After the fall of Poland in August 1939, the Soviet Union returned to Lithuania the western strip of the so-called Vilnius District. After the First World War, for some 20 years, the District had been the object of a bitter dispute between Lithuania and Poland, as the mutually claimed territory embraced Lithuania’s traditional capital Vilnius. The tension had in fact resulted in the interwar breakdown of diplomatic relations between the two states and even cut off direct transit between Lithuania and Poland.
The return of the western part of the Vilnius District consisted of two stages and, understandably, affected the existing post offices as well. It was during the first stage of the return that a peculiar confusion was caused within the re-structured postal system – and for philatelists as well. The confusion arose out of the identity of names of two distinctly separate post offices, as both had the same name DŪKŠTAS (in Polish: Dukszty). Unclarity, or some of it, continues to exist to this day, especially in the area of old postal markings. This sometimes affects the mode of listing, presentation in catalogues or handbooks intended for stamp collectors.
Of course, methods were also offered to reduce or eliminate mix-ups. Geographically, the two P.O.s belonged to a different apskritis, so the P.O.’s name was followed by an administrative abbreviation. (In the Polish system, the difference was indicated by reference to something like “near”). But, in turn, confusion could also be increased by the redrawing of the boundaries of an apskritis, as did in fact happen during Lithuania’s subsequent incorporation into the Soviet Union. Intentional or unintentional alterations of the locality’s spelling did not help either.
Map of DŪKŠTAS (Zar).
Map of DŪKŠTAS (Vln).
The more significant DŪKŠTAS P.O. is situated in the northern part of the Vilnius District “strip”. The township of Dūkštas skirts the vital rail line linking Vilnius and Daugavpils (Latvia) and is some 20 km south of Turmantas which is the last railway station before the Latvian border. In Polish, the inscription on this P.O.’s markings read DUKSZTY K/TURMONTU, as seen below on a Latvian Money Order.
Polish dated postmarks on a Latvian Money Order.
With the re-entry of Lithuanian administration into the Vilnius District, Dūkštas became part of the Zarasai apskritis. Its P.O. received the official name of DŪKŠTAS, its first Postmaster being J. Grockis from Naujamiestis in Lithuania. The P.O.s first dated canceller has index “a” and the year is shortened to “39”. But there is no reference to Zarasai.
A full strike of the datestamp indexed “a”.
The subsequent and more common datestamp was indexed “b” with the year in full e.g.”1940″. Again, there is no reference to Zarasai.
Postcard cancelled by “b”. But sender’s address includes “Zarasų apskritis”.
Registration cachet also simply shows DŪKŠTAS without geographic / administrative reference.
After Lithuania’s incorporation into the Soviet Union the previous postmarkers were gradually replaced by Soviet-type markings. Moreover, DŪKŠTAS was assigned to the apskritis of Švenčionys and this change was indicated on the canceller.
P.O.W postcard to Germany cancelled by a Soviet-type postmark with “ŠVNČ”.
When German forces moved into the Soviet Union on June 22, 1941, their mobile units speeding to take the bridges of Daugavpils (Duenaburg) in Latvia crossed the western Vilnius District within a week or so. Before long the local post offices were operating again, and their postal markings were cleared of Soviet symbols or even of Cyrillic script. In the Ostland period, in order to improve appearances and in some cases to rewrite names of localities, many new German-type dated cancellers were supplied. Dūkštas was one of them, though its surviving markings are rare.
German-type parcel card cancelled by a German-type canceller oš DŪKŠTAS. As the impressions are partly illegible, a clearer representation is added below.
A second, and much smaller, locality with its own post office also named DŪKŠTAS is situated ca. 25 km north-west of Vilnius city, a nearby town being Maišiogala ca. 8 km north. In Polish, this P.O. was named DUKSZTY K/Wilna. It was incorporated into the Lithuanian postal system in November 1939 and had only one dated canceller, index “a”, but with the addition “VLN.AP.” [= Vilniaus apskritis] in order to differentiate it from the other DŪKŠTAS in the apskritis of Zarasai. As its postal traffic, basically via Maišiogala, was relatively slight, its postal markings are rare.
Cover to Vilnius with clear impressions of DŪKŠTAS VLN.AP. and MAIŠIOGALA.
It may be added that apart from the above noted confusion of the two DŪKŠTAS resulting from the identity of names, another confusion may arise from the fact that the old DŪKŠTAS VLN. AP. now is being spelled DŪKŠTOS. This has proved infectious, as the northern DŪKŠTAS, at times and mistakenly, is also written as DŪKŠTOS.