Category: 1918-1940 Postals
The Riga Liberation issue of 1919
These stamps were issued to commemorate the liberation of Riga on May 22nd, 1919 from Soviet Latvian forces, which had occupied the capital since January 3rd, 1919.
The child shown in the picture is meant to represent the town of Riga, returning to "Mother Latvia". In the background the silhouette of Riga looking from the left bank of the Daugava river is shown. The set consists of three stamps of identical design. The stamps were printed in Liepaja by the G.D. Meyer printing work. Designer of Stamp: Julius Veibig.
The stamps were valid for postage until May 1st, 1922.
The historical background of this issue is very confusing, and historical sources are contradictory. The stamps are listed in all catalogues as regular commemoratives but actually they were issued under circumstances overshadowed by military-political intrigues of German interests against national Latvians in Liepaja, and by no means can be considered as definitives. Most covers and cancellations are of philatelic nature despite their appearance as regular items of mail. The most plausible version of the historical background is presented here:
By mid-January 1919 the German troops, as well as the national Latvian Government of Ulmanis with the nucleus of the future army under Colonel Kalpaks had retreated to a small bridgehead around Liepaja, having halted the advance of the Soviet Latvian troops at the Venta river. On April 16th a detachment of the German forces in Liepaja with the intention to eliminate the Ulmanis government, disarmed the small Latvian force, and on April 26th appointed the pro-German Latvian pastor Andrievs Niedra prime minister of ta shadow cabinet. The Ulmanis cabinet became refugees on the merchant ship SARATOV under British protection. In order to promote the authority of the Niedra government the first national Latvian banknote - 1 Rublis blue - was issued and on June 7th the Riga Liberation postage stamps. Occasionally June 15 is given as the date of issue, but regular mail (not cancelled to order) is known prior to that date, as early as June 7th.
On June 3rd, Niedra arrived with his cabinet in Riga and "ruled" there until June 26th. Ulmanis regained power in Liepaja on June 27th, and returned on the ship SARATOV to Riga with his cabinet on July 8th, 1919.
The stamps on honeycomb paper and the 1 Rublis banknotes were by then in circulation, and in order to legalize the stamps the Ulmanis government later published an order to legalize the stamps. The Ulmanis government later published an order that they were issued on July 24th, 1919. In fact, however, this order was primarily to cover a second issue on perlure paper, but because the "Niedra issue" was printed using the same stones the order legalized automatically the original issue of June 7th. Also the printing ink differs between the tow printings. The Niedra issue was printed with aniline, slightly water-soluble ink, whereas the stamps on pelure paper have fugitive ink. The latter obviously were issued on or just before July 24th.
The situation regarding the 1 Rublis banknote was quite similar: the printing was continued under the Ulmanis government for the same stone, but now the color was green.
In the course of inflation the need for Rubli stamps became acute, and the remaining stocks of the 35 Kapeikas stamps on paper with honeycomb watermarks was overprinted with the new denomination of 2 Rubli in black.
The stamps was issued on September 27th, 1920, and was valid for postage till May 1st 1922.