Folding was considered not unusual at all
October 4, 2011 7:43 AM   Subscribe

The medium of choice during the Soviet Union's Great Patriotic War (1941-45): triangular letters

Featured photo is by the contemporary Russian photographer Alexandr Sennikov
posted by Mister Bijou (15 comments total) 37 users marked this as a favorite
Even so, postcards and envelopes were shortages. The soldiers’ genius has thus created, right in the first months of the war, the format that was a letter and its own envelope in one.

I suppose this was also to make it easy for military censors and the NKVD who were anyway going to open it and to avoid any suspicion? Mailing a sealed envelope might identify you as an enemy of the people.
posted by three blind mice at 7:59 AM on October 4, 2011

From the first link: "Folding had one more advantage: that the content of the letter was easy to check. Therefore, it was forbidden to seal them in any way. The censors working at the front did not primarily search for letters reviling the system – according to the analysis of the surviving front letters, almost none of them includes any political reference or Stalin’s name –, but whether they include any indication from which military movements and plans could be deduced. These were erased with black ink, but the mail was still transmitted. "
posted by Daddy-O at 8:15 AM on October 4, 2011

This is really cool, Mister Bijou. Thanks for posting.
posted by tuesdayschild at 8:20 AM on October 4, 2011

Somebody better tell The Trapezoid Earth Society that they're mailing all of their correspondence wrong.
posted by Fizz at 8:37 AM on October 4, 2011

This is great!

It reminds me a bit of Paul Fussell's The Great War and Modern Memory, when he talks about the postcards provided for soldiers to write home, and how they were designed to allow certain kinds of information and not others to be transmitted, and how the soldiers came up with work-arounds. (Google Books link, the section starts around the middle of page 183....
posted by GenjiandProust at 8:39 AM on October 4, 2011

GenjiandProust, thanks for that link. It made me think of this bit from 1984. It seemed really disturbing when I first read it, and I always wondered where Orwell got the idea.
posted by PlusDistance at 8:57 AM on October 4, 2011 [1 favorite]

Whoa. This is so awesome. I was friends with a Russian exchange student in high school, and when she wrote me from Petrozavodsk, she would fold the note paper into a triangle before putting it in the air mail envelope. And it was always perfumed, even though we weren't romantically involved. I never asked her about that; I thought she was just doing it all for fun and the diamond pattern on the paper was pretty cool. I had no idea there was historical precedence for the triangle-folding.

Still uncertain whether or not the soldiers perfumed all their letters, though.
posted by Spatch at 10:08 AM on October 4, 2011

Perfect little jewel of a post. Thank you.
posted by Anitanola at 10:08 AM on October 4, 2011

This is very cool. Thank you for posting it.
posted by small_ruminant at 10:09 AM on October 4, 2011

Anyone else fold letters like this for note-passing in junior high?
posted by hydrobatidae at 10:18 AM on October 4, 2011 [4 favorites]

I give triangular letters an A.
posted by GuyZero at 10:24 AM on October 4, 2011

I give them an A+ت
posted by Katjusa Roquette at 1:38 PM on October 4, 2011

Prior to clicking, I thought the letters of the letters were going to be triangular, and not the, um, substrate.
posted by Mister Moofoo at 7:26 PM on October 4, 2011

That's a really nice song featured in this article.
posted by ovvl at 8:04 PM on October 4, 2011

When I visited the USSR (Moscow and Tallinn, Estonia) in 1989, Russian teenagers gave me letters folded this way. Interesting.
posted by Joseph Gurl at 8:54 PM on October 4, 2011

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