Many of the postage stamps of Poland, issued during the 20th and 21st Centuries, commemorate the thousand year history of this nation and its struggle for survival against its European neighbors.
1,000th Anniversary of Poland
1,000th Anniversary of Poland
Until the later part of the 18th Century, the Kingdom of Poland was one of the largest kingdoms in Europe. The Kingdom of Poland was conquered and partitioned between the Prussian, Austrian, and Russian Empires. By the end of the 18th Century, Poland no longer existed, and it would remain absent from the map of Europe for more than a century.
Much of the last 200 years have been a never ending struggle for the Polish people to regain their national identity and to preserve their cultural heritage. These events have been well documented by the 20th Century stamps of Poland, especially the struggle of the ethnic Polish population of Eastern Europe to overcome the brutality and attempted annihilation inflicted on them during two devastating world wars.
Stamps of Poland re-appeared in 1918. In the aftermath of World War I, the Treaty of Versailles dismantled the German and Austrian Empires. The former Polish territories controlled by the German (Prussian), Austrian, and Russian Empires, since the beginning of the 19th Century, were used to create the new Republic of Poland. There was renewed optimism for the Polish people and the new republic, but it would not last long.
In 1939, Nazi Germany invaded the Republic of Poland. The former republic became a province of the Greater Third Reich, and once again, it ceased to exist as a sovereign nation. During the six years of German rule in Poland, the Nazis attempted to either expel or exterminate the entire ethnic Polish population. This resulted in unbelievable atrocities that have been well documented on the commemorative postage stamps of Poland throughout the later half of the 20th Century.
In 1945, after the defeat of Nazi Germany, the nation of Poland was restored. A Communist People's Republic was established, based on the model of the Soviet Union. Over the succeeding decades, Poland had its share of political and social problems, but the country has managed to grow strong and survive into the 21st Century. Today, Poland, again a republic and now a member of the European Union, is a prosperous nation with a thriving economy.
Pope John Paul II
Battle of Raclawice
Since the first Republic of Poland stamps of 1918, about 4,500 different postage stamps have been issued, and this number doesn't include local stamps, special issues, or foreign occupation stamps. Collecting Polish stamps and historical ephemera can offer many years of enjoyment and can result in a very impressive looking collection. The subject matter of Polish postage stamps also offers many different thematic collecting possibilities.
The focus of this category will be the issues of the Republic of Poland and the People's Republic of Poland. The only exception is the review of the Issue of 1860, which appears further below. Reviews of the postage stamps, as well as occasional historical and thematic articles, will eventually appear in the page link section at the right.
Foreign occupation issues will be found in the Germany and Austria categories of this website.
Illustrating and describing ALL the stamps of modern Poland is far beyond the scope and capability of this website. Fortunately for everyone, someone has already done that. Here is a link to an excellent English-language Dutch website, specializing in the stamps of Poland.
My only reference for the stamps of Poland is the Scott Standard Postage
Stamp Catalog, and for the specialist, that can be extremely
inadequate. There are many varieties of early Polish stamps, with some
of them being quite rare. For the specialist in this area, either the
Michel catalog for Poland or the Fischer specialized catalog would be
much more appropriate. The Fischer catalog is in Polish, but the
dedicated philatelist should be able to figure out the Polish language
philatelic terminology with a little effort. Here is an eBay link to
sellers offering the Fischer catalog.
After the defeat of Napoleon Bonaparte in 1813, the Congress of Vienna created a new Kingdom of Poland or Congress Poland (Russian Poland) out of the former Duchy of Warsaw, and it also established the Free City of Krakow. Congress Poland was put under the control of the Russian Empire. Though the Congress Poland was theoretically considered a kingdom, its ruler was actually the Russian Tsar. The postal service was initially autonomous, but in 1851, it was put under the control of the Russian Post Office Department in St. Petersburg.
The 10 Kop. denomination definitive postage stamp shown above was issued on January 1, 1860 by the Congress Poland. The overall design of the stamp is very similar to the contemporary Russian Imperial definitive postage stamps, but the center features the Congress Poland coat of arms.
These new stamps were issued without the approval of the Russian Imperial Postal Service in St. Petersburg, but they were tolerated, and they were allowed to be used on letter mail within the Congress Poland and to the Russian Empire. Postage for all foreign letters still had to be paid in cash, and the envelopes were required to be unstamped. After 1865, only Russian Imperial stamps were valid for use by the Congress Poland.
This was the only Polish postage stamp issued during the 19th Century. Postage stamps of Poland would not appear again, until the end of World War I in 1918.
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