Lost documents of the USSR – A yellow ticket

Albert Bayburin is a Russian Anthropologist at the European University in Sankt Petersburg, and he wrote some interesting articles on passports. Albert also published a book about the USSR passport system. He allowed me to use this article on my website. Lost documents of the USSR

The following document caught my attention. The “Yellow ticket.”

Lost documents of the USSR
A substitute ticket and a viewing book giving the prostitute the right to work at the Nizhny Novgorod Fair during 1904 and 1905  (Wikimedia Commons)

A “Yellow ticket” was the personal identification document of sex workers in Russia. The document combined an ID card, a residence permit, a license to practice prostitution, & a medical check-up card. This booklet was introduced in 1843 & was abolished in 1917.

Replacement (yellow) tickets were documents issued to Russian citizens in exchange for residence permits lost or seized by the police. Including a substitute ticket was issued to officially registered prostitutes in exchange for a residence permit: they were not supposed to have other documents. It served a prostitute with a “passport” and gave the right to engage in prostitution legally. The ticket contained the “Supervision Rules” and the “Rules for Public Women.” For example, a prostitute was charged with respecting decency in public places and forbidden to molest men. In turn, the prostitute had the “right to examine the genitals of visitors before communication with them” to prevent infection. The ticket was marked with regular medical examinations: one of the mandatory rules was to undergo inspection twice a week.

By the way…
Foreign passports were introduced following the instruction “on the rules of entry and exit from Russia” dated December 21, 1917. The passport was considered valid for one year; therefore, it was called temporary, but it was necessary to use it within three months from the time it was received. The NKVD issued such passports. The rules for crossing the border were approved by the regulation of 1925 on entering and leaving the USSR.

Lost documents of the USSR
The red old USSR passports are nowadays pretty rare to find.

Read more on LOST DOCUMENTS OF THE USSR by Albert Buyburin…

Thank you very much, Albert, for permitting me to republish the article 


incl. FREE guideline!

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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...