How to identify a zemstvo
You really have three challenges in identifying zemstvo stamps.
The first challenge is to determine if the stamp actually is a zemstvo or some other type of "back of the book" or "cinderella" issue. You do this by looking for the word zemstvo more or less spelled as you see in the examples above - note that there are some examples where the word used actually starts off with the "root" of the word - zem - and then something after it, and, just to make things more fun (!), the example at the top right uses a totally different word that means the same thing.
Okay, so if you have succeeded in finding what looks like a word that means it is a zemstvo stamp, now for the second part of the challenge. Which issuing authority does it come from?
This is where you need some cyrillic reading skills - see our page that helps you to be able to sound out and read the Russian alphabet.
The chances are that one of the other words on the stamp will be at least partially the name of the issuing district. Some of the words probably just mean "post" and/or "stamp" and you can ignore these, focusing instead on words you've never seen before on other Russian stamps. Then you'll just have to "decode" the word, letter by letter, until you get a reasonably good match with one of the names of the issuing districts. Be careful with, for example, Dmitrief and Dmitrof, or Velsk and Volsk - there isn't a lot of difference in how they are spelled!
Once you think you've identified it to a district, have a look here and see if we have any images for that district. If so, you can compare the spelling and design and perhaps immediately match it. If we don't have an image, then maybe you'll have a zemstvo catalog that can help.
The last part of the challenge is actually the hardest, working out which exact zemstvo you have. The differences between them are poorly described and differentiated in Chuchin, and unless you have a complete set of all of the stamps in front of you, it is very hard to know what he means when he says "a bit brighter red" or "slightly heavier type" or when he distinguishes between "red" and "carmine-rose"!!! Good luck.
This page last modified on October 12, 2013