After centuries of historical despair, the flag of Chechnya has changed many times in quick succession. After a gruelling series of civil wars that lasted almost two decades, today, it can be argued that Chechnya has two national flags: one used by the government forces of Ramzan Kadyrov and those used by the opposition forces, usually in exile around the world. Both flags vehemently despised by either side respectively. So let’s have a look at the history of the flag of Chechnya and its meaning.
The flag of Chechnya before the 20th century
From 1785 until 1840, the flag of Chechnya consisted of a plain green flag representing the colour of Islam.
The flag of Chechnya during the Russian Revolution
Between 1917 and 1920, during the height of the Russian revolution, Chechnya was renamed to the Mountainous Republic of the Northern Caucasus and adopted a flag similar to that of the modern flag of the separatist country of Abkhazia with green a white stripes as well as an Islamic moon and stars.
Flag of Chechnya in early Soviet days
As Chechnya’s name changed to the Mountain ASSR between 1921-1924, it began to take on the early stages of Soviet style. With a mixed design of bright red and Islamic symbolism.
Flag of Chechnya from 1937 to 1957, Chechnya under Stalin
Upon the introduction of the Chechen-Ingush ASSR flag in 1937, its flag became wholly Soviet with the removal of any form of Islamic symbolism.
In 1944, Stalin ruthlessly deported the entire population of Chechnya and Ingushetia on to the unforgiving steppes of central asia. In his characteristic paranoia, he accused the Chechen nation of collaborating with the invading Nazis and had hoped the nations would die out due to the deportations. But known for their toughness and ability to survive, the Chechens stayed alive. They were officially allowed to return home after Stalin’s death in 1953.
Soviet Chechnya from 1957 to 1991
Between 1957 and 1991, the Soviet flag of the Chechen-Ingush ASSR was the same as the flag of the Russian SFSR with an added blue bar on the left side and the abbreviated name of the Republic in Chechen, Ingush, and Russian.
Chechen Civil War flags
As the Soviet Union began to collapse, Chechnya erupted into a war for independence from Moscow that saw its infrastructure and population decimated. Chechen fighters were aiming to form the independent Chechen Republic of Ichkeria and made several flags dedicated to the prospective nation. The most common of these is a green flag with red and white stripes. Another well-known example is similar to this flag but has the country’s coat of arms of the mountain wolf incorporated into the design. These flags were mainly used by supporters of the Chechen separatist leaders of Dzhokhar Dudayev and Aslan Maskhadov.
The colours of the flag of Ichkeria are supposed to represent the Chechen national character. Green is the color of life, red symbolizes the bloodshed in the struggle for freedom and white represents the road to a bright future. This style of flag continues to be used by supporters of Chechen independence around the world. Some Chechen foreign fighters who left their home to join mujahideen units in the ongoing civil war in Syria, have been seen wearing Ichkeria flags on their uniforms.
Pro-Moscow Loyalist Flag
During the civil war, the anti-separatist fighters who were pro-Moscow used a similar but different flag. The main difference being the inversion of the red and white stripes and their different width-ratio. It has not been used since it was replaced by the current flag of the Chechen Republic.
Current Flag of the Chechen Republic
Introduced in 2004, the current flag of Chechnya represents the ruling Kadyrov clan who waged a long counter-insurgency to rid the country of foreign fighters and radical terror groups. It is the same ratio as the flag of the Russian Federation and composed of three horizontal bars of green, white, and red. It also features the Chechen national ornament, a design of four golden scroll shapes.