Philokypros.net is proud to host the
Cyprus Civil Censorship
Postal History Collection of Mr Stelios Theophilou from Limassol, Cyprus.
In the early years of the Twentieth Century, the usage of mail as a cheap and reliable way of communication among people, was continuously gaining remarkably in significance.
The telephone as we know it today was in its infancy. The same can be said about radio. Television was merely a word in existence. And the mail was transported on ships or through land routes on trains, trucks and even mules; in the late 1920s air transport became an option though quite expensive in the begining, due to the inceased rates one would have to pay by affixing more expensive stamps on the envelope.
The unaware will easily observe the historical background of the period of the collection by studying the various postmarks of the exhibited mail, the stamps and their values as well as the additional information appearing on the envelopes in the form of slogans or other notes of postal interest that show how organized and efficient the post authorities have been during those turbulent years.
This study covers a timespan of forty-five years extending from 1914 up to 1959.
In this timespan, a series of events that have marked the world history in general and others that were confined within the island’s micro world, have been reflected in the overall handling of mail; i.e., its procedures and distribution.And as the flow of information through the mail was growing both in size and quality and was available to more people, the need for some kind of control on it became obvious, considering the political situation of the days. What “control” would mean can easily be anticipated: Within the postal (as well as military) chain of the collection and distribution of mail, separate offices were formed and assigned the task to check and read the mail in transit before its final delivery to the recipient; thus privacy was violated in an effort to prevent sensitive military or political information from traveling unhindered.
The work done by these anonymous - invisible officers was not covered by secrecy. On the contrary, each officer was marking each mail under his supervision with a special postmark indicating that the mail was opened and read and hence passed through censorship. The applied postmark was either one of a general information that the mail passed censor, or it could be a specific postmark or label with a number indicating the officer in charge who attended the censorship.
During the First World War, not all letters passed censor. In fact, the authorities must have been well informed about which mail from which senders was worth investigating. Mail emanating from literate people usually ranking high in society or being active in social matters was usually considered to be more suspicious from the rest. So their mail was more systematically monitored than others’. This principle continued for several years after WW1 and during the civil disturbances of the 1930s in Cyprus.
It is during World War Two that censorship became more widespread and systematic. In fact most of the mail from 1940 to mid 1945 was passing censor. The postmarks and markings plus the labels being used were so many and diverse that they easily constitute a separate case for study as this awarded collection that Philokypros.net hosts here shows.
The formation of several different censorship offices during WW2 (known to us from their different markings) was not only a practical way to deal with the huge load of mail passing their desks. It had been necessitated because mail written in various languages would need different censorship officers to read it. As it can be noticed in the WW2 exhibits included in the study, the sender of mail during a short period had to mention on the envelope the language used inside. This would help its allocation to the specific censorship officer. And Yes, Cyprus although being a small place it was a crossroad in the region and the British rulers even since 1878 had been stationing there soldiers of different nationalities from distant parts of their Empire according to the needs of the time. They all, of course, spoke different languages. Additionally Cyprus served as a gathering place for Israeli people arriving from everywhere before their final landing in Palestine: their Israel-to-be new Country. Although these people were of Jewish origin, they were not always speaking their ancestors’ language. They spoke German, Polish, Russian depending on where they came from.
A deeper search in this period of Cyprus history and the co-relation of events with today’s gridlock in the Cyprus problem (never forget that today Cyprus is a country invaded by Turkey who captured the 40% of its territory) is a most interesting and juicy subject which is worth knowing.
Cyprus though being a small place, was always a crossroad in the region and the British rulers even since 1878 had been stationing there soldiers of different nationalities from distant parts of their Empire according to the needs of the time: This documentary photo shows a part of the British Navy anchored in Larnaca roads as well as the Camp of the 9th Bombay Infantry nearby Larnaca salt lake (July 1878).
The Indian regiment had stationed there for a short period of time just sufficient to help the establishment of British rule in Cyprus.
Highlights from the Collection