To my cover-exchanging friends, please try as much as possible to
as these give a more personal touch to the cover
the Philippine postal service damages the cover with scribbling that highly devalues the aesthetic value of the cover, which is what I am after
or at least same themes when sending covers, but it is okay if this is not possible or if this would be expensive, and
not too small, but maybe around 4"x6" or something like that; big envelopes are not very attractive unless they have many stamps.
Thank you!


Back After Two and a Half Years of Silence

So, it's been quite a while since my last post in January 2013. So much has happened in my life, although not much has changed. Since then, I have been to a number of places, a number of which have, as the cliché expression goes, taken my breath away. I have also been to a number of countries from which receiving a modern cover of good quality is not so common.

One of my travel rituals, as you may have already guessed, is sending myself covers. I always try my best to frank them with stamps with my topics or, if that's not possible, with the most visually appealing stamps I find available at the particular post office I happened to stumble into. These covers chronicle my travels in a way the brings together two of my main interests, travel and philately, in a very personal way.

Starting with this post, I will be sharing scans of some of the covers I have been sending personally during my travels. I will be starting with my most recent trip, which was to the Western Balkans this summer.

I am quite satisfied (perhaps proud might even be the better word) of the outcome of most of these covers. I have managed to frank most of the covers myself, asking the postal clerks in the nicest way possible to hand over their stampers. It was often a silly affair, me having to pantomime stamping the envelope since sometimes they didn't speak English and I didn't speak the local language!

On this trip, I managed to send covers from Albania, Macedonia, Montenegro, and Bosnia and Herzegovina. I also went to Greece and Austria on this trip, but felt these countries were not to uncommon, so I did not send from there.

Notice how mercilessly the German postal authorities slapped their tracking labels onto the registered letters, sometimes even directly on the stamps! In some cases, where it was still possible or perhaps implorable to do so. Thanks, Deutsche Post! (smirks)


German Socialism on Stamps

Here are some interesting covers from the German Democratic Republic, commonly referred to in English as "East Germany," and in Germany as the "DDR" (Deutsche Demokratische Republik). I like them very much because they are a combination of two themes I find very interesting: national symbols (flags and coats of arms) and idealistic socialism.

This first cover celebrates the 30th anniversary of the DDR, which began operating as a state with Russian support on 7 October 1949. The 10 Mark stamps seems to have the theme of "youth and the future," and the teens in the depiction seem to be very happy. The 5 Mark stamp seems to celebrate construction, engineering, and the proletariat workforce. The man is also smiling in the drawing. The 20 Mark stamp also seems to celebrate the working class, but it might also be the government since the man up front has the DDR coat of arms on his hat while the man behind him has what look like the Soviet red star. It's interesting how you cannot really tell if these are just ordinary class workers or government officials. I suppose the government did this on purpose. The two guys on that stamp have the most positive expressions out of all. The 15 Mark stamp probably pays tribute to the role of the armed forces. The soldiers look more serious, but are still smiling a teeny bit.

One thing I like most about this cover is that it was sent on 2 October, 1990, which is the day that the German Democratic Republic (DDR) and the Federal Republic of Germany (Bundesrepublik Deutschland) were reunited 5 days short of 43 years since the DDR oficially became a state!

Note also that this cover was sent to West Germany, to a place called Waldbronn-Etzenrot, a place near Karlsruhe in Baden-Wuerttenmberg, in the South.

This next cover was sent to the same address in West Germany almost exactly a year before the one above. The cancellation commemorates the 100th anniversary of the post office building at Bad Langensalza, a small town of about 20,000 people which is located near the what was border with the West.

Although it was sent one year earlier, the stamps were actually issued 10 years later than the ones in the other cover, and the set celebrates 40 years of the DDR. The themes of the designs are the same, but the characters drawn are not as noticeably happy as the ones in the other set. Also, note the computer in the background of the 25 Mark stamp. The DDR was the most developed of all the socialist states in Eastern Europe, and the use of computer technology certainly attests to that.

This third cover was not sent to the West and was not sent on an important date, but I like it because of its theme, postal history, which is also a favorite. Here we have two sets of a 4v set on postal boxes throughout history. 

The funny thing is that the cover was sent Express ("Eilsendung"), but it was sent within the same town, Werdau. Did mail within the same city take more than a day, and is that why it was sent express? Or was this express service used to make sure that it arrived on the same day? Curious.


Nationalism in Soviet Union Philately

Here are some Soviet covers which I acquired while in Azerbaijan. It was a great pleasure for me when I saw them, and I grabbed them on the spot because they are exactly my theme: flags, coats of arms, and patriotism.

Of course, patriotism in the USSR, especially in the "satellite" members (a.k.a. all of the member states besides Russia) is not an easy topic as this "patriotism" was imposed on all peoples across the whole soviet realm by the Soviet government and did not really rise from the hearts of the people. What I mean is, in communist societies, national identities were (and still are, read: China and its westernmost provinces) oppressed and everyone is bunched up together to form one homogeneous "identity" that is strictly defined by the state.

Oftentimes, the culture and language of the nation to whom the majority of those in power belong is considered the "standard identity," so to speak. The repercussions of this imposition of culture and ideology are very powerful. For example, in most of the ex-Soviet states today, Russian is still widely spoken and understood. In some societies, such as Kazakhstan, there have been recent campaigns aimed at promoting the national language and reverting to speaking Kazakh once more. Of course, this can only be achieved up to a certain point because the effect that the Russian language has had on the local language is indeed indelible.

For instance, in Azerbaijan most people converse with each other in Azerbaijani, although there are still a few instances when you will ethnic Azeris who grew up in Azerbaijan and yet are very bad or do not even speak in Azerbaijani! However, because the modern world with its modern systems and modern machinery developed when Azerbaijan was under the Soviets, many words, such as "xolodinik" for refrigerator and "propka" for traffic still remain in everyday use. Also, things such as "smetana" (sour cream), "zakanoe" (registered letter), and "mashin" (car) are still alive and kicking in Azerbaijani vocabulary. Of course, there are some instances when translations into the national language are used ( such as "sifaishli" for registered mail), but there are rare - and usually official - occasions.

The imposition of culture and language is certainly not limited to the case of the USSR. While the Spaniards did indeed impose their heritage onto the Filipinos during the 333 years of its reign in the Philippines, at present it is now the Tagalog language and culture which is being imposed on the different peoples who populate the islands that belong to the state. It is because the seat of government is in Manila, where the language spoken is Tagalog, that the national language officially called "Filipino" is basically 90-95% Tagalog. I have a feeling that the same goes for Germany. I live in Bavaria, where they speak Bavarian, which is similar to standard German, but also quite different in many ways. However, the official language on all documents and on the signage here is standard German nonetheless.

This first cover celebrates 50 years of the Turkmen Socialist Republic as well as the 50th anniversary of the Turkmen socialist party.

The theme of this second cover has little to do with communism and it seems that  it is celebrating something along the lines of 100 years of song or singing in Estonia.

This one celebrates 50 years of the Moldavian Socialist Republic and the Moldavian socialist party as well.

This cover commemorates 50 years of the "Great October," also known as "Red October." For some reason, it mentioned Tajikistan on it, but I am not quite sure why. Perhaps this issue was commissioned by the Tajik government? The FDC cancellation does indicated Dushanbe, which is the capital of the country.

The following is a set of 6 FDCs of stamps celebrating 50 years of the establishment of the Soviet Union. I particularly like this kind of socialist propaganda material because they try to depict that everything is well in the "nation," and that everyone is enjoying life and everything is productive. I guess it is this twisted sense of reality and this effort to pretend that everything is going as planned that appeals to me most. It is not that I agree with the idealism, it is just that I find it amusing how some people can be blinded by ideas.