June 2020



There were only a few decks to choose from this month, but I wasn't happy with the quality and didn't find them interesting enough to share here. So once more I returned to the boxes with decks that will still have to be processed into the collection. Fortunately there are still decks left worth showing here and this month it's a deck from Latvia, again, and it was produced by the......


Valsts Papiru Spiestuve un Naudas Kaltuve from Riga and published as Latvian Red Cross Cards No. 7. It's also known as the 5th National Latvian deck.



I did the research and wrote the article in the days before the upload on June 1st. The first site that I had visited was that of the WOPC and their info was my basis for further research. However, on June, 2 the following email from Janis Meta, who apparently had provided the information on the WOPC site too, landed in my mailbox:
Hello Joop !
I was mistaken in my first book Latvijas kārtis. In fact the fifth Latvian pack was drawn by Alfreds Scwedrevitz and the first edition as the cheep cards series was in 1936 . Excuse me, please about my mistake.
Jānis Mētra in Kuldīga.
So this completely changes almost all the information that I had gathered here below. I will leave the article as it is, but I've removed the info about Arturs Duburs, who was previously mentioned as artist. Sadly there's no information to be found on the internet about the artist Alfreds Scwedrevitz, but I'm pleased to see that my pre-1941 dating was basically correct. Of course I will inform the WOPC site about these changes too.



 The courts have Latvian indices: the K stands for Kung, the D for Dama and the S for Sulainis (servant).

So now... a date for this Deck?

On the WOPC site the probably first edition of the deck is shown and dated as 1941. A different publisher (printer?) is printed on the ace of hearts and the national Latvian emblem is printed over the red cross. As a reason for this the hope of regaining "Latvia's recently lost independence" is given. And that made me wonder exactly when that would have been?

Latvia had been an independent country again since 1918, until June 17, 1940. On that date it was occupied by Russian troops. This occupation has led to the incorporation of Latvia into the Soviet Union, officially called the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR), on August 5, 1940. In the spring of 1941 the Soviet Union ordered the deportation of large numbers of "anti-soviet" elements. The mass deportation ended when the Germans invaded Latvia and occupied Riga on July 1, 1941. Shortly afterwards the Soviet deportation was replaced by the German mass elimination of the Jewish and Gipsy population. Within this historical context I find it hard to discover a moment of hope for regaining Latvia's independency.
On the AH of the WOPC deck there's a similar LSK (Latvian Red Cross) tax stamp as on the AH here below. However, the Latvian Red Cross was liquidated shortly after the Russian occupation in 1940. After the German occupation in 1941 the LSK initially resumed their operations, but was later dismissed again by the German authorities.

On the WOPC site the poor quality of the used card was mentioned for later wartime editions. Our deck here was printed on good quality stock, probably similar to the stock used for the first edition. So besides the name of the printer/publisher, the only difference is the black overprint on the ace of Latvian emblem on the red cross. Even the design of the backs is the same, although in brown here (see below).
So who was responsible for that black overprint? The printer of course, but who gave the order? My best guess is that this was done on instigation of the Russians. See our Deck of the Month in January 2012: even the smallest details were altered or left out in the edition of that deck during the Russian occupation and later incorporation of Latvia.
For a tax stamp I always consult Peter Endebrocks' site. This stamp was accompanied by a date: in use since c1930. A different stamp was dated 1940/1941 (Russian occupation) and another different stamp was dated there as c1942 (German occupation).

I don't know how solidly documented the dating of 1941 is for this deck, but I believe that it's well possible that the first edition has been published earlier. Maybe in 1939, but at the latest in the spring of 1940. It would explain the existence of decks with the uncensored Latvian emblem, but also the same quality card and design of the backs. Our deck probably comes from finished decks, already stamped, which were in stock at the printer when the Russian occupation began.



Our deck consists of 52 cards and a joker. There's also a 33 cards version, but I don't know if the 33rd card is an extra card, title card or joker.
I do have a 32 card version of this deck, but that was probably released during the German occupation, so sometime between 1941 and 1944. In this deck the red cross and the name of the printer on the AH are absent. A more remarkable difference are the German indices. Maybe that version was accompanied by a 33rd card too, but it's also possible that it was published as a Skat version. The printing and used card is of the same good quality as of the deck above, which makes it likely that the
Valsts Papiru Spiestuve un Naudas Kaltuve has also printed this deck. Maybe published for the occupying German forces in Latvia, maybe for export to Germany.