1940-1941 Soviet occupation passports - Our Passports
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1940-1941 Soviet occupation passports

Newly issued passports for former Polish & Baltic States civilians.


1939 was one of the most important years of the 20th Century. In that year alone the world’s fate and destiny changed forever: starting with the complete occupation of Czechoslovakia, Memel territory, Ribbentrop-Molotov pact and the outbreak of World War Two.


The Ribbentrop-Molotov agreement from August 1939 was a game changer. The secret clause inside it allowed the two new allies, Germany & Soviet Union, to carve up Poland and divide the spoils of war between them, thus after Germany made the first move on September 1st, it was Russia’s turn, and the latter invaded from the east on September 17th.


Here I will try and bring into light another aspect of that agreement, or resulting from that pact, the matter of travel papers issued AFTER the occupation of territory by the Soviets.


The occupation was done in several stages, the first in 1939 and the second on June of 1940, when the Soviet Union invaded and completely occupied Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia. The first stage relates to the occupation of Poland and Russia’s first step towards the three small Baltic States, the period of the Soviet-Baltic mutual assistance pact (which was actually forced upon them) from 1939. The second and last stage was the full occupation of the three and establishing Soviet controlled governments after June 1940.


Occupation of the Baltic states

Soviet occupation of the Baltic states (1940)


After the forming of the new satellite states, the process of identification and rounding up of former officials and intellectuals began. During the first year of the occupation mass deportations of civilians to the east were conducted; and as in former Poland, Soviet citizenship was offered to the locals to become part of the Soviet Union: those who refused were deported, seen as enemy of the state and those who accepted this were issued new set of papers.


The first step was the registration of the new citizens, having their former ID’s that they presented rubber stamped with one short statement “…passport was issued in the year…”, this appears normally on older passports (rarely), travel documents, school ID cards or regular identity cards. Mostly we find the hand applied date as 1940.


The second step was the actual issuance of the “Internal Passport”: meant to be used for travelling inside the Soviet territory and a means of control, exiting and entering different zones of administration or city. The earliest samples found are from 1940 that year and also continuing into 1941, when the government printing press, that issued the Soviet internal-passports, named GOZNAK, issued passports for the former Baltic States in 1941 as well. We can find two sets of such passports being issued: 1938 pre-war printed samples, issued to eastern Poland’s “new” citizens and for the Baltics, printed in 1941, with added new languages for the three new states incorporated into the Soviet sphere of influence.


(Those being issued specifically for Jews are marked as such under the NATIONALITY section, and are the rarest of these types – 2 images circled in RED are added as an example).


One can add that these travel-papers, in some ways where also lifesaving documents:

Those who managed to relocate themselves further east, at the end, avoided capture by the Germans, and for those being Jewish, this meant life: some were transported or evacuated further east to Siberia and even Kazakhstan and thus survived the war. But not all were lucky: those caught up in occupied German territory, for example in LWOW after June 1941, perished.




Thank you for reading “Our Passports”.



Neil Kaplan
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