One can argue with the Marxist assertion that labor created man from a monkey. The transformation of disparate individuals, first into a herd, and then into society, was facilitated precisely by the exchange of information: first sound (through knocks and screams, from which human speech later arose), then visual (through fire). The development of literacy was driven precisely by the possibility of transmitting messages. And then it went and went.
Progress went from the carrier pigeons used in ancient Egypt to the telephone and telegraph, which appeared in the 19th century. At first, only rulers used communication capabilities, and an attempt to transmit information through their channels was even punishable by death. Although the first persons also had a different attitude to the latest technology. If in Russia improved telegraphs were primarily installed in the tsar’s office, then the Austrian emperor Franz Joseph he was wary of the phone: he listened to the interlocutor himself, but talked to him only through an intermediary young lady (fortunately, in the first phones there was no single handset yet, the devices for listening and speaking were separate).
The creation of mail contributed to the development of the road network in empires, thanks to which it became the most advanced transport. If before Caesar could overcome with its help 100 miles a day, then on the roads already 200. There are also cases when the postal service transported military units of the Romans. It is also difficult to exaggerate the role she played in the selection of horses and donkeys used by couriers and for cargo transportation, as well as pigeons. The same applies to mechanical means of delivery – it was thanks to the mail that special stagecoaches and wagons appeared. Already at the beginning of the 20th century, the Hungarian postal service experimented with the development of electric vehicles for the delivery of correspondence and cargo. And all the post offices in Prague were interconnected by pipelines, through which, with the help of pneumatics, correspondence was sent almost instantly. Is this the idea that Elon Musk is trying to repeat now to transport people in pipes?
By the way, the speed of message delivery in the 19th century is amazing even now. In 1849, a letter from London to Switzerland reached in just one day, while at the beginning of the last century, a letter traveled the entire globe in less than 80 days – remember Jules Verne, who described what seemed to be a fantastically high-speed trip around the Earth in the same 80 days. Can you remember stories about Sherlock Holmes: a Londoner received a letter addressed to him on the same day. Throughout Hungary, any shipment, including money transfers, was also delivered within 24 hours, so even small animals were sent by mail – chickens, cats and dogs. And a telegram to any addressee anywhere in the kingdom was delivered within four hours.
All these, without exaggeration, outstanding results were achieved by the highest management, which was not even close to other industries that lived very slowly at that time. For example, letters from mailboxes in many cities were taken out hourly. When the post stagecoach approached, the driver blew a horn so that the inhabitants of the settlement would prepare in advance to receive correspondence, and fresh horses were already harnessed at the nearest post station, on which he changed and moved on. It is no coincidence that the capture of the post office, which at that time included the telephone and telegraph, was the main goal of uprisings and revolutions. Thus, it became possible not only to quickly transmit information, but also to manipulate it.
In a very overorganized and, perhaps, because of this, extremely disordered Soviet system of administration, the post office was probably the only island of order. It is impossible to recall any anecdotes, critical stories, or feuilletons about her. Either due to historical genetics, or the communists’ understanding of the significance of this sphere, it worked like clockwork. Let’s remember the episode from the film “Three Poplars on Plyushchikha”, when an armless disabled person on a cart carries mail along a muddy road from the village to the station. Complains: like it or not, but every day you have to carry. Postmen made their way through snowstorms and snowstorms, involved reindeer and dogs, dropped correspondence from aircraft when it was impossible to land. The memory has preserved the image of the Soviet mail. Clear, neat and well-groomed female operators. Poste restante window. Appearing in almost all novels and films about love and spies, smelling the same throughout the country due to the finishing materials of the long-distance telephone booth, and even the voices announcing which booth to go to, also seemed to belong to the same girl. A table with inkwells and a bunch of blank telegrams and receipts. And the aroma of sealing wax, parcels that could not be corrected, but softened the vices of the planned economy! The low cost made it possible to send them even fruit, jam and sausage, which today seems completely wild. Mailboxes swinging open from an excess of newspapers and magazines, the “Book by mail” service. The delivery of a letter could be speeded up by dropping it at the railway station into the box of the mail car, which was attached to almost every passenger train. Pensions, money transfers. Post boxes of different colors hung on the streets – blue for long-distance letters and red for intra-city ones. And postmen brought newspapers home twice – local in the morning, central in the afternoon, and in megacities for the third time – in the evening. A real breakthrough in the electronic era was the machine processing of letters by postal codes, for the correct spelling of which a powerful propaganda campaign was launched.
Almost all of that is now in the past. Movie Andron Konchalovsky about the postman Alexey Tryapitsyn became a belated epitaph to that post. Not only in Russia, but throughout the world, she began to die. First, transport separated from it, then communications, the circulation of paper media decreased tenfold, and then letters that went online. Under the blows of cheaper competitors, the delivery of goods and money transfers agonizes. The state is trying to support “its old assistant” by sending driver’s licenses, bank cards, insurance policies, but this idea does not seem to be entirely successful due to its vulnerability to crime. In some countries, these highly valuable documents are simply thrown into the mailbox. And, for example, in Hungary you receive a notification that the document needs to be picked up at the office, but after four days it is sent back – what if you are sick, on a business trip or on vacation? A much more productive idea is to give mail to private hands, but it is not yet popular even in the outpost of the liberal economy – the United States. Let’s remember the efforts Trump bend Amazon and help the post office, although if he had known that the alleged mail-in voting fraud would remove him from the presidency, maybe he would not have been so zealous.
How the post office lives in Russia, readers can see for themselves. In Serbia, the postman is still a respected person dressed in uniform. Everyone knows him, on occasion they try to treat him or stimulate him with a little money. There are still long queues at the post office, especially in the parcel department, where they work with old technologies. And at the Jerusalem post office there is a machine for ordering a queue by phone number and electronic scoreboards are on. Here you can pay the bill (for those who have not learned from the phone), buy currency (which is many times longer than in a regular exchanger). But, the most interesting thing is that sending a parcel now is many times longer than it was at one time by Soviet mail. There you brought a signed parcel in a plywood box or a piece of fabric, filled out a receipt, submitted it through the window, received a tear-off coupon – you’re done. Here, the employee takes out a cardboard box, you select the size together with her, then she gives you adhesive tape, with which you must paste over the box, after which you paste the address that the employee enters into the computer, put the box on the scales to determine the cost, fill out a huge a receipt indicating the addresses of his and the recipient, the desired delivery speed, the employee transfers all this to the computer – and finally they tell you that the parcel weighs more than 2 kilograms, so you must bring it to the office and put it on the conveyor belt yourself. Progress is clearly reversing – it’s time to privatize the mail, so as not to let it die.
Strange as it may sound, today they are more important, more interesting and more profitable than the direct work of the post office. The letters of great people and even ordinary citizens allow us to look into the past era and see its geniuses. Novels in letters and just volumes of private correspondence. Business writing, which has become a separate discipline, mandatory for doing business and public administration. And what about the invention of the envelope, postcards that pushed the development of printing? By the way, postcards (originally “open letters”) will probably survive traditional letters: it has become fashionable to open post offices in some exotic wilderness, from where you can send a postcard with a picturesque landscape confirming your presence in it, relatives and friends.
Numerous museums dedicated to mail will not die either. Only in Budapest there are two of them: the Postal Museum itself and the Postage Stamp Museum. The latter presents a rich collection of stamps from different eras and countries, including those not recognized by anyone, which are thus trying to assert their claim to sovereignty. And for small states – for example, Liechtenstein, San Marino or the Vatican – the publication of their own stamps is a serious source of income. Stamps are now issued not as a means of payment for postal services, but for collecting. Despite this, for each postage stamp it is mandatory to indicate two facts: the price and the state that issued it. The second condition is not obligatory only for Great Britain, in which the stamp as a means of payment for postal services was invented in 1840.
Collecting stamps is much more profitable than postage. But they are not the only ones to collect. There are amateurs who collect everything related to mail, even very remotely. dueling pistols Pushkin And Dantes survived thanks to one of these eccentrics. He learned that Pushkin wrote the story “The Stationmaster”, and because of this he bought pistols at an auction, and over time they migrated to the museum of a French city. Former President of France Jacques Chirac I wanted to give them to Russia as a priceless relic, but the townspeople rebelled, and the pistols only visited us “on tour”.
Philately is not just collecting, but a separate branch of knowledge that studies everything related to mail. Millions of envelopes are still waiting to be studied. And would cryptography, graphology, perusal, wiretapping systems, voice identification described in the novel be born without mail? Solzhenitsyn? Yes, it is almost impossible to simply list everything that mankind owes to mail. We are deeply indebted to her. Let’s not let her die in gratitude. Let’s get some service. For example, let’s write out the newspaper “Our Version”.