How the Ukrainian diaspora denounced Soviet repression through underground postage stamps

How the Ukrainian diaspora denounced Soviet repression through underground postage stamps

27 May 2020

Instagram account @underground_post gives a glimpse of a little known aspect of Ukrainian history: its 20th-century underground post, used by the Ukrainian diaspora in the West to denounce Soviet crimes.

The account features stamps issued by a variety of Ukrainian diaspora organisations and communities, ranging from the Ukrainian government-in-exile to smaller communities such as the Ukrainian Museum Archives in Cleveland or the Ukrainian Bandurist Chorus in Detroit.

The “cinderella stamps” were stuck next to official government stamps on envelopes, as a way to communicate to the world about Soviet acts of repression. “For us, this might look like a small thing but, before the internet, stamps were a much more important way to speak about the truths that the Soviets tried to hide,” the account curator, a Kyiv-based photographer called Sashko, told The Calvert Journal.

The stamps range from celebrating Ukrainian historical figures to denouncing Stalinist crimes, such as the Holodomor, the state-engineered famine of 1932-33 that killed millions.

“It sounds crazy to collect stamps today, but I am more interested in history than in philately,” Sashko explains. A year ago, the photographer accidentally stumbled on information on the Ukrainian Underground Post stamps, which he then started buying at online auctions and collector clubs. “I was surprised by how big and little-known this phenomenon is, and thought that I would popularise this episode of 20th century Ukrainian history via an Instagram account, ” he adds.

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