A multi-layered history of Rijeka reflected on philately. Stamp collecting gives us an interesting historical cross-section view of a place, its political, social and economic importance in time. Still, reflecting formal attitudes of those in power, which was often the case on our territory, philately very often needs to be observed with a qualified acceptance. Since Rijeka has changed a few state systems in recent history, philately was both the reflection and an official document of the systems, not always reflecting feelings of Rijeka-citizens.
It's the period prior to the introduction of the postage stamp as the means of payment of postal charges. As Rijeka has been an important port on the Adriatic sea since the Roman period, people needed rapid information conveying. From mail transmission by a messenger in the Roman Empire, over the herald service from the middle of the 15th century and the concessionary postal service from the middle of the 16th century, Rijeka has been an important port on the North-Adriatic routes. According to Nikola Rukavina, one of the greatest connoisseurs of Croatian pre-philately, on March 22, 1730 the state post-office of the Austrian Empire was opened in Rijeka. The first postmark V:FIVME Rijeka got in 1755, only four years after the postmark of Vienna, the first postmark in the Austrian Empire. The Rijeka-postmark from 1755 was the first postmark on the territory of the Republic of Croatia. During Napoleon's wars, Rijeka was under the French administration at intervals from 1797 to 1813. Being a part of Napoleon's province Illyria in the period from 1809 to 1813, Rijeka got the FIUME ILLIRIE postmarks. After 1813, it was shortly under England, but already in 1814 it was returned to Austria. Rijeka was under Hungary from 1822 to 1848 when the civil governor Josip Jelačić won it back to Croatia. From 1813 until the appearance of the first stamp, Rijeka belonged to the post-office of the Austrian Empire.
On July 1, 1850 the first stamp of the Austrian Empire was used. From the first day of publication, stamps were used in the post-office of Rijeka, which was not the case in other Croatian and Hungarian cities. In 1868 Croatia surrendered Rijeka to Hungary ("Rijeka-patch", Riječka krpica) so, from the first day of publication, on May 1, 1871, Hungarian stamps were used in Rijeka. Austrian stamps were allowed to be used until July 31, 1871. Rijeka became the main Hungarian port over which, except goods, many Europeans were transported to America and other parts of the world until 1918 and the end of the World War I. The fact that 85 different postmarks were used in 6 post offices, tells us in the best possible way about the size and power of Rijeka in the period from the first stamp until 1918. Hungarian stamps officially ceased to be valid on December 2, 1918. Except the post-office postmarks, there's also a great number of railway, nautical, ship, port and line postmarks with outgoing or incoming name of the post office Fiume.
Austria-Hungary lost the World War I and capitulated at the end of 1918. New countries of the postwar Europe arose on the wrecks of the Monarchy. At the beginning of the war Italy was on the Central Powers side, but on May 25, 1915 it took the Allies side in conformity with the secret London agreement signed on April 26, 1915. By the agreement, Italy was promised, in the case of the victory, a considerable expansion on the Eastern coast of the Adriatic. It should have got the whole Istria up to the Kvarner Bay and the province of Dalmatia, but not Rijeka. Under Article 5, the North Adriatic coast, from Volosko to the North Dalmatian border, was expected to be left to Croatia. When the Italians came to know what the agreement was all about, they started the propaganda to annex to Italy even the rest of the territory, primarily Rijeka. At the end of 1918 three political options were active in Rijeka: the Italian National Council (Consiglio Nazionale Italiano di Fiume) demanding the annexation of Rijeka to Italy, the Autonomists led by Zanella, and the People's Committee assembling Croats from Rijeka, Sušak and surroundings.
By the dissolution of Austria-Hungary, on October 29, 1918 Rijeka became an integral part of the just formed State of Slovenes, Croats and Serbs. On October 30, 1918 the National Council read the Proclamation on the annexation of Rijeka to Italy. It was afterwards claimed to be a referendum on the annexation. Rijeka remained within Croatia until November 17, 1918 when general Di San Marzano relieved Dr. Rikard Lenac of his post and took power.
The Allied Administration was formed, and the executive branch of government in the city was taken over by the National Council giving order to withdraw Hungarian postage stamps from circulation until December 2, 1918 and then overprint them with the FIUME overprint. It was possible to exchange Hungarian stamps until December 28, 1918. In terms of the order of the Allied Administration, the stamps mustn't have bear any political notes that might influence future solution to the question of Rijeka. The National Council stuck to it considering only temporary postage stamps with the FIUME overprint. The stamps with pro-Italian characteristics already appeared in the first set of postage stamps, present also in further issues. The stamps were mostly designed in conformity with the policy of the National Council, the executive branch of government, the whole time working on the annexation of Rijeka to Italy.
A distinguished Italian fascist Gabriele D'Annunzio who, helped by his legionaries, took over Rijeka, was the way out of the allied demand from the middle of 1919 to dissolve the National Council and the Volunteer-legion of Rijeka. The situation had an adverse effect on the Italian government because the fascists were planning the dissolution of the government and parliament and dethronement of the king Vittorio Emanuele lll. Being pressured by the international actions, on September 8, 1920 D'Annunzio declared the State of Rijeka under the name of the Italian Regency for the Kvarner Bay (Reggenza Italiana del Carnaro). The occupied islands of the Kvarner Bay, Krk and Rab were also included in his state. The Constitution was enacted, making Rijeka the first place in the world in which fascism came into power. The fascist ideology very well reflected on the military stamps of Rijeka, thought out by D'Annunzio himself.
The solution to this problem was the Rapalla treaty signed on November 12, 1920 between the Kingdom of Italy and the Kingdom of Serbs, Croats and Slovenes on the acknowledgement of absolute freedom and independence of the State of Rijeka. The Sate of Rijeka consisted of the former Corpus separatum and of a part southward of the unsurfaced road Zamet - Kastav, all the way to Preluk. Although D'Annunzio was opposed to it, the treaty was effective, and it's very interesting that it was written in Latin characters for Italian language, and in Cyrillic for Serbian language. It was, on one hand, a great success of Italian and Serbian, and on the other, a dismal failure for Croatian politics. Before leaving, on January 18, 1921, D'Annunzio let Rijeka have the "joy" of a bloody Christmas, when all the bridges on the Rječina were blown up and the Governor's Palace was damaged. On January 1, 1921 Dr. Antonio Grossich, the president of the National Council was elected for the president of the temporary government.
The elections for constituent assembly were held on April 24, 1921. Zanella and his Autonomists won the elections. Fascists couldn't come to terms with it so, on March 3, 1922 followed the attack on the Governor's Palace. The majority of elected members of the assembly and Zanella escaped to Kraljevica of (part of the Kingdom of Serbs, Croats and Slovenes) and didn't come back to Rijeka any more. It created the conditions for Rijeka to be annexed to Italy. On September 18, 1923 Mussolini dismissed the government of Rijeka and appointed general Gaetano Giardino as the military governor of Rijeka. The last questions between Italy and Yugoslavia were solved by the Roman agreement signed on January 27, 1924, defining the border and, long before Berlin, dividing Rijeka by a wall into Fiume and Sušak. From April 1, 1924 Rijeka was within Postal services of the Kingdom of Italy, and the postage stamps of Rijeka became history.
By the order of the Italian National Council, Hungarian stamps were overprinted from December 3 to 23, 1918. There are two types of the machine -made overprints and six basic types of the hand overprints. read more
The stamps of Rijeka were exceptionally often forged, due to rarity and great demand of stamps of the states formed after the collapse of the great empires. The first forgeries were found already in times of origin of the first issues. read more