Armenia #300 (1922)

Armenia #300 (1922)

Armenia #300 (1922)

Present-day Armenia (Հայաստան in Armenian script) constitutes less than one-tenth of the old Kingdom of Armenia.   Located in the South Caucasus region of Western Asia on the Armenian Highland, it is bordered by Turkey to the west, Georgia to the north, the de facto independent Nagorno-Karabakh Republic and Azerbaijan to the east, and Iran and Azerbaijan’s exclave of Nakhchivan to the south and is now a sovereign state with the capital at Yerevan. It has an ancient cultural heritage. with the Kingdom of Armenia reaching its height in the 1st century BC under Tigranes the Great. Armenia became the first state in the world to adopt Christianity as its official religion in 301 AD and became the first Christian nation.

The ancient Armenian kingdom was split between the Byzantine and Sasanian Empires around the early 5th century with the Bagratid Kingdom of Armenia restored in the 9th century. Declining due to the wars against the Byzantines, the kingdom fell in 1045 and Armenia was soon after invaded by the Seljuk Turks. An Armenian principality and later a kingdom Cilician Armenia was located on the coast of the Mediterranean Sea between the 11th and 14th centuries.  Between the 16th century and 19th century, the traditional Armenian homeland composed of Eastern Armenia and Western Armenia came under the rule of the Ottoman and Iranian empires, repeatedly ruled by either of the two over the centuries.

By the 19th century, Eastern Armenia had been conquered by the Russian Empire, while most of the western parts of the traditional Armenian homeland remained under Ottoman rule. During World War I, Armenians living in their ancestral lands in the Ottoman Empire were systematically exterminated in the Armenian Genocide. In 1918, following the Russian Revolution, all non-Russian countries declared their independence after the Russian Empire ceased to exist, leading to the establishment of the First Republic of Armenia. By 1920, the state was incorporated into the Transcaucasian Socialist Federative Soviet Republic, and in 1922 became a founding member of the Soviet Union. In 1936, the Transcaucasian state was dissolved, transforming its constituent states, including the Armenian Soviet Socialist Republic, into full Union republics. The modern Republic of Armenia became independent in 1991 during the dissolution of the Soviet Union.

Armenia had declared independence from the original Transcaucasian Federation on May 28, 1918.  Stamps for the first Republic of Armenia were issued in 1919 and 1920; all were issues of Russia overprinted and/or surcharged. In 1919 Arshak Fetvadjian was commissioned to design and supervise the production of a pictorial issue for the new republic. Ten stamps were designed in different denominations and printed in Paris. Due to the occupation of Armenia they were never delivered and few were printed, so no genuine uses are known and many forged stamps are recorded. The stamps were sold to stamp collectors and dealers in Paris during 1924 and it has been suggested that the Armenian government in exile (Dashnak Party) did this because they needed money to finance their activities,

In November 1920, Armenia succumbed to the Soviet Army, forming the Socialist Soviet Republic of Armenia.  Initially, the Bolsheviks formed three separate states:  Armenia SSR, Azerbaijan SSR and Georgia SSR.  Armenia issued its own definitives in 1921 and 1922.  On March 12, 1922, at the insistence of Joseph Stalin, the three states were again joined to form the Transcaucasian Socialist Federative Soviet Republic. The “independence” of TSFSR was also short lived, for on December 29, 1922, the Russian SFSR, the Transcaucasian SFSR, the Ukrainian SSR and the Byelorussian SSR joined to form the Union of Soviet Socialists Republics (USSR).

Starting in 1923, Armenia used overprinted Russian stamps.  The Transcaucasian Federation produced 15 stamps of their own so Armenia also used these for a short period.  From 1924, upon a decree from the central government of the USSR, only regular Soviet Union-issued stamps were in use until November 1991. During this period several stamps with Armenian nationalistic and ethnic topics were issued by the central government, such as a 1950 set of three stamps to commemorate the 30th anniversary of the founding of the Soviet Armenian Republic, views of Yerevan with Mount Ararat in 1960, and Armenian national costumes in 1961 and notable Armenian personalities.   Following the breakup of the Soviet Union, Armenia became an independent state on September 21, 1991, though the first stamps weren’t issued until April 28, 1992.  The first stamps to be issued in the new Armenian currency, the dram, that was introduced to replace the rouble used for the previous issues since independence, appeared on August 4, 1994.

I have a number of the stamps from the Armenian SSR.  All are rather crudely printed and perforated but that is part of their appeal.  Scott #300 comes from a series of pictorials issued in 1922 on unwatermarked paper and perforated 11½.  The 50 ruble design, typographed in green and red, depicts the Soviet star shining over Mount Ararat (Մասիս or Masis in the Armenian language).  This is the highest mountain in the Armenian Highlands and Turkey, rising to a height of 16,854 feet (5,137 meters).   It has been perceived as the traditional resting place of Noah’s Ark since the 11th century and is the principal national symbol of Armenia, considered a sacred mountain by Armenians. Along with Noah’s Ark, Mount Ararat is depicted on the national coat of arms.


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