Zambia 2000, How did we get here

I have done a fair number of 19th century stamps lately. So to change it up a little lets move forward to the 21st century. Some things change, but most stay the same. So slip on your smoking jacket, fill your pipe, take your first sip of your adult beverage, and sit back in your most comfortable chair. Welcome to todays offering from The Philatelist.

This is an interesting stamp visually. It was part of a series depicting African legends on the creation of the earth. This is probably too sectarian and divisive a subject for a western stamp. The drawings though are well executed and aimed at children. One issue that crops up being in the modern time is that it is evident that the stamp is more of a curiosity rather than something to use for postage.

Todays stamp is issue A179, a 600 Kwacha stamp issued by the Republic of Zambia on November 10th 2000. It was part of a three stamp issue. The Scott catalog seems to only view the stamps as a sheet together. The three stamps together are worth $1.60 whether mint or canceled to order. I only possess the one stamp featured today so I will guestimate its value at 53 cents.

Zambia was granted independence from Britain in 1964 after a white led federation with Zimbabwe and Malawi could not be sustained. It was originally intended to be a democracy but the first President Kenneth Kaunda ruled for over a quarter of a century with no legal opposition. Originally whites were given a voice in the legislature but this was withdrawn and most left. At independence, Zambia only processed 100 black college graduates. It did have the revenue from all the newly nationalized industries but the educational system required massive investment. Kaunda became a leader in the non aligned movement and a major supporter  of majority rebel movements in the still white lead countries around Zambia. This lead to increased security risks and even clashes with Rhodesia and South Africa.

Kaunda sought and received aid from East and West but much was squandered on corruption and useless military equipment like MIG 21 fighters, that Zambia could not properly maintain or operate. The economy was heavily dependent on copper exports but when price levels of copper dropped the only replacement was debt. The economy contracted 30 percent in the last years of Kaunda’s rule. Eventually the economic distress lead to strikes and coup attempts and Kaunda allowed a real election with labor leader Fredrick Chiluba winning and becoming the second President of Zambia.

The styles of the two men were quite different. Kaunda was famous for his khaki safari suits. In Southern Africa the suit is known as a kaunda suit. President Chiluba was only 5 feet tall and wore high heeled shoes and fancy business suits. The two men were still rivals and sniped at each other. Chiluba tried to have Kaunda’s citizenship revoked for having parents from then federated Nyasaland. Kaunda in turn accused Chiluba of being a thieving, cross dressing, dwarf. Chiluba was accused of stealing 50 million dollars from the government by having the intelligence service wire it to London. Chiluba said it was for foreign missions and was cleared by a friendly local court. Over 60 million was recovered from him after he left office. Kaunda is still around in retirement in his 90s and Zambia still stagnates.

Well my drink is empty and I will now depressingly contemplate what a country is to do when there is no one competent to run it. Come again tomorrow for another story that can be learned from stamp collecting.

Luxembourg 1891, Help wanted, we have an opening for a German guy, for the position of Grand Duke

With the Kingdom of the Netherlands breaking down along Germanic and Frank lines the German area of Luxemburg was left shrunken and rudderless. This was righted by a Luxembourger politician and a new line of Germans. So slip on your smoking jacket, fill your pipe, take your first sip of your adult beverage, and sit back in your most comfortable chair. Welcome to todays offering from The Philatelist.

The new guy sure is old. That was okay. The day to day running of the Duchy was in the hands of the much younger prime minister, who is actually from Luxembourg. The old guy also had proved good in a crisis and had a male heir as nature intended. Long Live the Old Guy. No not viva el old guy. We are German. Do your Belching over the border  in their um … Luxembourg.

Today’s stamp is issue A7, a 10 Centimes stamp issued by Luxembourg in 1891. It was part of a 10 stamp issue in various denominations displaying Grand Duke Adolphe. According to the Scott catalog, the stamp is worth 40 cents in its cancelled state.

Luxembourg was left much shrunken in the 19th century. Prussia had taken a part and Belgium had taken the French, or Belch, speaking part. The small Duchy had as its Grand Duke William III. He was also the King of Holland, so that grabbed the bulk of his attention. When he died, he lacked a male heir so his empire passed to his daughter Queen Wilhelmina. The shrinking proved that having the Dutch rule was not working. Luckily there was a provision in the rules of the Duchy that disallowed a female to reign as long as there was a related male to take the job. For this reason the Duchy passed to a 7th cousin once removed. Adolphe was a German who had formally served as Duke of the German Duchy of Nassau in nearby Rhineland. Nassau had been absorbed by Prussia so Adolphe was out of a job.

Adolphe had proved adept in a crisis. In the insurrections of 1848, he quickly returned to Wiesbaden, Nassau from Berlin to find a crowd outside the palace demanding change. He walked alone in full uniform through the crowd in a friendly manner and entered the Palace. From the balcony, he announced that he accepted all their demands and the insurrection turned into a celebration. He did not actually enact the demands but survived.

For the country to survive and thrive was the job of Prime and Foreign Minister Paul Eyschen, an actual Luxembourger. He served for over a quarter century and kept the Belgians at bay by allowing the Germans to keep  troops at the country’s large fort while paying lip service to Holland and maintaining neutrality in any conflict between Germany and France. This was obviously a tight rope to balance on. At the same time the economy was changing to a more industrialized model that required much economic and educational reform. Luckily Eyschen had spent much time in Berlin and had studied Bismarck’s reforms in these same areas. He enacted successfully the needed changes.

The balancing act ended when World War I broke out and Germany ignored Luxembourg’s neutrality and conquered it. Eyschen was allowed by the Germans to stay in office but he was heartbroken and took his own life. Adolphe’s granddaughter was by then Duchess and she openly collaborated with what were after all her fellow Germans. She was forced to abdicate after the Germans were defeated in World War I.

Well my drink is empty and I will pour another to toast Luxembourg and it’s ability to stay on it’s own course. Come again tomorrow for another story that can be learned from stamp collecting.

Niger Coast 1894, trying to control the palm oil trade

Trading posts often get bogged down in nation building. Even after the failure of the British East India company, it was tried again later, this time in Nigeria. So slip on your smoking jacket, fill your pipe, take your first sip of your adult beverage, and sit back in your most comfortable chair. Welcome to todays offering from The Philatelist.

A trading post in an exotic land can produce a stamp a little different than a colony. The users of the stamp  will almost always be employees of the trading company stationed in what to them must have seemed the darkest of Africa. Native attacks, tropical diseases, and even attacks of rival traders were real threats. There must have been a terrible sense of being alone. The mail service must have been a lifeline and of course Queen Victoria was a welcome presence on the stamps. To make these adventurers think their home remembered them.

Todays stamp is issue A20, a one Shilling stamp issued by the Royal Niger Company for use in the Niger Coast Protectorate, currently southern Nigeria, in 1894. It was part of a 6 stamp issue in various denominations. One Shilling in 1894 is worth 5.21 Pounds today. According to the Scott catalog, The stamp is worth $90 today in it’s mint state. For once, this is the most valuable version of the issue, if we exclude overprints.

The trade with the Niger river delta mainly involved palm oil, that was used in the production of soap. The early trading post were not successful economically as there were many rival trading stations that often engaged in price wars with each other. There were British, French, and German trading posts in the area which was still ruled by local Africans.

Sir George Goldie had the idea to merge several of the rival British firms so as to be a monopoly of the trade. The British Gladstone government refused a charter. The failure of the British East India Company was recent and the government did not think a private company could adequately administer the area in question. The rival German and French traders also might bring conflict with those countries. Goldie set out raising money to prove his plans creditable and signed exclusive trading agreements with area tribes. A Royal Charter would be good for the stock he was floating and would make the treaties he was signing enforceable by the British government. A conference in Berlin conferred to Britain the territory that Goldie was operating in and the charter was then granted.

One local tribal leader became a rival to Goldie and the Royal charter proved it’s worth. King Jaja of Opobo had been sold into slavery among Africans at age 12. He proved his worth in business and rose in a trading house in Bonny earning his freedom. His tribe named him a chief and he became a head of the biggest local palm oil trading house. His trading house broke away the city state of Opobo from the African territory of Bonny. He managed later to manage shipments of Palm oil to Britain without dealing with any British middlemen. the only native to do so. He was on board the ship heading for Liverpool with a shipment when a British warship invited him aboard. He was then arrested for violating the trade treaty signed by Goldie but now enforced by Britain and sent into exile. Though he was not imprisoned, indeed was a guest of Queen Victoria at Buckingham Palace. He was not allowed to return to Bonny out of fear he would go back into business. As an old man, King Jaja was given permission to return home but died on the journey. His city state did not survive his absence.

The fears of Prime Minister Gladstone proved correct. The Royal Niger Company was forced to cede the area to the new British Crown Colony of Southern Nigeria. The company was paid less than it’s original capital but was able to continue as a trading house in the new colony. In the 1920s, the company was bought out by Unilever the Anglo-Dutch soap maker. The Nigerian city of Opobo still contains a statue to King Jaja put up at public subscription in 1903.

This turned more a story of economics than of local subjication as most colony stories end up. The relentless effort to get lower prices eventually makes the underlying activity not worth doing. Come again tomorrow for another story that can be learned from stamp collecting.

Curacao and Sint Eustatius, you go your way and I will go mine

Independence can be a tricky thing of a dependency. They are after all dependent So slip on your smoking jacket, fill your pipe, take your first sip of your adult beverage, and sit back in your most comfortable chair. Welcome to todays offering from The Philatelist.

A Queen looks down pleasantly at a view of an exotic island that is a part of the Dutch colony of Curacao. The stamp is however from the war years of World War II. Thus Holland is occupied by the Germans and Queen Wilhelmina is in exile in London. There is no fighting going on but change is in the air.

Todays stamp is issue A30, a one and a half cent stamp issued by the Dutch Colony of Curacao on Febuary 1st, 1943. This stamp features the dependent island of Sint Eustatious. Other stamps in the six stamp issue show other islands that were part of the colony. According to the Scott catalog, the stamp is worth 25 cents whether it is mint or used.

The Island was first spotted by Christopher Columbus and changed hands many time until coming under the Dutch in the treaties that ended the Napoleonic wars. In World War II the islands of the colony became hosts to many sailors and Queen Wilhelmina promised self rule post war. She toured the USA and Canada during her exile but did not visit the Dutch colonies. Here though is where it gets complicated. The peoples on the islands were majority blacks descended from the old slave trade that Holland was a big part of. They were not Dutch and did not even speak it.

The island of Curacao could see itself as an independent country. Oil had been discovered in nearby Venezuela and the Dutch oil company Shell had set up a large oil facility with a refinery and oil storage. It provided much employment and fit with the old Dutch model of their trading posts being natural transshipment posts with low tariffs. In the late 40s an open air brothel called Le Mirage was set up staffed by foreign women to service guests on the island. It was government owned and still operates today. Thinking this tax base gives a economic future and grating under Dutch administration, Curacao voted for independence. This lead to the colony then known as the Netherland Antilles going defunct.

Several of the smaller islands in the colony voted to stay colonies of Holland. They have small populations and a mother country checking on then is more appealing. They seemed to not trust being a dependent of an independent Curacao. I can understand that and commend Holland for giving them a choice.

Curacao is having it’s own set of problems. A labor dispute at Shell caused a period of rioting. Shell then decided to end the operation on Curacao and turned over the facility to the government for 1 Guilder. It is currently leased out to the Venezuelan national oil company but at a much lower level of employment and that lease ends next year. Curacao is talking to China about it and appealing to Holland for more aid.

P. S. Between writing and publishing there has been a court ruling taking the oil facility from Venezuela and giving it to Conoco, the American oil company. They had sued in countries with Venezuelan oil assets to get compensated for other assets nationalized in Venezuela without payment.

Well my drink is empty and so I will open the discussion in the below comment section. Come again tomorrow for another story that can be learned from stamp collecting.

 

The landowners in Romania want a German King, not a Romanian one

A landowning class can not continue if there is land reform. To prevent that, a Royal from outside is brought in, who has little connection to the peasants, doesn’t even speak their language or attend their church. So slip on your smoking jacket, fill your pipe, take your first sip of your adult beverage, and sit back in your most comfortable chair. Welcome to todays offering from The Philatelist.

Todays stamp has an impressive look. A celebration of King Carol I forty years on the throne. So here is the King taking his oath years before, in French. There are others of him leading the army and attending church, not the Romanian Orthodox one. Carol apparently took the trappings of his office very seriously. His Queen once joked he wore his crown to bed. That shows on the stamps. That the people were so beaten down that his German royal house lasted 80 years is the tragedy that this stamp puts a brave face on.

The stamp today is issue A27, a 1 Bani stamp issued by the Kingdom of Romania in 1906. The stamp is part of a 10 stamp issue in various denominations. According to the Scott catalog, the stamp is worth 65 cents in its mint condition.

Romania was a coming together of Wallachia and Moldavia under the Moldavian Prince Alexandru Ioan Cuza. There was a token allegiance paid to the Ottoman Empire but the Prince was working for European recognition of the new country. The people were overwhelmingly peasant, Orthodox Christian and spoke Romanian, which is a derivative of French.

Prince Alexandru Ioan Cuza was a leftist reformer who sought land reform  and was greatly influenced by the Europe wide insurrections of 1848. The landowning class, the Boyars were successfully fighting him on land reform . There were ethnically of German stock and so tended to side with the Germans on the European issues. The peasants were heavily with the French. The Prince sought more power to get his reforms through but the left was loosing patience with him. A coup occurred in 1866 supported by the right and some on the left  and forced Cuza to abdicate and into exile. The right wing of the coup plotters then recruited a German Prince Karl to be a new Prince and he served first as Prince Carol and later as King Carol I in a 48 year reign. He was an able soldier and won some extra land at cost of Bulgaria and succeeded in putting down forcibly the frequent peasant uprisings. He built the elaborate German style Peles Castle. He also prevented any land reform.

He did not get along well with his German Queen and after a Princess died young there was no further issue. The prospect of being King of Romania was not appealing either to Carol’s brother nor his brother’s son who both renounced any claims to the succession. Finally Carol found another German nephew Ferdinand who was willing. King Carol wanted to side with the Germans in World War I against the will of his people but he died in 1914 and since Ferdinand had a British wife he listened more to his people, or at least his wife.

The monarchy was exiled after World War II. After the cold war the current would be Royals initiated a court case to have the Royal properties returned to them personally. Peles Castle is now owned by them though still open as a museum. The current would be royal Princess Margareta grew up in Switzerland and is named after a Danish Royal grandmother. She tries harder than her ancestors in that she was baptized Romanian Orthodox and does speak Romanian. She even married a Romanian after a five year relationship with former British Prime Minister Gordon Brown. The Romanian government as yet to accede to becoming a constitutional monarchy.

Well my drink is empty and I will pour another and ponder this idea of bringing in a foreign King. He seemed to be a strong and lasting leader, but the good he did was only for a few. Come again tomorrow for another story that can be learned from stamp collecting.

Building bridges in Denmark, can we still do that and if so, should we

A new bridge opens in 1985, that speeds travel from place to place. It is an early example of a modern style bridge but represents the last gasp of western infrastructure. So slip on your smoking jacket, fill your pipe, take your first sip of your adult beverage, and sit back in your most comfortable chair. Welcome to todays offering from The Philatelist.

I very much like the visuals of this stamp. A new bridge naturally makes one thing of a better future with more possibilities. Something there is less and less of in Western countries where so many stamps have us either looking back or at something that is really only aimed at a few of us. To add to the visuals, the bridge design was of the new variety, with diamond shaped concrete supports and different arrangements of steel cables. The bridge allowed a quick transit between the islands of Falster and Zealand while remaining on the modern highway. This allows quicker trips to and from Copenhagen on the island of Zealand.

Todays stamp is issue A25, a 2.8 Krones stamp issued by the Kingdom of Denmark on May 21st, 1985. It is a single stamp issue celebrating the opening of the  Faro-Falster bridge. According to the Scott catalog, the stamp is worth 35 cents used.

The bridge on the stamp today was meant to reduce congestion on a much smaller bridge that dated from 1937. The older bridge was kept around for rail traffic. This bridge is now in a poor state and is unsuited for an electrified railway. So there are plans to replace it by another bridge that will incorporate two railway tracks, automobiles and a bike path. I say plans because the process for getting anything new built means that plans take decades to materialize. Funding has to go through a political process that not only includes Denmark but also the European Union. It would be crazy not to apply to them for funding but doing so adds so many years to the project that one wonders if the whole point is to make sure nothing happens.  Even in the best of circumstances coordinating the dictates of two separate bureaucracies must be daunting. The infrequency of actually completing one makes one wonder about the quality of the bridge builders, now that a whole career can be spent on just one project. It does not make for well experienced bridge builders that face new and different challenges every few years.

An example of forever delays is the Fehmarn Belt project that is to take traffic off the bridge on todays stamp by creating a tunnel to connect Zealand to Germany. The project has sat on the shelf so long that the proposed route avoids the old East Germany. Remember Germany was reunited in 1990 and there are no longer travel complications from passing through its Eastern areas. Indeed it is preferable to do so from a distance point of view and also to open up more road and rail travel to Poland. The current in service date of the Fehmarn Belt tunnel is 2028 if everything stays on schedule. To scrap it and start with something more fitting to todays world would add decades to the project. I won’t hold my breath waiting for the stamp celebrating the opening of the Fehmarn Belt Tunnel.

Well my drink is empty and so I will pour another to commiserate with the modern builder. Ideas they still have but the pride that comes from making the dream a reality must have completely faded. Come again tomorrow for another story that can be learned from stamp collecting.

Belgium 1935, a deadly vacation before treason and abdication

A young Queen dies while on holiday away from her children and so avoids the tarnish of her husbands treason. So slip on your smoking jacket, fill your pipe, take your first sip of your adult beverage, and sit back in your most comfortable chair. Welcome to todays offering from The Philatelist.

It is interesting to compare Queen Astrid’s mourning stamps with the many for Princess Diana. Both stamps showed the glamourous young royal at the height of their beauty. What in my mind makes the early stamp superior was the back background and the surcharge of the semi-postal issue. I like the tradition of the mourning period and that the occasion is used to raise money for causes important to the Queen. In this case tuberculosis.

Todays stamp is issue B174, a 70 +5 Centimes stamp issued by Belgium in 1935. It displays a mourning portrait of Queen Astrid after her death in a car accident near their vacation villa in Switzerland. It was part of a 8 stamp issue in various denominations. According to the Scott catalog, the stamp is worth 25 cents in it’s used state.

Queen Astrid was born a Princess in Sweden. She married Belgian crown Prince Leopold in what her mother in law Belgian Queen Elisabeth insisted was a marriage of love. They quickly had 3 Children including future Belgian King Baudouin and a daughter who became a Grand Duchess Consort of Luxemburg. She converted to Catholicism from being a Lutheran. In 1933 they became King and Queen when Leopold’s father King Albert died mountain climbing.The couple were vacationing in Switzerland with the King driving, Queen Astrid holding a map and the chauffer in back of the convertible Packard which went off the road. Queen Astrid died at the scene but King Leopold was only lightly injured.

Leopold III actions when Belgium was invaded by Germany forever tarnished him. He assumed command of the Belgian Army and refused to evacuate with the rest of Belgium government to London. He claimed it was his duty to be with his men but the government thought it a way to fall into the hands of the Germans and thereby remain King of the German puppet government of Belgium. He did indeed come into German hands and Churchill believed him quick to surrender when Belgium’s troops were still helping keep the Dunkirk evacuation going.

King Leopold III met with Hitler and indeed asked to form a government. Hitler refused and decided to keep Belgium under a military occupation government. Leopold was allegedly confined to palace but managed enough freedom to remarry and have a new set of children. When Belgium was liberated by the Allies in 1944, Leopold and his new wife were not there but had left with the Germans. He left behind a treatise where he stated that he did not consider the Allied arrival a liberation but rather an occupation.

When the war ended there was a real question as to whether  Leopold could return as King. He argued that since Hitler had not allowed him to form a government there was no treason. In his absence the Belgian government  declared Leopold’s brother Charles regent while Leopold stayed in Switzerland.

In 1950 a new more right wing government in Belgium was elected and allowed Leopold to return. It did not go well as the government  was hit by general strikes and a few weeks later Leopold abdicated in favor of his  20 year old son, by Queen Astrid,  Baudouin. He lived on in Belgium living a jet set lifestyle until his death in 1983. He lays in the royal tomb between his two wives.

Well my drink is empty and as I have another I will toast those that went on strike upon Leopold’s return. Many were just anti monarchy communists, but they were right that a country should be able to expect more from their King. Come again tomorrow for another story that can be learned from stamp collecting

Caracas builds up as President Jimenez flies away.

Oil revenue can do much, most of all raise expectations. Most dictators would prefer a lower bar of success. So slip on your smoking jacket, fill your pipe, take your first sip of your adult beverage, and sit back in your most comfortable chair. Welcome to todays offering from The Philatelist.

Today stamp shows the grand façade of the main Carmelite Post Office in Caracas. The oil revenue was seeing much construction in Caracas of the time and yet the post office building was almost 200 years old. The stamps of the time show a lot of these historic old facades. I suspect that the reason for them was that the government believed Venezuela underpopulated and was trying to attract a new crop of European immigrants. The old world style architecture might help attract them.

The stamp today is issue A102, a 5 Centimos stamp issued by Venezuela on May 14th, 1958. It was part of a six stamp issue in various denominations showing the main post office. In addition to this issue there were three other issues of stamps in the previous 5 years showing the façade of the post office. According to the Scott catalog, the stamp is worth 25 cents used. Indeed of the 28 stamps featuring the post office, none are today worth more than $1.50. So the office has lost its once large popularity.

Marcos Jimenez was an army officer that ruled for about 10 years in the 1950s. The oil revenue was really flowing at the time and he started massive public works projects in Caracas. His slogan was sow the oil. The reality was that a lot of debt was being built up and much of it was trying to employ large numbers of Venezuelans to avoid revolution. He also tried to attract European immigrants into the capital in order to benefit from their education and to skew the racial makeup of the country. Jimenez did not succeed in this. Though 2 million immigrants came, most only stayed a few years. He hosted a regular show on Venezuelan TV, where he and a historian friend would talk about historical events

Jimenez was not popular with the elites in the cities, nor with the peasants in the countryside. When a coup was in the offing, Jimenez avoided bloodshed from his side by quickly leaving the country. He settled in the USA until 1963, when he was extradited back to Venezuela to face corruption charges. He sat in jail for 5 years before his sentence was commuted and he was allowed to retire to Spain. He died there in 2001. A later fan of Jimenez was Hugo Chavez. He said Jimenez was one of the best presidents, that people only disliked him  because he was a military man, and Chavez was impressed by all the public works that went on in that era.

The Carmelite Post Office was originally built as a home in the 18th century. It later became the War office and in the 1930s was rebuilt as the main post office with the Gothic façade that appears on the stamp. In 1984, the building was declared a national historic landmark. It still stands but has been dwarfed by the huge buildings that now surround it. The look is a little different today as it has been painted bright colors.

Well my drink is empty and so I will open the discussion in the below comment section. Come again tomorrow for another story that can be learned from stamp collecting.

Azerbaijan, No Soviets to police these borders anymore

The colonial power leaves but after being there so long is there a cohesive country still to reconstruct. So slip on your smoking jacket, fill your pipe, take your first sip of your adult beverage, and sit back in your most comfortable chair. Welcome to todays offering from The Philatelist.

During the cold war era, the Eastern Bloc put out for years well printed large stamps on popular topics. They were readily and cheaply available to worldwide collectors and allowed many stamp collectors to specialize in automobile stamps or in this case cat stamps. Azerbaijan got into this act quickly after independence. In a way that is surprising as the eastern system is after all what they were rebelling against. The fact is though the system was still ingrained in those making decisions. To be frank, these type of stamps are not my thing. I don’t like that most are mint and even if cancelled have never seen an envelope. I also prefer the stamps to be more of a mirror to teach about the place of issue.

The stamp today is issue A55, a 250 Manet stamp issued by Azerbaijan on October 30th, 1995. It was part of a 6 stamp and one souvenir sheet issue displaying domestic cats, in this case a Somali cat. One can see the hyperinflation of early days of independence. The Manet currency was only out for 3 years when this stamp was new. Already the Giapicks, cent equivalent, are gone and the denomination of the stamp is 250 Manets. According to the Scott catalog, the stamp is worth 65 cents in it’s cancelled to order state.

Azerbaijan had been taken from the Ottoman Empire by Russia in Czarist times. There was a brief period of independence in the chaos after the 1917 revolution but the new Muslim country was at war with next door Christian Armenia and was unable to resist the Red Army when it came to restore both countries to Soviet aethist Republics.

In the late 80s the Soviet system that had kept the peace began to break down. The locals began to have more contact with their fellow ethnics in neighboring countries and the local Soviet authorities no longer had the stomach to stop them. The border lines of Azerbaijan contained an area called Nagorno-Karabakh that was heavily Armenian in nationality and Christian in religion. As the still Soviet republics both got more autonomy from Moscow, the Armenians gave the vote to Armenians in Nagorno-Karabakh. The outraged Azerbaijan independence front leaders and they began an anti-Armenian ethnic cleansing pogrom that was quite deadly, the numbers are disputed as usual.

In early 1990 this got the Soviets off the dime and a state of emergency was declared and Soviet troops sent in. The troops were lead by later Russian nationalist leader Alexander Lebed. The Soviets were able to regain control but now Azerbaijan had it’s own massacred in what became known as Black January. At the time of the anti Gorbachev coup, the Azerbaijan Popular Front declared itself independent from Tehran, Iran.

Elections and war with Armenia followed. Gaidar Aliyev was an Azeri who had risen high under the Soviet system but was not allowed to compete allegedly due to age. The Azerbaijan Popular Front had two presidents in short order that fought a losing war with Armenia. APF discredited, Aliyev was then allowed to run and won the Presidency in 1993. He arraigned a ceasefire with Armenia and put his son in charge of the national oil company. When he died he was succeeded by his son who remains in power today. Azerbaijan is again close to Russia.

Well my drink is empty and as I enjoy another I wonder how many former colonies would happily elect an old colonial governor. More than a few I would expect. Come again tomorrow for another story that can be learned from stamp collecting.

Bolivia can only find the gate to the sun on its stamps.

When two sides can’t get along, one side gets repressed. Then the other side gets revenge. then the process repeats. So slip on your smoking jacket, fill your pipe, take your first sip of your adult beverage, and sit back in your most comfortable chair. Welcome to todays offering from The Philatelist.

Todays stamp is not well printed but displays the ancient Gate of the Sun. The archway is carved from a single stone and is a relic of the Tiwanaku Empire that ruled the area around Lake Titicaca from 300 BC to about 1150 AD. The Tiwanaku Empire predated the Incas and far predated Spanish Explorers.

The stamp today is an airmail stamp issue C209, a 5000 Boliviano stamp issued by Bolivia on March 26, 1960. The hyper inflation of the era is reflected in the high denomination of the stamp. An airmail issue from five years before was only 50 Bolivianos. According to the Scott catalog, the stamp is worth $2.00 used.

Bolivia has not had much luck with it’s right of center governments. See http://the-philatelist.com/wp-admin/post.php?post=445&action=edit. In the early fifties those on the left were able to unite enough to get a string of their leaders into the presidency. Change was pretty dramatic but the results were not good. The tin mines were a major source of wealth in Bolivia and the new left wing government quickly nationalized them. The labor union that represented the miners was an important part of the coalition. However the output of the mines dropped off and there were constant strikes and the mines were seriously overstaffed.

There was voter and land reform that saw the number of voters go up by five fold as literacy and land owning requirements dropped away. The left assumed  that the reform would bring a large number of new left wing voters. It did this but there was not enough discipline to see that they all voted for the same left wing party. Elections inevitably left the leading candidate with less than 50 percent of the vote leaving the decision to the legislature and by extension the party bosses.

The military, a right wing organization was heavily shrunk and purged. This left the government unable to disarm various peasant militias that though they were sometimes allies, were a huge challenge to achieving stability. Shrinking the military also angered the USA, whose aid was 20 percent of the national budget. All these challenges lead to hyper inflation, which turned the middle class rightward politically. The left was further divided as to whether the proper model for Bolivia was the one left party state of Mexico or a more pure form of socialism. Soon enough the left was splintered enough that when the next military coup came in 1969, it had support of many on the left.

The gate of the sun was built by the Tiwanaku empire that controlled much of Bolivia and some of Peru. It was not conquered so much as died out. A drought lead to a famine  that spelled the end of the people. The relics of the empire were discovered by the Spanish who first wrote of them. They were studied by some of the great archeologists of the 19th century. The site of the gate of the sun is a UNESCO world heritage site. The foreign archeologists have left the site after Bolivia worried that the site was not being properly respected by the team from Harvard that included many students. Bolivia then stepped up its own work at the site but then stopped when UNESCO protested that their changes were not historically accurate.

The study of the gate of the sun makes a point about the failure of a society. Here is hoping that current Bolivian society  does not have the same outcome. Come again tomorrow for another story that can be learned from stamp collecting.