Estonian passport used in Manchuria - Our Passports
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  • Estonian passport used in Manchuria

Estonian passport used in Manchuria


Extended by the diplomatic legation in Harbin in 1935.


When we collect samples, we try and locate the rare consular issues, those that were issued abroad and thus harder to come by. The rarity of such samples depends on the time and location of their issue and sometimes they can be unique treasures indeed. The item in this article may not be rare, but the location and applied stamps make it an attractive piece.


September 18th 1931 was a crucial date in the history of modern China. From this month onwards, starting with Asia and ending with Europe, events would spiral from a regional conflict into a world war.


The above mentioned date marks the Japanese invasion of North-Eastern China, a region known as Manchuria (a point needs to be made here: prior to the invasion, the Japanese had an enclave in the Dalian peninsula, Port Arthur, called Guan Dong Zhou Ting (关东州厅) ceded to them following the Russo-Japanese War of 1904-1905, which was a Russian naval base).


The Japanese, using it as an excuse, staged an assault on a railway track owned by them, the South Manchurian Railways, later to be known as the Mukden Incident, to invade North-Eastern China. This led to the establishment of Manchukuo. The new state began to function and run like any other country: separate banks were erected (side-by-side to existing Chinese banks), issuing of currency and postal stamps as well. Manchuria became Manchukuo after it “gained” independence on February 18th 1932, with Puyi being its head (from 1908 the last emperor of Imperial China was Puyi. He continued to live in Beijing, the Forbidden City, but was later expelled. He settled in Tianjin city, in a Japanese concession, from 1925-1931. He was declared emperor of the Manchurian Empire in 1934 and his “reign” lasted until 1945, the year Manchuria was liberated by the Red Army). But in fact it was controlled by the military and Japanese officials who actually ran its economy & foreign relations.


The League of Nations received the Chinese official protested printed report, printed by the Foreign Ministry press at Nanjing, in 1932. Detailed accounts of Japanese actions were included, covering many subjects and issues following the invasion and its effect on the local population, and this lead to the ultimate decision by the League of Nations (after accepting the Lytton Report)  to reject Japans claims and explanations and to take China’s side on the matter. Japan withdrew its membership from the League of Nations in 1933.


In spite of the League of Nations’ approach, the new state was diplomatically recognized by the following countries (according to year):


El Salvador (1934), Dominican Republic (1934), Soviet Union (1935), Italy (1937), Spain (1937), Germany (1938) and Hungary (1939); and after Pearl Harbor by the following: Slovakia (1940), Vichy France (1940), Romania (1940), Bulgaria (1941), Finland (1941), Denmark (1941), Croatia (1941), Thailand ( 1941) and the Philippines (1943).


The travel document in this article was extended at the Estonian consulate in Harbin, but issued at Tallinn on March 7th 1935 to Leonhard Mauer, aged 35.


Passport number 3055 was extended several times, in 1936 and again in 1937 at Harbin by the consular Charge d’Affaires.


The interesting part of the document can be found at the back: Manchurian Foreign Ministry official registration permit that was applied to passports or identity documents after verifying that the holder proved to have previous residence in region prior to June 2nd 1933. The permit numbered “Ai-48” (艾第四八号) was issued on May 23rd 1935 at the special Manchurian northern branch of the Foreign Office by official Shi Lu Ben (施履本) , who became Manchurian Foreign Office official in the early years of the Japanese occupation (the same position he held before 1931 for the Nationalist Government).



Thank you for reading “Our Passports”.






Neil Kaplan
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