Monday, March 14, 2011

First postage stamps of Nauru

Nauru, measuring just 21 square kilometers, is the smallest island independent country of the world located in the South Pacific Ocean region. The present Republic of Nauru was once the Pleasant Island, located some 300 kilometers of Banaba Island in Kiribati. 

The history of Nauru dates back to some 3000 years inhabited by the Micronesian and Polynesian. A British mariner and whale hunter John Fearn is said to be the first outsider from the western world to have landed at Nauru as far back in 1798 and it was he who named it as the "Pleasant Island". This visitation opened this tiny island to the rest of the world and the island traded food for alcoholic palm. 

Nauru was annexed as a colony by the German Empire in the 19th century (1888 to be exact) and since then changed many hands. The Germans called the island Nawodo or Onawero. After WW-I, Nauru was administered by Australia, New Zealand and the Great Britain under the mandate of the League of Nations. The Japanese captured Nauru during the WW-II. In 1947, under a trusteeship of the United Nations, Australia, New Zealand, and the United Kingdom became the U.N. trustees of the island. Nauru became self-governing in January 1966, and following a two-year constitutional convention, it became independent in 1968.

Why Nauru, a small island, had been interest to so many countries? Well it is the phosphate deposits on this tiny island that attracted everyone to it. The mining of phosphate started as early as 1907. The deposits made Nauru one of the richest countries, till the deposits ran out in the 1980s. Nauru, which once boasted of a country with the highest per capita income in the world, is now struggling to survive with no worthwhile resources to feed its people. With a population of around 10,000 approximately, the literacy rate is 96%.

The stamps above (top line) were printed in 1916 (top), the first ever stamps of Nauru. Actually these were British stamps with overprint Nauru. A total of 11 such stamps were issued with Nauru overprint. The two stamps underneath (left) are a part of a set of three stamps issued in 1984. The stamp on the right was issued in 1978 on the eve of Christmas.


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