830 reform, the next level down was the seven pochtamt
Postal Directors, who each had, as we have seen, several provinces within the administrative pur-
view [of their directorates]. After the 1830 reform their place was taken by the 11 District Postal In-
spectors. The next two levels below were occupied by the provincial and municipal [district]
postmasters. The forwarding agents of GPO's came close to the postmasters in salary and position.
Below them came the intermediate levels of postal ranks, gradually dropping down to the "lower
office workers". These were the recorders, translators, archivists, registering clerks and filing
clerks. The reform of 1830 wiped out a number of positions and introduced new titles which more
accurately reflected the administrative system change and a different method of postal operation.
The staff of the central establishment (the Postal Department, which was divided into 5 sections)
grew considerably.
The capital GPO's were restructured on a somewhat different basis, but the ladder of rank and
status underwent no abrupt changes. At its lowest rungs stood officials of the 12th to 14th classes,
with salaries of 300-400 rubles per year. The lowest rank, the 14th, also encompassed station-
masters, to guard against their being physically abused.
Below these officials came non-commissioned officers, disabled veterans, guards, soldiers and
postillions. They provided protection for postal facilities, accompanied the posts and relays, and
served as unskilled labor around the various offices. Finally, there were the yamshchiki, who due
to the nature of their work were closely connected with this postal army but not formally a part of
it. Who made up this mass of officials [classified so elaborately] according to rank, salary and posi-
tion? As far back as the 18th century the custom of naming retired officers as postmasters had
taken root. Military ranks appear constantly in the decrees of that period -ensigns, lieutenants, cor-
nets, second-majors and bayonet-cadets. The post office, which had no need of special titles, was a
quiet refuge from adversity and the deprivations of military service. Among the masses of retired
officers who for various reasons had left the Army, men of non-military backgrounds occupied a
comparatively modest place. Sometimes they were officials who had transferred from another
civil service job, or who had slowly worked their way up the postal ladder beginning at the lowest
rungs. In other cases they were people who were under the special patronage of high-ranking in-
dividuals. Among these could be found some curious appointments. For instance, in 1772 General-
Field Marshal Razumovskii's valet was given the postmaster's job in the city of Ostashkov.
Foreigners also played a well-known part, especially the "natives of the German nation". This com-
position of postal officials changed very little even in the first half of the next century.
The provincial postmaster jobs were very highly prized, with salaries ranging from 600 to 800
rubles per year, and a constant battle was waged for them. For some positions a waiting list was
drawn up, and a candidate would wait impatiently for the transfer or death of the man preceding
him. As these assignments were made by decree of the Tsar, patrons of candidates were usually in-
fluential people who attempted to push their man through to a vacant job. Thus, for instance, in
1825 the son-in-law of Adjutant-General Baron Tol', Major Baron Rosen, was appointed to be the
Revel' Provincial Postmaster. Assignments went almost exclusively to officers serving in the
Guards or occupying a billet at General Headquarters. In 1814 the task of filling the offices of pro-
vincial postmasters was transferred to a special committee, under the protection of which were
those officers who had been wounded in wartime. From that time on, practically all vacant
postmaster jobs were occupied by disabled officers, who exchanged their military uniforms and
sabers for the sword of an official. In 1827, disabled officers who had entered the Postal Service
were [officially] permitted to keep their uniform and rank. Officers of the Courier Corps (Feld-
jaegers) were also very frequently assigned to postmaster slots.


Another, smaller category of people was composed of Postal Department officials who had
begun their careers in the Post or had transferred there from another [branch of] Civil Service. In
the majority of cases they were also noblemen. Among them could be found men with college
education. Finally, as rare exceptions to the rule, came those postmasters who had worked their
way up from the lowest postal ranks; this required long service and exceptional luck. As an exam-
ple, we present a short biography of one of these fortunate men. Likhachev was a "postman's
child". He began service as an office worker in a provincial office, then became, in order, an assis-
tant clerk, clerk, registering clerk in the Moscow General Post Office, recording clerk and finally,
when he was about to be promoted to the provincial secretaries, he was instead assigned as an of-
ficial to inspect postal stations. In this last grade he would probably have remained until his death,
had he not somehow managed to earn a position of high authority. In his 21st year of service he
was made a Titular Counsellor (the 9th class TR) and in two more years he achieved the 8th class.
Soon he was made Smolensk Provincial Postmaster. Thus, in 24 years of service he finally attained
to that point at which Guards officers began their careers in the Postal Department.
A postmaster's job in some backwoods district town was a less tempting goal. Here there were
more run-of-the-mill-type Army officers, "ober-officer children", sons of office workers and of in-
tellectuals lacking a privileged status. Even there, however, the percentage of noblemen was not
inconsequential. Further down, the mass of officials also had their gradations, petty ranks and
categories, but [below them] we meet with a greater democratization among the personnel mer-
chants' sons, petty bourgeois, postillionss' children", those "from the clergy", sons of lower postal
officials, and so on. For this mass of employees there were strictly-defined limits above which only
a few fortunate souls ever rose.
The work itself and compensations for middle- and lower-level postal officials gradually became
more difficult and less attractive. The Tables of Organization in effect in 1799, which established
fixed salaries according to positions held, underwent no changes over the course of 30 years. Dur-
ing this prolonged period the value of the paper ruble decreased approximately 3 times over. Basic
necessities became correspondingly more expensive. Besides that, with the increase in the amount
of correspondence the workload increased. The quiet life of a postal official, which formerly en-
tailed only a few hours to sort mail with the rest of the day free, became a thing of the past. In a
report presented to Nicholas I in 1828 it was stated that "the fixed salaries for the above-mentioned
[people] have become so insufficient that officials and workers have no means of supporting
themselves, and [therefore] are quitting the Postal Service." In another report the following
characterization of postal service was outlined: "Postal service, especially in some places, is
perhaps the most onerous of all the civil sectors. There are no regular office hours for the officials,
their work instead depending upon the arrival of the posts. Mail can come at any time early morn-
ing or late evening, at darkest midnight, on weekdays and holidays. Postal service brooks no delay,
for the public grumbles at the slightest hold-up, and the management is exacting." To the postal
official, burdened with a large family and too timid because of his background to dream of higher
rank and better pay, there remained only one comfort that retained a well-known power of attrac-
tion a civil rank, uniform and sword.
We present the following table to compare salaries for various categories of postal employees in
Russia, Prussia and England. The data is from 1829. (13)

Position Annual Salaries (in rubles)
Russia Prussia England

Postal Department Director 6,000 14,400 96,000
Post Director 4,500
GPO Chief of Operations 800 5,040 7,200-24,000
Postmaster 120-750 432-1,440 1,400-14,400
Low-level Office Workers 50-500 Up to 1,260 2,160-9,600
Lettercarriers 48-70 1,000-2,000 1,400-3,600


According to the Tables of Organization in 1830, the salary of a pochtamt chief of operations
was increased to 1,800 rubles; that of a provincial postmaster to 1,500 rubles, and that of a letter-
carrier to 100-120 rubles.
The spirit of a military regime pervaded the entire postal system. A retired lieutenant-colonel,
having started immediately as a "Nadvornyi Sovyetnik" (the 7th rank in civilian service, equivalent
to lieutenant-colonel TR) and postmaster, brought to his new position the habits of a stern career
and military discipline. Almost the entire postal management was comprised of former soldiers.
Over the course of long decades a system was established which made the post office resemble a
military office: addressing others by title, saluting, [maintaining] a military bearing, and so on.
Another feature of the Postal Service was, as we have seen, a strict gradation among the various
ranks which separated all the employees into categories more or less closed off from one another:
provincial and district postmasters and senior pochtamt officials on the one hand, and the lesser
officials and "low-level office workers" on the other. The same sharp divisions also existed when it
came to status. Whereas the provincial postmaster was an influential person in the city, and in cer-
tain circumstances even the provincial governor had to reckon with him, the "low-level office
workers" had to endure all the caprices of higher personages without a murmur.
At this first level of service, beginning with the 14th rank, stood a most peculiar figure who more
than once drew the attention of the belles lettres the stationmaster. On him was laid a very heavy
responsibility satisfying the impossible demands of important travellers and providing them with
horses when actually none were available. The stationmaster toiled away at this insoluble task
throughout his long years of service. His rank ("Don't hit me in the mug") at least spared him from
physical abuse and beatings, (in theory), but the custom of taking out on the stationmaster all
frustrations arising from the journey was above any law. This situation was made even more dif-
ficult by the fact that rare indeed was the dignitary or high official passing through who did not
claim more horses than specified in his travel orders. Some VIP's even took horses intended for
couriers and feldjaegers. There were also incidents where horses were taken out from under
already-loaded mail and given to impatient generals.
"What is a stationmaster?" asked A.S. Pushkin. His answer: "A veritable martyr of the 14th rank,
protected by that rank only from beatings, and then not always (I refer to the conscience of my
readers). What was the job of this dictator, as Prince Vyazemskii jokingly called him? Was it not in
fact penal servitude? No rest, day or night. The traveller would vent on the stationmaster all his ac-
cumulated vexation built up during the boring journey. The weather unbearable, the road terri-
ble, the coachmen obstinate, the horses stubborn, and all this was the stationmaster's fault.
Entering the master's poor home, the traveller looked upon him as an enemy; all was well if the sta-
tionmaster succeeded in ridding himself of his uninvited guest; but if there were no horses! ...Oh
Lord! What cursing, what threats were heaped upon his head. Through rain and slush he is com-
pelled to scurry around among the peasant homes; in storms and bitter frost he stands outside, if
only to gain a moment's respite from the shouting and pushing of his irritable guest. A general ar-
rives; the trembling stationmaster gives him the last two troikas, one of them a courier's. The
general drives off without a "thank you". Five minutes later the little bell sounds...and a feld-
jaeger tosses his order for post horses on the table before the stationmaster." (From "The Station-
There is also that artistic portrayal by N.S. Leskov in a scene which depicts an assault on a sta-
tionmaster. Its realism is all the more terrible as the scene shows a most commonplace event,
nothing out of the ordinary for the stationmaster. After the stationmaster's answer that there are
no horses, into the postal station's room strides a man muffled up in a bearskin coat. "There was a
smack and on the floor, at the foot of the bearish mass, lay the stationmaster. Another smack,
followed by another somersault, and again a silence...
"- "Did you read the orders, you scoundrel?" came the bellow from the bear. The stationmaster
climbed to his feet trembling and retreating.
"- "Did you read them?" again menaced the bear.
"- "N-n-no, sir."
But even before the stationmaster had finished his "No, sir", another deafening slap resounded in


Table of Ranks
(issued by Peter the Great on 24 January 1722)

Rank: Civilian: Military: Naval: Court: Title:

1 State Chancellor General-Field- General-Admiral Your Excellency
2 Actual Privy Council- General-of-Cavalry Admiral Chief Chamberlain Your Excellency
lor General-of-Infantry Chief Equerry
General-of-Artillery Chief Marshal of the
Chief Master of the
Chief Steward of
the House
Chief Bearer
Chief Master of
3 Privy Councillor General-Lieutenant Vice-Admiral Steward, Marshal, Excellency
Master of the
Hunt, etc.
4 Actual Councillor of General-Major Rear Admiral -Excellency
5 Councillor of State Master of Your Honor
6 Collegiate Councillor Colonel Captain 1st Class Kamer-fourier Your Worship
7 Court Councillor Lieutenant-Colonel Captain 2nd Class Your Worship
8 Collegiate Assessor Captain (Infantry) Your Honor
Cavalry Captain
9 Titular Councillor Staff Captain Lieutenant Hof-fourier Your Honor
Cavalry Staff
10 Collegiate Secretary Lieutenant Ensign -Your Honor
12 Provincial Secretary Second Lieutenant Tablesetter, Coffee- Your Honor
Cornet (Cavalry) bearer, Cupbearer
14 Collegiate Registrar Warrant Officer Your Honor

Note: The 11th rank (ship's secretary) and 13th (senate, synod and office registrars) were abolished. Guards
officers were one grade above the normal ranks up to colonel. The 5th and 8th ranks in the Army
(brigadier and major) were also abolished. Ranks 14 to 7 in the Army and Navy were ranks of personal
nobility; from 6th to 1st they were hereditary nobility. For civil and other categories, personal nobility
was not attained until the 9th rank, hereditary at the 4th.


the room, and once again the stationmaster somersaulted under the table.
"- "So you didn't even read it? You don't even know who I am? And most likely you...enjoy the
rights of the 14th class, you rascal?"
"Yes, your excellency."
A slap in the face.
"- "You have the 'Don't hit me in the mug' rank?"
"I have, sir."
"Well, don't set any hopes on that law! None!"
Blow after blow descended, they fell in a hail, a rain, a torrent. The unfortunate stationmaster
would rise only to fall again to the floor."
Long association with constant insults and physical abuse gave birth to a peculiar comfort. "To
tell the truth," said the stationmaster, "I don't even resent it. But when some other time a mere
ensign or cornet lights into my face, now that's really disgusting." (N.S. Lekov, "Laughter and Sor-
Those who served as stationmasters were a motley crew: retired Army non-coms, postillionss'
children", people who entered service from the taxable classes; one could also find, albeit rarely,
officers and unfortunate members of the gentry. There were no dreams of promotion for the sta-
tionmaster the road of advancement was firmly blocked. Hopeless indigence pushed him to
abuse the [public trust] in various ways.
In 1824, on the occasion of one discovered abuse, the following official characterization of sta-
tionmasters was given: "People from all walks of life obtain employment as stationmasters, and
because of the impossibility of looking for strictly upright and therefore trustworthy men,
sometimes people who are not well known are given the jobs, while the aforementioned im-
possibility of having good stationmasters is essentially a product of the exceptionally meager
wages paid them, namely 30 to 60 rubles annually, the former salary extant in the Kazan' ad-
ministration." (14)
Below the first official grades and office workers came the foot soldiers of the Post the
postillions. Their situation was actually quite close to that of soldiers in the Army, especially as the
majority of them became postillions after leaving military service. The Ukaz of 1797 permitted
retired soldiers who had served 25 years or who had been released "for various incapacities" to
continue service as postillions. By the decree's definition, the "rank of postillion" would be made
up of "a special class of people of lower status".
The regulations for all "low-level personnel" of the Postal Department had peculiar features
which sharply differentiated them from the rest of the postal officials. From the end of the 18th
century on, a series of statutes were enacted which bound children of postillions and "low-level
personnel" (invalids, porters, stationmasters and guards) to the Postal Department. (Decrees of
1799 and 1802). If a postillion joined the Department, then those of his children born during their
father's time in military service were attached to the War Department, while those born during his
postal service were attached to the Postal Department. (Decree of 1823). Not only the children of
the "low-level personnel" were dealt with in this fashion their "illegitimate" wives and daughters
were, too. (Decree of 1826). Abandoned children and those taken in for upbringing also met the
same fate. (Decree of 1825). The Ukaz of 1826 also attached to the Postal Department those
children of "low-level postal workers" born after their father's retirement. Thus the law, ever ex-
panding the rights of the Postal Department, created a special category of people who found
themselves in a situation approaching serfdom. Children of "low-level postal workers" were re-
quired to serve at the "grades of their fathers" or, if capable, in jobs as low-level office workers.
The mandatory period of service, beginning when they became 17, was set at 25 years. After 12
years of meritorious service a person in the first (lowest) grade could get a job as an office worker.
(Decree of 1828). After attaining this initial grade the "children of low-level postal personnel" were
obligated to continue serving in the Department for 6 years. (Decree of 1827.)
The outfits for people in the Postal Department were very similar to the uniforms worn by Army
officers and soldiers.


After the Postal Department was attached to the Ministry of Internal Affairs, postal officials
were given the same full-dress coats as those worn by the rest of the Ministry's officials. When the
department was separated from the Ministry, postal officials got a special uniform in 1820- a dark
green state coat with black velvet collar and cuffs, a white camisole, a sword with silver sword-
knot, and a triangular hat with silver tassels and gold tabs. The embroidery on the collar, cuffs and
pockets of the coat corresponded to the positions of everything from Postmaster-General to recor-
ding clerks, registering clerks, and city and district forwarding agents. Instead of the wide gold em-
broidery on the coats of higher officials, the latter ones wore a narrow border of silver braid. Those
further down the ladder, including stationmasters, had no embroidery. Besides the position, the
coat's embroidery had to show the official's lineage. A person serving in one of the lower ranks but
belonging to a higher class in society had the right, at the discretion of the Postmaster General, to
wear a coat of the higher ranks. The era of Nicholas I, with its predilection for military coats, also
affected the postal guards. In 1834 their uniforms resembled those of the military even more they
received frock-coats with a military cut and spurs.
During the first years of the century postillions wore outfits established in 1799 during the reign
of Paul I, corresponding to the uniforms of Paul's soldiers. A postillion in one of the capitals was
required to have a black felt hat with straps of black cord, with a bow of black ribbon with orange
striping, a pale yellow camisole, dark green frock coat, patent-leather boots, and woolen and cot-
ton stockings. On his red sash of woolen fabric hung a sword, to his chest was affixed a brass
badge, and at one side hung a leather letter pouch. Postillions were armed with muskets and
pistols, while noncoms had canes as well.
The uniform severely hindered movement and made it impossi-
ble to sit or even walk freely, and was very uncomfortable. In a
report submitted to Alexander I in 1803, the following description
was given: "The postillion's hat is completely unserviceable; it
doesn't last even a quarter of its prescribed life. On the road it
"falls off putting it on top of the trunks is inconvenient, and
"^^ ^ because of its size it can't be worn when sitting in a kibitka. In
S* town, with a cane and gloves, it throws the postillion into confu-
fA 4sion when he tries to stand up in decent order, take letters and
f packets out of his bag, close the bag and give them [to the ad-
., dressee] with only one hand available. The present full-dress coat
% is a burden for the postillion during the summer heat... Moreover,
the tails of the postillion's coat, lined with woolen fabric and
buckled-up brass clasps, are thus useless, as they must be buckled
everywhere, and the woolen fabric is pulled to pieces well before
S! the end of its prescribed lifetime. The close-fitting buckskin
breeches, with a buckle's edge at the bend of the knees, cause in-
jury by pressing against the supporting tendon and deprive the
"^ postillion of any agility. The jackboots worn by postillions, in-
4 I valids and stationmasters would be useful and becoming if
SRussia's postillions carried mail on horseback, as do those in other
A postillion at the beginning of the countries. But in summer they go about in hooded carts and in
19th century. winter in sleighs, and the jackboots prevent them from climbing in-
to their conveyances easily and seating themselves when these are loaded with trunks. In the cities,
the weight of the boots hinders free movement on foot, even during the best times of the year. And
during bad weather in the fall and spring, the more so in places where there are no roadways, the
postillion is greatly inconvenienced because his feet become mired in the mud." The dark green
cloth breeches wore out quickly on the road; "...dusty and dirty, [the appearance of] the postillion
is disgraceful."
To replace this unsatisfactory uniform the following items were introduced: a cap with a patent-
leather visor and copper state emblem, and a plume with black and green feathers: "in such a cap
the postillion may, during his rounds of homes and offices, maintain a proper decency without the


bother of taking off his hat"; for travel on the roads, a cloth cap with turn-down flaps that pro-
tected the face and neck in winter was issued; in summer the leather visor protected the eyes from
the sun; the old full-dress coat was exchanged [for the type used by] couriers of the Military Col-
legium, the jackboots by patent-leather half-boots with heels. It was also proposed to change from
the tight-fitting breeches to looser and less restrictive pants, but this last suggestion didn't appeal
to the Tsar, and on the new-uniform report he wrote his decision "With the exception of the
buckskin pants, everything here shall be." Later these were replaced by gray cloth pants [for
winter] and thin linen pants for summer. In place of the dark green pants, gray cloth pants were
issued. Streaks of mud were less noticeable on them.
In 1820 the postillions were outfitted in single-breasted, beltless,
dark green coats with black velveteen cuffs and collars, black
worsted shoulderstraps (gold for noncoms), a brass ornament worn on
the chest corresponding to the State emblem and braids on the
Ol visored cap. The winter pants were replaced by leather breeches with
black stripes and the summer ones by loose-fitting thin linen pants.
; They were allowed to retain their sabers for the road, but for [rounds
""J in] the city they were required to wear a dirk on a black patent-
leather swordbelt. For the feet, half-boots with heels were worn. The
uniform underwent minor modifications in 1830, but it remained
basically the same until the early 1850's.*
The burden of maintaining the postal relays and the duties of
J transporting both people and mail lay, as we have seen, on the tam-
shchiki. With the passage of time the number of yamshchiki decreas-
ed, until in 1857 the last remaining ones on the Moscow post road
.' were transferred to the category of State peasants. The yamshchiki
Lived in settlements (sloboda) close to the post roads, and in order to
fulfill their obligations they were divided into sections of 28 souls
each. Each section was tasked with maintaining three post horses.
Compared with the duties of State-owned peasants (the group the
yamshchiki most closely resembled), their duties were far more
onerous, especially on roads having commercial, administrative or
military-strategic significance. According to the calculations of the
A postillion of 1830. (From Pochta i postal organization committee in 1802, the duties of a postrider on
Telegraf v xix Stolyetii", (Prilozhenie the capital post road were three times more severe than those of a
vtoroe, "Ministerstvo Vnutrennikh State-owned peasant, which duties were also not noted for their
Dyel. Istoricheskii ocherk." St.
Petersburg, 1902.)) easiness. However, an opinion voiced by Alexander I denied their
transfer to another category: "The status of the yamshchiki I consider to be the most convenient
and necessary, and their transfer to the general category of State-owned peasants would be harm-
ful." In time, as the relays were expanded, the postriders' situation became more difficult. In 1824,
by the calculations of the capital-post road-yamshchiki themselves, the relay [obligation] cost them
up to 96 rubles per person. On the other hand, counting soul tax, quitrent and tax on zemstvo
duties, a State serf would pay at most about 23 rubles. Meanwhile, the postrider was given 3-4
desyatina's (1 desyatina = 2.7 acres TR) while the State serf got 8-15.
The legal quota of maintaining 3 post horses per section was only a unit of accounting. In actual
practice the relays were run by the yamshchiki according to deeply-rooted customs which they at-
tempted to conceal from government officials.
The system the postriders practiced of assigning duties among themselves had the effect of forc-
ing the poorer ones into complete dependence upon the more prosperous, i.e. those owning good,

(TR note: Bazilevich errs with this statement see the illustration for "A postillion in 1845.")


strong horses. The essence of this system was contained in the
following: the difficulty of the relay ride in each case depended upon
its character, that is, what the rider had to do or carry galloping at
breakneck speed like a feldjaeger, carrying light mail, or driving a
carriage with postal packages. Therefore, the relay duties were divid-
ed up among the yamshchiki into 4 categories: 1) messenger, 2)
Courier (all travelers on official business, and transporting light mail),
3) postal (travellers with orders for post horses on private business),
"p ~Iand 4) package (transporting heavy mail). The most difficult duties
Were those of messengers or couriers, and they required strong horses
with great stamina. Messenger duties could be performed only by a
few of the postriders, those who had horses of sufficient strength. In
S each category there was a special roster in which all the yamshchiki
S of the same yam took part. When it became the turn of a rider having
no decent horses to drive a messenger or courier, the well-to-do riders
drew lots among themselves to determine who would take his place.
He would then owe 50-60 rubles or more in currency bills to the rider
making the trip to the next station. If he didn't have the necessary
amount, in lieu of money he could take a turn transporting package-
category mail. Thus it often happened that the indebted postrider,
having just returned home [from one trip], would have to set out on
the road again, on weak and exhausted horses. Without rest the
S- horses grew ever more weary, and mail or travellers were delayed.
A postillion in 1845. (From "Pochta i Lack of money prevented the horses from being fed a sufficient
Telegraf...", 1902, p.12) amount of feed, and if an exacting passenger should happen along, a
weakened horse would finally be driven to death. Frequently, a postrider of little means would
become an unpaid debtor and, finding himself eternally locked into this status, he would have no
time to work or raise horses. Finally, he would lose his horse and live as a beggar until such time as
the village community would pool its resources to buy him a new horse. With that he would again
be a part of his community until a new disaster struck. (16)
The general hardships of the yam system and the inequalities between the various postal set-
tlements can be judged from the following examples. The yamshchiki had a number of things
which benefited them, namely land (farmsteads, tillage, hay-making and forests) and quitrent,
which provided income. The total income from the land and quitrent varied greatly from one place
to another. It depended both on the quantity and quality of the land and on the degree of pro-
fitability from quitrent. At the same time the costs of running the relays varied, depending not only
upon the distances the horses had to cover, but on prices for forage that fluctuated even in a single
If we take just one Moscow post road and calculate the average income and expenditures of one
yamshchik for the postal relay in 1841, the following figures result:

Income for 1 Expenditures for 1
St. Petersburg yam: Rubles Kopecks Rubles Kopecks
St. Petersburg Sloboda 17 84 16 28
Vologda Sloboda 40 41 17 71
Smolensk Sloboda 33 86 16 50
Novgorod Province:
Zaitsov yam 15 92 14 29
Zimogorsk yam 16 30 5 38
Pomeranskii yam 20 52 8 78
Tver' Province:
Vyshnii Volochek yam 5 02 7 60
Tver' yam 6 72 7 62


Vydropusk yam 14 75 7 55
Moscow Province:
Moscow District 16 57 11 52
Klin District 9 28 5 14

In the St. Petersburg, Novgorod and Moscow provinces, a great deal of fluctuation in the ratio of
expenditures to income can be seen among the various settlements and districts. Expenditures ate
up a large part of income, and in all the settlements of Tver' Province on the Moscow post road,
with the exception of the Vydropusk and Staritsa ones, expenditures exceeded income. The 4,974
yamshchiki of Tver' Province in the Tver', Novotorzhok, Vyshnii Volochek, Rzhev and Staritsa
districts had 18,580 desyatina's of forest and 1,310 desyatina's of unproductive land out of 29,656
desyatina's. They had a total of 27 quitrent leases.
In those years when prices for food and forage increased, the yamshchiki's situation became
even more precarious. Suffice it to say that in Tver' Province in December, 1831, a pood (36 avoir-
dupois pounds TR) of oats cost 6.82 rubles, and in December, 1834, 10.78 rubles. The location of
the settlements, which sometimes were situated far from the postal stations, also contributed to
those factors which made life more difficult for the yamshchiki.
The severe conditions of postal obligations led the postriders, who felt burdened as compulsory
carriers, to seek other trades while retaining rented horses for their postal duties. Of course, this
was possible only in those places where other trades existed. Let us cite two examples from those
same provinces: in St. Petersburg Province, out of 318 post horses, 260 were rented; in Tver' Pro-
vince, 216 out of 528. (17)



The postal relays that were a compulsory obligation for the State-owned yamshchiki gave way in
the XIX century to other methods of maintaining postal stations. The earliest method tried was that
of leasing postal stations at auction, the so-called "commercial system". Attempts of this nature
were made as early as the end of the XVIII century, when the yamshchiki were replaced on several
post roads by private stationmasters (the term "soderzhatel' ", here rendered as "stationmaster", is
in the sense of "landlord" TR) and a special tax levied on the populace [around them] to pay for
the stations' upkeep. The experiment was unsuccessful, and the yamshchiki were quickly restored
to their [former] relays. In the first quarter of the XIX century the commercial system was introduc-
ed on many routes and underwent a great expansion.
Those who made the post work received fixed payments from private individuals for transporting
mail [by cart], relay or courier, and supplementary pay from public coffers. Their contracts were in
force for a three-year period. To satisfy these stationmasters with a supplementary payment, taxes
were apportioned among the

A postal relay station. Note the two sleds at right, where a man is changing horses. The picture was taken ca.
1900. (From a postcard by the P. von Cirgenson Company, Moscow.)


peasants in each particular province to collect the necessary amount. By the end of the 1820's the
added money for these men reached about 7 million rubles per year. (18)
In this manner the commercial system took away from the populace [the practice of] a duty paid
in kind, changing it to a monetary collection. This collection was very unequal among various
localities, as it depended upon the amount of traffic on the post roads and, consequently, upon the
size of the supplementary payment to the stationmasters. The positive side of the system was that
it provided a personal incentive to these men to maintain the stations in good order. In practice,
however, negative aspects also came through: apart from the unequal taxation, the temptation to
enrich themselves with government subsidies led to an extraordinary speculation boom. People
who had sufficient capital but who took no personal part in maintaining the stations struck
bargains with those who ran them. Having no means of contending with capitalists who threatened
them with lower prices in the markets, the stationmasters either obligated themselves to pay a fee
to buy them off, or agreed to transport their mail at the stations for a negligible sum. Thus, the high
prices that had been established in the markets went exclusively for the enrichment of the
speculators, while those who actually maintained the posts were ruined. The postal system fell into
decay. (19)
The negative aspects observed in everyday maintenance of postal stations by contract forced
[the authorities] to look for other ways to organize the posts. First and foremost was their
"unrestricted post" (vol'naya pochta) organization. How the post horses were distributed depend-
ed not only on the amount of traffic on post roads and the time of year, but also on purely acciden-
tal events impossible to foresee. The stationmasters, who were obliged not to delay the posts,
found themselves in a hopeless situation. Orders for post horses were written with no regard for
the actual number of horses available at the stations. "Noble personages" demanded additional
horses from the inhabitants, sometimes up to 30 horses at once. Such orders were a new burden on
the peasantry, and on privately-owned lands they provoked protests from the landowners, some of
whom were themselves "noble personages". Those travellers who couldn't insist upon the fulfill-
ment of their requirements were placed in a difficult situation, having to wait for days at the station
for post horses to become available. Meanwhile, renting horses from the inhabitants at an agreed
price wasn't always possible, as in several places there weren't enough people who engaged in con-
veying travellers [for hire] and, besides that, it cost dearly. For instance, during the Makar'evskaya
Fair in Nizhnii Novgorod from the beginning of July to the middle of August, a local inhabitant's
horse cost from 5 to 8 kopecks per verst (3-4 times more expensive than post horses).
In 1810 all the governors were asked what measures should be adopted to facilitate obtaining
horses in case there weren't enough of them at the station. The majority suggested that a certain
number of horses belonging to local residents be added to [each] station, with a payment of twice
the travel allowance for each horse taken. (20) The intent was to promote the growth of what
amounted to a supplementary "unrestricted post". For travellers, such a post would have cost
almost as much as the former practice of renting horses on one's own.
The question of establishing an "unrestricted post" was raised again at the end of the 1820's,
when information on the postal structures of England and Prussia was collected. There the
populace knew no obligatory postal duties and the mail was carried by private individuals. A
statute on the "unrestricted post" in Russia was issued in 1831.
Maintaining the unrestricted posts could be done either by individuals of any status or by entire
companies, although preference was given to rural associations. This system had great merits: on
the one hand it lifted from the populace the station-maintenance tax, factually a part of zemstvo
revenues, and on the other it provided jobs and a constant income for the local inhabitants,
especially in those places where the populace wasn't limited [strictly] to agriculture, but could fall
back on other occupations including the carrier's trade. Finally, getting [money from] the
travellers' allowances served as an incentive for the stationmasters of the unrestricted posts, and
induced them to keep a sufficient number of horses at the stations, sometimes more than regula-
tions required.
The unrestricted post stationmasters enjoyed a number of advantages. For instance, they had
the right to provide horses [to people] without travel orders. In addition to the usual travel charges


...-. they were also granted the right to collect from private travellers 40
kopecks for vehicle use and 40 kopecks for greasing the wheels of the
travellers' coaches, carriages or traps. The driver was to be paid 20
kopecks "for vodka" and other things.
The law placed great hopes in the "unrestricted post" set-up. It
was expected to bring "the greatest benefit" -"giving the people a
i new trade requiring neither special donations nor capital nor long
absences of the men from their homes. It will gradually replace the
current [practice of] renting horses to postal stations, thus reducing,
as far as the successful development of this act goes, the postal sta-
tion maintenance tax levied on the people." Attaching very great
Significance to a successful propagation of the unrestricted posts, the
jlf Postal Department proposed to "do whatever is necessary with all
means [available] that this useful enterprise of the State might go into
effect." It was promised that success in this endeavor would earn a
i report of "great achievements" to be forwarded to the upper levels
of the government"; those who were careless and negligent would be
S4 liable for "proper punishment".
In reality the transfer of postal station upkeep to the unrestricted
posts met with many difficulties. First of all, unrestricted posts were
A stationmaster in full uniform, permitted to exist only on those post roads where the amount of traf-
fic promised to recover maintenance expenditures by means of collecting travel allowances alone.
Generally, such roads were few in number, connecting the most important commercial and ad-
ministrative centers. In many places on just such well-travelled roads, private carriers had to
become competitors of the unrestricted posts. For instance, the gates to Moscow were populated
by yamshchiki who transported passengers for a price which did not exceed the usual travel-
allowance rates. This trade was so well developed that yamshchiki from other towns and provinces
came to Moscow in search of a living.
The people of Tver', Yaroslavl', Vladimir and other provinces also engaged in private transporta-
tion. One of the most basic reasons why the inhabitants were scared away from concluding con-
tracts for the unrestricted posts was the fear of oppression and insults from travelling officials. In-
deed, when the unrestricted posts were established in Chernigov Province, a postal inspector
reported that "many of the travellers, with their various demands on the postal stations, as well as
beatings of postal employees, and non-payment for horses taken in excess of the allowance, are
destroying the whole station system. The unrestricted posts established in Chernigov Province are
suffering the most from this and may fall into ruin." Finally, in 1833-34 many provinces en-
countered poor harvests, which caused the price of fodder to skyrocket.
Organizing the unrestricted posts proceeded very slowly, despite all the efforts of both the
Postal Administration and the civil authorities. These efforts were so zealous that one of the postal
commissars proposed that compulsory measures be adopted regarding those people with the
means to take on an "unrestricted" post. He wrote to the Director of the Postal Department asking
"if your Excellency might not find it acceptable to proffer me a helping hand in forcing them
somehow to achieve the desired and useful goal."
By the end of 1834, 50 stations with 675 horses had been leased to the unrestricted posts in 8 pro-
vinces. Their transfer took 135,000 rubles away from the zemstvo revenues, as the upkeep for each
horse cost the populace 200 rubles. However, as a result of a bad harvest many of the unrestricted
postal stations had to be supported with the aid of supplemental payment from the Treasury con-
sisting of 25 to 33 rubles per horse per month. The hope that the unrestricted post would achieve
"universality" and force out other postal station maintenance systems went unrealized. (21)
With several changes in the general statute on the "unrestricted posts", a contract for maintain-
ing this post on the Moscow Khar'kov road was concluded in 1845 with the Kursk landowner Stud-
zinskii, who had formed a special company for that purpose. The person charged with maintaining
the post was obliged to have as many horses as necessary at the stations to transport passengers in



Ferrying the mail across the Oka River to Nizhnii Novgorod during flood season. (From a painting (artist unknown) shown at the Moscow
Polytechnical Exhibition, 1872.)

traps and tarantasses (i.e. throughpassage vehicles TR) rather than exchange carts. (Passengers in
this type of cart changed carts at each station, so that on its next trip the cart was returned to its
home station TR.) The mail and passengers with travel orders were to suffer delays of no more
than 10 minutes at the stations, and everyone else no more than 15 minutes, with travel proceeding
at a fixed pace. The travel allowances were paid to the company and set at a rate twice that of the
usual 3 kopecks per verst and horse. In those areas where there were no people wishing to take
maintenance of an unrestricted post upon themselves, the "estimation system" was introduced in-
stead of the "commercial system". Its major aim was to avoid the speculation that resulted when
the stations were auctioned off. By means of the estimation of a station's profitableness, an
amount was calculated which had to be paid to the individual in charge of the post, so that to
cover all expenditures he would receive 20% annually of the initial capital spent. Post managers
were chosen by the State. The contractual period was increased to 12 years because according to
the calculations made, the average cost of fodder for that period wasn't subject to great fluctua-
tions. (22)



As we have seen, the Post accomplished two tasks transportation of travellers and mail. Until
the appearance of railroads there were only three means of travel: "by personal conveyance" (na
dolgikh), "by the unrestricted posts", and "by the posts" or "by the relays" (na perekladnykh).
Each of these ways had its advantages and disadvantages. The gentry, who were accustomed to
making the rounds of their estates and didn't like wasting money hiring independent yamshchiki or
paying travel allowances, travelled on their own horses and in their own carriages "na dolgikh".
Thus, they didn't have to depend upon the location of postal stations, wait for the horses to be
changed, or find available yamshchiki. They could stop wherever they wished, at inns or hostels,
where their baggage and a bed with every convenience featherbedding, pillows and all could be
brought in. An account of travel "na dolgikh" can be found in L.N. Tolstoi's work "A Trip 'na
dolgikh"' ("Adolescence").
Another means of travel was by the "unrestricted" or independent posts, where yamshchiki were
hired for an agreed-upon price. In some places located near the busier thoroughfares, the carrying
trade constituted one of the main occupations of the populace. This was so because the postal
system couldn't satisfy all the demands for horses. Thanks to this a sort of private postal system ex-
isted parallel to the State-run system. Travel "by the independents" had its advantages, the chief
of which was that as many horses as necessary could be rented, because horses were provided at
the stations upon presentation of the travel orders. The number provided was commensurate with
the rank and status of the traveller. Merchants and individuals with a "subject-to-taxation" status
were allowed to draw only three post horses, and, naturally, they preferred to hire yamshchiki,
especially as obtaining travel orders invariably took some time. Travelling by independent post
was considered cheaper than by the State-run post, but this was far from always being the case. In
those places where there were many yamshchiki for hire as drivers, the stage-horses weren't as ex-
pensive as the post horses. In some places the yamshchiki were hired straight off for the entire trip,
transferring the passengers from one yamshchik to another at fixed points and dividing the earnings
among themselves. Travel by independent post was so well developed that it posed a serious
threat to private entrepreneurs who were engaged in the delivery of post horses.
The document which gave someone the right to travel using post horses was called a
"podorozhnaya". In each document the route, traveller's status, name and type (postal or courier)
and number of horses to be issued were listed. A special "verstage" tax* was collected [from the
prospective traveller] upon issuance of the order for post horses. This collection went for building
and maintaining bridges and roads in the provinces. (The travel orders were abolished in 1874.)

"* i.e. so many kopecks per versta (roughly equal to a kilometer).


3s yaJy r o BEAM 9ECTBA
I .,po,a. a sp"riax, 3 porsx.

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]Mo. Iaacrow o Apuleo, Ictouckro flxomuaro nocaa WA Zb, u opAe.oal
uctxb Pocciaciua. Ascmp.iicaro. IMMIIEPATOPCKO KOPCAEBCATO
\lenIro Mapia Tepesan ia Cmeneawu AepaWaaro. Ca.e. loaaaa lep /I"
crOMIncaPo ioATPCuro- EAtc CTA L BA CWAcC

AUTOCRAT OF ALL THE RUSSIAS, ETC., ETC., ETC. From Izmail Fortress to the city of Elisavetgrad, to the second lieutenants of
the Kursk Infantry Regiment, Podletskii I and Samsonov on the most important state business, shall henceforth be issued from
postal [supplies] two horses and a guide for each of them at the official travel pay rates, with not the slightest delay. Given this
18th day of March 1812 in the Fortress of Izmail. (Signed by Kutuzov.)" The inscription at lower left is Kutuzov's list of ranks and
titles. (From "Pochta i Telgraf...", 1902, p. 40.)
The schedules of 1721 and 1824 established the number of horses due each "by the posts"
traveller according to the individual's title and rank. A General-Fieldmarshal received 20 horses;
Metropolitans, Senators and full Generals -15; majors and officials of the 8th class 4; low-level of-
ficials and attendants 2; merchants and "various persons of low rank" no more than 3. A special
schedule fixed the number of horses to be harnessed to different kinds of conveyances: postal,
common and large kibitki; 2-seater carriages and
brichki; 4-seater carriages; 2- and 4-seater
coaches; coaches; common sleighs, rozval'ni (a
type of low, wide sleigh in which one could lie
down TR) and poshveni; 2-and 4-seater sleighs
and carriages on runners. A 4-seater coach with 6
passengers and 2 trunks required 8 horses in sum-
mer and winter, and 9 in spring.
Small postcarts and brichki were most often
used for transporting travellers at the stations.
"Rozval'ni" sleigh. (From "Tovarnyi slovar'," Moscow, 1956-61.) The former closely resembled the common pea-
sant carts and were very uncomfortable on the road. Carts and sleighs with hoods were used for
protection against foul weather. In the 1840's they began to introduce more comfortable and
smooth-riding Polish brichki. The independent yamshchiki also transported passengers in carts, but
the majority of travellers belonged to the more prosperous levels of society and preferred to use
their own conveyances. In the accepted practice of taking along many items on the trip, these con-
veyances would be excessively overloaded with trunks and baskets. In the 1830's the tarantass was
widely employed. It had no particular seats -featherbeds and mattresses were placed in the bottom
with pillows at the head. The passenger would lie in the bottom of the tarantass and spend the
greater part of the trip in this position.
Up to the middle of the century, Russian roads were in terrible condition, not excluding even the
most important ones. Spring slush and autumn rains rendered entire sections of roads impassable.


Overflowing rivers, broken-down bridges and eroded log roads greatly hampered travel, and in
some instances made it insufferable. Thus, the best time for long journeys was winter, when Rus-
sian sleighs pulled by a troika of horses could move easily and quickly over the well-worn roads.

-4.: W V..L -l--- r"- -"

"Pochtovyi tarantas" a postal carriage, 1823. (From "Pochta i Telegraf...", 1902, p.36)

To get the roads into better shape and expand the network with new ones, the "Main Administra-
tion of Roads and Waterways" (Glavnoe Upravlenie Putei Soobshchenii literally, the "Main Ad-
ministration of Communication Routes" TR) was formed in 1809. According to the general regula-
tions on roads promulgated in 1817 and 1819, all roads were classified according to four categories:
1) the capital road from Moscow to St. Petersburg; 2) major or general highways leading from the
capitals to the State borders, and also roads connecting provincial capitals; 3) roads between
district seats; 4) country roads.
The year 1817 saw the beginning of work on the first highway between the capitals. Its construc-
tion took 17 years, with the entire stretch opened to traffic in 1834. Before 1840 new highways
totalling 780 versts were built, and between 1840 and 1850, another 2,551 versts were added. In
1833 all the roads were recategorized into 5 classes: 1) State roads, or roads [bearing] the most im-
portant traffic; 2) roads [bearing] major traffic; 3) roads from province to province over which nor-
mal postal communications were maintained; 4) district roads with commercial and postal traffic;
5) country and village roads. It was decided to gradually convert the first two classes of roads into
highways. (23)
With the exception of the major roads and highways, the modest funds allocated for this con-


struction could not improve their condition in such a comparatively short time. The rest of the
roads were left in a state little changed from that of the preceding century. Meanwhile, the advent
of the highways played a great role in postal communications. After Western Europe's example,
the highways made it possible to combine transportation of passengers and of mail in special
postal carriages and carts.
Postal stations where the horses could be stopped, rested and changed were built. At the end of
the XVIII century, stationmasters and postmen with harnessed horses were put up in residential
rooms. Only in a few places were there any special "travel inns" or hostels constructed for the
comfort of those passing through. They were seldom repaired and were sometimes in such poor
condition that they were of no use as dependable shelters from inclement weather or severe cold.
In 1800 it was calculated that in order to provide all post roads with a sufficient number of station
houses, 2,975 would have to be constructed, not counting those already in existence. Because the
Treasury couldn't afford to build such a number of structures, at first only on the most important
roads were any station houses constructed these were the Narva and Moscow routes, and also
[some] in the western provinces. In 1806 the plans and facades of three types of houses were ap-
proved, the sizes depending upon the number of horses to be stabled at the station. Afterwards the
construction of station houses underwent a number of changes which specified exactly and at
great length all the [new] building details. In 1825 there was even a special ukaz "signed by the
Emperor" which established the construction of window-casements "for admission of air". Instruc-
tions concerning this were issued to all provincial governors. However, in spite of all the ukazes
and instructions, even station houses on the major routes were sometimes in such a condition that,
according to an expression in one ukaz during the time of Nicholas I, "travellers can find no refuge
in them".
On major routes a hostel, rooms for travellers, lodging for the stationmaster and a room for
recording orders for post horses were to be found among the station houses. One such hostel was
built for every 4-5 stations, with smaller houses set out between them. On the medium and small
routes the hostels were reduced in size, depending upon the number of horses maintained at the
station. The best station houses were built along the highways, and to avoid monotony they were
given different facades. All the necessary auxiliary structures were co-located with the houses -
stables, sheds for the carriages, barns, storehouses and icehouses. The rooms where the travellers
stayed were provided with some furniture, consisting of divans on which beds could be laid out,
stools and tables. (24)
Inns were frequently used for stops when there was a lack of official station houses. Sometimes
these were even preferable to a house. Where there weren't any inns at all, the stationmaster's cot-
tage was used.
For long journeys, speed was of great importance. If time lost waiting for horses at the stations is
excluded, travel "by post" was considered the fastest, especially in winter:
"- But journeys made in wintry weather
- Are far too pleasant to seem long.
- The highroad, leveled altogether,
- Runs smoothly as a hackneyed song.
- Our dapper coachmen are astounding,
- Our troikas tireless, forward bounding,
- Mileposts rejoice the idle eye,
- They look like fenceposts, flashing by.
- But Tanya's mother, not ignoring
- The cost of post-horses, was glad
- To use her own..."
(A. Pushkin "Eugene Onegin", Chapter VII, p. XXXV.) (Translation by Babette Deutsch in "The
Poems, Prose and Plays of Pushkin", edited by Avrahm Yarmolinsky. A Random House edition,
1936 and 1964.)
Rates of speed were established by law. "Casual travelers" were to be conveyed no faster than
12 versts per hour in winter, 10 per hour in summer and no more than 8 versts per hour in fall. In ac-


A post-house on the route from Kostroma to Yaroslavl'. (From "Sears Il-
lustrated Description of the Russian Empire," New York, 1855, p.100.)

A postal station at the beginning of the 19th century. The stationmaster
is signing the order for post horses from the two travelers at right. (From
an English engraving of the early 19th century, "The Inside of a Russian
Posthouse", by Stedler. State Historical Museum Collection.)

P t

tual practice this speed limit was ignored. "Casual travellers" went at speeds considerably in ex-
cess of the legal standard, using any number of means to compel the yamshchiki to go faster, from
shoving them in the back to promises of "vodka money". Maximum speeds for State messengers
and for couriers were non-existent. They were enjoined to "go as fast as possible". For these riders,


A postal troika of the first half of the 19th century. (An engraving from the
former Dashkov collection. State Historical Museum.)
special "courier horses" had to be kept ready at all times. State messengers and couriers rode "at
full gallop", and anecdotes about their speed were told. One account had it that once, when
Potemkin sent a messenger with a report to Catherine II, the man supposedly went so fast that his
sword, hanging out of the wagon, hit against the verst markers as if they were merely pickets of a
"Royal personnages" were also transported "at a gallop". During these rides, not only the horses
were ridden to death or crippled. Even the postillions fell from the horses. After one such incident,
in which a horse fell and broke a leg under Nicholas I's carriage, instructions were issued that
"royal personnages" be conveyed not "at a gallop" but at the fastest trot. Nicholas I personally
established the average travel speed 18 versts per hour, not counting stops. (25)
The custom of demanding excessive speed was especially hard on the horses when road condi-
tions were bad. In 1833 it compelled one merchant to come forward with a proposal to reduce the
speed of travel by Post, "out of the greatest compassion for the horses, those most unfortunate of
Postal transportation the common Russian cart and the old, jolting carriages gave not only the
foreigner every reason to complain, but even the unexacting Russian traveller, who was well-inured
to the discomfort and privation of such a journey. [The following rather lengthy excerpt is taken
from Lawrence Oliphant's 1854 account "The Russian Shores of the Black Sea", 4th edition, pp.
155-162 (W. Blackwood & Sons, Edinburgh), to give the reader a view of the Russian Post from the
eyes of a foreigner: "Notwithstanding our being in a capital of a province celebrated for its horses,
we found great difficulty in procuring any at the post station, and were only consoled for the delay
by looking upon it as an additional evidence of our approach to civilization. At last we quitted the
town at full gallop...whirling along a road so execrably rough that I at once perceived we were on
the principal post-road in the country. There was an end to rolling over smooth, grassy turf, as we
had hitherto done, guided only by the fancy of the yamshchiki, and a line of white posts. Now we
were retained in proper limits by two ditches, and jolted in anguish over what had been a marsh,
and in which the deep tracks of winter traffic had been dried by the sun into hard ruts and furrows,
and the caked, unyielding clay threatened to break the springs of the carriage... It was a great relief
at last to find that our light carriage had hopped rather than rolled over 15 versts and that we had
arrived...at the next station.
Here our road was crossed by one which connects St. Petersburg and Moscow to Stavropol, the
headquarters of the Russian Army in the Caucasus. We were at this point about two days' and two
nights' journey distant from the seat of war, and consequently we half expected, in answer to our
inquiries for horses, that they were all engaged by officers carrying despatches. It was useless, on


.-e <,,-

S.... S _6 .c 66 -

S:j^^>w^ ^>"41f yx

A rare "extra-post" cover sent from Moscow to the Caucasus Corps, 29 May 1844. The address reads, "No 18,
To Ekaterinograd, by Extra-Post (arrow), in the Caucasus oblast', to Stavropol' (crossed out), His Worship
Sergei Petrovich Buturlin, Deputy Chief of Staff, Independent Caucasus Corps, General Staff Colonel and
Cavalier". It arrived in Stavropol' on 5 June, (a 7-day ordeal for the courier) and was then forwarded to
Ekaterinograd. (D. Skipton coil.)

hearing this, to point to a stableful doing nothing: our "padaroshna" only bore one royal stamp in-
stead of the two, which indicate express government service, and as strangers and civilians we were
considered by no means entitled to be forwarded on our journey; so we took up our abode...in a
room devoid of all furniture and swarming with vermin, and watched successive arrivals and depar-
tures officers hurrying in one direction, and ladies, with large families, journeying placid in
another, all producing the same "padaroshna" which intimated to the obedient station-master that
the interests of the government were vitally concerned...
It was useless to expect any favourable result from a bribe. The station-master, who seemed to
be a person of considerable importance, with a gold band around his cap, and attired in the
costume of a government official, pocketed our rubles with great relish, but was immovable in his
conscientious retention of the horses for the service of his Imperial master, and would not trust our
honesty so far as to harness them first and wait for the bribe until we were prepared to start. At
length, I was accosted by a dashing young aide-de-camp, whose appearance at the station operated
like magic on this official, and who, on finding that we were English, ordered horses to be put on
our carriage at once. His excessive politeness, evincing an evident readiness to die on the spot if
such a sacrifice would advance us one stage upon our journey, contrasted singularly with the in-
civility of the station-master; they were both perfect examples of Russian honesty! I must say
however, that they were devoted servants to the Crown, and I can conceive of no severe test of the
loyalty and obedience of a soldier than to order him off, at an hour's notice, on ten days' journey in
a Russian post telega. It was with mingled feelings of wonder and respect that I saw the polite
young officer seat himself on a bundle of straw in an open springless cart, such as is commonly us-
ed by the peasants of the country, and, in defiance of wind and weather, proceed on a dreary
journey of eight consecutive days and nights to Moscow. Every two hours he would be aroused
from slumbers, denied to any but a Russian in those circumstances, in order to change his vehicle-
our~~ ~ car<-~> at once. Hi exesv poites evnpn an jvdn edns odeo h p
suh aciic wud dan> son tae pn ^^^/y^^fy^ Qotase sinual f ihth

be peso ofconidrabe ipotane, it a ol bad aoud hs cpandattre inth

- for the cart, like the horses, is the peculiar property of the last station...
Our experiences at this station may serve to illustrate what we were doomed to undergo at every
post-house between it and Taganrog. Sometimes we succeeded in bribing the yamshchiks into exer-
tion on our behalf; once we hired a private team, and paid for government horses into the bargain;
once we were indebted to the kind offices of the little German wife of a surgeon of a Cossack regi-
ment, who stood security for the due payment of a bribe upon our being ready to start; and once,
upon the steppe, a sulky yamshchik refused to accelerate the pace, and would have deserted us
upon that dreary track, had I not presented a six-barrelled revolver at his head, and threatened him
with immediate destruction if he quitted the box. Such, in the case of strangers, is the much
vaunted system of Russian posting, and indeed no other result can be expected, when we consider
the purely military purposes for which it has ever been organized.
Those Crown peasants who belong to the Postal Administration are bound to furnish a certain
number of carts, horses and yamshchiks, in consideration of which they are released from all the
pecuniary obligations for the land which they occupy, and are, moreover, entitled to a certain fixed
charge per post. This is in some provinces an absurdly small sum: in none, probably, is it lower than
in the country of the Don Cossacks. The average of our whole expenses, of posting with three
horses, since leaving Dubovka, including our living, repairing the carriage, greasing the wheels, and
all the bribes and vodkas we had found it necessary to lavish, only amounted to fourpence-
halfpenny per mile. It is but fair to the sullen unsophisticated station-keepers on the other side of
Tcherkask to say, that they rarely expected a bribe at all, or if they did, were easily moved by a gen-
tle "douceur". These men are appointed by the government, and are bound to have horses always
in readiness for couriers with despatches. There is a book kept at each station, in which the number
of horses that belong to it is marked; if the keeper cannot satisfactorily account for an empty
stable, the complaint of the traveller is entered in the book. This is of course not attended to unless
the person making it is in government employ. The impropriety of this arrangement throughout,
lies in the fact of its being entirely a Crown speculation; the whole object is to convey despatches
to the distant parts of the enormous Empire in the most speedy and economical method possible.
To effect this, the convenience of the rest of the community is completely sacrificed, when, at a
very slight additional expense, the two things might be rendered compatible with one another. A
few more horses should be furnished to each station, and the postmaster obliged to supply every
traveller who would pay without the necessity of producing a "padaroshna": and if, instead of
charging the ridiculously low prices which are at present imposed, a higher rate were introduced, in
order to cover the expenses incurred by the superabundance of idle horses, there can be no doubt
that travellers would willingly pay for it.
It is singular that, notwithstanding the detestable way in which the posting arrangements of the
country are managed, there is no point upon which Russians pride themselves more highly than
upon the facilities which they allege to exist for travelling. I have seldom been in the company of a
Russian more than a few minutes without his asking me whether I did not consider that posting in
Russia was unequaled in the world, since it combined at the same time comfort with economy, and
safety with rapidity. Upon which I reply that "I cannot discover any comfort in a room in a post-
hut, with a mud floor, no window, no furniture." "What!" says he, amazed, "You surely don't get
out at the posthouses!"
Well, I admit the economy of the system, but demur to the idea of its being safe travelling, as
sundry visions of broken-down wheels and steep ravines rise before me. My Russian friend trium-
phantly informs me that he has "just accomplished 12,000 versts in three months, without an acci-
- "Or getting out at a post-house?"
- "Of course not. Why should I get out at a post-station when I have got a comfortable carriage to
sleep in ?"
"- "Well, at any rate you will allow that the delays for horses are most annoying, and the station-
masters very insolent the travelling is rapid only when absolutely 'en route'."
- "Ah! For you the strangers it is impossible to get horses if you don't speak the language, you will
be cheated and insulted; but it is very different with us, who know that to manage such 'canaille',


blows, not rubles, ought to be abundantly bestowed."
And so my opponent walks proudly off, satisfied that, because he has journeyed 12,000 versts in
three months, during which time he has thrashed on an average twelve station-masters per day, liv-
ed entirely on black bread, slept every night in his carriage, and never changed his clothes the
comforts of travelling in his country are unequalled in the world."]
It was not until 1820 that the first private joint-stock company [to offer transportation in] postal
coaches appeared. These carriages were not unlike the foreign mailcoaches widely used
throughout western Europe. The founders of the company were people from the upper levels of
the aristocracy: Count Pototskii, Prince Men'shikov, Count Gur'ev, Count Vorontsov-Dashkov,
Prince Golitsyn, Count Buturlin and others. Although it stated in the report on the founding of the
company that by the experiment in constructing the first coaches for the Moscow St. Petersburg
route the company founders were undertaking this venture "motivated by the desire to provide this
for the benefit of our countrymen", in actuality the enterprise was well thought out from a com-
mercial standpoint and was certain to land the stockholders a handsome profit. The invested
capital consisted of 60 shares for 1,000 rubles each. According to the estimate the yearly profit
would be 60% of the original capital.
Travel by coach differed from the usual methods in Russia: baggage weight was strictly limited
(the first 20 Ibs. free, (plus) 30 Ibs. to be charged at a fee); changing horses at postal stations re-
quired 10-15 minute stops; the post coach would stop for one hour at dinner and supper, and a half-

A postal diligence. (An engraving from the former Dashkov collection.
State Historical Museum.)
hour for breakfast. The coach had to cover the entire distance between the capitals in 96-108
hours, with the exception of the "bad road season". A summer coach would hold 6 passengers 4
inside and 2 behind, while the coachman and supervisor sat up front. A seat inside the coach cost
120 rubles, and those outside, half as much.
The company received a ten-year monopoly and was placed under the special patronage of the
highest postal administrator. Just how significant the advantages given to the company were can
be seen from the following example: the company was freed from having to pay the verstage tax
on travel orders for the entire decade. With coaches leaving on the capital road 3 times a week, the
Treasury was voluntarily deprived of around 27,000 rubles yearly in verstage tax it went to the
company instead. (26)
The first post coach was sent from the St. Petersburg office to Moscow on 1 September 1820.
The event attracted a crowd of curious onlookers who viewed this new style of travel with amaze-
ment. Eight people immediately signed up for the second coach. Trips in the coaches rapidly in-
creased and they even became fashionable. Thanks to the influx of passengers, the initial schedule
of sending two coaches weekly was changed to one daily. In the first 10 years, 33,603 people were
transported between the capitals in the company's coaches. The enterprise was so profitable that
the company opened up many more routes with these post coaches: St. Petersburg Tsarskoe Selo,
Moscow Kiev, Moscow Kazan', and so on. In 1828 the company was granted the right to
establish routes on any post roads they wished. In 1821 a new private enterprise along the lines of





-; '*^ ... ''~Ps
A p t -.ig ,n.h S Peters M l 1 rha 9 ,

r: 0

A potalcariag ontheSt.Petrsbug -Mosow ine 181. Fro "Pohtai Tlegaf. ",190, p35.

the first company appeared, running post carriages between St. Petersburg and Polangen through
Riga and Mitau. It also received a 10-year monopoly.
The Tula landowner Pavel Myasnov was given a monopoly in 1827 to establish a coach line run-
ning between Moscow and Tula. Five passengers were seated on the coach two inside, two behind
under an awning, one [up front] with the coachman. One daily run was made from each town. In
that same year Prince Volkonskii was permitted to establish a similar route from Moscow through
Ryazan' to Tambov. The 1820's to 1840's saw other private enterprises of this nature spring up, e.g.
the noteworthy "express carts" (skorovozy) office. It regularly transported heavy loads between
Moscow and St. Petersburg in specially-constructed wagons, accepting heavy, bulky or fragile
goods and liquids which the Post would not carry. The "express carts" had to cover the entire route
in four days. Very high rates were charged. A one-pood shipment cost 35 silver kopecks during the
winter months and 45 for the rest of the year. Lightweight objects which took up a lot of space
were transported by agreement [between the office and the shipper]. Three silver rubles per person
was the charge for taking on passengers at any time of the year. Insured shipments were carried for
4 % of the declared value. The monopoly for organizing these offices was given to Major (ret.)
Ivan Domanievskii in 1841.
Some time after the [appearance of] private companies, State enterprises were formed to convey
both passengers and mail in the same post coaches. The first steps in this direction had been taken
long before. As early as 1770 an ukaz was issued concerning the organization of a postal route bet-
ween St. Petersburg and Narva, for which it was proposed that each station have one "sturdy
wagon like a carriage, mounted on wheels in summer and runners in winter, and covered by a col-
ored tarpaulin with the State's coat-of-arms thereon." Six travellers, three poods of luggage and six
poods of packages could be accomodated in each wagon. There was also a suggestion to acquire
such wagons in Pskov and Moscow Provinces. Postwagons weren't popular with Russian
passengers they were unaccustomed to being hemmed in by luggage so the enterprise foundered.
In 1827 the Postal Director proposed to set up a coachline from St. Petersburg through Vitebsk,
Mogilev, Chernigov, Kiev and Zhitomir to the Austrian border, combining transportation of
passengers and mail. In the same year a project to arrange a State coachline on the Revel' route
was approved. Apparently, however, that proposal was never realized.
Information on the postal systems in Prussia and England was contained in an 1829 report con-
cerning the anticipated reorganization of the Postal Department [in Russia]. Immediate introduc-
tion of post carriages was hampered by the poor condition of Russian roads, great distances and
the small amount of traffic on a number of roads. With the appearance of highways the first hin-
drance was eliminated. The spread of private joint-stock companies and the beneficial result of
their activities convinced the State that there was no reason to fear a dearth of passengers.
The first postal coach-and-cart section was formed in St. Petersburg in 1840. Organization and
acquisition costs were covered by 57,000 silver rubles borrowed from postal revenues. The net pro-
fit from passenger transportation was applied to the establishment's necessities and expansion.
Several types of postal carriages were adopted. The light cabriolets served as "extra-post" vehicles
and had only two seats for passengers. The carriages were accompanied by supervisors dressed in a
special uniform and carrying post horns. People "of any rank and either sex" could ride in these
carriages. A seat inside a coach from St. Petersburg to Moscow cost 20 silver rubles, while a place
on a cart (brik) carrying heavy mail cost 10 silver rubles. Each passenger had the right to take along
luggage weighing up to 20 Ibs. free, with additional fees being charged for weights up to 1 pood. It
was forbidden to carry cases, trunks, boxes, cartons and other cumbersome items the very things
which comprised the traditional appurtenances of each long trip in Russia. The postal coach and
the cart destroyed firmly-rooted habits of travellers in still another respect: over the course of the
entire trip the schedule was strictly observed. Coaches departed at a specified time with no waiting
for latecomers, who were allowed the chance to overtake the coach before it arrived at the next
station. Breakfast, dinner and supper were provided at appointed places and times, then at a given
signal the passengers were required to take their seats. The post coaches travelled day and night,
and no one had the right either to race or slow the horses. Measures were adopted so that nowhere
would the post coaches be delayed.


When encountering another coach the supervisor would play the special "meeting signal" on his
post horn; upon hearing this the other coach had to pull off to the side to make way for the post
coach. When they approached a station, another special signal was sounded, whereupon the yam-
shchiki [at the station] would quickly bring out a harnessed team of horses and the stationmaster
would come out to meet the post. (27)
The success enjoyed by the coachline between Moscow and St. Petersburg led to the establish-
ment of two more lines the following year: St. Petersburg to Warsaw and St. Petersburg to the Prus-
sian border via Riga. In 1842 a fourth line with great economic significance was opened Moscow
to Nizhnii Novgorod, the largest commercial center. Several years after the opening of the first
line, the postal coach-and-cart section had the capacity and sufficient reserves of capital to open
new lines using its own funds. At the start of the 1850's there were 17 routes with a total extent of
10,425 versts. (28)
This new method of travel quickly became popular, and the number of passengers increased
with each year. In 1841 some 4,976 people were transported; in 1844 10,079; in 1845 13,362; in
1847 23,502, and in 1848 -38,026. The greatest amount of traffic moved over the Moscow and
Novgorod roads. In spite of the fact that only one coach per day travelled between St. Petersburg
and Novgorod (excepting Sundays), in 1848 a total of 11,974 people was transported between them.
Not only the figures above but contemporary accounts also portrayed the expansion of post
coach use, which gradually supplanted the old methods of travel "by the relays" and "by the in-
dependents" on the major routes. We find interesting, artistically-drawn pictures of everyday life
in the monograph by M. Zagoskin ("Moscow and Muscovites").
The beginning of the 1850's was a flourishing time for carriages and post coaches. The expansion
of the railroad network, however, undermined their importance, and in 1863 the coach-and-cart
section was closed.




At ..-ft.

^ A postal cabriolet of 1842. The state emblem is on the door, and the inscription "POCHTOVYI KABRIOLET (postal cabriolet) is on the
.n upper rear panel. (From "Pochta i Telegraf...", 1902, p.39.)

Saloon, Hotel des Malle-Postes, St. Petersburg. (From "Sears Il-
lustrated Description of the Russian Empire," New York, 1855.)

r ---- -r-^ ''-
1 .,......;- .,, ^.
--^*.-rs^ ^ ^-. --B i-. .
|~~ '_. .. ... ..

;,~ ~ ~ ~~! _-. i.:

Departure of the Malle-Post (or Mail Diligence) from St. Petersburg.
(From "Sears lllustrated...", p.592.)


A postal "brik" carriage. (From "Pochta i Telegraf...", 1902, p.37.)

A postal "kareta" coach, 1841. (From "Pochta i Telegraf...", 1902, p.38.)

**:, o. ,,

A post coach leaving from the Borovitskii Gates in Moscow. (Oil painting
by an unknown artist of the middle XIX century. State Historical Museum

A post coach supervisor of the first half of the 19th century.


Zo- ff l! A law


oring- corepodec ing amail"ar



Until the railroads appeared, mail was carried by the same postal relay or stage system that serv-
ed as transportation for travellers. For this each station had a carriage to which three horses were
usually harnessed. Trunks with correspondence and packages were placed in the carriage and then
accompanied by a postillion. One foreign observer who left a description of the Russian postal
system in the early 1840's was struck by the speed at which the mail was carried, [with the yam-
shchiki heedless] of the disreputable condition of the Russian roads. "The postillion or courier flies
from side to side on the uneven road and, if the carriage has no top, he is in constant danger of be-
ing thrown out and left in the road unnoticed while the carriage rapidly jounces on to the next sta-
tion." (30) New covered brichki were introduced on the major routes to prevent such accidents.
Mail transportation methods changed little over time, and by the end of the first half of the cen-
tury they were in essentially the same state as at the beginning. Changes depended on various area
conditions geographic, climatic, road, native customs, and so on. In such a vast country, encom-
passing within its borders dozens of different people, from those who had achieved a comparative-
ly high level of culture to restless nomads, [a country] displaying every kind of topography in the
world forests, taiga, tundra, steppes and mountains and the most diverse climatic conditions,
from the polar circle to the semi-tropical Black Sea coast in such a country it would be utterly im-
possible to employ one and the same means of moving the mail. The Post moved by horse, camel,
reindeer and dog; it was carried by boat on lakes and rivers and through mountains on the
shoulders of men. In an unceasing and difficult battle with nature requiring heroic efforts, risks
and courage, the Post connected the economic and cultural centers of life with the most remote
and God-forsaken outposts of the country.
In a short essay such as this it would be difficult to depict all the local variations of mail
transportation. For examples, we will limit ourselves to the conditions characterizing post roads
and mail delivery in the 1840's to three areas: the far north of European Russia, Siberia, and the
Caucasus. (31)
The entire northern part of European Russia, from the Finnish border to the Ural Mountains and
including three of the largest provinces Olonets, Vologda and Arkhangel'sk boasted only three
postal routes, which extended from the capital to the cities of Vologda, Petrozavodsk and
Arkhangel'sk, one route from Moscow to Arkhangel'sk and 9 district routes.
In many places during the winter, travel was accomplished by means of a "goose-like" arrange-
ment harnessing up horses in single file. From 8 to 16 horses were harnessed to heavy coaches,
with postillions on every other horse, leaving the first one free. Thus, with three horses in harness
the postillion would ride the second one; with five, the second and fourth, and so on. A long line of
horses and the shouts of the postillions made for a very unique impression. Another feature of
these roads was their negligible width. When coaches met on the road, one of them would have to
be turned over on its side to allow the other to pass.


On district roads, postal communication in Arkhangel'sk Province was the most interesting in-
sofar as local features were concerned: from Kholmogory through Pinega to Mezen', from
Arkhangel'sk through Onega and Kem' to Kola and from Kola to the Solovetskii Monastery across

"Pochtovyya sani" a postal sleigh, ca. 1890, used by the St. Petersburg General Post Office. (From "Pochta i
Telegraf...", 1902, p.89)
the White Sea. The roads were in terrible shape; bad log-paths and bridges lay across the tundra,
swamps and rivers. Detouring around difficult spots, the yamshchiki sometimes abandoned the old
post road and blazed a new one. The postal stations were situated in villages in impoverished little
huts, and on the seacoast and in a few other places, where there were no dwellings close by, in
structures no more than upright board huts, with sod-covered boards all coming together in a
roofless top. The post huts and tents where postillions and travellers could find some sort of
shelter were often far from habitation, sometimes as much as 50 versts. On the Kola Peninsula
these huts stood in completely uninhabited areas.
A post road in this area came alive in March, when fishermen and trappers passed through. Then
in each post hut several dozen people would be congregated for the night. The huts themselves of-
fered no conveniences. Broken down frames, boards with wide cracks that let fierce winds
penetrate, and fireplaces instead of stoves [were the norm].
Along the White Sea coast, mail was carried in karbasy (karbas, a White Sea boat with 4-10 oars
and 2-sprit sails TR) holding up to 180-pood loads with one helmsman from among the peasants,
and 3-4 rowers. Women were preferred as rowers, because most of the men left to hunt or fish in
the summer. Sailing was complicated by bars of marshy ground covered with seaweed. When a
karbas ran aground, the crew was forced to wait for high tide. Where there were no convenient
bays and the coast was low and open, wind posed another danger. During big storms the postal
karbasy would put in to shore, often waiting for several days in lonely places for the wind to die
The clothing of the yamshchiki and postillions on the major routes consisted of cloth caftan
uniforms, but in the Mezen', Kem' and Kola Districts they wore Samoyed clothing during the
winter: a malitsa (a shirt-like garment -TR) of reindeer fur with wool on the interior, with only one
opening for the head; mittens of the same fur were sewn on to the sleeves. In severe cold a hooded
sovik (a reindeer-hide outer garment TR) was worn over the malista. It too was sewn up with no
openings other than for the face. The boots were sewn from two layers of reindeer hide one with
the fur turned in, the other turned out.
Special conveyances called "baloks" and resembling sleighs were used with reindeer for travel in
the Kola District. A rounded board served as the balok's base, with the balok made wider at the top
and back than at the bottom and front. Two arched poles were attached to its top, with a canvas
stretched between them. An opening was left in the middle through which the passenger could



-U 2,. .-

A postal Karbas on the White Sea, with its sails furled around two masts detached from the deck. Four women row while the postillion
sits in the back with the mail. This was called the "Bab'ya pochta" women's post. (From a painting (artist unknown) shown at the
Moscow Polytechnical Exhibition, 1872.)



An official postal Karbas used in the Kern', Kola and Onega districts of Arkhangel'sk province. Note the postillion enjoying a pipe while
the women row! (From a painting at the Moscow Polytechnical Exhibition, 1872.)



The post in Kern' district, Arkhangel'sk province. The "barber pole" at center right is a versta (mileage) marker as well as a route in-
dicator. (From a painting (artist unknown) shown at the Moscow Polytechnical Exhibition, 1872.)

T.'. T
~, d5: 8~ 9, "TV",~
Trnso6 t
the4 M so P t n xb n 1872.)
4.',Q1 L ~ ~ ~ -C -IiS. :q = 1I~

4J~d".r iii ~ ~40

Ab ;~i 5;' r

44- ILA-- ., 1~ .~r~

Transporting the mail in winter along the frozen Vychegda River in Vologda province. The postillion (or postal official) sits in the back
with the mail while the yamshchiki handle the horses. (From a painting by D. Zaitsov, 3 January 1872, shown at the Moscow
Polytechnical Exhibition, 1872.)


..... ...


N1 Reindeer mail in Lapland, Kola district of Arkhangel'sk province. Note the "goose-like" arrangement. (From a painting (artist's signature
illegible) shown at the Moscow Polytechnical Exhibition, 1872.)


-.. ..


A postal troika on the Rabanskii ferry over the Sukhona River, Vologda province. The sign on the ferry reads "PEREVOZ BESPLATEN" (free
ferry). (From a painting by Zaitsev, 1872, shown at the 1872 Moscow Polytechnical Exhibition.)

climb in, but this too could be closed. For stability the traveller usually had to lie on his back in the
balok; sitting up meant having to place the hands against the snow on either side to maintain the
balok's balance.
The yamshchiki travelled in kerezhes constructed like the baloks only shorter and without the
canvas cover. Mail was transported in the following manner: a yamshchik rode in the front kerezh
pulled by one reindeer; a second reindeer was harnessed to the back of the [first] kerezh it pulled a
balok with the packed mail; to this balok was harnessed a third reindeer that pulled a second balok
carrying the postillion; one or two extra reindeers were tied to the back of the last balok as
replacements should the others get tired. This last precaution was quite essential, as a tired
reindeer would simply lie down in the road, and trying to force it to go on was useless. Travellers
were transported in kerezhes and baloks in the same manner. The only exceptions were for some
people who wished greater comfort on the trip. Long stout poles attached to the balok would
enable a Lapp on skis behind to hang on and prevent the conveyance from tipping over on its side.
The vast and sparsely-populated Siberian expanses of impassable taiga, tundra, steppe, wide and
swift rivers and high mountain ranges, covered with thick forests and subject to all natural condi-
tions, creating thousands of obstacles for long journeys, were cut through with only a few post
roads. The so-called major road stretched for 3,410 versts, from the Perm' province border through
Tobol'sk, Tomsk and Krasnoyarsk to Irkutsk. In the western part of Siberia the flat land made
travel relatively easy, but getting through the Barabinskii Steppe, where the road went through a
swamp for 440 versts, was a different matter altogether. Log paths were made of thin fascines and
sticks covered with earth and sod. During spring and fall rains the log-paths became sodden, and in
the oozing muck the horses could continue only at a walk. The coaches and post carriages sank in-
to the mire and broke down. Sometimes villagers for miles around were called to help free bogged-
down coaches. Spring floods also presented a big problem. The Tobol', Irtysh, Ob', Tom', Enisei
and Angara would overflow for miles, and small creeks and streams became large rivers. During
this time of the year on the main route to Irkutsk there were 52 river crossings to be made. The
Tura River near Tobol'sk overflowed to an expanse of 7 versts, the Irtysh near Abatskaya Station to
6 versts, and the Ob', from Kolyvan' to Dubrovinaya Station, almost 40 versts. Boat crossings over
these huge watery expanses were fraught with great danger and difficulty, especially when boats
were overloaded with heavy, bulky coaches they had to steer between floating trees and unex-
pected underwater hillocks.
The long journey posed different hardships in winter. Usually the road was a single track, and
when two coaches or strings of coaches met, passing was possible only with the greatest difficulty,
because the horses, when turned off the road, immediately sank into chest-deep snow and the
coaches broke down. When all the other rivers were covered with a thick layer of ice, the Angara
alone continued to battle the cold and, shrouded in fog, it hurried on its way to carry the icy waters
from Lake Baikal. In winter months the river's overflow resembled spring flooding, and in order to
avoid the flooded lowlands the post was obliged to use a special, roundabout and in places
dangerous road.
Another Siberian postal route called the "Lineinyi" made its way along the Kirghiz Steppe from
the Orenburg province border through Tomsk to the Ust'-Bukhtarminskii fortress, located at the
headwaters of the Irtysh. Postal stations were set up at redoubts, fortresses and outposts guarding
the steppe region borders. The major part of the journey to Ust'-Kamenogorsk was over flat and in
parts sandy ground. The greatest difficulties [on this stretch] were posed by the overflow of the Ir-
tysh and some lakes, which inundated several places along the road. Detours around the flooded
areas increased the distance travelled between stations by many versts. From Ust'-Kamenogorsk
the road ran among mountain massifs with steep slopes and rises, along hillsides with occasional
overhanging rocks through numerous swift mountain streams. On this section of the "Lineinyi"
mail was carried on horseback or in small carts. On steep inclines the cossacks accompanying the
mail would let the carts and carriages down with ropes. At mountain river crossings they would
either wait for the water level to go down after the rains stopped or ford them.
In winter, when snowstorms and gales would rage over the open steppe, it was even more dif-
ficult to transport mail. The road became completely snowbound and frequently visibility was



A postal sleigh of 1820 for transportation of mail and passengers. (From Pochta i Teegraf.. 1902 p.34.)

A postboat on the Ob' River in Siberia, from Bronnikovaya Station to Berezov. The mail was carried in the little cabin to
protect it from the elements. (From "Pochta i Telegraf...", 1902, p.64)
limited to no more than 14 feet. The wind easily tore out and knocked over the markers which serv-
ed as guideposts along the road. When the post was overtaken by a storm, they wandered in the
steppe or stayed in one place to wait for it to pass, risking becoming snowbound.
Usually the post wouldn't venture forth from the station if there were signs of an impending
storm. A convoy of Cossacks always accompanied the post on its way. The worst part of the route
lay between the Ust'-Bukhtarminskii fortress and Ust'-Kamenogorsk, where the road would be
covered with a thick blanket of snow, sometimes reaching to the roofs of houses in
Ust'-Kamenogorsk. On this section the post frequently travelled on skis. The road was so hard to
discern and the danger of becoming lost so great that even with a light snowfall the Cossacks living
in the fortresses would go out and pack down the road with horses before sending the post on. Spr-
ingtime presented other obstacles: snowslides from the mountaintops completely blocked the
road, and when it melted, it would turn the road into a quagmire very difficult to traverse. On top
of all this the Kirghiz tribesmen driving their lively steppe horses spoke no Russian, which greatly
complicated things for the travellers and postillions.
Of the postal routes situated in the western part of Siberia, the most interesting one is the
Tobol'sk-to-Berezov route along the Irtysh and Ob'. In summer the greatest part of the journey was
accomplished in small post boats with one helmsmand and two oarsmen. Mosquitoes were a ter-
rific nuisance special hairnets had to be worn to defend against them.
A tremendous amount of snow fell in winter, and mail was carried in conveyances hitched
together in "goose-like" fashion. The deep snows and long distances between stations (up to 60-70
versts) made this trip very difficult. With the exception of Ostyak yurts and a few scattered Russian
settlements, there were no places along the road which could afford shelter to wait out the storms.
When overtaken by a gale the postillions had to take cover in cold and dirty yurts, warming
themselves near a fire lit in the "chuval" (fireplace). They had to bring food and utensils with them,
including bread, because nothing could be obtained from the Ostyaks, who had no tillage of their
own. In the spring and fall when the ice was thin on the 170-verst stretch between Sherkal' skaya


Station and the town of Berezov, the mail was carried on "narty" (sledges) pulled by reindeer or
Irkutsk was the hub of the postal routes which fanned out in several directions from it; to Yakut-
sk, to Nerchinskii Zavod, and to Kyakhta up to the Chinese border.
The postal route to Kyakhta was divided into a
summer road and a winter road. The summer
post road was in use for 9 months of the year, as
Lake Baikal didn't freeze over until the end of
December, when a thick sheet would form. The
"winter road usage began in January and lasted
the other three months, with the post traversing
the ice of Lake Baikal and beyond through
Verkhneudinsk. The hardest part of the summer
road was the 200-verst detour around Baikal. The
.B steep slopes of the Kultuk, Khamar-Daban and

swept away bridges and cut new channels, bliz-
zards that raged in the mountains and buried the
S, rroad in snow such were the obstacles which the
S*- b postillions had to overcome. A path over the
high Khamar-Daban Range could only be
i negotiated on horseback, and the only thing bet-
ween it and deep mountain gorges was a decrepit
S/ VI railing. Day and night the postillions had to be
constantly alert to avoid falling into the abyss.
The postroad to Okhotsk. A mailsled pulled by After Lake Baikal froze over, horses could run
dogs can be seen disappearing around the bend. for 55 versts on the mirror-flat surface, and with
This was an important postal route. (From "La
Siberie et I'Extreme Orient" by S. Dyakov, in "La fair winds and good weather the crossing could
Vie et la Techniques des PTT" #8, 1925, p.130.) be made in 2/2-31/2 hours. Only the cracks which
ran through the ice for the Lake's entire length, up to 700 versts, caused any unpleasant surprises.
Formation of these cracks, which sometimes achieved widths of almost a sazhen (7 feet TR), was
accompanied by a loud, cannon-like boom. When the cracks appeared under the horses' legs they
would tumble into the water, and great proficiency and resourcefulness were required of the yam-
shchiki to prevent them from perishing and the mail to be saved. Boards, ropes, axes, and poles
were taken along, just in case.
From Verkhneudinsk to Chita the post road proceeded over an excellent highway built by Nature
herself, bounded by the peaks of the Baikal Mountains and the Yablonovyi Range.
Postal operations in the farthest reaches of the northeastern Russian possessions (from Irkutsk to
Yakutsk, Okhotsk and Kamchatka) are of great interest. From Irkutsk to Yakutsk the post ran once
every two weeks; from Yakutsk to Okhotsk once monthly, and from Okhotsk to Kamchatka -
twice yearly (once in the summer and once in winter.)
The major portion of the road from Irkutsk to Yakutsk, 2,000 versts long, was situated along the
Lena River. In summer and winter they could travel on the river itself; during spring and fall or in
bad weather the trip was made on pack and saddle horses along the banks. Sailing in small post
boats on the Lena was always fraught with danger and hardship, especially during flood-time, when
in some places the overflow reached 20 versts in width. The river itself was full of rocks, sandbars
and islets of many shapes and sizes. In stormy weather high waves would swamp or even capsize
the boats. Going upriver the boats were pulled by horses with tow-ropes, or poled along during
flood season. Pulling on the tow-ropes was very hard work in many places where there were rocks
or stream outlets on the bank, the horses had to be unhitched and led across singly.
The postal route along the banks of the river's upper course was considered the most difficult
one in Siberia. It extended through mountain ranges, sudden ravines and gorges. The slopes in


A ford over the Ornot River near Lake Baikal. Terrain such as this was
commonly encountered by the postmen. (From a picture postcard, ca.
1900. G. Torrey collection.)

Lake Baikal, frozen over and covered with snow. (From a picture
postcard, ca. 900 G. Torrey collection )

.- 14" 40

* -4 1- .
*'* '0 d .^ ^ r.


"0 4 .

Moving the mail and passengers through the mountains in deep snow. (From a photograph shown at the Moscow Polytechnical Exhibi-

tion, 1872.)

some places were so steep that both the horses and their pack-loads had to be let down on ropes.
As no one maintained the road, it was in the most terrible condition. No bridges over the rivers, no
log paths through the swamps. A small river or swamp [no more than] two sazhens wide could
force a detour of 10 versts.
In winter, mail was carried over the river's ice on sledges without steel runners, hooked up in
"goose-like" fashion. The journeys were accomplished amid the usual Siberian winter hardships
-deep snow, blizzards and snowstorms. The postal stations' locations along the entire Lena route
were very inconvenient. In many places they were set back several versts from the road. This was
due to the big floods, against which the stations had to be erected on high ground where the water
couldn't reach. The river constantly changed its course, and a station built on its bank might
several years later find itself a few versts from the new channel.
The post road between Yakutsk and Okhotsk passed through a mountainous area intersected by
the Amga and Aldan river systems. The horses were driven home from distant Yakut ulusy (similar
to yurts TR). By fall all the feed was exhausted, and the remaining vegetation was covered with
snow. The horses were fed tree bark, twigs and fallen leaves. In the absence of sufficient feed the
horses fell from exhaustion and died on the way, and the grueling road forced stops every 15 versts
to rest them. In spite of the journey's difficulty, distances between stations were long, from 100 to
200 versts. Setting out at night was rarely done, due to the fear of bandit attack. During their stops
the postillions accompanying the mail stripped bark from trees and covered themselves and the
mail with it. In winter they travelled in sleighs and sledges pulled by reindeer, which could feed
themselves by digging up moss from under the snow. The reindeer moved easily through the
deepest snow and didn't have to make stops of 2-5 hours every 10-15 versts. Sometimes the mail
sledges were pulled by dogs.
In winter all these kinds of travel were employed: from Yakutsk to Aldanskaya Station horse-
drawn sleighs; further on to Chernolesnaya on horseback: from Chernolesnaya to Arkinsk on
reindeer-back; from Arkinsk to Okhotsk in sledges pulled by 12 dogs each. Riding on reindeer re-
quired especial skill. Owing to the weakness of the reindeer's spine, a small saddle was placed on
the animal's shoulderblades. If during the reindeer's jolting run the rider happened to slip back
from the shoulders onto the spine it would break, and the reindeer would perish. The post from
Yakutsk to Okhotsk took 18-26 days in summer, 12-16 in winter.
In winter, when temperatures reached -40 to -45 degrees centigrade, the postillions put on coats
made of reindeer or goat hair with wool on the outside with no openings, a fur cap, fur mittens and
The summer mail from Okhotsk to Kamchatka was sent by sea in ships. They usually left Kam-
chatka in July and Okhotsk in September, completing the entire voyage in 12-16 days when the
weather was decent. In stormy weather the trip could take an indefinite amount of time.
Only light mail was sent during the winter official packets, letters, money and small packages.
The post road ran through tundra and mountains where there were no permanent postal stations,
and the nomadic peoples ran the postal system on a contractual basis. They were sent to the
nomad camps for carters whose turn it was [to go with the post]. Depending upon the nomad
camp's location and the amount of snow on the ground, the entire journey was made on sledges
pulled by dogs or reindeer in 40-60 days. According to the postal guide this trip was 3,776 versts
long, but in actuality it exceeded that. In the event of a snowstorm or blizzard the postillions and
carters would try to find shelter from the snow under their sledges. The silent taiga stretched for
hundreds of versts, and the time between nomad camps could total from 6 to 12 days, with not a
single dwelling to be encountered. The most backward of the nomads, the Koryaks, were un-
familiar with money and demanded goods for their travel pay, especially tobacco. On one occa-


A postal relay in front of a Yakut yurt. (From "La Siberie..."

The reindeer mail in Okhotsk territory. (From "La Siberie et I'Ex-
treme Orient" by S. Dyakov, in "La Vie et la Technique des PTT"
#8, 1925, p.122.)

A postal relay on the Yakutsk post road. (From "La Siberie. "


A drozhki. (From Oliphant's "The Russian Shores of the Black Sea", A tarantass (From The Russian Shores..".)

A drozhki. (From "Tovarnyi Slovar' ", Moscow, 1956 to 1961.)

A post telega (From "The Russian Shores...".) A telega. (From "Tovarnyi Slovar'", 1956-1961.


sion the Koryaks were carrying the mail on two sledges, having received a small amount of tobacco
from the postillion on their departure. After they had covered some distance, they stopped in the
road and demanded to be given a new portion of tobacco. The postillion tried hard to convince
them that they would get their tobacco at the nearest settlement, but the Koryaks abandoned the
mail to its fate and left. At this point the postillion, realizing his death [from exposure] was in-
evitable, threw off his warm clothing and raced after the departing Koryaks. He managed to over-
take one of them and then convince the others to.return and take the mail on. After this incident
the Okhotsk and Kamchatka Maritime Administrations prepared the tobacco in advance and doled
it out according to a fixed computation to the postillions who were to accompany the mail.

Camel mail in the Transbaikal area. (From "La Sibirie et 'Extreme Orient"
by S. Dyakov, in "La Vie et la Technique des PTT" #8, 1925, p.117.)
Kamchatka was the furthermost Russian possession in northeast Asia that had postal com-
munications with the internal regions of the Empire.
Compared to the methods of mail transportation we have examined in the north and Siberia, the
Caucasus presents us with completely unique conditions engendered, on the one hand, by the ex-
traordinary development there, and on the other by the ceaseless conflict in the mountains. Nar-

The post in the Caucasus. Postillions and guides inch their way up a steep
mountain path. (From "Pochta i Telegraf...", 1902, p.46.)


row gorges, crossings over swift mountain rivers, steep ascents and slopes compelled certain adap-
tations in the way the mail was moved. In those places where a postal troika couldn't pass, pack-
horses were used. The greatest obstacle, however, was not to be found in natural conditions, but in
the dangers against which the post had to be guarded every step of the way. Since the post served
as one of the means of Russian rule in the region, on the more dangerous parts of the route the mail
was accompanied by a strong Cossack convoy; sometimes they were even issued cannons. If alar-
ming reports were received the posts would hole up in forts until the danger of attack had passed.
In some places, as a precautionary measure, the mail would go out only during the day, to avoid
being on the road in thick fogs or darkness.
Occasional flare-ups in the fighting forced [the authorities] to beef up the postal convoys. In
1827 the post was overtaken by hillmen who killed one of the Cossacks and took the postillion, his
mail, a yamshchik and three horses into the mountains. (32) After this incident orders were issued
that a postal convoy must consist of 8 Cossacks in daytime and 12 at night. Travellers would make
use of the military protection provided for the mail by joining the postal convoy with their car-
riages. This was called "okaziya" ("opportunity" TR).
Such were the general conditions of postal operations in the Caucasus. The main Tiflis route ran
from Moscow to Georgia through Tula, Voronezh, Novocherkassk and Stavropol'. The most dif-
ficult part of the journey began at Vladikavkaz on the Georgian Military Road, which had been
carved out of the mountains in sharp turns and steep inclines. Great avalanches of snow that
blocked off movement along the road until it could be dug clear were a constant threat.
The second postal route, the Astrakhan', had its own peculiarities. It wound through Astrakhan',
Kizlyar', Mozdok and Ekaterinodar, beginning at Astrakhan' with a sandy steppe interrupted by
swamps and hills. Solitary station houses on the post road were the only witnesses of human life;
for hundreds of versts not another sign of habitation could be found. Near the Terek River during
flooding the low-lying areas through which the post ran would be covered with so much water that
only the high-axled Tatar bullock carts would serve, and in some places even the horses would go
completely under. Movement of the mail during the Terek's floods was greatly retarded. From
Sukhoborozdinskaya Station to Kizlyar' the road ran through swamp and rushy underbrush.
Beyond Kizlyar' to Mozdok the dangerous areas began, where at night the posts stopped at the sta-
tions and proceeded during the day escorted by armed detachments.
The third post route, the Tsaritsyn, connected Rostov-on-Don with the Black Sea Territory (Cher-
nomore). The fourth, or Anapa, route connected Stavropol' with Anapa. On the stretch from
Bugaz to Anapa, suitcases and packages with mail were fastened with straps or ropes to the saddles
of Kazakh horses, while the postillion accompanied the mail on horseback. On the last stretch
before reaching Anapa the post continued under the added protection of footsoldiers and
Despite the military escorts the convoys were frequently tied down in skirmishes with the
Cherkessy. For a long time only ordinary correspondence was sent on the Anapa road. Money and
packages were sent once every two weeks by a long roundabout route: from Taman' the mail was
carried by sailing vessel to Kerch', whence it would continue through the entire Crimean Peninsula
and on via the post road through Ekaterinoslav province and Cherkassk to arrive in Stavropol' no
earlier that 6 weeks after its departure from Anapa. When thanks to reinforced security and
precautionary measures the mail began to reach Stavropol' directly from Anapa, the entire trip bet-
ween the two cities was reduced to 6-7 days.
In addition to the routes we've examined in the Caucasus area, there were several small side
roads that connected stanitsas and military fortifications with stations on the main postal routes.

James Watt's great invention provided mankind with the ability to use the motive force of steam.
From the time technology began to apply the steam engine to propulsion, the locomotive gradual-
ly began to supplant animal traction for movement on land, and the steamship replaced the sailing
ship that was at the mercy of capricious winds. These new means of conveyance increased the
speed of postal communication many times over. They played an especially great role in Russia,


a Sjslrli -- ft."F 3~:
aa W

When snow in the mountains made communications by normal means impossible, mail had to be carried in and out on foot. (From a
photo shown at the Moscow Polytechnical Exhibition, 1872.)


. -,, ;,,.-


Transporting the mail by bullock cart (called an "arba", a sturdy, large-wheeled telega-type conveyance) in the Caucasus. (From a photo
shown at the Moscow Polytechnical Exhibition, 1872.)


-*r-;wu ,-. .Zz f .o.-, "a'


-0 t ^W AV

^ ^ ^ .C / ...... ..,,,-_,
. ,A ..,

The earliest recorded Tiflis handstamp. Posted on 14th March 1844 to Aspach, Wurtemburg, it transited St. Petersburg and Berlin (April
27) before reaching its destination. (H. Weinert coil.)

where the mail had to be moved over huge expanses and tremendous distances. The triumph over
these time-consuming distances that required, as we have seen, such extraordinary efforts was one
of the most remarkable victories of science and technology. However, a considerable amount of
time passed from the moment when the steamship and locomotive first appeared in Russia to the
moment when mechanical traction enjoyed complete triumph.
The locomotive's debut was a rather unpretentious affair. We will dwell here for a while on the
birth of both postal steamshipping and mail transportation by rail.
The year 1827 saw the beginning of mail transportation on steamships. In May of that year the
first English steamer, the "George IV", arrived in St. Petersburg from London. It belonged to the
merchant Joliffe, who offered to make regular voyages 4-5 times a year between the two cities.
Soon this English steamship began to carry not only London mail but Luebeck's as well. According
to the contract concluded with the postal establishment in Luebeck, the vessel's owner was to
receive one shilling sterling for each letter (about 1.20 rubles). Despite the very high cost of sending
a letter by steamship, the advantages afforded by speeding up postal communication were so great
that after negotiations with the Prussian postal authorities, it was decided to use another small
steamer to connect the "George IV"'s runs with Griefswald Harbor, which lay athwart the postal
route between Berlin and Hamburg. The Prussian steamship was to sail from Greifswald to Renne
(on Bornholm Island), where it would transfer mail trunks and passengers to the English steamer on
its way to St. Petersburg. (33)
In the 1830's several private steamship companies made their appearance. Regulations for a
joint-stock company [to maintain] regular contacts between St. Petersburg and Luebeck were ap-
proved in 1830. In 1832 a five-year monopoly was granted to a Riga joint-stock company to
establish a steamer line between Luebeck, Riga and Libau. Beginning in 1845 communication bet-
ween Stettin and St. Petersburg was maintained by two official steamships, the "Vladimir" and the
"Nicholas I", which belonged to the Russian and Prussian postal administrations [respectively]. A
railroad connected Stettin with Berlin, where a network of railroads fanned out in several direc-
tions. Owing to this the postal steamers from Stettin to St. Petersburg connected the Russian port
on the Baltic with the most important trade centers of Western Europe by the shortest distance.
Transportation of correspondence between Helsingfors and Revel began in 1839 on vessels of the
Abo Steam Navigation Company.
The question of organizing steamship lines on the Black Sea arose almost simultaneously with
the appearance of the first postal steamers on the Baltic. The aim of this was not as much in the in-
terests of trade as it was in the political situation in Turkey and the Caucasus, which required an im-
provement in postal links with Russia. According to one official report, the most important task for
southern steamshipping was "reliable and expeditious communication with Georgia". Initially it
was proposed to order two steamships of 100 hp each, but the "uncertainty and unreliability of
maritime intercourse", the feeble development of trade with Redut-Kale (imports from which were
unprofitable for Russian factories), and the insignificant number of passengers forced the
postponement of this plan's implementation. Later it was decided to acquire two steamships
bought with money contributed by Persia under conditions of the peace treaty. (34)
Thus, at the end of the 1820's Black Sea postal steamshipping appeared, connecting Odessa with
Constantinople and Redut-Kale in the Caucasus with regular voyages. In 1833 the steamer run bet-
ween Odessa and Constantinople was transferred to the joint-stock "Black Sea Steamshipping
Company", which was given very considerable advantages. However, in spite of a subsidy from the
Treasury, after several years the Company's affairs were in a sad state. Once again, this time in
1843, regular runs between Odessa and Constantinople were organized using two State-run steam-
frigates. In 1847 the State's Novorossiisk Steamship Line began to carry ordinary correspondence
on its ships between ports on the Azov and Black Seas. (35)
Following the steamships came the locomotives and the railroads. The first, the Tsarskosel'skaya
RR, was built by a private company in 1837 and stretched for 25 versts. Fourteen more years passed
before the official Nikolaevskaya railroad between Moscow and St. Petersburg was opened.
Railroad construction was limited to these two lines for the first half of the century. With the open-
ing of the lines came the introduction of mail transportation by railroad. The first mailcars


important railroad, the Nikolaevskaya, are shown here. The one above
reads "S.P.B. ST. Zh. D." (St. Petersburg Railroad Station) and is dated 28
October 1857. The other was sent from Moscow to St. Petersburg on 14
November 1858, and bears a "hexagon-of-dots" cancel #2 and "MOS. ST.
ZhEL. DOR." (Moscow Railroad Station) dispatch marking. (D. Skipton
specially-constructed to carry mail appeared on the Nikolaevskaya RR. The stations in St.
Petersburg and Moscow accepted ordinary correspondence which, together with the mail collected
in the pochtamts and city branch offices, was put on the mailcars. The procedures adopted for
transporting this correspondence by railroad were similar to those existing in other western Euro-
pean states, mainly Belgium and Prussia. Letters placed in stamped envelopes were accepted
along the way.
When the first trains between Moscow and St. Petersburg began to operate, railway traffic was
still a long way from perfection. Normal delays for the trains ranged from 5 to 22 hours, and
sometimes they arrived at and departed from stations ahead of schedule. Vibration in the railroad
cars was so great that there was no way to write in them or conduct postal operations. (36) These
were only the first experiments, opening a new page in the mail transportation story and [affording
glimpses of] shining vistas in the future for the development and acceleration of postal com-


j -: O 1^ O r C eo ey
S/ /

> to e w e e



-' *4 1 U rp i1TfI ..4




*. .. .. .'

ie beiden grossen eisornen Dampfschiffe der Kbiniglich Preussischen und der Kaiserlich Russischen Post- Verwaltuo..

S* ..
1Preuag er Al er

S.... ,W la.. ... dimir" -. .

"jedes mit Maschinen von 31 Ofaeler Pferdekraft versehen, und zur bequemen Aufnahme von mehl als
100 Passagleren, so wie zur Beftrderunp, einer bedeutenden (iite rladung eingerichtet, werdet im Jahre I1 0
eine regelmaissige wBesentliche Verbindung zwischen Stettin uind KLronstadt (St. Petersbiu A ) te-
balten. Die Abfertigung erfolgt
aus Stettin Sonnabend Ifittags ;
ausa ronstadt Sonnabend Abends.- ',: "
S, Bei giistiger Witterung wird die Ueberfabrt in 65-70 Stunden zuriickgelegt. Die Reibefolge, in wolcher 4e Schiffe
fa r ,,t .geride: : : .
Abfthrt aus Stettin. Abfahrt aus r
; I I U - I .
*Tag sPost- a.!- Tft* t Piz I I Post

den 18. ai Prufs. Adler. den 10. August Preufs. Ader. den IS. Mai..I Wladimir. den 10 Au.tr Wladnirm.
". r25 .. Wladimir. 17. Wladuiir. 25. .. Preufs. Ader. : 4'4 re. ter,
Juni.. Preufs. Adler. 24. Preuls. Adler. 1. Juni.. Wladimir. S4. Wladtndf.
". Wadimir. -3. Wladimir. 2 i. ,. Preufs. Adler, : 31. a,;. Ajek
i 1 ;. reufs. Adler. 7. Septbr. Preufs.Adler. Wla.ifr" .S.t'..- Wlai. n ,.
2 Wladimir. 14. -. Wladinir. 22. Prefts.Adler. sj. e^
Preufs. Adler. 21. Preufs. Adler. 29 .. WIpdimir. ; i -"WIadit':u
$, Jn j.. Wl84JMr. 2s. Wladimir. -. 6. Juli.. Preufs. Adier .1 Preife&Ad er.
^ i, - Prea.f. Adlet. 5. Oc r. Preuis.Adler. 1,. .. Wladinr.ik. t, Ocbr.. W:- If r.
-20 .. Wladimir. I.- Wladimir. 20. .. Preus. Adler. "- 12. -' Preuts. Ailer.
S '. .. Preuf. Adler. l Preufs.Adler. -27. .. Wladimir. 1 Wladimir.
S-a:&9it Wladimir. 6. Wladimir. aAuguat Preus. Adler., .2. ,: Prepfs. dJM
7."., -- e>- < -

A Cerman steamer schedule of 1848, showing departure times for the two post ships between Stettin and Kronstadt. (Reproduction
courtesy of Heinrich Imhof.)



Having acquainted ourselves with the postal organization of the first half of the century, we will
switch to an examination of the character of postal relations among the populace. Before con-
sidering this subject in its general form, we shall take a look at several types of postal operations in
existence then: 1) the rural post, 2) the [one-horse] messenger post, and 3) the city post. These
separate aspects of the Post provide material for studying the prevalence of postal relations among
various sections of the populace. Postal conventions concluded between Russia and the other
states may serve to show the characteristics of postal relations with foreign powers.
Post offices situated in provincial capitals and district seats served vast areas. The people in
these areas, if they wished to send or receive correspondence, either had to send agents or go
themselves to a district seat which, in some cases, might be several dozen versts away. With the ex-
ception of a few industrial provinces, the need for postal relations among the rural inhabitants was
quite insignificant. Such provinces were in a different situation, especially those where there were
factories and manufactories located at some distance from a city. The capability to accurately
deliver commercial correspondence was of great importance to them. Yet in 1800 postillions were
forbidden while on the road to accept letters and packages over the amount stipulated in the
charts and travel orders (i.e. the amount with which they started out TR). Supervisors of postal sta-
tions were also barred from receiving and distributing correspondence. Even if a post road passed
close by, nevertheless it was necessary to use the nearest post office, i.e. in provincial capitals or
district seats. For instance, Zlatoust' glass-and-earthenware factories, which carried on a large cor-
respondence, had to send a special messenger to Ufa for mail. In 1803, in response to a petition by
the leader of the Zlatoust' glass-and-earthenware factories, Chief Mining Manager Felkner, and
their [financial] backer, the Moscow merchant Knauf, it was authorized at a "discussion on ways to
increase postal revenues" to have the post accept and distribute ordinary correspondence and
parcels at those factories along the way where horses were changed. The experiment was suc-
cessful in the first few years weight-rate revenues from the factories' mail amounted to over 300
rubles per annum. Shortly thereafter the Perm' State Salt Mines and the Ekaterinburg Mining Fac-
tories Administration considered a similar petition. Somewhat earlier a similar authorization was
granted to the merchants of Malmyzh. (37)
In 1805 a number of separate authorizations were combined into one general measure at the pro-
posal of the Kazan' Pochtamt. All the pochtamts were given permission to institute acceptance
and delivery of ordinary correspondence and parcels at those postal stations with stationmasters
"where deemed necessary". The mail sent from postal establishments to the stations and vice-
versa was called "rural correspondence" and carried in special bags. In 1810 acceptance of this
"rural correspondence" was initiated at 32 stations, the majority of which (23) was under the direc-
tion of the Lithuanian Pochtamt, i.e. in the western and southwestern provinces, primarily in Vil'no
province and the Byelostok region. Five stations were under the Kazan' Pochtamt's management
and four under the Tambov Pochtamt's. At some stations the entire year's collection for weight
rates was a mere pittance. For instance, [the total] at Mel'nikskaya Station in Dragochinskii
District, Byelostok Oblast' was 1.68 rubles, and at Ural'skaya Station in Orenburg province 64


kopecks. The distribution of the stations shows that they were found in factory regions (the Ural
factories under Kazan' management), localities of administrative significance, and places where
troops were quartered [in the southwest provinces]. These observations lead to the conclusion that
places at which acceptance of "rural correspondence" was initiated were demarcated from the
usual post offices only by their location at postal stations. In the majority of cases these offices
were situated in rural localities, but sometimes they were in towns as well, for instance, Troki,
Byel'sk, Sokol'sk and Dinaburg. (38) The name itself "rural correspondence" totally
misrepresented the actual content of this mail. It came not from country folk in the sense of
peasants, but from factory and local administrations, troops and, in part, the merchants.
In 1811, all stations whose annual profit was not less than 50 paper rubles started to get 20 rubles
per year for office expenses. In 1840 "rural correspondence" was accepted at 159 postal stations.
About 11,000 silver rubles were collected from all stations combined for weight-rate charges, [but]
they were very unevenly distributed among the stations. At the majority of them the take was quite
small: 50 of the stations took in less than 50 paper rubles, i.e. the amount of mail passing through
the stations came to no more than 120-150 items per year. At 600 stations the income reached 200
paper rubles (p.r.); at 27 300 p.r.; at 12- 400 p.r.; at 12 500 p.r.; at 4 600 p.r., and at 6 700 p.r. A
total of 5 stations took in between 800 and 1700 p.r.
In 1842 acceptance of "rural correspondence" was begun at all stations having a stationmaster.
By that time such stations numbered 897. (39)
Prolonged experimentation showed that the exchange of "rural correspondence" had a real
significance for only a small number of industrialized areas, where manufacturing was closely con-
nected with sources of raw materials and the manufactories and plants were situated outside town
settlements. Stations at which "rural correspondence" was accepted played hardly any role at all
in areas where agricultural work predominated.
Another, less successful experiment was conducted in 1840. Its purpose was to satisfy the re-
quirement for postal relations within districts, among the rural populace on the outskirts of country
villages. As the rural inhabitants' postal links normally extended to the city, this original attempt
deserves special attention. It answered the question "did postal relations exist within rural areas at
that time?"
The plan to organize an "errand post in the districts" belonged to the Kamer-junker Semichev
("Kamer-junker" a Gentleman of the Emperor's Court, an honorary title equivalent to the 5th rank
- TR) in the Postal Department. The author of this scheme had in mind the interests of landowners
living in a single district, communications between whom were complicated by distance and the
necessity of sending people with a letter and instructions in every instance. He proposed that let-
ters addressed to residents of a district be held at the district office [until such time as they could]
be given to the addressees' messengers. For this service the post office would be paid a small fee.
The scheme [was based on] the assumption that all the landowners had more or less frequent and
regular dealings with the town. Exchanging correspondence with one another at the post office,
they would be freed from the necessity of sending their own people around the district. In the opi-
nion of the plan's author, the landowners' correspondence could be divided into 5 categories: con-
gratulatory messages, invitations, notices, consultations and requests. The first two categories
comprised the major portion of correspondence between the landowners and were written in ad-
vance [of the event]. The other three types [would arise] only when it would be inconvenient to
send them through the post office, if urgent delivery to and a reply from the addressee were re-
quired. It was proposed that estate owners send to the city literate individuals to inquire at the
post office if there were any letters addressed to their principals, not only during the regular morn-
ing hours, but also after business hours.
The plan was adopted and notification of this was published throughout the provinces and
districts in a special circular. The responses received from post offices, governors and represen-
tatives of the nobility provided a rather complete idea of the level of development at which cor-
respondence between estate owners stood in the 1840's.
In several provinces the estate owners rarely frequented their own property and were almost
always to be found in the city or on official business in the capital. Correspondence with their


estate managers was carried on through special messengers; usually all sorts of instructions pertain-
ing to the estates were given, not only in written form but also verbally. In other places where the
landowners lived on their estates, the custom of always sending their own people to other estate
owners living in the same district was firmly rooted, and with the many idle servants on large
estates, [this custom] made for no difficulties whatsoever. Among the small gentry, who had no
personal servants or freemen, relations by correspondence were completely undeveloped. Family
holidays and other affairs which set some day apart from the rest were known well in advance and
no special invitation cards needed to be sent. Thus, intra-district communication among the gentry
was a rare occurrence, and the organization of a special post was unnecessary. Correspondence
was almost exclusively limited to inter-city communication, especially with the capitals, where
there were practically always friends or relatives on military duty or civilian service. There was a
constant flow of manor serfs and peasants on various errands from estates and villages to the
nearest district seat they would usually go to the post office and get the mail for their masters.
Because such dealings with the nearest town were the result of various factors, setting up an intra-
district post would only decrease, not eliminate, the [practice of sending] messengers, and the ma-
jority of estate owners were loath to entrust their letters to a messenger unknown to them. Besides
that, in some places a different method of receiving correspondence was practiced, which later
developed on a wide scale: letters addressed to an estate owner living in the district were sent
through the zemstvo police chief to police stations, whence the police messengers and village
policemen who had constant dealings with police stations delivered them to the addressees.
With very few exceptions, the nobility of the Russian provinces answered that there was no need
to establish an intra-district post. The opposite was true of some western regions, especially the
Ostzeiskii district, where owing to different cultural conditions correspondence was quite
widespread and a letter delivery method somewhat reminiscent of Semichev's plan was already in
It is interesting to note that one of the governors (the Minsk) found the organization of an intra-
district post dangerous from a political standpoint. In his secret report he wrote: "I hasten to
report that, in my opinion, it would be dangerous to implement this idea in the western provinces,
and, I make bold to think, even in those [provinces] contiguous, at least Mogilev and Vitebsk:
because first, it would facilitate the dissemination of all sorts of pernicious doctrines, political
enterprises and disloyal correspondence among the inhabitants; second, it would weaken the pro-
vincial authorities' means of secretly watching over them, and third, it would eliminate the in-
fluence of fear of the local police on the estate owners."
Could this intra-district post have proven useful for the great mass of rural inhabitants, the
peasants? In principal the Postal Department didn't attach any limited class character to this post,
and it decided to expand its operations to include other classes of the population. Among the
responses received in the Department, there was only one that addressed itself to participation of
the State peasants in the "errand post". The peasants in Vyatka province who were asked said they
had no correspondence other than that with their relatives on military duty and some concerning
commercial matters. They carried on this correspondence directly through the post office, so an
"errand post" within the district would afford them no substantial benefits. The errand post, which
would deliver mail directly to the address, would undoubtedly have had great significance for
those peasants engaged in seasonal work and small trade from town to town, but it required an
organization which the peasant commune would have found impossible to provide.
In spite of the unfavorable answers received, the errand post was introduced in the districts at the
beginning of 1841. The result of its operation can best be seen from the number of letters accepted
by this post over the next few years:
In 1841 ....................1,187
In 1842...................1,143
In 1843....................1,300
Almost all of the correspondence fell to Kurlyand province alone. In 1841 the other provinces
handled 170 letters in all. These 170 letters were distributed among them as follows: Minsk pro-
vince 78, Poltava province -31, Chernigov province 22, Yaroslavl' province 21, Vitebsk province -


8, Volhynia province 7, and Mogilev province 2. In 1842 and 1843 the entire amount of cor-
respondence fell to Kuryland province. Not one letter was received by the other provinces.
Over the next few years, if Kuryland province and some solitary letters are excluded, the "district
errand post" continued to languish. But even for more than 20 years after, the provincial post of-
fices sent the usual yearly reports to the Postal Department that not even one letter had been ac-
cepted for that post in any of their establishments. Thus ended this unsuccessful but interesting ex-
periment. (40)
Post road networks connecting the district seats and provincial capitals were so poorly
developed that communications between several cities had to follow circuitous routes which
sometimes surpassed the distance via shorter village roads by several hundreds of versts. Letters
sent by longer routes might take 1-2 weeks rather than the few hours that would have been required
had they been sent directly. In 1846, there were 47 cities whose interpostal communications were
greatly hampered by roundabout postal routes. Delivery time for mail was so slow that the amount
of correspondence between these cities, some of them commercially important, was quite paltry,
limited to a few dozen items or even as little as one letter per year. Thus, in 1845 only 12 letters
were sent from Kashira to Serpukhov, 6 from Venev to Mikhailov, 4 from Epifan' to Skopin, and 5
from Odoev to Likhvin. The situation in industrialized provinces like Novgorod or Tver' was no bet-
ter. In 1845 for Novgorod province, 67 letters were sent from Staraya Russa to Kholm. In Tver' pro-
vince, 226 were sent from Rzhev to Torzhok, 275 from Torzhok to Ostashkovo, and 75 from
Vyshnii-Volochek to Ves'egonsk.
Desiring to improve communications for those cities with no direct postal routes between them,
a "committee for drawing up a plan to move the mail" proposed in 1843 that "one-horse dispatch
posts" be established. With these it would be possible to send bags containing both official and
private correspondence over the country roads. The yamshchiki, who were under contract to con-
vey the mail, had to carry mailbags on horseback or in one-horse carts and transfer them to one
another at appointed places and times. For their services they received travel allowances which at
first were supposed to be set at 1 /2 silver kopecks per versta. Later, however, when no one wished
to take on a contract for that rate, the travel allowance were increased to 4 silver kopecks (per
For accountability an original system was adopted. The yamshchiki were provided with special
tags white for one direction and a colored one for the return trip. Carrying the mailbag to the next
station, the yamshchik would take a tag from the rider who was to continue on. If this rider
delivered the bag later than the schedule called for, then the next rider would give him a tag with
one corner torn off. He would then exchange his mailbag and the tag's corner for a complete tag at
the next transfer point. Passed on from one yamshchik to the next, the corner would finally arrive
at the post office. When accounts were settled, those yamshchiki who could present complete tags
received the full travel allowance, while those with missing corners [on their tags] were fined by
having an amount deducted from their allowance. Repeated fines resulted in annulment of the
Before the dispatch-rider posts were introduced, the local authorities were first asked for infor-
mation. The answers received outlined the everyday conditions of the country roads over which
this distinctive post would have to travel. It was unanimously pointed out that the state of the
roads, especially during spring and fall slush, would not permit the riders to travel at the 8-10 verst
pace called for in the plan. A number of other conditions would also have an effect upon the punc-
tuality of postal communications the almost universal illiteracy of the populace, lack of clocks in
the villages, snowbound roads, wolfpacks that would inevitably eat the lone postillion foolhardy
enough to travel in the fields or woods at night or in the early morning, and so on. Such was the
generally gloomy picture drawn. One Pskov estate owner wrote the following concerning travel
speed on peasant horses along country roads: "I can make 4-5 versts per hour driving a troika of
good horses pulling the lightest carriage, i.e. a cart, whereas [riding] on a peasant's horse, when
many streams are overflowing and carrying bridges away, or in snowdrifts with no country road
inns...on a horse not fed with oats, sinking in snow up to its head or in mud to its knees it is quite im-
possible." The majority found it impossible to turn peasants into postillions. They preferred "their
own fields (and not without reason) to all the mail and bags in the world." At harvest time the pea-


sant would head for the field, and the mailbag would stay firmly ensconced in his hut for half a day
or so.
Increasing the travel allowance to 4 silver kopecks per versta significantly facilitated the prac-
tical solution to this matter, since carrying mail at that allowance could be profitable and would
then attract some landowners and yamshchiki who specialized in transportation.
It was assumed that income from the weight-rates wouldn't cover expenditures for travel
allowances for the first few years at most. For that reason it was decided that from 12,000 to 24,000
silver rubles would be expended without any return. This estimate was based upon the proposal to
establish dispatch-rider posts on routes up to 3,000 versts in length. By sending mail once per week
in both directions the total amount of travel allowances would come to 12,064 rubles, or 24,128
rubles for two dispatches [per week].
At the beginning of 1847 the first dispatch-rider posts were set up to run once a week between the
following cities for a one year period:
Distance in Versts saved Speed-up of
versts on by not travel- mail delivery
country roads ling on post in:
routes Days Hours
Staraya Russa & Kholm 92 244 2 10.50
Ostashkov & Kholm 150 531 5 23.00
Kholm & Toropets 90 182 1 9.25
Toropets & Rzhev 182 473 7 12.25
Ostashkov & Rzhev 130 255.25 2 16.25
Klin & Sergievskii Posad 96 53 14.75
Vyshnii-Volochek &
Rybinsk (seasonal, from
April through
November) 291 57 1 4.50
Over the first year postal collections for mail transported came to 468.65 rubles, while expen-
ditures for travel allowances to contractors amounted to 2,733.935 rubles, i.e. income constituted
about 1/5th of expenditures. During that year 78 posts arrived on schedule, 144 were late, and 347
came in ahead of time. The schedule was worked out very carefully. If we take the deviation in
both directions, then the fluctuation in time turns out to be considerable, up to several days' worth.
The first year's experiment made possible an expansion in the dispatch-rider post's operational
range. In 1848 traffic was started on 9 new country roads. In 1849-51 the dispatch-rider posts were
active on 20 such roads. The following table gives some idea of the amount of correspondence
[carried] over all dispatch-rider post routes:
Official Private
packets: letters: Totals:
In 1847 2,810 4,519 7,329
In 1848 8,007 9,828 17,935
In 1849 12,161 15,249 27,410
In 1850 12,350 18,567 30,917
In 1851 15,460 18,375 33,835
In 1852 18,823 19,969 38,792
As can be seen in the table, a considerable portion of the correspondence (a little less than half)
consisted of official business. Even among the larger commercial centers the amount of private
mail increased only slowly. There were some routes on which dispatch-rider posts didn't leave for
months, due to lack of letters. Thus, the post between Odoev and Likhvin began operations on 23
September 1848, and by the end of the year 88 official packets and 5 private letters had been car-
ried. The next year the post from Odoev to Likhvin functioned year-round, although in the op-
posite direction the post wasn't called upon to leave until 17 August. Up until that time not a single
letter had been presented to it. For the entire year 348 official packets and 9 private letters were
sent, or less than one private letter per month. Because of this poor showing several routes were


soon closed.
The data presented above show that private correspondence between district seats was quite
negligible. The reason for this was the populace's generally limited need for establishing postal
links between small towns which, in their residents' occupations and cultural conditions, differed
little from large villages.
It must be acknowledged that the dispatch-rider post benefited and strengthened postal ex-
change between places that were more closely connected with commercial interests. Thus, until
the introduction of this post between Staraya Russa and Kholm a total of 67 private letters had
been sent for the entire year. In the year after its establishment, 702 letters were sent between
cities [in both directions], with 2,319 the second year. This last figure apparently expressed the ac-
tual requirement for postal exchange, because there was no further increase during the following
years. During 1845 493 letters were sent between Torzhok and Ostashkov; in 1849, the post's first
year, 1,271 private letters were sent, and in 1852, 1,342 private letters. The establishment of this
post on the Vyshnii-Volochek Bezhetsk Rybinsk route was of great importance to commerce. On
this route the post operated from April through November, the period when merchant convoys
were active on the Vyshnii-Volochek river system.
With the exception of one or two routes, the dispatch-rider post was a drain on the Treasury. In
1848 it cost the Treasury 1.8475 silver kopecks for each letter carried on the country road connec-
ting Kholm with Ostashkov. In 1850 it was calculated that the average cost of sending one private
letter on all routes was 20 silver kopecks, whereas its weight-rate charge was set at 10 kopecks. In
that same year, of the twenty dispatch-rider post lines in existence, only two (the Vindava Libava
and Staraya Russa Kholm routes) managed to cover their expenses. On two lines income was two-
thirds of expenditures; on three one-third; on one one-fourth; on two one-fifth, and so on. There
were lines, for instance the Kholm Ostashkov route, where income was only one-twentieth of ex-
penditures, and on the Odoev Likhvin line it reached one-forty-first. (41)

The city post was supposed to serve the populace for local correspondence. The need for such a
post to exist is itself an indicator of the development of urban life, with its complex interweaving of
commercial, domestic and cultural interests. City dwellers have no need of a city post until such
time as the town expands beyond certain territorial limits, when direct communication between
residents becomes difficult. On the other hand, with the forms of trade that existed during the first
half of the century, the commercial sector was relatively little interested in the organization of a
local post, as all the transactions were conducted almost exclusively in person. It was not the mer-
chant who was interested in the city post so much as the residents and, to some extent, the ad-
ministrative offices. This serves to explain why the first city post appeared in St. Petersburg, a
metropolis with a large population of civil servants and a more developed cultural life than that in
the other Russian cities of the time.
The first of the schemes known to us to organize a local post belonged to Samuel Aller, "Col-
legial Advisor to the Educational Society for Training Noble Girls in Household Management". Ac-
cording to his proposal, a number of cabmen acting as city postillions would only accept letters on
the street, mainly at the cabstands. To distinguish them from ordinary cabmen, it was suggested
that brass insignia be fastened to their left shoulder or chest and a letter with a number pictured on
the hat. The sender of the letter could, in addition to the written address, give further instruc-
tions verbally to aid [the cabman] in finding the addressee. The following rates for letter delivery
were proposed: for an ordinary letter delivered in 6 hours -40 kopecks or one silver grivna; delivery
of an express letter in one hour 80 kopecks or two silver grivny; a letter with reply 1.20 rubles, and
so on. Samuel Aller, who presented this scheme in 1828 to the St. Petersburg Governor-General,
proposed to organize a local post at no cost to the Treasury, using only the assistance of the police.
For himself he wanted the title of City Postmaster or City Post Inspector.
Aller's commercial venture was not crowned with success. The city post in St. Petersburg was
first organized in 1833 at the suggestion of the Postal Administration and according to the St. Peters-


burg Postmaster's plan, in the form of a two-year experiment. The decision to form a local post
was influenced by a study of the postal structure in Prussia and England, where such posts had ex-
isted in Berlin and London for quite some time. Small shops situated at street intersections and
bridges over canals served as collection points for correspondence. The shops' new purpose as
"collection points" was displayed on signs inscribed "Letters accepted for the local post". Before
the letters could be placed in the boxes set out in front, they first had to be shown to the
shopkeeper or clerk, and a fee of 20 kopecks per letter or 10 kopecks per card (calling, invitation,
etc. TR) paid. The city was divided into 17 districts with a total of 42 collection points. The letter
carriers, two per district, made the rounds three times daily, collecting letters and delivering cor-
respondence received from the city post sub-office at the Pochtamt. Each shopowner received
compensation of 10 kopecks for every ruble of postage collected in his store, while the letter car-
riers were paid a monthly salary of 25 rubles.
To notify residents of the capital of the new post's organization, advertisements in Russian,
French and German were put up, and on 17 January 1833 the St. Petersburg City Post began opera-
tions. The very first year showed favorable results: as of 17 January 1834, 79,417 letters and 4,759
cards were accepted and delivered. Postal income was 16,350.30 rubles, and the next year saw a
net profit of 662.15 silver rubles. Convinced by the two-year experiment that postal income not on-
ly covered the costs of maintaining the post but that "there is something left over from it", the
"Chief Administration of the Postal Department" decided to "approve the existence of the City
Post once and for all."
Several new changes and additions which facilitated the expansion of local correspondence
were made in the following years. For instance, postal collections were shifted to silver, with the
cost for a letter or two cards set at 5 silver kopecks. The number of collection points and letter car-
riers increased. In 1838, after the first railroad was opened to traffic between St. Petersburg, Tsar-
skoe Selo and Pavlovsk, acceptance of letters addressed to those places were begun along the
railroad for the same cost [as local letters]. Soon after the local post's establishment they began to
accept newspapers (and periodicals), with "Biblioteka dlya Chteniya" (Library for Reading) and
"Zemledel'cheskaya Gazeta" (Agricultural Newspaper) the first.
In 1837 the well-known bookdealer Smirdin and the publishers of several newspapers approach-
ed the City Post with a request to have their publications delivered in the city. Newspapers and
magazines were turned in directly to the City Post Sub-office, with payment of 1-10 rubles annually
for each complete set. By the 10th anniversary of its existence the local post in St. Petersburg had
undergone a great expansion, gradually supplanting the old method of sending letters with ac-
quaintances, footmen and servants. The figures for the number of letters sent are a good indica-
tion of the level of its development:
Sent by local post:
In 1833........................... 77,027 letters
In 1835 ............................... 107,006 "
In 1837........................... 120,028 "
n 1839............................ 134,537 "
In 1841 ............................... 158,461 "
In 1843............................... 207,584 "
In 1843 some 378,068 copies of newspapers and periodicals were sent through the city post. The
"Agricultural Newspaper" alone accounted for 221,400 of these.
In 1845, due to complaints that "some residents of St. Petersburg who, as an added precaution,
want to present their letters to the city post in person but are inconvenienced by the necessity of
having to go to small shops filled with common folk, having to pay for the letters in small change,
or debating over money matters with the store clerks", it was decided to open collection points in
large stores on major thoroughfares and to introduce "stamped envelopes" costing 6 silver kopecks
each, thus obviating payment in cash. (42)
The second city to organize a local post was Moscow. Here also, the ones to agitate for this were
private individuals retired lieutenant M.M. Zimmerman and Collegial Secretary I.I. Evreinov. In
1834 they requested that they be given permission to organize a post along the lines of the one in



^ ^ ^ //& 6

The front and back of a letter mailed by local post in St. Petersburg,
28 November 1845. The datestamp reads "GORODSK:POCHTA"
-city post, and was sent out for delivery at 4 p.m.
St. Petersburg. In their request, the reasons put forward to convince [the authorities] of the need to
establish such a post were that owing to the city's vastness a local post would provide its residents
with "appreciable facilitations"; "for delivery between acquaintances far removed from each other
of visiting cards and invitation cards notifying someone of something entails great difficulties, so
that with considerable expense and distraction of people from their normal activities it can barely
be accomplished in two or three days..." The Moscow Postal Director, A. Bulgakov, agreed that a
local post should be transferred to private individuals. In his opinion, it could neither become
widespread and provide the Treasury with substantial profits nor "make it easier for the public"
-"so long as the habit exists here of keeping extra servants in the house who can be used for various
errands outside." The Moscow Governor-General, however, didn't agree with this decision. For his
part he found that "the usefulness of establishing a local post in Moscow is obvious. Even if in the
first year it didn't do so well, afterwards it would be agreeable and useful to Moscow residents."
Correspondence concerning a Moscow post continued for several years, and it was not until 1844
that regulations were approved. These had no substantial differences from the regulations of the
St. Petersburg post. The city was divided into 23 districts with 111 collection points in small stores.
The first sub-office of the city post was situated in the Pochtamt and the second in the Arbat
[district]. Temporary offices in Petrovskii Park and Sokol'niki were opened during the summer.
Eighty-five men selected from "the free and literate populace" were hired under contract, at 30
silver rubles, to collect and deliver letters. (43)
On 1 January 1845 the Moscow City Post began operations. Over the course of the next five
years total mailings (letters and cards) through the Moscow City Post were:
In 1845 ........ 160,902 items.
In 1846 ........ 204,695 ".
In 1847 ........ 228,554 "
In 1848 ......... 249,443 ".
In 1849 ........ 237,958 "


The Moscow post's volume of mail was considerably exceeded by that of St. Petersburg's, where
in 1849 445,753 cards and letters went through the local post.
Regular functioning of the post in Moscow, a city with a widely scattered populace and one
which at the halfway point of the century still retained all the traits of an old Russian town, met
with numerous difficulties. In 1866, twenty years after the post's opening, the Moscow Postal
Director would paint the following picture: "In Paris, London and Berlin letters are delivered not to
the addressees' apartments but are given instead to the doorkeepers of the houses; in St. Petersburg
it usually does no good to search for a house, or an apartment within, where the addressee lives;
but in Moscow it is still a far cry from even those conditions. Here, one can scarcely find a house; it
is much harder to find the person to whom the correspondence is addressed once that house is
found. And it frequently happens, especially in the outlying parts of the city, that at the very begin-
ning of this search the postillion will be set upon by a pack of dogs and, having abandoned the
discharge of his duties, he will be forced to seek his own salvation, and that not always successful-
ly." Delivery of inter-city correspondence was in an especially sad state, thanks to an insufficiency
of conveyances. (45)

In the first half of the century there were several important postal routes linking Russia with
foreign states. Postal communication with the cities of Western Europe, excluding the Scandina-
vian peninsula and Southern Europe, had been maintained since the XVIII century through Prussia.
Profits accruing to Prussia from transit of Russian mail were so considerable that when other states
(Austria, Saxony and Hesse) attempted to intercept its flow, Prussia didn't hesitate to allocate new
funds to improve the postal routes through its territory, and by various means to counter the plans
of its postal competitors. In 1819, envoys from several foreign powers to the Russian Court propos-
ed that mail bound for France, Holland and Southern Germany be routed through Poland, Austria,
Saxony and Bavaria. Getting wind of this plan, the Prussian government immediately sent its
representative, Ober-Post-Director Goldbeck, to St. Petersburg with the goal of concluding with
Russia a permanent postal convention that had been worked out by the Berlin GPO. At the same
time a number of changes were made in the Prussian postal system which were in keeping with the
interests of the Russian Post abroad. As a result of these changes, foreign mail began to arrive in St.
Petersburg several days earlier than before, and even Viennese mail began to move through the
Prussian posts faster than through the Polish. Ober-Post-Director Goldbeck wrote to Berlin about
this: "I had a talk with Count Nesselrode, who conveyed to me his pleasure at receiving from the
Russian envoy in Vienna the first letter via the new Prussian posts through Memel, in twelve days,
and he thought it necessary to show this letter to Baron von Leidzeltern, (the Austrian envoy KB)
who had doubted until now the possibility of such a thing." After this graphic demonstration of the
Prussian postal system's advantages, a postal treaty between Russia and Prussia was signed in
December of 1821. Prussia received exclusive rights on transit of mail sent to all the Western Euro-
pean states (excluding Sweden, Austria, Italy and Turkey), America, and the English, French and
Dutch colonies. Two postal routes were established, St. Petersburg Mitava Memel and Moscow
-Vil'no Tilsit. A light post with only letter mail was sent twice weekly on both routes. With the
construction of a highway up to the border, the main post road was routed to Taurogen Tilsit,
where it connected with the Prussian highway. In 1833 a heavy post which accepted money and
packages (initially up to 40 Ibs., later unlimited) began operations apart from the light post.
After the appearance of a maritime postal link with the city of Luebeck, Russia broke its postal
convention with Prussia and began sending mail on steamers to Luebeck. However, on this occa-
sion Prussia managed to hold on to the postal exchange with Russia. By agreement with the Senate
of the free city of Luebeck, Prussia set up its own postal agency in the city as an intermediary in the
transmission of Russian correspondence. (46)
Technological advances in postal affairs, increasing construction of railroads in the West and the
expansion of the maritime post led to the necessity of reexamining the treaty signed in 1821, and a
new postal convention was concluded in 1843. Postal tariffs, which had previously been calculated


i :7 4. g.
r. c: --N


?.; *r. .71


T -' j

Petersbug, 1906,p. 552.

[by different rates] for individual European cities, were now fixed for each state, disregarding the
place of destination therein. The general rate decrease was so considerable that a letter from St.
Petersburg to Berlin, which formerly cost 761/4 silver kopecks, now cost 34/4 silver kopecks. The
total number of posts leaving each week from both states was increased; between Berlin and St.
Petersburg the number of daily extra-posts was upped from 3 to 5. A speed-up of the mails was also
achieved. Special articles regulated the flow of mail at sea on steamships. [47] In general, the 1843
Convention, which responded to the growth of foreign correspondence, was of undoubtedly great
significance for the further expansion of postal communications on the most important interna-
tional route.
Another route, this one through Austrian possessions, provided an outlet for correspondence to
cities in the southern half of Europe: 'to the Austrian Empire, the lands of the Italian peninsula,
Greece and also the islands of the Mediterranean and Adriatic Seas.' The Convention regulating
postal communications with Austria was concluded simultaneously with the Prussian Convention
of 1843. How much postal communications were facilitated can be seen from the following exam-
ple: before the conclusion of the treaty, a letter from St. Petersburg to Lemberg weighing one lot
cost 28 silver kopecks, to Vienna 56/4 s.k., and to Trieste 68 s.k. With the new tax, a single rate of
10 s.k. was charged for mail to each of these cities.
The third route connected Russia with the cities of far Northern Europe the Scandinavian penin-
sula. Two conventions regulating postal links with Sweden were concluded in 1810 (with a supple-
ment in 1821) and 1846. By this latter agreement, thanks to the establishment of an extra-post, let-
ters from Stockholm to St. Petersburg began to arrive on the 13th day [after posting], whereas
before they had taken three weeks to come in. (48)
Postal communications with Turkey were of a special nature. The beginning of a true postal ex-
change with the Ottoman Empire arose from the political interests of Russian diplomacy, which
had need of regular contacts with foreign agents in Constantinople. In 1773 postal communication
by packetboat between Odessa and Constantinople was established, with a Russian postal land
route through Jassy, Bucharest, Giurgiu and Adrianople following in 1781.
In Moldavia the mail was transferred to light carts and covered wagons (broshavanki). Four
horses were harnessed to the carts, eight to the wagons. The post usually travelled in two carts, a
postillion and the mail in the first cart and two armed guards in the second. (TR note KB uses the
word "Arnaut", which was the name the Turks used for a special arm of the service guards chosen
from among the Christians.) Packhorses carried the mail through the Balkans. A yamshchik would
walk in front carrying an iron ring [that stood] higher than his elbow; the reins of the first horse were
tied to this ring, while the next horse was tethered by its bridle to the tail of the horse in front. A
Tatar came behind, driving the horses, and a postillion with a money bag hanging on his chest
travelled alongside. A special escort detailed from the Turkish government went along in case ban-
dits should appear in the mountains. (49)
In 1848 a special postal treaty was concluded with Greece. Correspondence was transported as
far as Constantinopole by the Russian post, either by sea or land, and from there on by Greek
The Russian land post through Moldavia and Wallachia existed until 1868, when all postal opera-
tions in the Levant were transferred to the Russian Steamshipping and Trade Company (R.O.P.i T.).
Of these four Russian mail routes abroad that we have covered, the one of greatest significance
was the Prussian. Almost three-fourths of all foreign correspondence at the end of the first half of
the century was with Prussia. The next most important in terms of mail volume was the Austrian
route, with somewhat less than 1/2 of the total. Correspondence with Sweden and Turkey was quite
insignificant. (51)
By the end of the 1840's, the postal conventions that Russia concluded with other states had, as
we have seen, established faster and more convenient postal links with the great majority of
Western European cities, laying the groundwork for a worldwide postal union. The next giant step
towards the expansion and facilitation of international postal communications was made in the se-
cond half of the century, with the formation of the Universal Postal Union.



M r

Rosiis ursii sosbypeevzk pchovi oresonensi",in"Pchov-Tlerany Zural,

For the first half of the century there was no great expansion in [the number of types] of postal
correspondence, which types are an indication of a post's flexibility in meeting the demands placed
on it. We have seen that up to the beginning of the century there were altogether three main forms
of correspondence: the letter, the money letter and the package. In the 50-year period we have
just examined, only one new form of mail was added a kind of development in the general
understanding of the term "letter" a letter with documents (later to be designated "insured
letter"). Such documents could be bills of exchange, acknowledgements of debt, letters of receipt
and various monetary papers. In 1807 a higher rate was imposed for a letter with documents. (52)
Up to the end of the 1840's there was also little change in the way mail was sent. [Patrons were]
required to pay weight and insurance rates upon presentation of their letters at a postal establish-
ment. It was not until 1848, with the introduction of "stamped envelopes", that the first mailboxes
appeared. Later these boxes were to play a tremendous role in bringing the Post closer to the peo-
ple. At first it was suggested that the mailboxes be placed only at post offices, but in that same
year the Postal Inspector of the III District (Nizhnii-Novgorod) proposed to put mailboxes at stores
in various parts of provincial cities for the public's convenience. A trustworthy employee would
have to be appointed to take letters from the boxes and deliver them to the post office. (53) Thus
the mailbox became an intermediate point for ordinary correspondence.
The first mailboxes were of very simple construction. On each box there was an inscription
showing the mail's route and purpose of the box: "Only ordinary letters in stamped envelopes may
be put in this box." Below that were short extracts from regulations governing the sending of cor-
respondence in stamped envelopes.
Postal statistics allow us to make some general observations on the spread of postal communica-
tion among various sectors of the populace, depending upon local conditions. The time frame
covered by this essay compels us to limit ourselves to only a few examples pertaining to the end of
the period under consideration.
One of the characteristic features of postal correspondence for this entire period was the
prevalence of official over private mail. The quantitative difference between them did diminish,
although up to the 1850's there was still a highly noticeable gap. In 1850, the Post handled
9,600,170 private letters and 14,817,533 official packets. Totals for all kinds of mail (ordinary,
money letters, insured letters and packages) were: private 12,324,391; official 15,911,895.
A comparison of data on the distribution of correspondence according to distance shows that
both types of mail, private and official, had their "favorite" distances into which the majority of
the mail fell. Up to 500 versts official mail exceeded private by 2 to l; from 500 to 1,000 versts the
two were practically equal, and for distances over 1,000 versts the degree of prevalence of official
mail once again increased. The preponderance of official mail over short distances is explained by
the fact that within this range the greatest amount of mail occurred between provincial and district
The second feature of this period's postal communications was the strongly pronounced urban
character of private correspondence, concentrated in a small number of large cities. About one
fourth of all private mail was accounted for by just two cities, St. Petersburg and Moscow. This
correlation held firm and changed very little during the overall increase in mail volume through the
years. The distribution of correspondence among the other cities was quite consistent with their
economic importance. At mid-century there were 613 cities (provincial capitals, district seats, ports
and demoted towns (district-seat towns that had lost their status as administrative centers)) in Euro-
pean Russia, but of that number no more than 40-45 had any independent economic significance.
If we take not the overall number of items sent but the number per 100 residents, then we obtain
the following figures, which show the intensity of urban correspondence: Rybinsk, a Volga trade
and shipping center, had 1,630 items sent; Gzhatsk, one of the grain-trade centers 570; Tver' and
Novgorod 460; Ekaterinoslav 450; Nizhnii-Novgorod and Odessa 380; Yaroslavl' 240; Tambov
-233, and so on.
Unfortunately, there are no separate statistical data at our disposal for the rural population,
because they used the post offices of their district seats almost exclusively. We can indirectly
evaluate the rural population's role in the general pattern of correspondence by using the distribu-


The first mailbox, 1848.

Old-model mailboxes. (From Pochta i Telegraf...", 1902, p. 75.)


tion of the amount of mail sent in the provinces as a basis. Those provinces with large industrial
cities and populations engaged in various trades held first place in the amount of mail sent. In 1850
only 5 provinces, excluding St. Petersburg and Moscow, achieved amounts over 250,000 letters
-Liflyand, Kiev, Yaroslavl', Tver' and Novgorod, plus Odessa. Seven provinces had between
200-250,000 Vladimir, Ekaterinoslav, Nizhnii-Novgorod, Poltava, Saratov, Khar'kov and Orel. If
we take the number of mailings per 100 residents, then even those provinces with the greatest
amount of correspondence provide very small numbers. In 1848 in Novgorod and Yaroslavl' pro-
vinces there were 32 mailings per 100 inhabitants; in Tver'-23; in Kiev-19; in Vladimir-17, and so on.
The majority of the provinces had from 10 to 15 mailings [per 100] and several even less, for in-
stance, Perm' with 9 and Vyatka with 5. [54]
A comparison of all these data shows once again what significance the city had in the develop-
ment of correspondence and how little the rural population participated in postal communication.
For a comparison of how developed correspondence was among the whole Russian population
and the other states, we must turn to the numbers describing postal correspondence among the in-
habitants of each state. In 1848 there were 21 letters mailed per 100 individuals in Russia. In that
same year, France averaged 346 letters per 100, Prussia 300 and Austria 76.
Both the total number of weekly posts dispatched throughout the entire country and data on the
number of posts arriving in each city will give us some idea of the degree of coverage provided by
the Post to the populace. For the whole country the following were dispatched weekly:

In 1825 In 1850
Heavy posts..................... 13 36
Light posts ............... .... 635 988
Extra posts ............... 21 52
TOTAL: 669 1,076

In 1850 there were postal links between 733 cities, which received the following numbers of
posts: (55)

6 times a week ................. 63 cities
5 times a week ................. 27 cities
4 times a week ................. 86 cities
3 times a week .................... 76 cities
2 times a week ................. 335 cities
Once a week .................. 141 cities
Once every 2 weeks .. 1 city (the Con-
stantinople land post.)
Once a month ...... 3 cities (in Siberia)
Tw ice a year ..................... 2 cities (on

Almost half of all cities [45.5%] had only two mail runs per week; about 1/5 [19.20%] had but one
per week. If the sparsity of settlements in relation to the overall territory is taken into account,
then the poor development of the Post, which served the city and ignored the rest of the country,
becomes more clear.



Postal revenues from dispatch of mail came from two main sources weight-rates and insurance.
Up to 1783 the weight-rate collection was so varied that even the Foreign Affairs Board that super-
vised the Post could not precisely determine the number and magnitude of all the different postal
taxes. These taxes were established following the opening of new post roads and in accordance
with local conditions and expenditures necessary for maintaining postal institutions and payment
of travel allowances. There was the Siberian tax, the Orenburg tax, the Malorossiisk, Smolensk,
Novgorod and Byelorussian taxes, and so on.
A uniform rate for the entire state "to avoid all the inconveniences of paying for letter and
package delivery through the posts and to facilitate accounting" was established by the Ukaz of 14
November 1783: two kopecks for each 100 versts for letters weighing 1 lot or (its equivalent) 3
zolotniks, and 1 kopeck for distances under 100 versts. Packages were paid for by calculating
weight in pounds, just as the letters were by lots, and by distance to the destination.
At the beginning of the XIX century the increase in Postal Department expenditures forced a
general increase in weight-rate charges. The greatest outlay was caused in 1806 by the restoration
of travel allowances for carrying the mail. Of no less significance for the Postal Department's
budget was the transfer of a part of the postal income to the State Treasury. This measure,
adopted at the end of 1806, was taken as a result of growing government expenses in connection
with military campaigns, and it had a great impact on postal economics. On one occasion
1,500,000 rubles were deducted, practically the entire amount of ready cash remaining after ex-
penses had been covered. The law provided for the transfer of all left-over funds in the future to
the State Treasury, on the grounds that postal income "is a part of the State's general economy just
as all other incomes." From that moment on the view of the Post as one of the sources of indirect
revenues was established.
Thus, by 1807 it had proved absolutely necessary to increase postal rates. At the same time the
principle of increasing rates in a straight arithmetical progression by 100-verst increments was
recognized as unfair to correspondence over long distances. Sending a letter weighing one lot from
St. Petersburg to Novgorod cost 3 kopecks by the 1783 rates, while the same letter from St.
Petersburg to Irkutsk cost 1.19 rubles-"ln this case it might be more important to comply with that
regulation which states that all possible efforts should be made to facilitate communications with
far-away cities." It was decided to raise the rates for short distances and lower them for long
distances, once having established the upper cost-per-weight limit for a single piece of mail. In-
stead of a single rate with progressive increases, 31 rates were instituted, from 100 to 3,100 versts.
The cost went up by 2 kopecks every 100 versts from 100-500 versts, and by 1 kopeck (per 100
versts) from 1,500-3,100. The lowest limit, up to 100 versts, was set at 6 kopecks per lot, while the
uppermost was fixed at 50 kopecks for 3,100 versts or more. Another substantial difference in the
new rates was the separation of bills of exchange, letters of receipt and other money documents
from ordinary correspondence. For sending these a double rate was established, using the same
calculations as for ordinary letters.
The new rates were introduced in the middle of 1807. Weight-rate revenues for three years,
before, during and after its introduction (1806-1808) provided the following:
In 1806 744,979.98 rubles were collected.
In 1807 802,618.36 "
In 1808 963,162.30 "
The experience of the next few years showed that calculations predicting a general weight-rate
revenue increase due to the short-distance rate hike (in which the overwhelming majority of cor-
respondence fell) turned out to be absolutely right.
This increase in revenue, achieved by raising the rates, was quickly wiped out by the continuing
fall [in value] of the paper ruble and the difficult straits of state finances. Due to the issue of [more]
paper money, by 1810 the paper ruble's value fell to 20 kopecks silver. At the same time
Napoleon's declaration of an economic blockade against England, the major consumer of Russian


grain and raw materials, sharply curtailed exports. This was a severe blow to the national
economy's general health. Meanwhile, the shattered budget suffered new, extreme expenditures
precipitated by 14 years of constant war. The Napoleonic invasion of Russia and the [subsequent
Russian] advance to Paris finally overtaxed the population's solvency. Along with the fall of the
paper ruble's exchange rate came increasing prices for vital necessities. The state was saved from
total bankruptcy partly by financial aid from England and partly by an advantageous trade tariff.
The Napoleonic invasion and the burdens of war were also reflected in the condition of the
postal relays. The War of 1812 completely disrupted the relays in all the provinces it encompassed.
The population in central Russia was also heavily weighed down with unpaid work obligations.
The beefed-up relay system on those roads connecting the inner regions of the state with the
theater of war beggared the yamshchiki and stationmasters. In 1813 the government was forced to
acknowledge that "the current travel allowances, by their low level in comparison to the present
price increases for vital supplies and other items, are not enough to cover expenses for
maintenance of the posts." In that same year the allowance rates were increased "in order to give
the yamshchiki and stationmasters the means to keep the relays in good repair," followed by an in-
crease in weight-rates for domestic mail.
The weight-rate was doubled using the same distance scale as the 1808 rate. It started with 12
kopecks as the lowest limit (up to 100 versts) and ended with 1 ruble per lot for 3,100 versts or more
as the highest. Weight-rates in those areas where collections were made in silver remained un-
changed. Costs for mailing packages were raised even more. The "1-lot letter = 1 lb. package"
equation was replaced by a "2 lot letter = 1 lb. package" ratio, and for bulky packages, including
trunks with clothing and other light items, the charges were doubled. Shipment of coins also cost
double the rate.
Increasing weight-rates by 100% didn't produce the expected results, and it led to a diminution
in the amount of mail sent, especially packages.
In 1818 1,984,146.66 rubles in currency bills were collected.
In 1819 2,948,188.00 rubles in currency bills were collected.
In 1820 2,786,495.00 rubles in currency bills were collected.
The new rates were introduced on 1 January 1819. Although revenues for that year showed an in-
crease, the next year they fell off.
In 1822 the double and quadruple charges for packages were abolished. The rate for ordinary
letters was left unchanged.
The next rearrangement of postal rates was made in 1830, with the aim of simplifying the weight-
rate levy by reducing the number of distance categories. Instead of a progressive rate increase
every 100 versts, a progressive rate of 10 kopecks every 200 versts was adopted (later it was upped
to every 300 versts.) For distances of 1,800 versts or more the sliding scale was decreased to 2
kopecks. The upper limit was set up at 2,800 versts, after which the weight-rate, equalling 1 ruble,
didn't change. The following 12 progressive increases were introduced to replace the previous 31:
From 100 to 300 versts ................................. 20 kopecks (paper)
From 300 to 600 versts ................................ 30 kopecks (paper)
From 600 to 800 versts ................................ 40 kopecks (paper)
From 800 to 1100 versts ........ .............. 50 kopecks (paper)
From 1100 to 1300 versts ............................. 60 kopecks (paper)
From 1300 to 1600 versts ............................. 70 kopecks (paper)
From 1600 to 1800 versts .......................... 80 kopecks (paper)
From 1800 to 2100 versts .......................... 90 kopecks (paper)
From 2100 to 2300 versts .......................... 94 kopecks (paper)
From 2300 to 2600 versts ............................. 96 kopecks (paper)
From 2600 to 2800 versts ............................. 98 kopecks (paper)
From 2800 up .......................... .............. 100 kopecks paper
With a further simplification of the rates by means of decreasing the number of categories, the
way was opened for the establishment of one rate for all distances. This became feasible after the
financial reforms of 1839-1841, which eliminated the difference in exchange rates between paper


and metal currency. In 1839 a weight rate with only 5 parts to the scale was introduced, with the
aim of converting all government revenues to silver. These 5 parts altered the weight rates for
distances of 1 to 1800 versts, beginning at 5 kopecks and ending at 25 kopecks with 5-kopeck in-
crements (5, 10, 15, 20 and 25 kopecks).
Finally, following the example of other western European states in their postal rates, in 1834 they
decided to go to a single rate regardless of distance. Calculations made on the basis of the quantity
of correspondence and the amount of postal revenue for the previous years showed that the
average cost of an ordinary letter was close to 10 kopecks silver. Actually, in 1841 the Post ac-
cepted 7,200,000 lots [in weight] worth of ordinary letters, the weight-rate revenues from which
equalled 740,000 rubles silver. The average cost, however, turned out to be somewhat higher than
had previously been supposed -10.3 kopecks. But a perfectly correct assumption had been made
that lowering charges for middle and long distances [where the rate had earlier been set at 15, 20
and 25 kopecks] would stimulate correspondence over those distances and increase postal
revenue. Observation of the quantity of letters sent at different weight-rates led to the same con-
clusions. In 1841 2,565,000 letters were sent at the 10-kopeck rate, whereas 682,000 had been sent
at the 20-kopeck rate and only 203,000 at the 25-kopeck one. The 10-kopeck rate alone produced
289,000 rubles silver, more than did the 20- and 25-kopeck rates combined (224,000 rubles silver).
Thus, just the 10-kopeck charge produced the greatest weight-rate revenue. Only those people
ing letters over short distances (up to 300 versts) suffered from the establishment of a general
10-kopeck levy for any distance. In their case, there was no danger of a sharp reduction in cor-
respondence, as it was conducted over short distances for the most part by the more well-to-do of
the populace. Peasants who had left in search of work in other provinces and cities corresponded
over distances that usually exceeded 300 versts. Finally, the attempt to increase postal com-
munications of a trade or commercial character, usually encompassing a vast area, was also an
argument for a rate decrease to 10 kopecks.
The uniform 10-kopeck rate was introduced on 1 January 1844. Statistics over the next few years
confirmed the accuracy of the assumptions made. How the introduction of lowered rates affected
postal communications over distances greater than 1,000 versts can be seen from the following
In the first half of 1843, 683,291 letters were sent.
In the first half of 1844, 857,584 letters were sent.
In the first half of 1845, 1,064,050 letters were sent.
The increase in long-distance correspondence in the first half of 1845 versus that for same period
in 1844 totalled 55%. The general increase in mail after introduction of the new rate began to
reach about 10%, whereas before it had been no more than about 4% per year.
One of the most immediate results of the establishment of the uniform rate for any distance was
the introduction in 1848 of "stamped envelopes" for inter-city correspondence. Each envelope's
cost was equal to the fixed weight-rate (10 kopecks per lot) with an additional 1 kopeck charged for
manufacture of the envelope itself. The stamped envelopes were issued in three forms 10, 20 and
30 kopecks. Their use wasn't mandatory for the public. In spite of the convenience of not having
to pay in person and the availability of mailboxes, the use of these envelopes spread very slowly.
In 1849 only 11 of every 100 letters sent were mailed in stamped envelopes, and in 1850 17.
However, the significance of the envelopes, which prepared the way for a switch to postage stamps
as payment for the weight-rate, was very great. The second part of postal revenues consisted of in-
surance fees, collected for sending valuables by mail.
The 1V% insurance charge for sending gold and silver money and state currency bills (from
which the term "half-percent charge" was derived) was first introduced in 1783. The rate was fixed
according to a computation that made the amount collected more or less correspond to the Postal
Department's expenditures in recovering losses [of valuables]. In 1795 the half-percent insurance
charge began to be collected from the declared value of the packaged items. In 1807 the insurance
rate was made dependent upon the distance: the previous half-percent charge was retained for
distances up to 500 versts; over that the cost was 1%.
Compared with the costs attendant to sending money by means other than the Post, the charges


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A receipt for an insured money package from Riga to St. Petersburg, 19 March 1807. The sender presented 5,500 paper rubles in a
package to the Riga provincial post office, whereupon the transaction was entered in a logbook issued by the St. Petersburg GPO, and
signed by the provincial postmaster.



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A receipt for money mail. The text reads, "Receipt/Received in the Imperial Moscow Post Office/from the Riga
merchant Andrei/Timenkov in Kamyshin/to Grigorii Shaposhnikov/eight thousand five hundred rubles./June 17
1831./Dispatcher (signature)" (From "Pochta i Telegraf...", 1902, p. 84.)


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levied for postal insurance were very high. The Commercial Bank accepted transfers of capital at a
1/4 % rate. Sending money by private means (courier packages or bills of exchange) cost even less.
True, in these cases there wasn't as much security as the Post could provide, but the long-
established habit of using these methods, plus the reluctance to pay high insurance charges,
resulted in a huge amount of income slipping away from the Post every year. And it escaped not
just the Post but the transfer operations of the banks as well. At the same time, experience had
shown that the likelihood of losing money in transit depended very little on the distance it travell-
ed. Meanwhile, the single insurance rate weighed more heavily on big capital, which upset one of
the main tasks of the postal money order expediting the circulation of money in the country. In
sending 1,000 rubles and 1,000,000 rubles over a distance of 500 versts, one verst cost 1 kopeck for
the first amount, 10 rubles for the second. These considerations convinced the Postal Department
to switch to a different insurance principal: not by distance, but by amount remitted. The follow-
ing 5 insurance rates, tied to the amount of capital, were adopted in 1843:

Amount of capital in rubles: Insurance rate for any Remarks:
Silver Paper distance:
Up to 300 Up to 1000 1 % For simplicity in calcu-
300-600 1000-2000 For silver, 3 rubles silver; lasting fractional
for paper currency, 10 ages for the second and
paper rubles. fourth categories, insur-
600-1500 2000-5000 /2 % ance fees were not col-
1500-3000 5000-10000 For silver, 7.50 rubles elected by percentage,
silver; for paper currency, but at the established
25 paper rubles. rate.
Over 3000 Over 10000 /4 %

A single insurance rate of 1 % of declared value was established for all packages. In conclusion,
we present some data which illustrate the growth of weight and insurance rates over the decades

Year Weight-rate Insurance rate: Total:
(in silver rubles) (in silver rubles)
1802 609,976 503,144 1,113,120
1812 290,624 828,937 1,119,561
1822 770,952 1,265,111 2,036,063
1832 1,167,662 1,417,485 2,585,147
1842 1,475,022 1,879,866 3,354,888
1852 2,235,103 1,937,533 4,172,636

Over the course of 50 years (1820-1852), postal revenues from weight and insurance rates increas-
ed almost 3% times over. This growth in revenues is one of the best indicators of postal com-
munications development in the country. (56)




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