Independence of Berlin!

Stamps not only exist to facilitate postal communication, but also have political purposes. The French and Portuguese Colonial administrations used postal issues to enforce political claims in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries and this is why there are so many small colony issues. A political entity that issues postage stamps is presumed to have more international gravitas. Few people today remember the fierce enmity between Russia and the United States that played out over Berlin after WWII. Berlin was divided into east and west after the defeat of Germany with the Soviets occupying the east of Berlin as they did with east of Germany. The stamps of the Federal Republic of Germany (West Germany) could have been used in Berlin and probably would have been if the Soviets hadn’t tried to force the Allies out of Berlin by placing an embargo on the city. Truman ordered an Airlift to supply West Berlin and keep it part of West Germany (to which it stayed aligned until reunification). In 1948, the stamps of West Germany were overprinted “BERLIN” and were sent to that city to enforce claims of its independence. This began a 45 year period where Berlin was the only non independent city to have its own postage stamps. Philately is a wonderful vehicle through which to study history. And the stamps of Berlin are a reminder of the first time that the United States and the Soviet Union stood eyeball to eyeball, and how quickly the two main WWII allies became bitter foes.

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