First, I have a confession to make. I do not actually own any of the philatelic items depicted in today’s article. I discovered them on another blog dedicated to new issues in my endless quest for interesting stamps. As I often do, I wondered, “Who is this person?” The fact that the stamp pictured above is being released by one of the two postal operators in Kyrgyzstan on this very day — 5 November 2019 — prompted me to find out with the aim of putting together A Stamp A Day’s first article in quite some time.
My only real connection to the issuing entity itself is that my company employed a Kyrgyz national last year whom I trained to work at our various English camps. His homeland is an intriguing place so let us begin with a bit of background before we get to the subject of today’s stamp.
Kyrgyzstan (Кыргызстан), officially the Kyrgyz Republic (Кыргыз Республикасы), is a landlocked country in Central Asia with mountainous terrain. It is bordered by Kazakhstan to the north, Uzbekistan to the west and southwest, Tajikistan to the southwest and China to the east. Its capital and largest city is Bishkek.
Kyrgyzstan’s recorded history spans over 2,000 years, encompassing a variety of cultures and empires. Although geographically isolated by its highly mountainous terrain, which has helped preserve its ancient culture, Kyrgyzstan has been at the crossroads of several great civilizations as part of the Silk Road and other commercial and cultural routes. Though long inhabited by a succession of independent tribes and clans, Kyrgyzstan has periodically fallen under foreign domination and attained sovereignty as a nation-state only after the breakup of the Soviet Union in 1991.
Since independence, the sovereign state has officially been a unitary parliamentary republic, although it continues to endure ethnic conflicts, revolts, economic troubles, transitional governments and political conflict.
Ethnic Kyrgyz make up the majority of the country’s six million people, followed by significant minorities of Uzbeks and Russians. Kyrgyz is closely related to other Turkic languages, although Russian remains widely spoken and is an official language, a legacy of a century of Russification. The majority of the population are non-denominational Muslims. In addition to its Turkic origins, Kyrgyz culture bears elements of Persian, Mongolian, and Russian influence.
Under the Soviet Union, the Kyrgyz SSR postal service was an integral part of the Soviet system. The republic was periodically recognized in sets of stamps honoring the different parts of the USSR. Following independence in August 1991, Kyrgyzstan issued its first postage stamp on 4 February 1992, a single design depicting the Sary-Chelek Nature Preserve in Jalal-Abad Province. The country’s name was given in both Cyrillic and Latin letters; many Kyrgyz stamps have since done likewise, although the practice is not consistent, with some stamps only inscribed in Cyrillic and others only in Latin.
The first stamps for Kyrgyzstan were issued under the auspices of Kyrgyz Pochtasy, the State Enterprise “Kyrghyz Stamp” which is a subdivision of the Kyrgyz Ministry of Transport and Communications. Kyrgyz Express Post (KEP) began operations on March 16, 2012. On 7 December 2012, KEP was granted the status of the second designated postal operator of Kyrgyzstan. This was officially confirmed by the Universal Postal Union International Bureau circular 83 of 21 May 2013, Kyrgyz Express Post released its first stamp issue on 18 November 2014 to mark the 140th anniversary of the UPU.
Due to the nation having two different postal operators issuing their stamps, today’s release is the second time in two years that Turdakun Usubaliev has appeared on an a Kyrgyz stamp. The State Enterprise “Kyrghyz Stamp” issued a single 55 som commemorative on 14 October 2017 (#742 in the Yvert et Tellier catalogue) in its Heroes of the Kyrgyz Republic series.
Obviously, Mister Usubaliev is well thought of in Kyrgyzstan. The Wikipedia article is quite brief, however, and I could find very few photos of the man online other than a batch from his funeral and a few strays of this Soviet-era Kyrgyz politician overseeing various projects.
Turdakun Usubalievich Usubaliev (Турдакун Усубалиевич Усубалиев) was born on 6 November 1919 to a peasant family in the village of Tendik in the Kochkor District of the Naryn Region, Kyrgyzstan. In 1941, he graduated from the Kyrgyz National Institute, and in 1965 he was awarded a degree from the Moscow State Pedagogical University in absentia. Usubaliev was an activist of the Communist Party from 1941 to 1945, and a deputy head of department in the district committee as well as an instructor of the Central Committee of KP Kyrgyzstan.
For ten years following the end of World War II, he was the instructor of the Central Committee of the CPSU, and from 1955 to 1956 Ubuliev served as editor of the newspaper of the Kyrgyz SSR. From 1956 to 1958, he was the head of one of the departments of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of Kyrgyzstan, and from 1958 to 1961, he was the First Secretary of the Frunze City Committee of the Communist Party of Kirghizia.
Turdakun Ubuliev became the First Secretary of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of Kyrgyzstan, a position he held until his retirement on 2 November 1985, In fact, he was the first First Secretary and is credited with leading the process of the economic and socio-political development of the Kyrgyz Soviet Republic. It was during this period that the Kyrgyz SSR developed from being a backward region, to become a dynamically developing agricultural and industrial region of the USSR. The republic also made great progress in the field of social and cultural development as well as having achievements in science and art.
Turdakun Usubaliev played a significant role in the transformation of the capital, Bishkek (then called Frunze). During his leadership, Manas Airport, Government House, the National Philharmonic, the Sports Palace and other prominent facilities were built. Assessing the contribution of Usubaliev to the development of the capital, Chinghiz Aitmatov called him the true chief architect of Frunze city.
After Kyrgyzstan gained independence, Usubaliev continued his active political work. As a member of Zhogorku Kenesh (the Kyrgyz Republic’s Parliament) from 1993 to 2005, he made a significant contribution to important state decisions, promoting the consolidation of the sovereign Kyrgyz state. In June 2008, he was a co-founder of the political movement “The Great Kyrgyzstan”.
Usubaliev was presented with many state awards including the Manas Order of the First Degree as well as two Orders of Lenin and the Order of the October Revolution. He was awarded the title of Hero of the Kyrgyz Republic and given the “Ak-Shumkar” badge of merit. Two of the Kyrgyz Republic state decorations are illustrated on the KEP stamp released today.
Usubalijev died in Bishkek in September 2015 at the age of 95.
Today’s stamp released by the Kyrgyz Express Post commemorates the 100th anniversary of Turdakun Usubaliev’s birth and is denominated at 100 som. It is KEP’s 143rd stamp issue and was printed using full-color offset lithography on gummed paper, perforated 14 x 14½. The stamp was designed by Daria Maier and printed in miniature sheets of five stamps plus one label in the upper left corner by Nova Imprim in Chișinău, Moldova, in a quantity of just 5,000 pieces (the 2017 issue had a print run of 5,250). The first day cover, also featuring a cachet designed by Daria Maier, has a tiny print run of just 150 copies. Finally, a postal card was digitally printed to be used as a maximum card (100 of these are available).