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USSR Stamps

Airmail Stamps of 1935-1937


Soviet Steamship "Chelyuskin" stuck in the Arctic Icepack
During the Winter of 1933-1934


The commemorative airmail USSR stamps of 1935 to 1937 feature a famous air-rescue, a famous first flight, and an aviation exhibition.

A sea-going expedition during late 1933 and early 1934 was launched to determine the possibility of commercial travel by a non-icebreaker from Murmansk, on the Arctic Ocean, to Vladivostok, on the Pacific Ocean. 

The Soviet commercial steamship "Chelyuskin" left Murmansk, along with a crew of 111, on August 2, 1933.  It became trapped in an Arctic ice field during September 1933, and it began to drift along with the ice.  The relentless Arctic ice pack eventually crushed the hull of the steamship, near the Bering Strait, and it sank on February 13, 1934.

Future voyages would be successful in completing the trip over what is called the Northern Sea Route, but this one ended badly.  This incident did result in triggering an international air-rescue operation of epic proportions.

The aircraft pilots that took part in the air-rescue operation were the first people to receive the newly established Order of Hero of the USSR.  Two American aircraft mechanics, that took part in the operation, were awarded the Order of Lenin.



The ten pictorial USSR stamps shown above were issued on January 25, 1935 to commemorate the Aerial Rescue of the Steamship Chelyuskin Crew, during the Winter of 1933-1934.

The designs of these airmail USSR stamps feature important people of the aerial rescue operation.  Most of the stamps feature photographs of the pilots, along with the inscription "ГЕРОИ CCCP" or "Hero of the USSR", indicating the highest order for bravery in the USSR that was awarded to them.

The catalog attributes and descriptions are as follows:

  • 01 K.  (Sc. #C58) - Vladimir Voronin (1890-1952), the Captain of the Chelyuskin, and a view of the Chelyuskin trapped in the Arctic ice pack.  He ordered the crew to leave the doomed ship and to build a camp on the ice pack.
  • 03 K.  (Sc. #C59) - Professor Otto Y. Schmidt (1891-1956), the Soviet scientist, mathematician, geophysicist, statesman, and Arctic explorer, and a view of "Camp Schmidt", the camp that he and Captain Voronin established.  He was the scientific leader of the expedition.
  • 05 K.  (Sc. #C60) - Anatoly V. Lyapidevsky (1908-1983) and an AHT-4 aircraft.  Lyapidevsky would eventually attain the rank of Major General in the Soviet Air Force.
  • 10 K.  (Sc. #C61) - Sigizmund A. Levanevsky (1902-1937) and a Fleetster 20-A (American) aircraft.  He was killed in a failed first flight attempt from Moscow to the USA via the North Pole.
  • 15 K.  (Sc. #C62) - Mavriky G. Slepnyov (1896-1965) and a Fleetster 20-A aircraft.  Slepnyov would eventually attain the rank of Colonel in the Soviet Air Force.
  • 20 K.  (Sc. #C63) - Ivan V. Doronin (1903-1951) and a Junkers W-34 aircraft.  Doronin would eventually attain the rank of Colonel in the Soviet Air Force.
  • 25 K.  (Sc. #C64) - Mikhail V. Vodopianov (1899-1980) and a Polikarpov R-5 aircraft.  Vodopianov would eventually attain the rank of Major General in the Soviet Air Force.
  • 30 K.  (Sc. #C65) - Vasily S. Molokov (1895-1982) and a Polikarpov R-5 aircraft.  Molokov would eventually attain the rank of Major General in the Soviet Air Force.
  • 40 K.  (Sc. #C66) - N. P. Kamanin (1908-1982) and a Polikarpov R-5 aircraft.  Kamanin would eventually attain the rank of Colonel General in the Soviet Air Force and become the director of Cosmonaut training for the Soviet space program.
  • 50 K.  (Sc. #C67) - Polar Bears at the deserted polar camp.


In reading the overprint on the following stamp, I'm sure that all my Russian stamp collecting visitors have been studying their Cyrillic Alphabet and know exactly what this word is ..... Сан Франциско ..... San Francisco!



The 10 K. airmail USSR stamp shown above was overprinted and surcharged on August 3, 1935, for the Moscow to San Francisco flight attempt.

The flight crew of Sigizmund A. Levanevsky (1902-1937), Georgy Baydukov (1907-1996), and Victor Levchenko took off from Moscow in a Tupolev ANT-25 aircraft.  Their flight path was to proceed northward, over the North Pole, and to fly down the Western Coast of the United States to San Francisco.  The flight was aborted, due to an engine problem, and they made an emergency landing near Novgorod, USSR, after flying a distance of only 1,200 miles.

The catalog attributes are as follows:

  • 01 R. on 10 K.  (1935 - Large "Ф" - Sc. #C68) - Dark Brown.
  • 01 R. on 10 K.  (1935 - Small "Ф" - Sc. #C68b) - Dark Brown.


1935 Inverted Overprint
Large Letter "Ф" in Inscription

1935 Inverted Overprint
Small Letter "ф" in Inscription


Two of the rarest USSR stamps are shown above.  The overprint and surcharge are inverted, and the stamps exist with both sizes of the "Ф" in the inscription.

The catalog attributes are as follows:

  • 01 R. on 10 K.  (1935 - Inverted - Large "Ф" - Sc. #C68a) - Dark Brown.
  • 01 R. on 10 K.  (1935 - Inverted - Small "Ф" - Sc. #C68c) - Dark Brown.


The 2016 Scott catalog value for #68a is $100,000.00, and the 2016 Scott catalog value for #68c is $600,000.00.  I found a block of four, containing both overprint types, on the internet, and its upcoming auction realization is estimated at almost three million dollars.




The seven airmail USSR stamps shown above were issued on November 15, 1937 to publicize the Jubilee Aviation Exhibition, held in Moscow, November 15-20, 1937.

The catalog attributes and descriptions are as follows:

  • 10 K.  (Sc. #C69) - Yakolev YA-7 sport aircraft.
  • 20 K.  (Sc. #C70) - Tupolev ANT-9 passenger aircraft.
  • 30 K.  (Sc. #C71) - Tupolev ANT-6 heavy bomber.
  • 40 K.  (Sc. #C72) - Chyetverikov OSGA-101 submarine borne amphibious aircraft.  Only two were ever built.
  • 50 K.  (Sc. #C73) - Tupolev ANT-4 bomber and transport aircraft.
  • 80 K.  (Sc. #C74) - Tupolev ANT-20 "Maxim Gorky" eight-engine transport and propaganda aircraft.
  • 01 R.  (Sc. #C75) - Tupolev ANT-14 "Pravda" five-engine transport and propaganda aircraft.

Vertical pairs, imperforate between, exist of the 30 K., 40 K., and 50 K. denominations.  They are expensive and seldom seen in the philatelic marketplace.



The imperforate USSR souvenir sheet shown above (Sc. #C75a) was issued on November 15, 1937 for the Jubilee Aviation Exhibition.

The souvenir sheet features four imperforate examples of the 1 Ruble denomination stamp.





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USSR Stamps - Airmail Stamps of 1935-1937






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