Postal Stamps of Latvia
Occupying a small corner of Northern Europe, Latvia was first established as an independent country in 1918. Though its status as part of the USSR was contested internationally, it remained under Soviet control between 1940 and 1990, during which time an estimated 250,000 refugees fled to nearby Germany and Sweden, while many of those nationalists who remained were imprisoned or deported to Siberia.
Despite the trauma of this history, Latvia has emerged in recent years as a post-Soviet success story, with an economy that has been growing steadily since the global financial crisis of 2008. In 2014, Latvia became a full member of the Eurozone, with the Euro replacing the Lats as its official currency.
Latvia’s Postal History
Postal service in Latvia dates back to the late 16th century, when the areas surrounding Riga were part of the Duchy of Livonia and mail was used exclusively for governmental purposes. In 1857, stamps were first used in the region, which was then under Russian control.
With the start of WWI, the country was effectively split in half, both politically and postally, with the East still under Russian dominion while the West was occupied by Germany. This persisted until 1918, when Germany assumed control over the whole country and began using their own stamps, overprinted with the inscription “Postgebiet Ob. Ost.”
German control over Latvia was to be short-lived, as the country declared its independence with the end of the war in November 1918. A newly established national postal authority began printing its own stamps shortly thereafter. These first issues featured the young republic’s coat of arms. Due to a paper shortage, some of the earliest of these were printed on old German military maps. Today, they are among the more sought-after rare Latvian collectors’ stamps.
Latvian definitive stamps issued throughout the 20s and 30s retained many of the design elements of the 1918 series. The country also began issuing commemorative stamps during this time period.
The Second World War was another period of upheaval for Latvia, as the country was once again occupied by Russia (1940) and then Nazi Germany (1941-44). Both countries used their own overprinted stamps in the region during these times.
Following the war, Latvia was established as a Soviet Republic and began using the same stamps that were in circulation throughout the USSR. On October 19, 1991, a national post system was reestablished with the release of the country’s first set of new stamps in over 50 years. The following year, the state-owned Latvia Post was officially established.
Collecting Latvian Stamps
If you’re looking for a specific rare Latvian stamp, Apfelbaum, Inc. may be able to help. We regularly sell stamps from all periods of Latvia’s postal history in our online store and Buy It Now sales. We can also attempt to source a particular stamp you can’t find elsewhere. For help from one of our team members, call or email our head office directly.