Today I'm going to talk about the theme of countries in stamps. A preliminary sorting of my collection has thrown up several problems as I tried to arrange the stamps by country. For example these three stamps:
Ruanda Urundi is the name of a Belgian African colony - that was later split into Rwanda and Burundi. Ruanda Urundi shares the same geographic location of both the second two, but requires it's own pile.
(Czechoslovakia), and this one too share the same issue
If you look through old stamp collector books from 50 years ago they reveal a wealth of no longer existing countries.
French Colonies anyone?
If I hadn't looked at the earlier stamps I never would have realised the large changes countries have undergone in the last 100 years. Stamps being introduced from 1840 have spread around the world and reveal the changes and the development of the culture and history of countries around the world. It has made me realise just how fluid the idea of a country can be.
On the other hand some "countries" can be stuck in limbo. Take this stamp for example:
At first glance it seems entirely legitimate, that in some place in the world it is used to post items. However, República Saharaui stamps are "Cinderella" stamps. That is to say they look like stamps, but they aren't and can't be used as stamps. In this case the country is not internationally recognised. A left over from the African Colonies days resulted in a part of the west of the Sahara being made part of Morocco but not all agreed. Many years later the UN hasn't come to a conclusion as far as I'm aware. These "stamps" are propaganda pieces for those that wish their country to be recognised. Such is the power of a stamp, it implies government and infrastructure, culture and history. However, Cinderella stamps can also be there just to be pretty, like a miniature. It won't take your letter anywhere.
The next post will be the start of an A to Z of countries whose stamps I have - with a glance at the histories and cultural things they reveal :)