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During World War I, the Baltic region of Latvia didn't have much to
call its own. It was governed by Russia, and German forces were
occupying much of the area. In 1918, however, Latvia gained independence
during the chaos and collapse of the Romanov Dynasty. In addition,
German forces had retreated "¦ but not without leaving their mark on the
new nation. Oddly enough, that mark was on Latvia's stamps.
Latvia suffered devastating damage during the war. Factories were
destroyed or moved to Russia, and paper was in short supply. So when the
young nation got ready to print its first national stamps, postal
officials got creative and used the blank backs of German military maps
and unfinished banknotes. Indeed, if you look on the underside of some
Latvian stamps from this era, you'll see a tiny sliver of a military map
used by the Germans during World War I
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