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 by the blog author, Jim Jackson, with two albums: Big Blue, aka Scott International Part 1 (checklists available), and Deep Blue, aka William Steiner's Stamp Album Web PDF pages. In addition, "Bud" offers commentary and a look at his completely filled Big Blue. Interested? So into the Blues...

Sunday, August 11, 2019

Karelia - Bud's Big Blue

Coat of Arms
Bud's Big Blue
Bud's Observations
The defiant and defying message of Karelia’s stamps is clear: Beware of belligerent bears brandishing billhooks.

The Finnish nationalists of East Karelia spat this warning at the Soviets with whom, briefly in 1922, they were at war. Their separatist hopes were dashed after only a few weeks, but that was long enough to draw up a coat of arms (above) and issue stamps -- both hollow claims, as it turned out, to national identity and stability (for more of this history, click here). Wars seldom annihilate hope, though. The same angry bruin appears on a 1943 Finnish semi-postal stamp. Even now, nearly a hundred years later, many Karelian refugees still cherish the belligerent bear. Moreover, efforts to rehabilitate bear populations in Karelia are currently underway.

The bear on the stamp has broken the chain of Soviet oppression and, in its paws, wields the Karelian national chopper, a vesuri, elsewhere known as a billhook or machete. Normally a tool for clearing brush, it serves nicely as a brutal weapon. The jagged lines at the top of the stamps, usually thought to represent northern lights, look to me more like gnashing bear teeth.

Census: six in BB spaces, one tip-in (a forgery, see more by clicking here).

Belligerent Bear

Jim's Observations
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 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 short history of Karelia is fascinating, and is discussed in my original post (link below).

Of more importance to WW collectors is how to distinguish the forgeries from the originals. That topic is looked at in my original post (link below).

Karelia Blog Post & BB Checklist

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Comments appreciated!


  1. Well done. Excellent coverage of belligerent bears in thongs.

    Karelia seems to be one of the most difficult countries to get a representative group from, maybe in the top 10. Complete sets are around, but they are more than I care to spend. I would also much prefer used, but that's a minefield by itself.


  2. Luckily, my set came in a 90 percent complete feeder album. Had that not come my way, I'd probably still be waiting to fill these spaces.