Merry Chri … Oh, I Mean Happy New Year, Comrade

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Russia’s first new year’s stamp, issued in 1962 in advance of the upcoming new year. The stamp, a much softer tone than many Soviet stamps of the era, features a globe and dove of peace; the adjoined label says “Happy New Year.”

New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day are major events in today’s Russia and was the same in the former Soviet Union when religion was essentially banned under Communist rule. Christmas holiday traditions were transferred to new year celebrations.

The Soviet Union started producing annual new year stamps in the early 1960s. The first such stamp included a label with “Happy New Year” inscribed in colorful, flowing script. It was a very soft and warm design compared to many of the heavy, industrial-style designs of the typical stamp from the Soviet Union.

A troika (pulled by Grandfather Frost?) flies in front of Spasskaya Tower on the Russia’s stamp celebrating the upcoming year of 1972. Just two years earlier the new year’s stamp featured a portrait of Communist leader Lenin.
A troika (pulled by Grandfather Frost?) flies in front of Spasskaya Tower on the Russia’s stamp celebrating the upcoming year of 1972. Just two years earlier the new year’s stamp featured a portrait of Communist leader Lenin.

Several new year stamps thereafter included images of snowflakes, the Kremlin’s famous Spasskaya (also Spasski) Tower and rockets — yes, let’s of rockets! It’s not unusual to find spaceflight imagery on Soviet New Year issues, some stamps and many cards. James G. Reichman wrote a whole book on it called Soviet New Year’s Issues Related to Spaceflight (2013) and noted 468 items depicting spaceflight on Soviet postal items, many of them special postal cards.

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By the 1990s, Santa Claus became a familiar sight on Soviet new year stamps. Here’s 1990 Soviet card with an uncanceled stamp (issued 1989) and some Santa stamps celebrating 1991.
By the 1990s, Santa Claus became a familiar sight on Soviet new year stamps. Here’s 1990 Soviet card with an uncanceled stamp (issued 1989) and some Santa stamps celebrating 1991.

As the political climate changed in the 1990s, Russia started including more Christmas images on its new year’s stamps, including Grandfather Frost (looking a LOT like Santa Claus) and his sleigh, decorated Christmas trees and brightly wrapped presents.

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