Postage Stamps of the Soviet Union: 1983 Part 1

It is time to start the next thing I want to do in this blog.  I once read a blog about blogging, that said your blog should aim to help the reader, to teach them something.   Well declare, that at this point, I often as not, have very little to share about pencils as far as information goes.  Only my non-graphite groupie readers (love you guys as you are usually my IRL friends) so that stuff will still happen, just not in the same way.  Also I will be depending on all of you to help me launch the super secret second phase of all this that I have cleverly named, “Phase 2.”

However, I do have something to offer that is new and fresh for many readers and might even gain me a few new ones.  I give to you…

The Stamps of the Soviet Union

que The Best of the Red Army Choir

 

     As always, the first entry will offer a word of explanation.  I have always enjoyed postage stamps and most things to do with the post office as far as I can remember.  My Grandparents, and in small bursts, my Mother all worked at our local post office.  The post office of Soddy Daisy was such a second home that you used to be able to bring kids while you sorted mail, and people helped you out.

I was one of those kids.  As far as I know I really may have been the only/last one.  This is my favorite photo of this place.  It opened in 1983 and my Grandmother started there in 1985, two years later, I was born.  My Grandmother retired in 2011, My grandfather retired from here as well, but my information on his dates is sketchier and I am not going to text him all day for it right now.  Let us just say this place is as tied to the Ganger’s family as the name Bledsoe.  In 1998 the postal service was preparing for the year 2000 and celebrating the 20th century and the stamps that were in it, aptly titled, Celebrate the Century.  They held an essay contest and I won for my region, writing about either classic movie monsters, or comic strips.  I forget which.

The results are the same either way.  I was encouraged to collect stamps, and encouraged by the influences of my Great Aunt and Uncle, I studied the Soviet Union.  One night I was sitting there looking at Stamps when I had a “Eureka!” moment.  I had long operated under the assumption that commies would not be stamp collectors.  It seemed like something they would not be into…Until I asked myself what are stamps?  Stamps are state produced memorabilia that often feature symbols of national pride.  I texted my friend Carl, and my wife “WHAT IF THERE ARE SOVIET STAMPS!?!?!?”  Their reactions were similar to each other “…oh god…”  A little investigation and I not only found them, but I found out how to collect them.  Now I will share them with you, a few at a time, in series of a particular year.  I may skip dull ones, or lump them all together.

It turns out the Soviet Union produced on average 120 stamps a year, and they are amazing.  They are art.  I have been researching them bit by bit, and have helped to correct the one website that I have found useful.

We will be starting with the year 1983.

1983:

  • ARPANET becomes TCP/IP and the Internet begins
  • Fraggle Rock came out
  • Seatbelts became mandatory in the United States
  • Salem Nuclear Plant experienced a failure of the automatic shut down
  • Kursk Nuclear Plant shuts down due to fuel rod failure
  • A young Samantha Smith is invited to the USSR by Yuri Andropov
  • Return of the Jedi debuts
  • Margaret Thatcher and her government are reelected
  • Ronald Reagan is President
  • Yuri Andropov leads the USSR
  • Sally Ride is the first American woman in space
  • Embalse Nuclear Power Station experiences a coolant loss (seeing a pattern?)
  • The Famicom (Nintendo Entertainment System) goes on sale in Japan
  • The Sri Lankan Civil War begins
  • A Korean Airlines flight is shot down by the USSR killing 269 including a U.S. Senator
  • GPS is made available for civilian use
  • Guion Bluford becomes the first African American in space
  • Stanislav Petrov averts a crisis by recognizing that a radar alert is not a U.S. nuclear attack
  • The Beirut Barracks bombing occurs
  • Invasion of Grenada
  • Martin Luther King Day is signed existence by Reagan
  • Able Archer 83, NATO exercises interpreted by the USSR as an attack, *The Last Cold War scare
  • South Africa approves a new constitution
  • Chrysler creats the minivan with the introduction of the Caravan
  • The IRA bombs Harrod’s in London
  • The McNugget is introduced

I wish I had all day to talk about the 1980s, but I do not.  I am fascinated with this decade.  I have picked this selection of events to give a taste of what was going on.  The 1980s were a time of flux.  The Cold War was still tense, but it was dwindling.  A word of warning: I subscribe to the John Lewis Gaddis school of thought, The Cold War was won by the West, and that is a good thing.  Anyhow, racial, gender, social issues of all kinds were changing.  Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher would thoroughly end détente, and see the beginning of the end of The Cold War.  While the Soviet Union was stagnating, the United States was arguably doing well.  Video games were not only common but 1983 saw a video game crash.  If you want the full general article of the year, check out 1983.

For our purposes 1983 is the first full year of Soviet stamps I purchased.  I did this because it was the year my wonderful wife was born.  Let us get right down to some stamps.  From henceforth the posts will only be this long (hopefully) when it is time for a new year, and not even then, because you don’t always need to hear about how I came to love stamps.

Cosmonautics Day 1983

Cosmonautics day, to the rest of the world International Day of Human Soace Flight (which the stamp essentially says) was instituted in 1962 the year after Yuri Gagarin went up.  It is celebrated, somewhat quietly it seems, to this day.  This stamp features an image of Soyuz-T
The text inside the emblems essentially says, “International Manned (space) Flights,” with the emblem saying “Interkosmos.”  Some things to notice for the future.  Notice the obvious monetary denomination in the upper left of the actual stamp, the large 50.  Most stamps are in Kopeks, but the word почта means mail or post, and will be on every stamp.  So the denomination will be accompanied by the words “USSR Post.”  Below the capsule are the words “12 April- Space Day.”


A note on translations, I am doing them myself armed with a need to learn Russian, starting with the alphabet, which I learned, but am using this to exercise it, and a Russian dictionary to translate words.

If the ring of emblems is observed it can be surmised that Interkosmos gets one every year, and that the middle one is the latest.  Some of the others have the flags of other nations, some have years.

These stamps are incredibly detailed, showing even the cosmonauts inside the Soyuz.
This is one of my favorite parts of this stamp.  It means exactly what it looks like, these are the words “Soyuz” and “Apollo,” and they are symbolic of the cooperation between the Cold War enemies working together to advance space research.  There will be more about that at a later time.

This piece, despite the work that went into it, is much more straight forward.  This is the International Philatelic Exhibition 1983, called “Socphilex-83.”  This stamp is a mini souvenir sheet.  The words at the top are the name I gave you, the bottom is the title, and the symbol at the bottom says Moscow.

The exhibition was in Moscow, October 1983, and had the aims of exhibiting and fostering international cooperation and friendship in efforts to continue peace and ease the threat of nuclear war.  I feel like that symbol at the bottom is in line with that.  I am not going to cite that explanation as I do not feel the need to type in Russian, but I will link you a Russian page on the matter, here.

Summary: As I said, everything was in flux, and despite Western leaders snuffing détente, The Soviet Union was beginning to see that it would have to play nice, so to speak, and that if it was to survive it would need the international community.  Both of tonight’s examples, I believe, are evidence of this.

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Where we came from

 

**UPDATE**

I figured out after I wrote this, that the staples brand composition book is fountain pen friendly!! See photo at the bottom.

I want to take you back to a post I did about not forgetting about the value of inexpensive supplies, and leaving behind the idea of calling them junk…now I’m not here to scold anyone today.  Today I want to take you back to your roots, or in the case of many now, the roots of their parents.

First you have to set the mood right.  We are going to go to a great place that sits positioned strategically between the 1980s and 1990s (some from the 90s may have drug this habit into the 2000s with them kicking and screaming.)  We are going back to slide rules and Lisa Frank.  We are headed straight for The Breakfast Club and Full House.  Bring on The Cure and Alice in Chains do what it takes to get yourself there.  Me personally, I can set the scene fairly well by flipping on Family Matters, specifically at night, and hopping in the living room to write, thats my easy switch on the way back machine, but I have a ton of them.

Who knows what those things in my picture are?  Anyone?  See to many of us from the 80s and 90s (90s for me, however the 80s lived strong on television and my mothers music cabinet) those devices served the same purpose as a blog.

Now before we go on I have to tell you that I live by a theory concerning decades.  Here is The Ganger’s (Bledsoe’s) law of the commutation of culture: Each decade is still largely the previous decade until the fourth year of the current decade, and it gets less and less each advancing year.  For instance when FRIENDS (GREATEST SHOW EVER) premiered in 1994, that was the first truly 90s year, and when it finaled in 2004 that was truly the 90s wishing us goodbye.  When Cheers hit in 1982, it was still culturally 50% 1970s, if you do not believe me, go to Netflix, and watch the first episode of Cheers, you will understand.  I explain this theory so that you will understand why Geny Y 90s kids love the 80s, it was exposure, it was a carry over, and we had all of these things.  The true millenials think of Ed, Edd, and Eddy as their re run cartoons of yesteryear.

Before the internet and world wide web and their endless reign started there was the composition book.  How did I get back to it?  Well the story is contained in the photos, which I will photograph for you at the end of this.  The short, I was in a Staples with my Aunt Connie, specifically the staples where I used to buy my school supplies, and we were waiting an excrutiatingly long time for some copies to get made, and so I wandered the aisles.  I layed eyes upon a large and colorful pack of BIC pens, which when combined with the composition book, I first realized they would cost around five dollars, and after that I took the stroll down memory lane.

We used to get one of these every year or so, and this was no ordinary journal, journals we have in plenty, no no no the composition book was where you poured your heart out, and usually only in multi-colored pen.  This was the place to write down your angry songs, your teenage longings about the one which the adults simply could not understand that you really did love so much that it hurt.

Let us not forget the pens either.  This was a process a ritual, turning paper into a stiff crinkly parchment covered in roller ball ink, and engage your senses, there is the smell, the smell of roller ball ink that comes along with the ritual scribing of your deepest thoughts.  Have you broken one out in a while?  The complete experience will have you breaking out Alice in Chains and The Cure before you know it.  I am willing to bet that some of you still have a small stack of these things hidden away, what do yours say?  Where did you take them?

I was very glad that I ended up in that Staples with people who could not make the copy machine work, because in a sea of blackwings and field notes how else would I have been tempted to buy these just to toy with the notes of a blog entry, you see I believe smell to be the strongest sense, and the one best linked to memoryl, and rollerball ink has that distinct scent I keep bringing up.  I am glad I paid for these things, because I took a walk back to crappy songs, bad poems, angst that makes me want to hop in with Mr. Peabody to go kick my own can for being so whiny, all in all a good time.

I encourage every one who has gone down the proverbial rabbit hole with our pens, pencils, and notebooks, and go grungy with one of these just to see how it makes you feel.  I will admit I will have to search for a heavier duty brand, more like the old days, but I almost want to throw these back into my regular notebook rotation.  Grab one, BIC rollerballs, and give the old world “anablog” a try, better yet, go re read your old ones all Harriet the Spy if you still have them.

Ganger Bjorn

P.S. I tried to go for the weird look we wrote in back in the day.

Fountain pen friendly at .99 cents.

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