|Scott #41 (Colnect.com)|
The above stamp, Scott 41, first issued May 14, 1889, face value 4 kopecks, is typical of these issues. Note the background pattern of intersecting lines, which was an anti-forgery device known as "burelage."
|Tsar Alexander II. Scott 89 (first issued Jan. 2, 1913)|
Tsar Alexander II was a reform-minded ruler who is best known for his role in freeing the serfs. Another reform of his was setting up semi-democratic local governments called "zemstvos" (Ru: земство) , from the Russian word zemlya meaning "land, territory."
The imperial post typically ran only to the larger towns in any particular region, leaving the rural areas unserved. For this reason, the zemstvos were authorized to set up their own local postal systems, and even issue their own stamps, provided those stamps did not appear to be copies of stamps issued by the imperial post.
In the United States collectors often fall into a habit called "collecting to the catalog." This means they seek stamps listed in Scotts the premier North American stamp catalog. Stamps that aren't listed aren't collected. Except for the United States, Scott does not list local stamps, including zemstvo issues.
Not listing local issues is simply an editorial decision. Local stamps were often fully authorized by government authorities and valid for postage and actually used on mail. There over 3,000 zemstvo issues, so one can see the justification for the Scott decision to omit them.
A few of the zemstvo issues are shown below. You can see what collectors might be missing by "collecting to the catalog." With only a little study it is easy to read the few Russian words on the stamps.
|Tikhvin, 1886 (from Ebay).|
|Vetluga (from Ebay)|
|Yelets (from Ebay)|
|Wendon, 1880 issue (from Ebay).|
The Bolsheviks abolished the zemstvos and their postal systems after they assumed power in 1917, but a 2015 Russian stamp commemorating the zemstvo posts is a testament to how far the present Russian government has rejected (up to certain limits) the policies of the former Communist regime.