A museum in Polotsk, Belarus, is struggling with an encrypted postcard. Can a reader help?

From time to time, I start a Google search for expressions such as “encrypted letter”, “enciphered document” or “diary in code”. To increase my chances of finding something interesting, I also use search terms in foreign languages I don’t speak – thanks to Deepl and Google Tanslate, this is not very difficult.


A Belarusian cryptogram

When I recently googled for the Russian translation of “encrypted postcard”, I found an article published on the Belarusian news portal Gorod 214 in May 2019. This report is about an encrypted postcard owned by a museum in Polotsk, Belarus (there seveal museums in this city; to my regret, I don’t know which one is meant here). Apparently, the museum staff couldn’t read the message and therefore asked the public for help. They even offered a reward for the decipherment.

The Gorod 214 article encourages readers to post the solution in the comment section, but nothing can be read there. Either nobody has submitted a comment or all the notes have been deleted.

Here’s a scan of both postcard sides:

Source: Gorod 214


Solution approaches

The address on the postcard is written in cyrillic letters. Can a reader read these lines a let us know name, street, and city of the recipient?

The stamp is hard to read, too. If I’m not wrong, the card was stamped in 1910.

The encryption itself is probably not very sophisticated. The message consists of words written with numbers between 1 and 34, which is consistent with a one-to-one replacement of the cyrillic alphabet. This means that we are probably dealing with a Belarusian substitution cipher.

Can a reader solve this mystery?

Further reading: An encrypted postcard sent to Cognac, France

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Kommentare (11)

  1. #1 Gerry
    5. August 2020

    It is indeed a MASC, but most cyrillic alphabets on google have only 32 or 33 characters. Transposed (with google translate) the first two lines read “dorogaya dushechka”, which means “Dear sweetheart” in English or “Liebster Schatz” in German.

  2. #2 Peter
    5. August 2020

    The adress is:
    Gouvernement Polozk Vitebsk
    Vitebskaya uliza
    Magazin Chasov (clock shop) Bachmerd
    For Ida Bachmerd

  3. #3 Magnus and Alexander
    5. August 2020

    I passed this one onto my Russian friend Alexander. This is the result:

    City Polotsk. Vitebskaya province. Vitebskaya street. Baxmend’s clock shop. For Ida Baxmend.

    Text (A=1 B=2 etc, old style alphabet, capital numeral equals new word):

    “DEAR SOUL IDA I wish to get couple words from you. Write to me, cute.”

  4. #4 Norbert
    5. August 2020

    I think it’s Russian, not Belarusian. The alphabet should be the one used before the spelling reform of 1918, and if we count Ë as a separate letter, the numbers seem to fit:

  5. #5 Thomas
    5. August 2020


    I agree, since the word for ‘street’ in the address is Russian, moreover the postmark is from Tver in Russia.

  6. #6 Jerry McCarthy
    England, Europa...
    6. August 2020

    Googling using the Cyrillic version of the name of the museum in the article which you cited took me to what I believe it is their website, but my post is blocked when I include their link. I sent you a mail.

    There are contact details available.

  7. #7 Juha
    7. August 2020

    Looks like Magnus and Alexander
    are right ..

    I got a slightly different result.
    Starts with: dorogaa dusetska … (not “translated” alphabet)

  8. #8 Klaus Schmeh
    7. August 2020

    Alexander Ulyanenkov via Facebook:
    So… Original text: “Дорогая душечка Ида. Желал бы я получить отЪ васЪ пару слов. Пиши милая. Ф… У…” Possible translation: “Dear darling Ida. I would like to receive a few words from you. Write my dear. F… U…”

  9. #9 Jerry McCarthy
    England, Europa.
    7. August 2020

    Seems about right 🙂

  10. #10 Klaus Schmeh
    8. August 2020

    @Gerry, Peter, Magnus, Alexander, Norbert, Jerry, Thomas, Juha:
    Thank you very much! Great job! Another mystery solved!

  11. #11 Klaus Schmeh
    8. August 2020

    Here’s the link Jerry mentioned: