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Six Stories of Passports From Countries That No Longer Exist

Collecting old passports like holding history in your hands. Tom Topol has learned a lot about geography and history as a passport collector, and he shares his discoveries on his website. While older passports are often unique and can even be works of art, the most fascinating passports are those from bygone nations that once flourished well enough to document its international travelers. One rarity is this passport from British Palestine, issued to Captain Tuve T. Smolensk in 1944. He was regarded as somewhat of a hero for his search-and-rescuw work.

But—with no disrespect meant to Captain Smolensk—that’s not even the best thing about this passport. That honor goes to a purple stamp on page 17, which reads “Haifa”— Israel’s main port. “British Palestine turned into Israel in 1948,” explains Topol. “To find nowadays a British Palestine passport with a stamp of Israel is pretty rare.” For practical reasons, Captain Smolensk was likely allowed to keep his British Palestinian passport for a year or so after the switch, allowing for this strange convergence.  

Read more stories of passports from defunct countries, including one with a picture of a dog, at Atlas Obscura. 

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