Friday, March 5, 2010

The Russian Federation

The State Flag of the Russian Federation
осударственный Флаг Российской Федерации

The origins of Russia's flag is something of a mystery, with 2 stories achieving prominence. One story originates from the construction of Russia's first frigate, the Oryol, in 1668, under Czar Alexis I. Apparently, during its construction, the Dutch engineer leading its construction, Butler, requested information on what flag the ship was to fly. Eventually, the Czar requested that Butler offer his advice and recommendation, as Russia had not really got a flag at that time. 

Another story places the flags origins a little later, under the reign of Peter the Great. He ordered a frigate from the Netherlands, and when it arrived in Russian waters, it was flying the Dutch flag. He liked the ship so much he decided to take the Dutch flag, and switch the colours around to create the first naval flag.  

However, the only definitive flag was the Imperial Russian standard. A yellow banner emblazoned with a double headed eagle. In the centre of the eagle, a red shield charged with an image of St George on horseback.

From 1858 to 1883, this was used in tandem with a new tricolour using white, black, and yellow. This was supposed to be a simple flag to identify, but used the colours of the Imperial standard.

Another flag that appeared, but never authorised, took the white, blue, and red tricolour of Russia, and placed the Imperial standard in the upper hoist canton.

All these flags where scrapped with the Bolshevik takeover in 1917.

The Bolsheviks set up the new Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, and the flag they adopted was initially a plain red field. Later, the golden hammer and sickle with the star of communism placed above it. The hammer represents the industrial workers, the sickle represents the agricultural workers, and the star represents a common, glorious future.

However, each constituent republic within the USSR had their own flag, and the first one for Russia was red, with the full name of the Russian Socialist Republic written in white Cyrillic text across it.

Then, from 1918, to 1937, the flag was altered. A red banner with PCOCP, in Cyrillic, in gold, within a box, in the flags upper hoist canton.

This was replaced from 1937 to 1954 with one that removed the gold box, and simplified the typescript used, but kept the letters.

From 1954 to1991, with the wholesale changes to the flags within the Soviet Union, the Russian Soviet Republic also re-designed its flag. Removing the lettering, the Soviet hammer and sickle where placed in the upper hoist canton, and a light blue stripe was placed running vertically along the hoist of the flag.

In 1991, with the Soviet Union opening up (and collapsing) the Russian Soviet Republic brought back the original tricolour, but using the lighter shade of blue from the previous flag. 

This flag was adopted upon independence, and underwent a slight alteration in 1993, with the blue being darkened back to closer to what it was before the Soviet Union.

The colours themselves have many meanings. One, from before the Soviet Union, that the white stood for God, the blue for the Czar, and red for the peasants. Another, more general set of meanings, is that white represents a bright future, blue represents a clouded present, and red, represents a bloody past. 

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