Russian Legion Stamps and Postal History


    One of the first Russian volunteer formations was the Russian National Army of Liberation known as "RONA." Organized in the winter of 1941-42 under the command of a Russian Captain named Kaminski. This force, which never exceeded a division fought mainly anti-Partisans in the Bryansk region and later sent to the front lines. In the summer 1944, it was organized under the Waffen-SS as a brigade. This SS-Brigade, which was referred as Kaminski's Brigade obtained a gruesome fame in the Warsaw uprising. After the battle Kaminski was shot by order of Himmler and the remnants of his brigade sent to the Vlasov Army.

    In Germany a former distinguished Russian General who was captured convinced his German captors that he could obtained enough loyal volunteers to fight against the Stalin regime. His name was General Andrei Andreevich Vlasov. Early in 1943, with German approval Vlasov formed a national committee and created the "Russkaia Osvoditelnaia Armiia (ROA)" (Russian Liberation Army). However there were problems with the organization from the start, since half of the eastern volunteers were opposed of joining Vlasov's Army. Most of them wouldn't consider themselves Russians and wanted their respective countries liberated from Russian rule.

    In September 1944, Himmler met with General Vlassov, which resulted to the creation of a new committee, called
    "Komitet Osvobozhdyeniya Narodov Rossii, (KONR)" (Committee for the Liberation of the People's of Russia). This Committee and Vlassov's Army were to embrace all Soviet citizens living under German jurisdiction. Himmler promised to help with the formation of the KONR Army. Because of the majority of ROA Troops were engaged in different fronts, their transfer to the KONR Army was to take place gradually. Unfortunately once again, uniting all these different nationalities into KONR formation cause problems to the Germans. Eventually various eastern national groups agreed to join Valssov's KONR Army.

    In November 1944, the first KONR Division was organized in the Troop Training Grounds in Muensingen. In mid-February 1945, operational readiness was established and the KONR Division was designated as the
    "600. Infanterie-Division (Russ.)" under the Command of General Sergei Kuzmich Bunyachenko. The nucleus of the division consisted of remnants of the 30th SS Russian Infantry Division, which was never completed, and remnants of the Kaminski Brigade. The 600th Infantry Division was greatly under strength with acute shortages of weapons, equipment and supplies, nevertheless it reach the front lines on the Oder in March 1945.

    In January 1945, a 2nd KONR Division under the command of General Zveryev was organized and designated as the
    "650. Infanterie-Division (Russ.)." Unfortunately it never reached its operational readiness because of shortages in arms and supplies. In April 1945, another Russian formation referred as "Russische Brigade 599" was organized and located in Viborg, Denmark. The 1st KONR Division was given the task of capturing the Soviet stronghold in the area of Frankfurt-on-Oder. The offensive attack committed by the troops of the 1st KONR Division failed, with heavy losses owing to the lack of adequate artillery and air power. After the failure of this attack, the 1st KONR Division was withdrawn and began the march towards the Czech frontier.

    By the end of the war all major Russian, Cossack and Eastern Volunteer formations had attempted to surrender to Western allies. However practically all the major units were handed back to the Soviets by the Western Allies. There were only two major Russian formations that were not turned over to the Soviets. The Russian Defense Corps in Serbia, formed from White Russian exiles and the Ukrainians. The White Russians had taken refuge in Serbia in 1921, and were considered Yugoslav citizens. The Ukrainians from the 1st Division were placed in POW Camps in Rimini, Italy. They were able to argue from their British captors that they were Polish citizens. It should be noted that the Germans conscripted between 2 to 4 million forced laborers from the former Soviet territories to work in the Third Reich. These labors were called "Ostarbeiters" (Eastern workers). By 1944, there were six million people deported from the Soviet Union.

    Russian Legion Postal Issues

    Russian Legion stamps

    So-called Vlassov postal Issues

    The postal issues shown were issued in July 1943. The German propaganda section of the Postal Ministry issued a set of five stamps. These stamps were somehow connected to the rump Russian Liberation Army formed by Vlasov's committee. However it is more likely that the stamps were issued for the semi-autonomous Ukrainian government. The stamps consist of the following:
    50 Kop (Green) Log house being built.
    1 Rub (Red) Farmer plowing.
    2 Rub (Blue) Village scene in winter.
    4 Rub (Mauve) Kremlin & cathedral on top of a hill at Pskov.
    10 Rub (Brown) Aerial view of a village.
    The stamps have the inscription Post in Russian cyrillic. There were 16,300 sets of five printed. These stamps are also found with dated office cancels from the town of Sloboda in the Ukraine.

    Russian Legion stamps

    Russian Postal Issues

    Postal History

    In 1943, Russian personnel serving with the German Wehrmacht were assigned Feldpost numbers and were entitled to mail privileges. Mail was censored and sent only to territories occupied by the Germans. For mail weighing between 250 and 1000gms, a 20Rpf postal fee was charged.

    German regular Hitler o/p stamps were used in Russia. For mail used in the Baltic Countries or northwestern territories, the stamps were overprinted with the inscription "OSTLAND." For mail used in the southeastern territories the stamps were overprinted with inscription "UKRAINE." These stamps were used extensively in Russia.

    For Feldpost usage these stamps were required to cover postal fees for parcel, express and registered mail. Initially all Russian personnel in the military were provided with bilingual Feldpost cards. Privileges were limited to sending two cards with reply card each month. These cards were limited to Russian areas occupied by the Axis forces. The cards bore the inscription: Feldpost "Postdienst fuer ehemalige russische Kriegs-gefangene." These cards were censored by the unit and weren't sent to censorship offices. If mail entered the civil postal service and was addressed on the card to an area served by the Deutsche Dienstpost, then it was forwarded directly to the town named. However if addressee lived in a district under direct military rule close to the fighting line, then it had to be sent to the "Postsammelstelle Berlin" (Mail Collecting Office Berlin) for transmission through Feldpost channels.

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