In 1773 the eastern part of Lithuania, which itself was a part of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth, became a part of Russia. In 1792 the remainder of Poland was partitioned and the rest of Lithuania was also added to Russia. Lithuania was divided into three provinces. Kowno (Kaunas), Vilna (Vilnius), and Grodno (Gardinas).
After 1815 the district of Suwalki (Suvalkai) was added to Russia. Besides Vilnius Kaunas was also an important city: capital of the province of Kaunas.
For the greater part Lithuania fell under the provinces of Kaunas and Vilnius. A small part fell under the province of Courland, which itself comprised a large part of present-day Latvia.
The Polish influence can still be seen in the cancels: the place names are often Russian transcriptions of the Polish names. Just like many Lithuanian places Kaunas has a Lithuanian form (Kaunas), a Russian (KOBHa), a German (Kowno or Kauen), and a Polish form (Kowno).
Introduction of stamps: 1857.
Together with the introduction of stamps the need for cancellation arose. Initially cancels of the previous period were used for this purpose, until the introduction of numerical cancels. Bigger places, therefore provincial capitals, received circular-shaped numerical dot cancellations. For Vilnius the numerical "5" was used. In addition the old cancels were used for the back sides of the covers.
For mail going abroad stamps were not used until 1864.
Since 1860: single circular cancels in Russia with Cyrillic characters only (only Moscow and St Petersburg received a double circular cancel):
Postcard from Vilnius-4 (Vilna), to Brussels (1881) (75% of actual size).
At the top the place name, underneath it the day, then the month in Cyrillic characters, then underneath the year. At the bottom an ornament. Later on the provincial name replaced the ornament in the case of smaller places, but Vilnius (Vilna) was also the capital of the province of Vilna and therefore maintained the ornament.
For Russia the First World War started on August 1, 1914. In 1915 Lithuania was conquered by the German marshal Ludendorff. On September 18, 1915 the German troops marched into Vilnius.
Postally Lithuania then became part of the "Postgebiet Ober-Ost", the postal district of the Oberbefehlshaber Ost" (Supreme Commander East). So in the cancels for Vilnius not the Polish "Wilno" was used, but the German name "Wilna".
After the German defeat the Lithuanian history becomes really very turbulent indeed, as may be learned from the table below:
In this period Vilnius several times changed hands:
1918, February 18
Proclamation of independence, independence day: Feb. 16
1918 March 3
Peace Treaty of Brest-Litovsk, Russia cedes Lithuania
1918 November 11
Capitulation of Germany, Lithuania independent with Vilnius as its capital
1918 December 26
First Lithuanian post office in Vilnius
1918 December 27
First Lithuanian stamps at the Vilnius counter
1919, January 2
First occupation of Vilnius by Polish insurgents
1919, January 5
Lithuanian government relocated to Kaunas
1919, January 5
First occupation of Vilnius by Bolsheviks (LSSR-LITBEL)
1919, April 19
Second Polish occupation of Vilnius
Paris Peace Conference: Lithuania independent
1920, July 12
Russia recognizes Lithuania with Vilnius (Treaty of Moscow
1920, August 25
Second Lithuanian reign in Vilnius
1920, August 26
Lithuanian government back in Vilnius
1920, October 9
Third Polish occupation (general Zeligowski)
1920, October 10
Proclamation of the state "Central Lithuania" (Vilnius region)
Independent Lithuania, with the provisional capital Kaunas, issues stamps of its own and at the same time the "state" of Central Lithuania, in the Vilnius region, produced its own stamps, in great quantities. After the Polish annexation of Vilnius Polish stamps are used in this area.
The Polish era lasted until September 19, 1939, when Vilnius was occupied by Soviet troops.
After the "Fourth" Partition of Poland Vilnius again becomes the capital of Lithuania on October 28, 1939, but on July 21, 1940 the LTSR, Lietuvos Tarybu Socialistine Respublika (Lithuanian Socialist Soviet Republic) was proclaimed.
On August 3, 1940 the LTSR becomes the 13th Soviet republic in the Soviet Union.
After the occupation of Vilnius by German troops on June 26, 1941 local surcharge stamps are used, but on August 31, 1941 the use of these surcharge stamps is prohibited. From then onwards only stamps of "Ostand" were permitted. These occupation stamps were used in Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, and Belorussia. Common German stamps were also allowed. Besides the "Deutsche Post Ostland" the "Deutsche Dienstpost Ostland" was also in operation.
After the war Lithuania becomes a Soviet republic, and from this period, too, a lot of material can be collected: letters with a Lithuanian cancel, franking machine cancels, covers with imprinted stamp and Lithuanian theme.
On March 11, 1990 independence was (again) proclaimed and on September 6, 1991 Lithuania became independent. After the proclamation of independence this was not yet immediately realized. A substantial transitional period followed, which was also postally a transitional period.
A start was made with the cancel "Lietuvos Respublikos PASTAS" and the ordinary cancels were gradually adapted.
On may 17, 1990 the first genuinely Lithuanian entire, a cover with imprinted stamp, appeared. The postal value was 5 copeck, being the inland rate.
Initially they were for inland use only. True enough independence was proclaimed on march 11, but it was still a transitional period.
The cover features the picture of a tree with the text "Atkurta Nepriklausoma Lietuvos Respublika 1990 III.11", which means "Restauration of the Independent Republic of Lithuania 1990 III.11" (March 11, 1990). (75% of actual size)The imprinted stamp bears the image of the peace angel. The cover is printed by the printing-office Spindulys in Kaunas, which also printed the last Lithuanian stamps in 1940.
The first stamps appeared on October 7, 1990. The image is again the peace angel.