A is for Aden and Z is for Zanzabar


A is for Aden and Z is for Zanzibar... Now what is between? For the world wide classical era philatelist and stamp collector, a country specific philatelic survey is offered with two albums: Big Blue, aka Scott International Part 1 (checklists available), and Deep Blue, aka William Steiner's Stamp Album Web PDF pages. Interested? So into the Blues...

Sunday, April 28, 2013

Karelia and the "Bear" Forgeries of 1922

Karelia 1922 Scott 13 15m green & carmine "Bear"; Genuine
Quick History
Between November 6, 1921 and March 21, 1922, a rebellion was launched  by disaffected Karelians against the Russian Soviets. Why did it occur, and what was the result?

This post will look at the background history of the East Karelian Uprising 1921-22, and the very interesting "Bear" stamp set- both genuine and forgery- that was issued.

Karelian Landscape
"East Karelia", in Russia, is located contiguous with the Finnish border, and appears to share the Finnish landscape. 

The photo recalls very much  northern Minnesota, with the Canadian Boreal Forest sweeping through the boundary waters down to Lake Superior. My childhood home, many Finnish immigrants had settled there, bringing with them the outdoor sauna. Memories.

Finland and Russian Karelia: Uhtua (Kalevala) & Suomussalmi circled
The conflict, from a philatelic point of view, is found in Uhtua (Finnish spelling), now Kalevala (Russian spelling). There the rebels set up a Post Office, and the Karelian "Bear" stamps were postmarked from January 31 to February 3; although postmarks can be found for February 4 & 5 also. The Red Army was closing in, however, and the Postal Service was withdrawn across the Finnish border to Suomussalmi, where the stamps apparently remained valid until February 16, 1922.

But why would the Karelians and the Finnish feel kinship?

The Karelian Language and Finnish are close dialects
The Karelians are close cousins of the Finnish, as the language dialects are related. Culture is intertwined with language, and the Karelians wished to maintain their language/culture in the face of an increasing Russian Soviet presence.
Treaty of Tartu and the Russian-Finnish border
Finland and Russia had settled their border in 1920, each gaining/ losing a bit with the Treaty of Tartu (Estonia). A Karelian portion (green) was given back to Russia, while Petsamo (red) became Finnish. The border would revert to the old border between the Grand Duchy of Finland and Imperial Russia.

But after a year of Soviet rule where promises of East Karelian cultural autonomy were ignored, the East Karelian separatist movement was born

Karelians and Finnish volunteers fighting side by side
The East Karelians numbered 2,500, augmented by 550 Finnish volunteers. The Red Army in the area was 13,000 strong. Recall, that Leon Trotsky was overall commander of the Red Army.

The East Karelians were hopeful that Finland would come to their aid, but Finland did not-officially. Casualties were 50 killed, 150 wounded for the Karelians, and 350 killed, 1,000 wounded for the Red Army.

The uprising went well initially, and then later- not so much. By January, 1922, the Red Army had retaken Porajarvi and Repola, the green Karelian territory on the map above.

30,000 East Karelian refugees escaped over the Finnish border.

As one can imagine, the war soured relations between Russia and Finland. But by June 1, 1922, an agreement was reached between Soviet Russia and Finland reaffirming the Treaty of Tartu and the borders between the two nations.
Modern Road Map of Russian Karelia
 Kalevala (Uhtua) - (circled)
Suomussalmi in Finland ( Location X-ed)
The rebellion received international attention, and, naturally, was accompanied by what any self respecting newly minted country would do- issue stamps. ;-) The issue was quite popular, and, soon caught the attention of N. Imperato of Genoa, an experienced and skilled forger of stamps. More about that soon.

1922 Karelia Scott 1 5p dark gray "Bear"; Genuine
Into the Deep Blue
The Scott Classic specialized catalogue has, for Karelia, the 1922 Scott 1-15 stamp issue. Nothing more. The CV is >$10 for each stamp unused. Scott also states that "Counterfeits abound".

For this issue we will...
* Examine the design
* Note the characteristics of the genuine stamp
* Note the characteristics of the forgery
* Compare and contrast genuine specimens and forgeries

A closer look at the stamps and issues
100 Pennia = 1 Markka
1922 Karelia Scott 2 10p light blue "Bear"; Genuine
The design shows the national coat of arms of the newly minted state of Karelia. An enraged bear is pictured, having just broken his chains, holding a blade called a billhook over his head, ready for any action.

Actually, the bear looks rather comical, and has been described by Varro Tyler (Focus on Forgeries 2nd edition 2000) and others as a "Dancing Bear, standing on a bicycle chain, swinging a golf club over his head". ;-)

The northern lights are represented by four zigzag lines over the bear.

The lower denominations had a issue total of 20,000, while the higher denominations had a run of 15,000.

1922 Scott 4 25p yellow brown "Bear"; Genuine
The 5p -75p denominations (seven stamps) are a one color design, while the 1m - 25m denominations (eight stamps) are slightly different in design, and are bi-colored.

Perforations for the 20p, 50p 1m, 5m, and 15m are 11 3/4.
Perforations for the 10p, 75p, 3m, and 20m are 11 1/4.

Perforations for the 5p, 25p, 2m, and 25m are more common 11 3/4, less common 11 1/4.

Perforations for the 10m are more common 11 1/4, less common 11 3/4.

Note: The Forgery is always 11 1/4 for all denominations. This would make it especially easy to check for a forgery with the 20p, 50p, 1m, 5m, and 15m denominations.

Now let's take a closer look at the genuine 5p - 75p design stamp...

1922 Scott 5 40p magenta "Bear": Genuine
Characteristics of a 5p - 75p genuine stamp....
• The bottom of the "J" in "Karjala" finishes complete, that is slightly upturned, or at least horizontally elongated. Varro Tyler, in his book "Focus on Forgeries", 2nd edition, 2000, makes this sign a diagnostic point. Others suggest a more complete evaluation of the stamp is necessary.
• The third chain on the left is not a complete circle- where the bear"s paw (foot) obscures the right side of the chain link. This sign is only seen for the 5p - 75p denomination stamps.
• The Northern Lights (zigzag lines) are tall and prominent.
• Facial features (Here two eyes) are usually present.
• A string of white dots or beads are seen between the front legs (arms) of the bear.

These signs should be enough to determine if the stamp is genuine.

1922 Scott 11 5m red lilac & gray "Bear"; Genuine
Now let's look at the 1m - 25m denominations (eight stamps). Obviously it is bi-colored. 

And the numeral script appearance for any given denomination is always the same. 

1922 Scott 14 20m rose & green "Bear"; Genuine
The characteristics of the 1m - 25m design stamp...
• The bottom of the "J" in "Karjala" finishes complete, that is slightly upturned, or at least horizontally elongated.
• The Northern Lights (zigzag lines) are tall and prominent.
• Facial features (Here two eyes) are usually present. (Often, the bears's mouth (white space) is also more prominent in the 1m - 25m denominations.)
• A string of white dots or beads are seen between the front legs (arms) of the bear.

Note the third chain link on the left side is now complete- different than the 5p - 75p stamps.

Now, let's look at the forgeries....

There is actually only one known ( or, at least prominent) forgery, but it is quite common. As mentioned, it is thought to be by N. Imperato of Genoa, Italy.

If the name is familiar, it is because we have featured two other stamp issues where he is the forger.

* Honduras 1896  Scott 95-102 "President Celio Arias"

* Batum and the "Aloe Tree" Forgeries

1922 Karelia Scott 6 50p gray green "Bear"; Forgery
The forgeries are found for all 15 denominations, and differ somewhat in color with the originals. The perforation is always 11 1/4. The paper tends to be whiter. The margins tend to be wider.

Now, let's take a closer look.....

1922 Karelia Scott 7 75p orange yellow "Bear"; Forgery
The characteristics of the 5p - 75p denomination forgeries are... 
• The bottom of the "J" in "Karjala" is short and truncated. The stroke tends not to reach the horizontal.
• The third chain on the left is a complete circle.
• The Northern Lights (zigzag lines) are short and broken.
• Facial features tend not to be prominent.
• A wide white streak- or two wider white strokes- are seen between the front legs (arms) of the bear.

Remember the " left third chain link" sign is only helpful for the 5p - 75p denominations.

1922 Karelia Scott 12 10m light brown & gray "Bear"; Forgery
The 5m- 25m forgery design, other than being bi-colored, is the same as the 5p -25p design.

But let's take a closer look...

1922 Karelia Scott 10 3m light blue & gray "Bear"; Forgery
The characteristics of the 5m - 25m  denomination forgeries are...

• The bottom of the "J" in "Karjala" is short and truncated. The stroke tends not to reach the horizontal.
• The Northern Lights (zigzag lines) are short and broken.
• Facial features tend not to be prominent.
• A wide white streak- or two wider white strokes- are seen between the front legs (arms) of the bear.

These are the same signs as for the 5p - 75p denominations.  ( In addition,  the left third chain link sign is used for the 5p - 75p denominations.)

1941 Karelia  Scott N8 50p bright yellow green
Just out of the 1940 year end scope of this blog, there are other "Karelia" stamps. During the Finnish "Continuation War" with Russia, Finland occupied part of East Karelia in 1941. An example is shown above.

A Gallery of Genuine/Forgery Comparisons
I need to acknowledge two resources - especially in this section- that were instrumental in developing this post....

• Varro Tyler "Focus on Forgeries" 2nd edition 2000...
It was the entry in Tyler's book that created the initial interest for me in the Karelia's "Bears".

• Jay Smith - Scandinavian Specialist
I came across Jay Smith's "Karelia: 1922 Forgeries and Genuine Stamps" site during the course of developing this post. He shows all the genuine and forgery specimens for the "Bear" issue. A great resource!

Of interest, his color stamp scans do not match mine in color hue in many cases. The scans (His and/or mine) could be the reason.  Or, in fact, there may be a real difference in color hues for this series.  I did check my color scans against the stamp color I perceive from my collection of "Bears", and they do seem to agree, for what it is worth.

The following Gallery will compare directly six genuine and forgery stamps  in the collection.

Scott 6 50p gray green
Genuine- Forgery
The "J" sign, the "third left chain link" sign, the "northern lights" sign, the "facial feature" sign, and the "white dots/streaks-front "arms" " sign are all present.

In addition, the color is lighter for the forgery, the bottom portion of the "5" in the numeral is longer in the forgery, and the shading line in the billhook is thickened in the genuine.

The genuine is 11 3/4, while the forgery is 11 1/4 perforation. The margins are wider in the forgery.

Scott 7 75p orange yellow
Genuine- Forgery
The "J" sign, the "third left chain link" sign, the "northern lights" sign, the "facial feature" sign, and the "white dots/streaks-front "arms" " sign are all present.

In addition, the color is lighter for the forgery, the top portion of the "5" in the numeral is angled slightly up in the forgery, and the shading line in the billhook is longer in the genuine.

 The margins are wider in the forgery.

Scott 8 1m pink & gray
Genuine- Forgery
The "J" sign, the "northern lights" sign, the "facial feature" sign, and the "white dots/streaks-front "arms" " sign are all present.

In addition, the color is lighter for the forgery, and the shading line in the billhook is slightly thicker and longer in the genuine.

The genuine is 11 3/4, while the forgery is 11 1/4 perforation. 

Scott 9 2m yellow green & gray
Genuine-Forgery
The "J" sign here is not definitive. But, the "northern lights" sign, the "facial feature" sign, and the "white dots/streaks-front "arms" " sign are all present.

In addition, the color is lighter for the forgery, the "2" is thicker in the forgery, and the first chain link on the right is incomplete in the forgery.

 The margins are appear to be wider in the forgery.

Scott 10 3m light blue & gray
Genuine-Forgery
The "J" sign, the "northern lights" sign, the "facial feature" sign, and the "white dots/streaks-front "arms" " sign are all present.

In addition, the color is lighter and brighter for the forgery, the "3" is thicker and shorter in the forgery, and the first chain link on the right is incomplete in the forgery.

The margins are wider in the forgery.

Scott 12 10m light brown & gray
Genuine- Forgery
The "J" sign, the "northern lights" sign, the "facial feature" sign, and the "white dots/streaks-front "arms" " sign are all present.

In addition, the color is lighter for the forgery, and the first chain link on the right is incomplete in the forgery.

The margins are wider in the forgery.

Deep Blue 

Deep Blue and Karelia
Deep Blue (Steiner) has Karelia on one page. I printed out another page copy for the forgeries.

1922 Karelia Scott 15 25m yellow & blue "Bear"; Genuine
Big Blue
Big Blue '69, has "Karelia" on one line of one page. The "Karelia" entry is present in all '41- '97 editions.

Karelia is represented by six spaces for the 5p- 50p denominations. No Markka denominations are given a space.

All six 5p- 50p spaces are CV $10+ unused.

Checklist

1922
1,2,3,4,5,6,

Comments
A) Expensive stamps ($10 threshold):
1922 Scott 1 5p dark gray ($10+)
1922 Scott 2 10p light blue ($10+)
1922 Scott 3 20p rose red ($10+)
1922 Scott 4 25p yellow brown ($10+)
1922 Scott 5 40p magenta ($10+)
1922 Scott 6 50p gray green ($10+)

1922 Karelia Scott 3 20p rose red "Bear"; Genuine
Out of the Blue
What fun! A dancing bear with unshackled chains swinging a billhook! Really, one of my all time favorites.

And the forgeries add another element.

Note: maps, photos appear to be in the public domain.

Would like a comment!

4 comments:

  1. Very nice entry. Can't really add much stampwise.

    All in all the Karelia related stamps (Karjala, Itä-Karjala, Aunus) relates to "nationalistic movement" before (and during) the 2nd world war. Their goal ws to unite Finn-related nations and create 'grand Finland' (of mythic Kalevala). Here's a link to (Google translated)article that shows how 'grand' their scheme was. If it would have come true, Finland would be one of the largest countries in Europe.

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  2. Thanks Keijo for the "nationalistic movement" link. I was hoping you could provide some perspective, and you did!

    Jim

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  3. Jim
    Excellent overall article and coverage on the history, the stamps and the numerous forgeries of this obscure (sorry Keijo) would be country. I think when I get to this aspect of Karelia I will just link to your site instead of writing anything up. :)
    Michael

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  4. Thanks Michael. :-)

    My "Kionga" will soon be published, and you have already done that- superbly. But I suspect our takes of "countries" will each have their own flavor.

    I look forward to your Karelia. ;-)

    Jim

    ReplyDelete