Sharon OJanpa Mackey, FHM Staff Reporter

kaplanThe Finnish Heritage Museum hosted Mr. Steve Kaplan at the February 11, 2019, meeting of museum members, guests, and friends. Mr. Kaplan came in from Beachwood, Ohio, to talk to us about the postal system, particularly the ring stationery, that was in use in Finland during the Russian rule of that country. The meeting room was filled to capacity for this program.

Mr. Kaplan has collected stamps for several years, especially those from the Middle East and Malaysia. A few years ago, he was at a stamp show sitting with and talking to two judges. He told them he was getting bored with stamps from that area; everything he had was either in Hebrew, Arabic, or English. He was looking for something different and more of a puzzle. Both judges said, at the same time – Finland. He would have to become familiar with three new languages, two different currencies, and two different weight scales. Both judges predicted he would go nuts attempting to understand it. With that as a challenge, he had to try. And that’s how he became fascinated by ring stationery.

After a series of military defeats, Finland had been ceded to Russia by Sweden in 1809, and took the status of a grand duchy. Tsar Alexander II was assassinated in 1881, and soon after, Russia set out to put an end to any special rights that had been allowed in its western empire. The Finnish postal system was targeted to be absorbed into the Russian system.

In May, 1881, Russia sent out an order that Finland must use postage stamps and postal stationery of Russian deign, printed in denominations of Russian currency. Each piece had to have identifying rings, one in each corner, which indicated that they were to be credited to Finland. These ring stamps and stationery were binding until May 14, 1911.

These stamps and stationery were sold only in Finland, but were legal throughout the Russian empire. The purely Russia stamps were also valid in Finland, but weren’t sold there until 1899 or 1900.

An interesting note is based on the calendars used by each of these countries: Finland used the Gregorian calendar; Russia used the Julian calendar. There was a 13 day difference between the two calendars, which meant the date one received a card or piece of mail could be 13 days before it was mailed.

None of the ring stationery can be considered common today. It was issued in limited quantities, and much of it was destroyed, unused, in 1911.

As Mr. Kaplan discussed the history and life of the ring stationery, he presented a slide show exhibiting various cards and letters using this type of stationery and postage.

At the conclusion of the presentation, Mr. Kaplan answered several questions from the audience. After a round of applause, museum president Lasse Hiltunen invited everyone to enjoy some refreshments and come back together for the business meeting. Refreshments were provided by Jane Hiltunen and Barb Ollila.

Don’t forget to check out all our upcoming meetings and other doings on our website: finnishheritagemuseum.org.

Text © Sharon Mackey, Photos © Jane Hiltunen 2019










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