The establishment of the zemstvo posts in Russia


Due to low budgeting, funds assigned to the postal department, in this century, were inadequate for the postal requirements of the empire’s populace. Remote districts were especially hard hit. Some were completely out off. Others were inconvenienced by inaccessibility of postal establishments, as Article 348 of the Postal Statute stipulated the personal appearance of the addressee or of his representative.

Often the addressee, in most cases a peasant, was unaware that correspondence awaited him. Letters accumulated. Lack of funds prevented their delivery.

The attention of the postal authorities was drawn to this state of affairs. They had been earnestly endeavoring to facilitate the interchange of correspondence between the dwellers themselves of the individual counties as well as to provide a rapid to-and-from movement at the post offices.

In 1849 to achieve this aim the “Counties Delivery Post” was envisaged. A courier from the addressee was to call at the post office and return with the missive. This system enjoyed only limited success despite all government support measures.

In many provinces letters conveyed by relay and thus considered urgent were dispatched to the villager in the same way as telegrams, i.e., by the same courier as that used by the local judiciary to transport their own business papers.

Within the limits of Vishnievolotsk County of the Province of Tver, beginning at the time of the peasant reforms (liberation of the slaves C.P.B.) an increase in efficiency of postal service was achieved by the introduction of a progressive innovation. By order of the community convention a weekly postal service was established from each community district to the town of Volotchek. The purpose of this service was to provide rapid communication between the community adjusters (regional mediators) (mirovoy poarednik) and district management’s on the one hand and the different government institutions and persons within county limits on the other. The villagers, at their request, were allowed to use this service and the tariff was as follows: 3 k. ea. for letters., daily newspapers 1 1/4 k. ea. Weekly newspaper., 1 k. ea. Periodicals., 5 k. ea.

The delivery and receipt of the item of village correspondence wore entered in a special record book at each district management. This system of village postal service was accepted by the director of the postal department as the most convenient under the local conditions. This same director, Toltoy, was anxious to extend this system to all of Russia. He was desirous of sending through the minister of the interior and through the Provincial Governors to the community meetings a proposition in which the postal system of Vishnivolotsk County was described. They, the community meetings, could then discuss it and take appropriate action. This laudable initiative however was blocked in the Interior Ministry. The Minister Valuyev did not consider the community institutions as possessed of the requisite administrative or executive power for organizing said postal service. When however the Zemstvo organizations became active, then all needs and requirements which affected the Zemstvo collectively came under their jurisdiction, such as the matter of village postal service. Valuyev therefore decided it would be most proper if said posts were instituted through the initiative and care of the local Zemstvo. The administration decided however against any advance decisions on the part of the government administration in relation to this subject.

Actually, since the introduction of the Zemstvo’s (1865) nearly all of them made application for their own Zemstvo posts. These applications wore granted by means of a routine form It was stipulated that the corresponding postal entities should deliver to the Zemstvo Boards ordinary post,, such as the notices of receipt of money. ordinary letters. newspapers and periodicals as well as money orders., insured post and parcel poet. This single condition was imposed: those who desired to receive their post through the Zemstvo Boards must present to the post offices a written authorization or the formal decisions of the village assemblies to which they belonged.

The existing rules for the receipt of money, insured and parcel post were left unchanged as far as the Zemstvo Boards were concerned. A person desiring to receive anything of value by proxy via the Zemstvo Boards to provide his emissary with power of attorney as established by the rules given to the Zemstvo Board.

The main bases for the organization of the Zemstvo Posts during 1865-1866, as well as may be judged by the projects presented by the Zemstvo Boards to the Postal Department consisted of the following:

The Zemstvo Posts were established to effect the delivery of ordinary mail such as letters, newspapers. periodicals and the notices of insured and parcel post the destination of which was more or less remote from the post office. They were also invested with the responsibility of collecting postal matter at these same remote localities as well as providing postal connections between localities of the county where no empire postal service existed.

On arrival, Empire mail, intended for distribution in the county, was taken into custody by a Zemstvo employee. Official mail was delivered according to postal rules. Private mail (letters., newspapers,, etc.) were, however, delivered in accordance with the Zemstvo Charter.

Such a universal system was necessary to enable the Board to trace lost postal matter. Account books for such purposes were furnished to the post office by the Zemstvo All correspondence was also noted in a special book at Zemstvo Headquarters, official mail by name and number,, private mail by general count. Zemstvo Boards also had the right to accept letters for localities which had no regular postal route against payment of 5 k.

Following receipt,, postal matter was sorted by districts (these were administrative subdivisions called “volosts” – C.P.B.). The number and class sent to each district was noted., racked separately and affixed with the (wax C.P.B.) seal of the Board. The amount and kind was duly noted on each postal package as well as its date and time of departure. These packages, after being sorted and placed in bags corresponding to the routes, were padlocked, the keys being guarded for each area by the district management.

By the time of departure, the postillion with mount was to be on hand at the Board House, receiving the padlocked bags he proceeded to the next relay point. There, if there wore a district management office, he delivered the bag to the elder. This functionary after inspecting the bag., dismissed the postillion. Were there no district management., he delivered the bag to the relay postillion but could not begin the return journey until the relay postillion had set out on his route. The delivering postillion must also be acquainted personally with the relay postillion and was required to report his name to the administration,, i.e. either to the Zemstvo Board or to the management. Had the bag being delivered been damaged., regulations required that it be opened in the presence of the postillion and two witnesses. Then its contents were counted and inspected for. A prepared statement was then sent by the first mail to the Board.

The speed per hour of the Zemstvo post was as follows. May 1st to October 1st and December lot to March 15, not less than 10 versts (kilometers); during the remaining portion of the year, not less than 7 kilometers, including here time required for the transfer of bags at the relay station.

The station master was fined 5 rub. in favor of the Board for each proved disorder of his coachman.

The District Elder, on opening the bag, took from it the parcel addressed to the District. Immediately thereon he closed the bag and forwarded it either with the same postillion or with the new one if this happened to be at the relay station.

All correspondence in the parcel opened in the District Management was entered in a special book. Later there was an annotation of when and by whom the mail was received. A receipt for official correspondence was signed by the person receiving it. The delivery of the correspondence was at the discretion of the District Management, either delivering it or advising the addressee to call for it personally or sending a representative with power of attorney. In either case., the management had the right to collect 3 kop. for each letter or notice, one kop. per newspaper and 10 kop. for each magazine. Official correspondence was exempt from exaction.

No arrears in these payments were permitted. These arrears were to be paid to the Board on the completion of each third of the calendar year (every four months).

The mail bag of each route after arrival at the last district remains there until the time for departure to town.

Prior to the departure of the mail for town, the District Manager took possession of it, recorded and affixed the seal as previously described.

Letters for the Empire Post were received either franked with Empire stamps or in stamped envelopes. The senders were debited with 3 kop. for each letter. Letters for the town inhabitants of the same county were franked with 5 kop. each.

After each 113 year., these charges, together with charges for mails received, were presented to the Board. The books of the District Management were then checked against those of the Board.

All mail received at the post of the Zemstvo Board was entered in the book and sorted. Official correspondence was then delivered to the addressees. Private letters for the Empire Post were delivered there against a receipt. Letters to the town inhabitants were delivered against a charge of 3 kop.

Prior to initiation of the Zemstvo Postal Service all landowners and communities were required to indicate their intention with regard to its use. This data was turned over to the post offices for their guidance.

The extra bookkeeping work for the post office employees as well as the loss in income to the Imperial postmen entailed in the creation of the Zemstvo was provided for in a 200 ruble grant by the latter, of which 100 rubles went. to the postmaster, 50 rubles to his assistant and the rest to the postmen. Finally, in 1867, the Zemstvo Boards were granted authority to issue their own postage stamps, provided that these stamps bore no resemblance to those of the Imperial Post. Thus. the Zemstvo posts were intermediaries between the Imperial post and regions that were very far from the post offices, or very completely cut off from them. For this reason the duplication of the Imperial postal routes was avoided by Zemstvo posts. With rare exception,, little need was felt for the Zemstvo post along these routes. Being located more or less close to the government post offices, the inhabitants could send and receive their correspondence without any trouble.

It was felt, that Zemstvo competition would deprive Imperial post of revenue amounting to the income going to Zemstvo, both from the official correspondence as well as from that derived from private correspondence between the county towns. Zemstvo service was potentially much cheaper and Art. 1144 of the Penal Code protected sources of the Imperial revenue from such damaging competition. The common existence of the Government and Zemstvo posts on the same route could not have been admitted by the Postal Department. On the other hand, however, knowing Zemstvo’s greater experience and wider knowledge of the local conditions, the Minister of the Interior Affairs resisted any interference in the matter of organizing the Zemstvo posts and gave the Zemstvo’s complete autonomy on condition that they would not infringe on the rights of the Government post. On such conditions the Zemstvo posts existed until 1870.

Decisions of the Voronezh Province Zemstvo Assembly, dealing with Zemstvo correspondence and which were protested by the Voronezh Governor, which protest was presented by him to the Government Senate., prompted the Ministry of Interior Affairs to issue general rules to be used for the establishment of Zemstvo posts in the future.

Whereas the Voronezh Zemstvo was planning to transport the Zemstvo correspondence within the limits of the province via the Zemstvo stations using the shortest routes, including the postal routes of the Imperial post, and as long as the Zemstvo posts were obliged to receive the intermediate correspondence in both directions I the Government Senate decreed that the establishment of such an order of transportation is contrary to: 1) Art. 1114 of the Penal Code against sending of letters., money and small articles by any private institution; 2) His Majesty’s order of May 1, 1870 (consonant with the position of the Committee of Ministers), according to which only the correspondence of the Zemstvo Boards with the government personnel and institutions is free from-the payment of the postal tariff., all other correspondence of Zemstvo Boards with private persons and institutions., including those of the Zemstvo’s, is not exempt from the payment of the postage; 3)That the correspondence of the Boards themselves, as well as that of other persons and institutions located on the Imperial postal routes must be sent only via Imperial postal service and that any deviation from this is contrary to the aforementioned rules. In conformity with the foregoing resolution’. therefore., the Government Senate canceled the decisions of the Voronezh Province Zemstvo Assembly.

Notification of the above resolution was given to the Minister of Interior Affairs by Senate Decree dated August 27, 1870.

On the basis of the above ruling of the Senate communicated to the Province Governors in Circular No. 12602, the Ministry of Interior Affairs in another Circular No 12725 of September 3. 1870 commissioned the province governors to offer to the Zemstvo Boards the following rules for the establishment of the Zemstvo (rural) posts:

The Zemstvo cost is established: a) to transfer ordinary letters, magazines, newspapers and notices of the receipt of money, insured and parcel post from the post office to more or less distant places within the county., and b) to transfer correspondence of all kinds from more or less remote places to the nearest post office. and c) to transfer all kinds of correspondence between parts of the county which have no postal communications.

Persons desirous of receiving correspondence from the post office in the form described in Art. l., paragraph “all, are to present to the post offices the individual permits or the formal decisions of the rural communities to which the persons belong.

The itinerary of the Zemstvo Posts must be established only by rural roads.

NOTE: The correspondence of the Zemstvo Boards between themselves or with private persons and institutions which are located on the postal routes., the correspondence of private persons with all government and private institutions and persons located on the postal routes., these may not be handled in any other way than through the postal institutions., and any deviation from this rule is contrary, to Art. 1114 of the Penal Code (1866 issue) and to the ruling of the Committee of Ministers approved by His Majesty May 1. 1870.

The Zemstvo posts are allowed to have their own postage stamps with an unalterable condition that these stamps in their designs would have nothing in common with the stamps of the Empire post. and

The messengers of the Zemstvo posts may use on their bags the province or county coat of arms, but without the postal horns.

Later with the aim of developing and making easier the movement of the correspondence via the Zemstvo posts and also because in the provinces, besides the rural roads, there are provincial and county roads which are without postal connections, Articles 2) and 3) of the rules issued for the establishment of the Zemstvo posts are modified as follows:

Article 2. The persons that desire to receive from the postal institutions their correspondence in the way explained in Art. 1 paragraph “a” must present at the post offices their individual written notices or legal decisions of the rural communities to which the petitioners belong. These documents may be presented, at the discretion of the petitioner, for each case or for some definite or indefinite period. Apart from that, if the sender makes an annotation on the cover of the letter that he has confidence in its safe arrival by the Zemstvo post, then for this sending by Zemstvo post there would be no need for the above-mentioned documents.

Article 3. The movement of the Zemstvo posts may be established on all except postal route roads, i.e. on roads on which the Empire mails are moved.

The change of these articles (made at the request of the St. Petersburg Province Zemstvo Board) was communicated to the province governors by the circular of the Ministry of Interior Affairs, October 25, 1870, No. 15271.

Article 2 of the establishment of the Zemstvo posts in the month of June of the next year of 1871 was modified again to be in accord with Article 439 of the Postal Code of 1863.

This Article 439 had a rule that “if anyone desires to receive from the post office ordinary mail through his representatives., then he must write to the post office from which he desires to receive the correspondence and then the said post office will issue a printed, yearly card charging 1 ruble 3 kop.; such a card will be renewed yearly on payment of the above-mentioned sum, but the letters will not be issued to the agents without their presentation of this card each time at the post office”

In conformity with this article of the Postal Code, the second Article of the rules about the Zemstvo posts in the circular of the Ministry of Interior Affairs No. 9020 of June 20, 1871 was modified in the following way: “Persons desirous of receiving correspondence according to the rules explained in Art. I., paragraph “All., must present to the post office a written power of attorney., or the formal decisions of the rural communities where the petitioners reside. Then the corresponding postal institution will issue a printed annual card. the charge for which will be 1 rub. 43 kop. per person if he should decide to receive his correspondence separately, or from the inhabitants of a settlement if they should express the desire to receive their correspondence together on a single card. These cards may be renewed each year against payment of a like amount. Correspondence will not be delivered from the post offices without the presentation of these cards in the post offices by the representatives of the Zemstvo Boards that would be authorized to receive the correspondence. Cards may be dispensed with if on the cover of an ordinary letter the sender makes an annotation that he has confidence his correspondence will finally be delivered via the Zemstvo post.”

The rules for the establishment of the Zemstvo post as issued by the ministry of the Interior Affairs soon aroused considerable misunderstandings in the Rostov-on-Don county Zemstvo. Complying with the decision of the Rostov-on-Don County Zemstvo Assembly of October 5, 1870, the local Zemstvo County Board has presented a note to the Government Senate complaining that the Ministry of Interior Affairs is curtailing the rights of Zemstvo boards to organize and maintain the Zemstvo posts.

The complaint stated that: The Zemstvo post was established in the Rostov-on-Don County by the County Zemstvo Board with the consent of the County Zemstvo Assembly already In 1869 based on the Articles 200 and 217 IV, Statute of the Code of Regulations of Zemstvo Duties and according to the rules of the Zemstvo Post (add. to Art. 217 of the Code of Zemstvo Duties).

This regulation, among other things, states that the function of the Zemstvo Post consists in the transportation of parcels from the former Zemstvo courts (now the police office and the Zemstvo boards) to their subordinates and return. According to paragraphs 4 and 6, the Zemstvo’s were authorized to establish definite stations in the county for the Zemstvo post routes. A Zemstvo could at its own discretion either tax the inhabitants or itself bear the costs. Par. 7 stated according to what order the different administrative districts were to be connected. Nothing was stated however about not using the postal routes. To require this presented an impossibility to the Zemstvo since these administrative points are mostly located along the postal route roads. Correlating these laws, which are still in force with the decree of the Government Senate of August 27, 1870 and the circular of the Ministry of Interior of September 3, it is evident that the aforesaid decree refers to the individual case of the Zemstvo post of the Voronezh Province and cannot have any relation to the organization of the Zemstvo posts as per Articles 200 and 217 of the Penal Code of Zemstvo obligations. Likewise, Art. 1114 of the Penal Code and the opinion of the Committee of Ministers approved by His Majesty cannot be applied here. From the other point of view, the Minister of the Interior, as may be seen from the circular of the Ekaterinoslav Governor of this September has found it pertinent to build on the decree of the Government Senate to give the permission to the Zemstvo Boards to organize the Zemstvo posts. He has counseled following the new rules of the Zemstvo post. These rules considerably change and add to the government of the Zemstvo posts that has been approved by His Majesty, 3 July 1837.

By these rules, which are in addition to the existing laws, the Zemstvo Posts may carry private correspondence to places that have no postal communications while Par. 3 states that the Zemstvo posts may use only the rural roads for their movement.

Such limitations, clearly, do not agree with the Statute of Zemstvo Posts and are not applicable in actuality as was explained above. Most of the district administrative points, which are connected by Zemstvo’s and which was the beginning of the intercommunication of the Zemstvo posts, are located on the postal route roads. On these same roads are numerous District Management’s to which the Zemstvo post carries the rules of the Zemstvo Board and the members of the County Police. Finally, the Zemstvo messengers have to carry from the district administrations and from the Zemstvo Boards the urgent packages to all points of the county without limitation as to rural roads. (This was clarified in the Decree of the Government Senate that was published in the Circular of the Ministry of the Interior Affairs No. 92 of 7 April 1870.

The Fifth Rostov-on-Don County Zemstvo Meeting found Article 3, as compiled by the Minister of the Interior Affairs, to be very inconvenient for the Zemstvo institutions. This same meeting-considered this difficulty should be resolved by a special law. Accordingly, in the report of the Board, by the ruling of October 5, 1870, instructed the County Zemstvo Board to present this present matter in the proper manner to the Government Senate for its consideration. Also, to request an addition to Article 1114 of the Penal Code, in the sense that the force of this article should not apply to the Zemstvo posts organized by the Zemstvo Boards according to Articles 200 and 217 of the Zemstvo obligations’ Code, especially since said Zemstvo posts are obliged to carry the packages of the Zemstvo Boards and of the County Police Offices and their subordinates between places which have no postal communication in the same way as they carry private post for remuneration. Article 1114 of the Penal Code, like many other articles of the Code of Laws, which originally did not consider -the Zemstvo institutions, cannot be applied to them and are subject to change, addition and repeal based on the implementation and rules concerning Zemstvo institutions as approved by His Majesty.

The following considerations are to be added here:
1) The establishment of the Zemstvo post is one of the obligations of Zemstvo’s. The compliance with these obligations was entrusted to them, as per Art. 22 and 36 of the Provisional Regulations of Zemstvo institutions. According to Article 23 and 24 of the same rules and according to the Decrees of the Government Senate of 19 September 1866 and of 16 May 1867, the Zemstvo institutions have been given the authority to enlarge the field of these obligations as there is need for it. Extension of the code of handling private correspondence to new places, as well as the manner in which this is done devolves on the Zemstvo institutions. They must also comply with former laws not canceled by the following ones.

2) According to the regulations, the main aim of the Zemstvo post consists of permanent and fast communications between the old Zemstvo Courts and their subordinates. These Courts were superseded by the Police Offices and the County Zemstvo Boards. The latter took over matters of Zemstvo taxes, natural obligations, supply of provisions, maintenance of roads, health, and other obligations previously handled by the courts. Therefore, the Zemstvo post must serve mainly as the permanent fast communications of the County Police Institutions with their subordinate persons and offices.

3) In Articles 3, 4, 5, 6 and 7 of the said regulations was determined the order of rotation of the messengers of the Zemstvo posts which had to depart from the county seat to all localities of the county without any exceptions to deliver and to receive the packets in all district administrative offices. With the introduction of the Zemstvo institutions, as well as of the district and village management’s, this same order is to be followed based on the same regulation and on Par. 24 of the Provisional Rules of the Zemstvo institutions. The same regulations apply to the fast communications via the Zemstvo posts required between the County Police and the District Policemen. The same urgent and fast communications are also required between the County Zemstvo Boards and their subordinates so as to be able to comply with the obligations ordered by the government or with Zemstvo matters.

4) Due to the above considerations, all orders and measures toward the establishment of the Zemstvo post, as well as the expansion of this obligation according to the needs of transportation of correspondence between the County Zemstvo Boards and their subordinates, and also between private persons that are deprived of the conveniences of the government postal service should not limit the movement of the Zemstvo posts of the rural roads only which is contrary to Par. 7, addn. to Art. 217 of Zemstvo Obligations Code according to which the Zemstvo posts must move from the county seat to the police stations, most of them already connected by the postal route roads, Otherwise it would be impossible for the Zemstvo’s to comply with the aims and transportation as established by the law. To safeguard the interests of the postal department, the rule established by the Rostov-on-Don County Zemstvo according to which the Zemstvo post must not transport private correspondence within the county between the points that use the government postal service is quite sufficient.

When this matter was studied by the Senate, the sub-Minister of Interior Affairs presented the following explanation:
The complaint presented by the Rostov-on-Don County Zemstvo Board to the Government Senate was the result of a misunderstanding on the part of the Zemstvo Board in the interpretation of the expression “Zemstvo post” used by the Code of the Zemstvo Obligations (Vol. IV of the Code of Laws, 1857, as well as the circular of instructions of the Minister of Interior Affairs.

Prior to the liquidation of the “Zemstvo Courts” there were horse-drawn carriages maintained by each court and paid-for by provincial taxes. These carriages were intended to service for the transportation of the members of the court from the county seat to the points in the county on official business, for the messengers with Zemstvo correspondence and for the Zemstvo police communications. This Zemstvo post service consisted precisely in transportation of the official correspondence and was classified as police business.

With the introduction of the Zemstvo institutions, the obligation to maintain for the County Police (the County Courts having been abolished) the aforesaid horse carriages became the duty of the. Zemstvo Boards. The aim and use did not change; the name “Zemstvo post” remained the same, only the management changed.

This term “zemskaya pochta” (Zemstvo post) was the cause of the misunderstanding by the Rostov-on-Don Zemstvo Board, the same term having been used by the Code of Obligations as well as by the circulars of the Minister of Interior Affairs. The Board, as may be seen from its complaint to the Senate, not having paid attention to the rights of the Zemstvo post as stated in the Code of Obligations but on the contrary, paid too much attention to the rather limited rights given to Zemstvo’s according to the circulars which also use the exact same “Zemstvo post” term. According to the Code of Obligations, the Zemstvo post is an obligatory institution and Its functions are obligatory. Its aim Is transportation of the members of the County Police Office and of the official correspondence of these offices to their subordinates and back, therefore the movement of this Zemstvo post, being official, is not limited to certain roads. The Zemstvo post according to the circulars of the Minister of Interior Affairs is not a service obligatory for the Zemstvo’s. The Ministry of Interior Affairs, when suggesting that the Zemstvo’s establish such postal services had in mind satisfying needs of the population of the Empire for exchange of written communications. This shortage was mainly felt in the districts which are either located more or less distant from the post offices or have no post offices. The postal department due to its limited funds has no possibility of establishing postal communications and post offices everywhere and therefore the function of the Zemstvo posts as proposed by the Ministry consists ins 1) Transferring to their destination (to the Zemstvo posts – CPB) the ordinary mail, newspapers, magazines and notices of the receipt in the post office of money, insured and parcel correspondence which are consigned to more or less distant places within the county: 2) to move the correspondence of all kind from distant places to the nearest post offices; and 3) to transport correspondence of all kinds between the points in the county that have no postal service. It is evident that such posts have entirely private character and establishment of them depends on the Zemstvo’s. The Ministry has Issued certain rules for such posts so they would not cause damage to the government post which is the government monopoly and, therefore, Art. 1114 of the Penal Code (1866 issue) must be applied to these Zemstvo posts since the Zemstvo institutions, neither by their structure nor by their basic origin, are government authorities and therefore have no legal right to any prerogatives over private persons and institutions. Therefore, the movement of these Zemstvo posts is limited to the roads where no government mails are moved.

This is where the basic difference between the two Zemstvo posts arises one is official and obligatory, being one of the Zemstvo obligations; the other is entirely private and a voluntary institution.

The Government Senate found that: “the Circular of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs as of September 3, 1870 did not touch the Zemstvo postal obligation which as the one-established by the law (Code of zem. obl. Vol. IV, Code of Laws, 1857) cannot be in any way changed by the order of the Ministry. That in the above mentioned circular of September 3, 1870 the Zemstvo’s were invited to establish the private, legally voluntary post ‘to satisfy the needs of the inhabitants of the Empire in their written communications in the localities that by their geographic position either have no postal communication at all or are more or less distant from postal communications.’ Such posts, having entirely private character and meant exclusively for the delivery of private correspondence must not, naturally, cause damage to the postal service which is a government monopoly, and that the ruling made in the Ministry’s circular to Art. 1114 of the Penal Code Is an entirely correct one, since in this case the Zemstvo institutions, according to law, have no right to any prerogatives over the private persons or institutions,” and, therefore, has decided:

“To the complainants of the Rostov-on-Don County Zemstvo Board, be it known that the rules as stated in Par. 3 of the instructions offered by the Ministry of Domestic Affairs 3 September 1870 about the organization of the private Zemstvo posts are valid; accordingly, the movement of such posts may be carried on only on the rural roads. As far as the correspondence of the Zemstvo Boards between themselves, as well as with private persons or institutions that are located on the postal routes, such correspondence must use only the postal establishments. This in no way changes the rules about the Zemstvo postal obligations as described in the Code of Zemstvo Obligations and entirely corresponds to the legal dispositions indicated by the Ministry.” (An order to the Minister of Interior Affairs #37874 of September 22, 1871).

Similar misunderstandings appeared in the Samara Province. In January of 1871 the Governor of Samara Province submitted to the Ministry of Interior Affairs a proposition to allow the Samara Province Zemstvo posts to follow the same roads on which the Empire posts are moving, basing this request on the fact that the Zemstvo posts were established in the Samara Province for communications between the Zemstvo Boards and the District Management’s and other institutions which were far from postal communications. Later, the reason for the development of these posts was the desire of the Zemstvo institutions to diminish the obligatory expenses for the horse-drawn carriages which, expressed In terms of money, reached, in the Samara Province, the sum of 200,000 rubles. A more detailed study of this obligation revealed to the Zemstvo Institutions that the considerable expenditures in the upkeep of horses were not caused so much by the Zemstvo obligation to serve the Police and the court investigators as by the continuous demand of special messengers with transportation orders.

With this system of communication, the only way to diminish the number of horses used was to establish a time table according to which the Zemstvo post would move once or twice a week. Such post would also move private correspondence for a very modest remuneration. As such a project would mean merging the Zemstvo post meant for the convenience of private persons and entrusted to the Zemstvo as the institution that is in charge of matters of local needs and uses with the horse-drawn carriage duty that was obligatory for the Zemstvo, the Ministry of Interior Affairs explained to the Samara Governor that the aim of the establishment of the Zemstvo posts consisted exclusively in furnishing the inhabitants of the Empire who lived far from postal establishments the possibility of exchanging their correspondence in the easiest and cheapest way. Therefore, the similar service for the settlements located on the postal routes is to be carried exclusively by the government postal service and the introduction of the Zemstvo post here would without doubt cause harm to the government postal service. Considering the above, while recommending that the Governor be guided exactly by the recommendations of the circulars concerning the establishment of the Zemstvo post, the Ministry, however, found it permissible that the Zemstvo posts could cross the postal route roads wherever there would be a direct necessity. Finally, in October of 1871, with a view to the further development of the Zemstvo posts and in order to furnish the inhabitants of the places distant from the post offices more facilities for receiving and sending of correspondence, the Ministry of Interior Affairs found it possible to entrust to the Zemstvo posts some other kinds of correspondence which were introduced by the Provisional Rules of the postal division. Therefore, the circular of the Ministry of the Interior #15649 of October 31, 1871 established the following new rules for the Zemstvo posts which are coordinated with the Provisional Rules of the Postal Department:

1) The Zemstvo post is established for a) the delivery at the places of destination from the Empire postal institutions to the localities within the county, where there are no such postal institutions, of the ordinary mail (i.e., open, closed, registered and ordinary mail letters, wrappers, and parcels without declared value) newspapers and magazines and the notices of the receipt of insured mail, b) for the receipt from the inhabitants of the localities of the county, where there are no postal Institutions, of all kinds of correspondence and delivery of the same to the nearest Empire postal institutions, and c) for the sending to its destination of all kinds of correspondence between the inhabitants of the parts of the county that have no Empire postal service.

2) The responsibility for the correct delivery of the correspondence delivered from the Empire postal institutions to the Zemstvo posts rests entirely on the Zemstvo institutions which in case of the loss in the Zemstvo post of a registered letter that was delivered to this post from the Empire Post office are obliged to reimburse the addressee to the amount of 10 rubles as established by Art. 13 of the Provisional rules of the postal division.

3) The Zemstvo posts are freed from the necessity of securing the yearly cards for receiving the correspondence from the Empire postal Institutions, but they are obliged to pay the charge established by Art. 97 of the Provisional Rules of the postal division of two kopecks for each letter, notice, or parcel received from the Empire postal institutions. Said charge Is to be collected from the addressee on the delivery of the correspondence and notices.

4) The persons or institutions who do not wish to receive their correspondence through the Zemstvo post may obtain the cards established by Art. 80 of the Provisional Rules of the postal division so as to receive their correspondence through their agents.

5) The movement of the Zemstvo posts may be established only on the roads which are not postal ones. By “postal roads” are understood the ones on which the Empire mails are moved. But, moving from one point to another, the Zemstvo posts may, whenever there be a need, cross the postal roads and also to move on them but only to cross from one rural (not postal) road to another. NOTE: The correspondence of the Zemstvo Boards whether between themselves or with private persons or institutions located on the postal roads, as well as correspondence of private persons or institutions with all government and private persons and institutions must be done in no other way than through the Empire postal institutions and any infringement of this rule would be contrary to Art. 1114 of the Penal Code (1866 issue) and approved by His Majesty in the May 1, 1870 resolution of the Committee of the Ministers.

6) The Zemstvo post- are allowed to have their own postage stamps but only on condition that these stamps, in their design, will have nothing in common with the stamps of the Empire post.

7) The Zemstvo postal messages may have on the postal bags used by them the design of the provincial or county coat of arms, but without the postal horns.

8) The Zemstvo institutions that wish to establish Zemstvo posts on the conditions described above, must declare this desire to the postal authority of their province in order to receive the corresponding orders and so that they may supply the individuals, who are to be entrusted with receiving from the Empire postal institutions the correspondence that is going to the county, with the registry book. This book which is laced and tied with ribbons with the wax seals of the Zemstvo Board affixed is for the purpose of enabling the postal employee to enter the number of each kind of correspondence that is delivered from the Empire post, the total receipts for letters at the rate of two kopeks for each letter, and the postage due on letters that were not adequately franked.

Trusted persons who receive registered letters, parcels without declared value (private and official), notices of insured correspondence awaiting call by addressee and registered mail delivered against a receipt must sign in the corresponding books of the Empire postal institutions.

Together with the circular letter of the late Postal Department as of -November 2, 1871 #15745, the Chief of the Postal Division issued the following rules:
a) On receiving from the Zemstvo Board the application relative to the establishment of the Zemstvo Post, for which there was issued a permission by the Ministry of Internal Affairs, you are obliged to order the corresponding postal institutions to deliver without hesitation to the Zemstvo post the ordinary mail, periodical publications and notices of the receipt of insured correspondence and of registered letters that are delivered on the notices.

b) Delivering the correspondence, the postal employee must note in the Zemstvo post book the time of the delivery of the correspondence, how much of each correspondence was delivered, how many letters were not adequately franked and how much postage due was collected. Also, the total number subject to the 2 kop. charge and, according to this, how much was charged. The correctness of the entries in the Zemstvo look is certified by the signature of the person in charge of the postal institution from which the correspondence is delivered who then applies the stamp of the postal institution.
Note: The 2 kop. charge is applied only to correspondence that has to be charged for (as per Art. 97 of the Provisional Rules and Note (1) to it) and in localities where such charge is established.

c) The transfer of correspondence to Zemstvo posts, in order that it may be sent to parts of the county where there are no Empire postal institutions, must not form an obstacle to the obtaining of the cards on the part of the inhabitants if they so desire for the purpose of coming into possession of their correspondence through a trusted intermediary. Nor does the establishment of the transfer of the correspondence from the Empire postal institutions to the Zemstvo posts change the rules about the cards (Art. 80 of Prov. Rules), or the explanatory text concerning same in the Index, page 38.

d) In localities where Zemstvo posts may become established on the present basis, the postal institutions should not deliver the notices about receipt of correspondence to the police and district management’s in the future for the delivery to destination. These notices are to be handed over to the Zemstvo posts to deliver to addressees.

e) The ordinary official letters (i.e., the ones without the annotation “with documents”) and the notices of the insured correspondence and registered letters that are to be delivered to the Zemstvo post for future delivery are to be entered into a special book, or notebook if the correspondence is insignificant, indicating the time, number, sort of correspondence and to whom it is addressed. The persons who are authorized by the Zemstvo’s to receive such official letters or notices are to sign in this book (or notebook) that they have received the above.

When the new rules had been issued by the Ministry of Interior Affairs and it was found possible to entrust the Zemstvo’s the delivery of the registered letters to their destination, it was also ascertained that the responsibility of the Zemstvo’s to the sender of such letters would be the same as the responsibility of the postal department.

As far as the 2 kop. charge established by Art. 3 of these Rules for the correspondence that is transferred from the Empire postal institutions to the Zemstvo posts is concerned, this charge was abolished in the following year (1872). The Provincial Governors were then advised by special communications of the Postal Department of this circumstance.

Thus, the establishment of the Zemstvo posts in Russia from its beginning was made by the administrative dispositions and not by the passage of a law. For this reason the Samara Province Zemstvo Assembly in its Journal of 7 July 1871, #1176, resolved: to request settlement of the following questions by passage of a law:

1) To which institutions should the Zemstvo post belong — to private or to , public Zemstvo?

2) Do Zemstvo institutions have the right to move for their needs over the Zemstvo roads, including the ones used by the Empire post, and to send the Zemstvo postillions over these roads?

3) In light of Art. 217 of the Code of Zemstvo Obligations, is the establishment of the Zemstvo post to be considered as a right or an obligation of the Zemstvo’s?

4) Are the Zemstvo’s to be responsible, in each case, when the Zemstvo post is transporting parcels, packages and money sums to the towns and villages which are on the postal roads, or are the Zemstvo institutions responsible only when they establish the Zemstvo posts on the same conditions and with the same aims as the Empire post?

5) Is transportation of certain parcels and bulky items by the Zemstvo post from town to town forbidden? Does this ban apply to all such items or only to the ones that do not belong to the Zemstvo institutions, district management’s and government institutions.

6) When a particular Zemstvo by a special fund has guaranteed payment of liabilities assumed by the Zemstvo post, can it arrogate to itself the right for the said post to receive from the Empire post all kinds of correspondence addressed for the delivery within the county?

7) Can the Zemstvo posts establish direct postal communications to assist the Empire post where such Empire posts do not exist, and

II. In case the Minister will decide that the Samara Province Zemstvo post may not operate as it is doing now, then it will have to stop its functions so as to avoid the possible arguments with the Empire post, and persecutions. Then the Samara Province Zemstvo will have to stop furnishing the money to maintain the stations. It will order the Province Board to immediately close such stations. At the same time, reporting to the County Boards the results of the applications, report it also to the next Samara Province Zemstvo Assembly.

The resolution of the Samara Province Zemstvo Assembly was reported by the Samara Governor to the Ministry of Interior Affairs and then submitted it to the Committee of the Ministers.

The Ministry, in its presentation to the Committee of Ministers, said the following: ” In its resolution No. 1176 of 7 July 1871 not only demands the resolutions of the stated questions but also points the way how these resolutions may be carried out, to wit: in the legislative way . This brings to the fore the question whether the Zemstvo’s presenting their requests to higher authority may demand to have their requests resolved by the passage of a law.

Considering all existing legal dispositions about the compiling, explaining and adding new laws, it is seen that (Art. 48 & 52 of the Basic Empire Laws) the preliminary considerations of the laws are made either by the direct order of His Majesty, or the origin of any new law starts in the normal course of affairs when a study is made of the laws in the Government Senate, or in the Holy Synod, or in the Ministries. Then, the necessity of clarifying or augmenting or of creating a new law will become evident in the event of the existing law being deficient or unclear then the government and each entity have the right and the duty of presenting their opinions to their immediate authorities. If the existing doubts cannot be resolved by the present law, then such doubts must be communicated either to the Government Senate or to the corresponding Ministry.

The order of the presentation of the doubts and misunderstandings must be coordinated with the existing laws on the subject (Arts. 371 and 744, Vol. II Part I, Code of the Laws, ref. to the Establishment of the Province Governments (1857), i.e., that such presentation must go through the Province Governor, and the Governor, prior to the forwarding of the presentation to the higher authority must be assured that it is not possible to resolve the presented matter using the existing laws.

Therefore, considering that neither in the dispositions for the establishment of the Zemstvo institutions nor in the further laws for these institutions are there any exceptions and that basing on Arts. 21 and 22, Vol. 11, Part 1. gen. Prov. Inst. (1868), and Regl. of Zemst. Inst., (addn. to Art. 12 of the same Volume and part, 1868), the Zemstvo, institutions being in charge of the uses and needs of the province and are listed as the constitutions of the province, the Ministry of Interior Affairs arrives at the conclusion that 1) the Zemstvo institutions when referring to the legislative matters must follow the order established for the province institutions and 2) if the Zemstvo has been granted the right to solicit from the local authorities on subjects pertaining to the local needs and uses, this right to solicit does not give the right to indicate how the matter will be resolved. In the present case, the Samara Province Zemstvo Assembly having made its application in the form of demanding the resolution of the submitted questions in the legislative way has departed from the norm of presenting matters that was indicated to the Zemstvo, has infringed existing order for the publishing, changing and adding to the existing laws, as well as for the resolution of existing doubts. Therefore, based on Article 7 of the Rules of establishment of the Zemstvo institutions, the decision of the assembly must be considered as invalid.

Returning to the subject of the questions presented by the Samara Province Zemstvo Assembly, the Ministry of the Interior Affairs finds that the questions 1, 2, 6, and 7 are quite clearly and positively resolved by the history of the emergence of the Zemstvo’s and by the circulars of the Ministry of Interior Affairs to the Province Governors.

Referring to the questions 5 and 6 — listing of the articles which the Zemstvo posts cannot transport as well as the inquiry into when the Zemstvo is responsible for their transportation, it is pertinent to note that Art 1 of the Rules of the Zemstvo posts (Circular of the Minister of Interior Affairs No. 15649 of Oct. 31, 1871) lists in detail articles which are allowed to be moved by the Zemstvo posts. It is necessary to add that Zemstvo’s may have to enumerate as per Art. 1114 of the Penal Code the instances in which the Zemstvo posts transport the correspondence by the roads where the Empire post is moving. The type and class of the correspondence is irrelevant; the Zemstvo may be held responsible for the transportation of whatever kind of correspondence by whomever it was sent and wherever unto it may be directed.

Referring to the question 3, it is probable that the Samara Province Zemstvo Assembly misunderstood the term ” Zemstvo post,” causing this question. This expression ” Zemstvo post” was used by the Code of the Zemstvo duties, as well as by the circulars of the Ministry of Interior Affairs . . . . . The Zemstvo post is an entirely private affair, its establishment depends on the Zemstvo and if the Samara Province Zemstvo Assembly should desire to close its Zemstvo post, it has a perfect right to do so. But the maintenance of the horse-drawn carriages attached to the police offices is an obligation stipulated by the Rules of Zemstvo Obligations and the Zemstvo may be freed from this duty only by a special law.

Therefore: 1) the Zemstvo post, as is to be seen from Art. 217, Vol. IV of the Code of the Laws, rubric of Zemstvo obligations and addenda of 1869, is established to carry the correspondence between the police headquarters and their district stations. Supplying the Zemstvo post with the means of transportation is obligatory since the introduction of the Rules of Zemstvo Obligations (Art. 3 and Add. Para. II, 3b). Also, Art. 5 and 29 of Provisional Rules for Zemstvo Institutions refer to the Zemstvo obligations (add. to Vol. IV, Code of the Laws, Rules of the Zemstvo obligations, 1868 appendix), thus the carrying out of these obligations is inprescriptible (Art. 9, add to Art. 108 of same Rules); 2) The existing legal dispositions do not impose any other obligations on Zemstvo’s and do not give them any rights whatsoever for the postal service, although in Par. IX of Art. 2 of the Rules, in the list of the various subject matters there is mention of participation in the postal obligations; still, such participation may materialize only if the government deems it necessary to declare, based on Par. XIV of the same Article, the size and order of the said participation by a special rule, decree, or decision. Likewise, in Par. VII of that same article there is foreseen the participation of Zemstvo’s in the care of prisons, but this has not been made effective yet, 3) at present, apart from the obligatory service, as per Art. 217 of the Rules, the Participation of the Zemstvo institutions in transportation of the correspondence by the special Zemstvo, i.e., rural posts is exclusively conditional to the granting of permission by the Ministry of Interior Affairs and to the temporary rules issued by the Ministry on the subject and must be limited by the precise application of Art. 1114 of the Penal Code, and 4) therefore, any misunderstandings on the part of the Zemstvo institutions that may arise when applying the rules issued by the Ministry of Interior, are to cleared up by the Ministry. These misunderstandings are to be referred to the Governors by the Zemstvo’s, the Governor presenting them to the Ministry, but, in no case can they be pretexts for applying for legislative changes.

After considering everything presented above, the Ministry of the Interior replied negatively to the request of the Samara Province Zemstvo Assembly.

Having studied the application and having heard the opinion of the Minister of Interior, General-Adjutant Timashov, that the question of the development of the posts is a matter of special care to the Ministry of the Interior, the Committee resolved to permit the Adjutant General Timashov to deny the application of the Samara Province Zemstvo Assembly due to discrepancy in its form. The Samara Zemstvo Assembly also was informed that the Minister of the Interior has under careful scrutiny all questions dealing with the establishment and future development of the Zemstvo Posts.

When one comes to the subject of the Zemstvo post as a whole, it is agreed that the Imperial Post must remain entirely an arm of the government. However, in expanding its sphere of action, insurmountable obstacles are encountered such as a restricted budget, vast space, a thinly scattered population, and substandard roads. The Committee of Ministers therefore has decided that the Zemstvo post as an institution complementary to the Empire Post must, when possible, be encouraged.

At all events, therefore, in the opinion of the Ministerial Committee the Zemstvo Post must aid the economic and cultural development of the country by furnishing communication between points of the political entity and joining all points near, intermediate and remote to the Imperial network as well as increasing the amount of correspondence. For this reason, the financial burden of the horse-drawn carts must be lightened.

In view of these considerations and the fact that the two posts were closely tied together, the Committee decided on the following measures to ensure the further development of both:

Elimination of competition between the Empire and Zemstvo Posts.
Conversion of the Zemstvo Posts institutions into really useful auxiliary organs of the Empire Post.
Keeping in mind the great importance of this reorganization and the effects this separate administration might have on the enlargement or curtailment of Zemstvo Posts, the Ministerial Committee decided:

To permit a detailed study on the part of the Minister of the Interior of the rules which apply to the Empire Post, Zemstvo Post, horse-drawn carriages and related subjects. These considerations and conclusions, after being coordinated with the Minister of the Treasury and other interested agencies, should be submitted through the established channels for a detailed analysis.

NOTE: It should be pertinent to note here that the word “Zemstvo” in its application to the Zemstvo Postal Services., as it is understood today,, took some time to be acknowledged and fully accepted. The same refers to the translations of the term “Zemstvo”. In the absence of any simple and brief translation of the term “Zemstvo”, Herrick uses the words “rural” and “local”. The first line of his Circular dated 3 September 1870 reads: “I. The local post is authorized, etc.”, while Sokolov starts the first line of the Circular 12725 with the words: “1. The Zemstvo Post is established, etc.” And in the preceding phrase, Sokolov uses the expression: 1). Zemstvo (rural) posts”.

It seem as if in the early years of the Zemstvo Postal Services there was no uniform terminology, as may be seen from the following inscriptions on some Zemstvo Postage Stamps: Belozersk (1872-1885) uses the term “Zemstvo Village Post”; 1887 stamps 31a and 32a (Schmidt Nos.) use the term “Village Post”; “Zemstvo Post” from 1889 on. Vierkhnednieprovsk – “County Village Post”. Solikamsk (1887-#1) – “County Zemstvo Post”. Pskov – “County Zemstvo Post”.

“Zemstvo Village Post”. ‘ Nolinsk and Kotelnitch – “Zemstvo Office Post”. Kazan – “Village Post”, etc. Even K. Schmidt in his major works, although fully explaining what Zemstvo’s were, nevertheless, in the absence of other translation uses the equivalent of “Provincial Land Post”. All of these terms should be understood as “Zemstvo Post”, since with the passage of years, the Zemstvo’s of all counties that had postal services had adopted the same term, “Zemstvo Post”.

Translation from Russian by G. P. Bulak
From: Postal-Telegraph Journal. 1897 pp. 823-848

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