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Latvia – The Liberation of Kurzeme

Every stamp has a story I recently researched four stamps which were part of a set in my collection from Latvia. The stamps depicted a warrior with sword and shield, slaying a dragon. The picture I initially assumed was St George slaying the dragon but this turned out to be incorrect.

Latvia-16-12-1919.1 Latvia-16-12-1919.1

The stamps were issued in December 1919 to commemorate the defeat of the joint Russian-German forces, the so called "West Russian Army" under the command of Colonel Pavel Bermont-Avalov, and liberating the province of Kurzeme (Courland).

The Bermont-Avalov forces, the dragon in this case, moved against Riga on October 8th, 1919, and reached the Daugava River, the Latvians, the warrior, defended the city from the right bank. French and British warships bombarded the Bermont forces on October 15th, and on November 3rd the Latvians began to counterattack. By November 10th the Bermont Army had retreated to Jelgava and was subsequently evacuated to Germany, hence the warrior killing the dragon.

The designer of the stamps was Rihards Karlis Valdemars Zarins (1869 -1939), a prominent Latvian graphic artist. He graduated in 1895 from the Stieglitz Central School for Technical Drawing in St Petersburg and went on to further studies in Berlin, Munich, Vienna, where he studied lithography, and then Paris, where he further developed his skills in watercolour and pastels.

In 1899 he was employed by the Russian Imperial Printing Office in St. Petersburg for 20 years, acting as technical director from 1905. In 1919, he returned to newly independent Latvia where he was appointed director of the government printing house. He held that position for over 14 years and retired at the beginning of 1934. During his career he designed many stamps of the Russian Empire, Soviet Russia, Belarusian People’s Republic, and Latvia. I look forward to identifying more.

The set consists of four denominations: 10 kap; 25 Kap; 35 Kap; 1 Rublis. The impression of the stamp is 25 x 37mm and the perforated stamp size is approximately. 29 x 41mm.

Denomination, Date of issue, Quantities issued, Quantity sold, Surcharge, Date of issue, Quantity,
10 Kap., December 16th 1919, 2996280, 2014530, 2 Rubli, February 11 1921, 981750,

25 Kap. December 23rd. 1919 3,007,515 1,519,653 2 Rubli February 8th, 1921 1,488,800
35 Kap. January 5th, 1920 2,998,200 691,635 1 Rublis December 15th, 1920 1,306,980
1 Rublis January 5th, 1920 1,005,290 all sold

It was during my research I came across a website that suggested that these stamps were abundantly forged by the Estonian forgers Oswald Siimson and Herbert Kull. There is a simple method to identify the forgeries in that the genuine stamp does not have a pronounced ‘Y’ shape in the crease of the arm holding the shield or an inverted ‘V’ shape in the crease of the leg.

I looked closely at my stamps pictured and I realise that they are indeed all forgeries!

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