When it comes to flags, Russia has seen a lot of change. From the majestic flag of Russian Tsardom to the striking, gold and blood red banner flag of the Soviet Union, it’s safe to say that Russians know how to make a flag! Through collaboration with our Soviet Europe team we decided to give you an insight into the two flags that have defined modern Russia, their symbolism and what they all mean.
The flag of the Russian Federation:
The modern flag of Russia is a tricolour flag consisting of three horizontal fields: the top is white, the middle is blue, and the bottom is red. Initially, the flag was used only for Russian merchant ships but in 1696 it became the official flag of the Tsardom of Russia until the year of 1922. This was the year when all Russian territory was successfully captured by the Bolsheviks during the Russian civil war. The flag was used by the arch nemesis of the Bolsheviks, the White guard, during the civil war. After their victory, the Bolsheviks replaced the flag with that of the Soviet Union which flew for 63 years, which we’ll cover shortly.
In the darkest days of modern Russia during the Second World War, the tricolor rose again for a brief period as it was used by the collaborationist anti-Stalinist troops of Andrey Vlasov, who was allied with Nazi Germany against the Soviet Union after being captured and defecting to the Nazi cause. Vlasov chose the wrong side of history and after trying to switch sides again when he was captured during the apocolyptic Nazi retreat to Berlin, Vlasov was instead sent to Moscow and interogated before being one of the last people to be hanged in the Soviet Union, after which the Soviet death penalty was conducted only by shooting.
In 1991, as the Soviet empire descended into anarchy and a coup was attempted in Moscow, the supreme soviet of Russia ordered that the old imperial tricolour be reinstated as the national flag of state. On Christmas day 1991, the iconic Soviet flag was lowered for the final time over the Kremlin in Moscow and so began the dissolution of the USSR.
The white color symbolizes nobility and frankness, the blue for faithfulness, honesty, impeccability and chastity, and red for courage, generosity and love.
Every year on 22nd August in Russia there is a national holiday called National Flag Day, nicknamed the day of the victory over putschists of 1991, but employees remain at work.
The 1st flag of the Russian Socialist Federated Soviet Republic:
Between 1922 and 1991, Russia operated under the flag of the Russian SFSR (Socialist Federated Soviet Republic). But their diplomatic flag was that of the Soviet Union. This flag was established in 1924 and was carried by all ships of the USSR and diplomatic representations of the USSR. This is a flag that symbolized the East during the Cold War and is instantly recognizable by the majority of the world. The Soviet flag consisted of a blood red field, a golden hammer and sickle and topped off with a golden star.
In April 1918, the Council of People’s Commissars of the Russian SFSR gathered together to discuss the new flag. There were a few proposals that were never adopted such as a red flag with the abbreviation for the phrase Workers of the world, unite! However, the final design was perfected two months later by the artist Sergey Chekhonin and consisted of a red rectangular panel with the golden, slavic letters of RSFSR inscribed in a gold box in the corner of the flag.
There is a commonly held belief that the flag of the Soviet Union outranked the flag of the RSFSR, however this is not true and the actual use of the USSR flag was limited in Russia and flew over only two buildings, which were the Central Executive Committee of the Soviet Union and the Council of People’s Commissars.
The 2nd flag of the Russian Socialist Federated Soviet Republic:
In January 1947, the Soviets began to change the national flags of their satellite states with the aim of reflecting the idea of a Soviet Union state as well as the unique national identities of the republics. Each flag then featured the emblem of the USSR, a hammer and sickle with a red five-pointed star, with the inclusion of national ornaments and new colors. The new RSFSR flag was established in January 1954 which featured a light blue strip near the pole running the full width of the flag.