British Consul Woodhouse in Petrograd 1916

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The city of Petrograd was the capital of the Russian Empire from the 18th to the 20th century. Only from 1914 to 1924 was it called Petrograd. For more than 200 years, the name was St.Petersburg. British Consul Woodhouse Petrograd

In the second half of 1916, the Petrograd crisis escalated in all Russian society areas, and by autumn, it had reached its peak. This manifested itself in the collapse of food supplies and the accelerated breakdown of authority. Furthermore, the influence of the Bolsheviks on events in Petrograd became more open. The growing crisis demanded that the authorities take more decisive action, but they did not.

Due to inflation and problems with food and fuel, discontent spread among the workers. Petrograd, due to interruptions in the food supply and high prices, queues appeared and gave rise to women’s spontaneous speeches. On 14 October, the government asked the military to distribute food from military warehouses. At the end of 1916, Petrograd’s situation was aggravated by the outbreak of a political crisis. “The war provided the main impetus for the development of the disease (the gap between the authorities and society – author’s note); it is already the third year that it has destabilized the State organism, revealing all its decrepitude.” Of primary concern was the food issue, with the city facing an impending famine. British Consul Woodhouse Petrograd

In relations between the authorities and the people, Rasputin was the “connoisseur of the people.” He came to be trusted by the royal family. Rasputin was able to dictate to the Tsar the appointment or removal of officials of all ranks. His negative influence on society engendered social tensions. Since 1914 he had been subject to public and undercover surveillance. Only his murder on the night of 16-17 December 1916 appeased social tensions. British Consul Woodhouse Petrograd

End of the monarchy, interim government, and anarchy

In early 1917, the security police reported to their superiors the masses’ dissatisfaction, anticipating protests by students and workers. The constant price rises and the disappearance of necessities caused a bitterness ready to erupt into bloody demonstrations. According to the police, there was the potential for universal strikes and then revolution. Many of the food stores were closed, and public transport was not running. Looting began. On 23 February, there was unrest in the city and demands for bread. The demonstrators raised red flags with the slogans: “Bread! Down with war!” Up to 50 businesses involving 80,000 workers went on strike. A few days later, more than 200,000 were already out of work. Crowds were dispersed by the police and troops firing weapons .

The government announced that Petrograd was under siege. On the night of 27 to 28 February, only the Admiralty was left in the hands of troops loyal to the tsar. All roads to Petrograd were blocked. The rebels soon captured Peter and Paul Fortress and the Admiralty and arrested the old government. Tsar Nicholas II abdicated from the throne . British Consul Woodhouse Petrograd

This political coup (or February Revolution) that took place brought nothing to the workers. The Bolsheviks, who created the Petrograd Soviet of workers’ and soldiers’ deputies, became all the more active, and their agitators worked in every district of the city.

In March 1917, the provisional government led by A. F. Kerensky was established, and it organized a Special Commission of Inquiry under the direction of N. K. Muravyev. This Commission carried out ministers’ and senior officials’ interrogations from the Imperial government detained and imprisoned in the Peter and Paul Fortress and “Kresty” prison. British Consul Woodhouse Petrograd

In May, at a meeting of the Factory Committee of Petrograd, the decision was taken to create a “workers’ militia,” later reformed into the Workers’ (Red) Guard. On 12 July, the interim government decree closed several Bolshevik newspapers that spoke out against the war. 2 weeks later, the interior and war ministers obtained the right to close all meetings and congresses. Even after a few days, they were granted exclusive rights to the fight with those “undermining the foundations of the State and threatening revolutionary freedom.”

They directed the reorganization of education and participated in the selection of directors of schools and educational councils. The interim Government decided to remove royal portraits from all public and educational institutions. In primary schools, religious instruction was abolished. In high schools, domestic workers demanded that teachers are evicted, and they occupy their accommodation. Based on the support of the Soldiers’ Committee, the watchman at one of the schools announced his wish to become a director. At the university faculties of law, departments of industrial and work law opened. Because of boys’ military conscription, it was decided that technical institutes would accept girls graduating from high school. From the former women’s courses, women’s universities were organized.

During these difficult times in Russia, Consul Arthur Woodhouse issued this passport in “August/September” 1916 to Olga Cooper’s name. British Consul Woodhouse Petrograd

British Consul Woodhouse Petrograd

British Consul Woodhouse Petrograd
British passports changed to this fold-out type just in 1915. At the same time, a passport photo was mandatory.


British Consul Woodhouse Petrograd

A Petrograd Consular issue is definitely not to find often. Furthermore, the passport comes in excellent and crisp condition.

British Consul Woodhouse Petrograd
There is also a Swedish visa issued in Petrograd (lower-left corner)


Woodhouse will be later arrested and jailed by the Bolsheviks. More details on Consul Woodhouse here.

This document is one of the latest additions to my collection, and it was gifted to me by a very generous reader of my website. I am so grateful to David Kelly, who wanted to see the document in safe hands. Randomly, the document arrived at my desk just on Davids’s 71st birthday. HAPPY BIRTHDAY, DAVID, and thank you very much.


FAQ Passport History
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1. What are the earliest known examples of passports, and how have they evolved?

The word "passport" came up only in the mid 15th Century. Before that, such documents were safe conducts, recommendations or protection letters. On a practical aspect, the earliest passport I have seen was from the mid 16th Century. Read more...

2. Are there any notable historical figures or personalities whose passports are highly sought after by collectors?

Every collector is doing well to define his collection focus, and yes, there are collectors looking for Celebrity passports and travel documents of historical figures like Winston Churchill, Brothers Grimm, Johann Wolfgang von Goethe. Read more...

3. How did passport designs and security features change throughout different periods in history, and what impact did these changes have on forgery prevention?

"Passports" before the 18th Century had a pure functional character. Security features were, in the best case, a watermark and a wax seal. Forgery, back then, was not an issue like it is nowadays. Only from the 1980s on, security features became a thing. A state-of-the-art passport nowadays has dozens of security features - visible and invisible. Some are known only by the security document printer itself. Read more...

4. What are some of the rarest and most valuable historical passports that have ever been sold or auctioned?

Lou Gehrig, Victor Tsoi, Marilyn Monroe, James Joyce, and Albert Einstein when it comes to the most expensive ones. Read more...

5. How do diplomatic passports differ from regular passports, and what makes them significant to collectors?

Such documents were often held by officials in high ranks, like ambassadors, consuls or special envoys. Furthermore, these travel documents are often frequently traveled. Hence, they hold a tapestry of stamps or visas. Partly from unusual places.

6. Can you provide insights into the stories behind specific historical passports that offer unique insights into past travel and migration trends?

A passport tells the story of its bearer and these stories can be everything - surprising, sad, vivid. Isabella Bird and her travels (1831-1904) or Mary Kingsley, a fearless Lady explorer.

7. What role did passports play during significant historical events, such as wartime travel restrictions or international treaties?

During war, a passport could have been a matter of life or death. Especially, when we are looking into WWII and the Holocaust. And yes, during that time, passports and similar documents were often forged to escape and save lives. Example...

8. How has the emergence of digital passports and biometric identification impacted the world of passport collecting?

Current modern passports having now often a sparkling, flashy design. This has mainly two reasons. 1. Improved security and 2. Displaying a countries' heritage, icons, and important figures or achievements. I can fully understand that those modern documents are wanted, especially by younger collectors.

9. Are there any specialized collections of passports, such as those from a specific country, era, or distinguished individuals?

Yes, the University of Western Sidney Library has e.g. a passport collection of the former prime minister Hon Edward Gough Whitlam and his wife Margaret. They are all diplomatic passports and I had the pleasure to apprise them. I hold e.g. a collection of almost all types of the German Empire passports (only 2 types are still missing). Also, my East German passport collection is quite extensive with pretty rare passport types.

10. Where can passport collectors find reliable resources and reputable sellers to expand their collection and learn more about passport history?

A good start is eBay, Delcampe, flea markets, garage or estate sales. The more significant travel documents you probably find at the classic auction houses. Sometimes I also offer documents from my archive/collection. See offers... As you are already here, you surely found a great source on the topic 😉

Other great sources are: Scottish Passports, The Nansen passport, The secret lives of diplomatic couriers

11. Is vintage passport collecting legal? What are the regulations and considerations collectors should know when acquiring historical passports?

First, it's important to stress that each country has its own laws when it comes to passports. Collecting old vintage passports for historical or educational reasons is safe and legal, or at least tolerated. More details on the legal aspects are here...

Does this article spark your curiosity about passport collecting and the history of passports? With this valuable information, you have a good basis to start your own passport collection.

Question? Contact me...