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Turkish (Ottoman) Empire.

(See also the Ottoman Empire in Europe).

The Ottoman Empire reached its furthest extent in 1648 when its sultan ruled from the gates of Vienna to the Persian Gulf and included within his dominions the coasts of North Africa and the Black Sea. Only a decisive defeat in Malta had blocked the way still further west. After defeat at the hands of Catherine the Great of Russia decline was continuous from 1774 to the end of World War I. By the time of the first stamp issue (1863) the Ottoman Empire still comprised most of the Balkans (except southern Greece) as far as the Danube, and much of the Near East. Successive issues, therefore, were used in an ever- contracting area as territories were lost.

Postal History
The earliest Turkish handstamps known date from 1840 and it is probable that only an official service operated between provincial capitals before this time. The right to organize services of couriers was granted to Russia in 1720 and to Austria in 1739. Both set up a P0 in Constantinople in 1748. Britain, France and Italy had all established posts in the Turkish Empire before 1840. Until 1914 most mail leaving the Empire was sent by one or the other.

The right of resident foreigners to run their own postal services grew from the 'Capitulations'. These were extra-territorial rights negotiated by treaties for the purposes of trade since 1535. Capitulations were abrogated on 9 September 1914 and foreign POs were closed down. Capitulations were restored between 10 August 1920 and 24 July 1923 and some foreign POs were re-opened.




1863, 40 paras = 1 piastre.
1929, 40 paras = 1 kurus.
100 kurus = 1 lira (TD).
1942, 100 paras = 1 Kurus.
1947, 100 kurus = 1 lira.

The gradual erosion of the Ottoman Empire was hastened by World War I. By 1919, Turkey in Asia was reduced to its present boundaries, except for some difficulties in the establishment of the Syrian border, which was not finalised until 1939. The collapse of internal government allowed Greece to invade through Izmir (Smyrna) in 1919, but the Greeks were repulsed by a reconstituted Turkish Army led by Kemal Ataturk. A confrontation with the Western Allies at Charnak in 1923 was avoided and Ataturk welded the factions of the nation into a single unit. Turkey remained neutral for most of World War II, but took part in the Korean War and subsequently became part of NATO.

Austrian POs in Turkish Empire

FIRST STAMPS Turkish 1863.



1863, 100 Soldi = 1 Florin.
1886, Turkish.

An overland courier service established after the Peace of Passarowitz (1721) was recognized in 1739. In 1748 an Austrian P0 was set up in Galata separately from the Constantinople embassy, and the service extended to Smyrna. For POs with dates see map. After 1836 mail was carried by the Austrian Lloyd Steam Navigation Company, based in Trieste, which operated TPOs and whose agents acted as postmasters.

Used stamps of Lombardy-Venetia ('Austrian Italy') in 1863-7: dates of issue:
Constantinople 1 December 1863. Danubian Provinces 17 February 1864. Other Levant offices 14 April 1864.

ROPiT (Russian POs in Turkish Empire)

FIRST STAMPS Russian November 1862.



1863, as Russia.
1900, 40 paras = 1 piastre.

Though Russian consular couriers carried despatches between Constantinople and St Petersburg from 1721, a regular Russian postal service was a consequence of the Treaty of Kutchkuk Kainarji (1774). A consular P0 was opened in Constantinople (Pera; used handstamps from c.1830), a mail-boat plied between Constantinople and Kherson from 1779, and an overland mail route was opened in 1781 (Constantinople - Giurgiu - Bucharest -Focsani-Jassy-Bratzlav). This was suspended during various wars: 1787-92, 1806-12, 1828-9, and 1854-6. In 1856, after the Crimean War, the Russian service was entrusted to RUSSKOE OBSHCHESTVO PAROKHODSTVA i TORGOVLI (ROPiT; Russian Company of Trade and Navigation) with a PO at Constantinople (Galata) and PAs at every port-of-call. Handstamps were used from 1859 at Constantinople and from 1862 on ROPiT ships. There was direct transmission between POs; all external mail was routed via Odessa into the Imperial Russian PO. Numeral cancellers were allocated to ports in 1862: Batum, 777; Trebizond, 778; Mytilene, 779; Smyrna, 780; Merson, 781; Alexandretta, 782; Beirut, 783; Jaffa, 784; Alexandria, 785; Salonica, 787; and to many others in later periods. From May 1868 the ROPiT agencies were given the status of Russian POs abroad and surviving consular POs were closed.

Individually overprinted stamps were issued in 1909 for the following POs: Galata, Kerassunde, Trebizond, Rizeh, Dardanelles, Smyrna, Beirut, Jaffa, Jerusalem Mytilene, Salonica, Mount Athos.

All Russian POs on Turkish soil were closed on or before 30 September 1914 (though those in places ceded to Greece in 1913 may have remained open later). Though some ROPiT agencies re-opened briefly in 1919, the postal service failed for lack of ships in White Russian hands; stamps were sold to collectors rather than used for postage.

Wrangel Army Refugee Post

FIRST STAMPS late November 1920 (suppressed 31 May 1921).


Depreciated Wrangel roubles.

Post organized by General Wrangel to serve White Russian refugees (military and civilian) from the Crimea, lodged in camps mainly round Constantinople. There were in addition camps on Lemnos, in Belgrade, at Cattaro (Kotor in Yugoslavia) and Bizerta. (See also South Russia under Europe).

French Levant (POs in Turkish Empire)

FIRST STAMPS 5 August 1885.


1885, 25 centimes = 1 piastre.
1921, Turkish.

French P0 was opened in Constantinople in 1812. Suspended in 1827-35 as a consequence of the Greek War of Independence. After the closures of 13 October 1914, only Constantinople reopened August 1921 - July 1923.

The small amount of mail prior to 1950 was fed privately into the PO at Bahrain. A British postal administration set up in Doha (May 1950) was extended to Umm Said (1 February 1956) and Dukhan (3 January 1960); it was transferred to Qatar post department on 23 May 1963.

Used stamps of France 1857-85 (identifiable by various diamond-of-dots obliterations).

British POs in Turkish Empire (British Levant)

FIRST STAMPS British 1854.



1885, 40 paras = 1 piastre.
1886, Turkish.

British Embassy mail started in 1832. In November 1854 an Army P0 was established in Constantinople as a sorting and forwarding office for forces in the Crimea.

The PO was opened for public service (oblit. 'C' in oval of bars) in September 1857; further POs were opened in Smyrna in 1872 (oblit. F87) and Beirut in 1873 (oblit. G 06). A second office was opened at Stamboul (oblit. S in oval bars) in 1884 but this was closed in the 1890s and did not reopen until 1908.

Because of speculation with Turkish currency, stamps overprinted in Turkish currency were issued on 1 April 1885. These were used concurrently with British adhesives and, later, stamps in British currency overprinted LEVANT. The latter were used for prepayment of parcels where the value of the contents was expressed in sterling.

An office was opened at Salonica in 1900 but only circular postmarks were used. All offices were closed on 30 September 1914, but the Smyrna office was reopened during 19 19-22 and used unoverprinted adhesives.

Constantinople had a British Army PO in 1918-20 and a civilian PO with overprinted stamps was open from 1920 to 1923.

German POs in Turkish Empire

FIRST STAMPS North German Confederation 1 March 1870; Germany 1872


A Constantinople office was opened at Pera on 1 March 1870, but moved to Galata on 1 October 1877; a branch office was placed at Stamboul on 1 January 1876. Short-lived branches operated at Buyukdere 1880-4 and Therapia 1884-8. Later offices: Jaffa (1 October 1898), Jerusalem, Smyrna, Beirut, Pera (all 1 March 1900), were closed on 30 September 1914.

Italian POs in Turkish Empire

FIRST STAMPS Italy 1873.

FIRST STAMPS ISSUES 1908 (Constantinople).


1908, as Turkey.

Both Venice and Naples maintained postal connections with the Levant in the 18th century but these had lapsed before Unification. In 1873 Italian PAs were established in Constantinople, Smyrna, and Beirut. These were suppressed in 1883. From 1901 in Albania (q.v.) and 1908 elsewhere, Italian POs were opened (some by threat of force): Constantinople (Galata, Pera, Stainboul) 1 June 1908; Smyrna, Jerusalem, Salonica, and Valona.

Used stamps of Italian POs Abroad (ESTERO overprints) 1 January 1874- December 1883.

Stamps of Italy were used in Constantinople because of shortages caused by collectors. Aegean Islands issues, see Greece.


First separately overprinted (CONSTANTINOPOLI) stamps February 1909.


First separately overprinted (GERUSALEMME) stamps February 1909.


First separately overprinted (SALONICCO) stamps February 1909.

Romanian POs in the Turkish Empire

FIRST STAMPS 16 March 1896.


As Turkey.

TPO was placed aboard a Romanian Steamship Company vessel to carry consular mails from Constantinople. This used special stamps. (See also Romania). In 1919 an attempt was made to restart the service. While the ship was moored at Constantinople, mails and stamps were seized by Turkish police on 25 May and the P0 closed.

Polish PO in Constantinople



1919, as Poland, 100 fenigi = 1 marka.

Polish consulate opened a PO in May 1919, which closed in 1923.

Egyptian POs in Turkish Empire

POs were established at Constantinople (1866), and in 1870 at Beirut, Chios, Jaffa, Mersin, Mytilene, Salonica, Smyrna, Tripoli, Vol6s, Dardanelles and Gallipoli.

Used stamps of Egypt (distinguishable by cancellations).

Greek POs in Turkish Empire

Greek consular PAs were established at Constantinople (1834); Salonica and Dardanelles (1835); Bucharest, Ibraila, and Jassy (1857); Galatz and Larissa (January 1860); also at Vol6s, and at Candia, Canea and Rethymno in Crete. POs at Constantinople (1849) and at Smyrna (1857) were separated from the consulates and handled the mail of Greek citizens.

Used stamps of Greece 13 October 1861 - 25 April 1881 (cancellations bear the name of the town transliterated into Greek with TOYPKIA in brackets in the lower segment).


FIRST STAMPS ISSUED 4 March 1919 (inscriptions TEO and OMF, see Syria).


1919, as Turkey.

An area between the Taurus Mountains and the Gulf of Alexandretta corresponding roughly to the Turkish vilayet of Adana, occupied by French troops 1918 - 20 October 1921.


FIRST STAMPS Syria 1918.



1938, 100 centimes = 1 piastre.
1939, 100 santims = 40 paras = 1 kurus.

The northern part of the former Turkish province of Syria round Antioch, given autonomy by the French on 4 March 1923 as the Sanjak of Alexandretta. After some rioting against reincorporation into French Syria, an election on 2 September 1938 voted for an autonomous republic. This was incorporated into Turkey on 30 June 1939 (the province and chief town are now known as Antakya, and Alexandretta has been renamed Iskenderun).

Used stamps of Syria in 1918-38. Used stamps of Turkey from 1939.

Turkish Empire 1683-1923
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POs in the Turkish Empire
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Middle East after 1916
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