12 December 2013, 13:47

The Russian flag: 20 years of new history

The Russian flag: 20 years of new history

On December 11 the Russian tricolor flag marks the 20th anniversary from its restoration. Although the history of Russia's tricolor dates back to late XVII century, it is the last two years that made it not only a national symbol, but also the pride of the country.

The Decree on the State Flag of the Russian Federation was signed on December 11, 1993, by Russia's first president Boris Yeltsin. According to the Decree, the white-blue-red color cloth became the official symbol of the country. It came in place of the red flag, with which the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics had lived for about 70 years. Back in that difficult time the adoption of the tricolor was no accident, thinks Pavel Svyatenkov, a Russian political scientist and an expert at the Fund for Historic Prospective:

«The tricolor was Russia's national flag for a long time. It was also the flag of the February revolution of 1917. That was largely the reason why it was restored. That flag that was the symbol of the Russian republic, one of the Soviet republics, was no good as it replicated the Soviet flag. That was why it was decided to return the old Russian flag».

The white-blue-red flag has a history of over 300 years. It is believed that it first appeared during the rule of tsar Alexey Mikhailovich in 1667 on the ship called «Oryol». And after 1705 during the rule of the Russian emperor Peter the Great the tricolor with the double-headed eagle was handed over to the entire commercial fleet of Russia. Today there are many explanations why specifically those colors were selected. According to one version, back in the ancient times the white, blue and red symbolized honor, loyalty and courage respectively. In the pre-revolutionary times there existed another interpretation of the meaning of the three colors, where the white was the color of freedom, blue – the color of the Holy Mother of God, while the red was the symbol of the statehood. There was also an interpretation of the three colors as the unity of Orthodox Church, tsarist power and the people.

There have been periods when the tricolor was forgotten, reminds us Konstantin Truyevtsev, associate professor of applied political science at the Higher School of Economics:

«After the French Revolution the Russian tricolor was abandoned on the grounds that its colors coincided with the colors of the French flag. Another flag was adopted at that time. However, after the reforms of emperor of Alexander II the tricolor flag gradually returned as the national symbol».

In the XX century the white-blue-red flag was again abandoned. After the revolutionary changes of the 1918 the new government tried to get rid of everything that could remind people of the tsarist times.

The Russian tricolor was once again revived in August 1991. During the armed attempt to oust Mikhail Gorbachev from the position of the president of the USSR and to change the course taken by him the demonstrators raised the Russian tricolor above the House of the Soviets, which currently serves as the building of the Russian Government, known in Moscow as the White House. Its return became a symbol of the transition from totalitarism to democracy, thinks Konstantin Truyevtsev:

«The process of adoption of the tricolor flag coincides with the creation of the corresponding institutions. Democracy is first of all the adoption of the Constitution and the creation of the two-chamber parliament. Thus, the flag corresponded to the institutional changes, which took place in Russia in the 1990s».

In 1994 a presidential decree introduced a new state holiday – the Day of the State Flag of the Russian Federation. It is celebrated on August 22.

This year the Russian flag got into Тhe Guinness Book of Records. In early July almost 30 thousand residents of Vladivostok staged a grand event. They stood on a bridge with red, blue and white flags in their hands. That tricolor got into the book of records as the largest «live» flag in the world.

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