Last modified: 2011-10-01 by andrew weeks
Keywords: coat of arms | heraldry | eagle: double-headed (golden) | eagle: double-headed (black) | saint george |
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Present coat of arms was adopted on 30 November 1993
with the Decree of the President #2050. The arms: red
shield, golden double-headed eagle with scepter, orb
and three crowns. Silver horseman is in red escutcheon.
Author of drawing — Evgeny Ukhnalyov from St.Petersburg.
The horseman is not St. George. Russia is not a christian-only
country, there are many muslims, buddhists and other.
That’s why the authors decided not to name the horseman
as “Saint”. The comission to design the arms was created
on 16 November 1993, the comission was led by R. Pikhoya,
state archivist of Russia. In 1991 double-headed eagle
(without crowns), breast-shield, scepter nor orb was drawn
on coins. The arms may be used without red shield (article
2, Regulation on State Coat of Arms). Later this arms was
named “coat of arms of The Bank of Russia”.
Victor Lomantsov, 10 Nov 1999
The horseman on historical russian arms (and on the arms of
Moscow too) is St. George. In official
description of modern arms of Russia (1993) the horseman became
simply a «horseman» as a tribute to the muslim population, but
he “looks like” St.George. Some heraldists want to rename back
«horseman» to «St. George».
Victor Lomantsov, 10 Nov 2000
I suppose that there’s a (legal?) prescription which specifically
says that the dragon slaying rider on the russian arms is not St.
George, in order not to ostracize some 10% of the citizens of Russia
who are not christians.
António Martins, 09 Nov 2000
If it isn’t St. George, one misses the reference to Moscow’s
patron saint in Georgiy Zhukov, the latter-day savior of Moscow, riding
a white horse through Red Square over the captured Nazi regalia. I’m
sure it wasn’t intentional on Stalin’s part, but I’ve been told the
Muscovites certainly caught the association of images.
Joe McMillan, 11 Nov 2000
The current Russian coat of arms differs from the imperial
one. Now it is red with a golden eagle, back
then the shield was golden with a black eagle.
And there are neither the chain of St. Andrew Order, nor the
six arms on the wings anymore.
Carsten Linke, 02 May 1996, and Norman M. Martin, 05 Dec 1997
Another difference between the current coat of arms
of the Russian Federation and the coat of arms of Imperial
Russia is that today, the centre arms of St. George is
mirrored. The “czarist” knight shows his left flank, riding
to the heraldic right side; modern St. George is seen from
the opposite side, riding to the left.
Stephan Gorski, 28 Sep 1998
The Russian coat of arms is formally the golden eagle
and all it’s charges on a red shield (with no other
elements) — much the same way that the Imperial coat of
arms (before 1917) was the black eagle (with slightly
different charges) on a golden
António Martins, 01 Apr 1999
Ancient russian coins had the drawings of a horseman with
a spear since XIII c. Greater State Seal of Grand Duke Ivan III
(1497) had the drawing of a horseman killing a dragon too.
A horseman was a symbol of a Defender of Motherland.
Since the times of czar Ivan IV Groznyi a horseman was
situated on the breast of double-headed eagle, the state
coat of arms. In that times the horseman was «a portrait
of the czar». He had a crown and (sometimes) a mantle.
Later, in times of czar Alexei Mikhaylovich, the horseman on
the eagle’s breast became the portrait of crown-successor
(for example, in official description of russian seal and
coat of arms of 1667).
Western travellers usually perceived the horseman as
St. George. Many russians did it too (because he looks
like famous orthodox icon St. George and Dracon).
He officially become St. George in 1730 (Decree of Empress,
description of coat of arms).
Now St. George is Coat of Arms of Moscow.
Victor Lomantsov, 16 Aug 2000
It’s definition: "St. George-Pobedonosec", which means "victor".
Michael Simakov, 09 Nov 2000
In Meyers Konversations-Lexikon
1889 I found the following description of the Russian
coat of arms:
On a golden shield a black, twoheaded, triple-crowned eagle with red beak and talons and spreaded out wings, holding the golden sceptre in his right, the golden imperial orb in his left talon; on the breast the Moscow coat of arms: St. George on horseback, piercing the dragon [lindwurm]. On every wing of the eagle there are three shields: the coat of arms of Astrakhan, Novgorod and Kiev on the right, the arms of Siberia, Kazan and Vladimir on the left one. The eagle is surrounded by the chain of the St. Andrew Order and headed by the imperial crown with two blue bands bordered golden.
Further it said, that the coat of arms was adopted in 1497 by Tsar Ivan III, who took the Byzantinian twoheaded eagle and improved it with the arms of Moscow.
Carsten Linke, 02 May 1996
The two major symbolic elements of Russian vexillography [the two-headed eagle and St. George slaying the dragon] which predate Peter I [the Great] were both considered Russian state arms. The older form (a mounted dragon slayer known as George the Victorious) was always associated with the Grand Duchy of Moscovy, later becoming the official arms of the city of Moscow. The earliest graphic representation of a rider with a spear (1390) figures in a seal of the prince of Moscow, Vasilii Dimitriyevich. The serpent or dragon was added under Ivan III (1462-1505), probably to represent the Christians of Russia defeating the pagan hordes of the east — Russia’s traditional enemy, the Tatars.
The familiar Russian double-headed eagle was in fact a foreign symbol, adopted to demonstrate the imperial pretensions of the Russian Tsars beginning with Ivan III (the Great) in 1497. … Ivan married Zoe Paleolog whose uncle Constantine had been the last Byzantine emperor. … From 1497 on the double-headed eagle proclaimed Russian sovereignty over East and West…Nick Artimovich 06 May 1996, quoting [smi75b]
The colours of Moscow coat of arms were
settled in the 18th century. Before 1730 various colours were used.
After 1730 the shield became red, the dragon — black, the cape of St.
George — yellow. Only in 1856 the cape became blue! I think colours of
the coat of arms of Moscow are based on national flag, and not the
other way around.
Victor Lomantsov, 10 Nov 1999
I have seen the Russian coat of arms displayed both with and without a
shield behind the eagle. I believe that this is true for all the
eagle-arms that stem from Roman Imperial Eagle. At least I am sure
for Austro-Hungarian one, which was more often represented without
the (yellow) shield behind it then with it. I believe it is also
true of German arms, and most of arms of kingdoms in Balkan.
Željko Heimer, 06 Dec 1997, and Ossi Raivio, 05 Dec 1997
Archeologists found on russian territory many mongol coins
(Gold Orda coins, 1330-1350) with double-headed eagle. Some
russian local princes copied mongol coins with eagle (for example,
Mikhail, prince of Tver principality,
coin of 1486).
Victor Lomantsov, 14 Apr 2000
The eagle, facing both east and west, was an old byzantine emblem
(of roman origin?), with whom the tsar
was linked by marriage. This eagle is also found in some balkanic
coats of arms (Serbia and
Albania come to mind).
António Martins, 13 Apr 2000
The arms on the wings of the russian imperial arms are (clockwise starting from the heads):
It may be noted that the figure of St. George killing the Dragon
(not under that name, of course) is found in many pre-christian symbols
and sources of various peoples that was living or passed though great
plains, not only Slavic but other Indo-European and others too. The
legend can be traced back to “primordial” miths of many
nations. It is often deep rooted and local population often regard the
“story” as it’s own.
Željko Heimer, 17 Aug 2000
Ancient russian coins had the drawings of a horseman with a spear
since XIII c. Big State Seal of Grand Duke Ivan III (1497) had the
drawing of a horseman killing a dragon too. A horseman was a symbol of
a Defender of Motherland. Since the times of czar Ivan IV Groznyi a
horseman was situated on the breast of double-headed
eagle, the state coat of arms. In that times the horseman was «the
portrait of the czar». He had a crown and (sometimes) a mantle. Later,
in times of czar Alexei Mikhaylovich, the horseman on the eagle’s breast
became the portrait of crown-successor (for example, in official
description of russian seal and coat of arms of 1667). Western
travellers usually perceived the horseman as St.George. Many russians
did it too (because he looks like famous orthodox icon St. George
and the Dragon). He officially become St. George in 1730 (Decree
of Empress, description of coat of arms). Now St. George is Coat of
Arms of Moscow.
Victor Lomantsov, 16 Aug 2000
First seal of Ivan III with horseman killing a dragon dated 1479.
Russians had begun name the horseman like St.George since XVIII c
(officially since 1730). Before it the horseman was «tsar», later (in
times of tsar Alexei, father of Peter I) he was «heir» in official
Victor Lomantsov, 14 Apr 2000
Known from seals dated between 1390 and 1423 the knight (without the
dragon) appeared together the eagle on the seal of Ivan III in 1497. One
figure was on the obverse, the other on the reverse of the seal. It is
likely that the knight represented the czar himself, in the Byzantine
meaning of Imperator debellator hostium. Because he was represented
killing the dragon, this lead to identificate him in S. George, but in
the description of the seal of Ivan IV (1562) it is still said «a man on
a horse». Still the 1667 official blasoning of the coat of arms says of
him as the «heir» [of the Byzantine throne]. Following modern russian
heralds (f.e. Elena I. Kamanceva) the knight was the «symbolic
representation of russian wars in defending the homeland from the
enemies». The main colors were blue for the knight dress, white for the
horse and red for the background. So it is likely that white, blue and
red colors derived, as in many other cases, from the coat of arms.
Mario Fabretto, 27 Nov 1998, based on [zig94], [sto74] and [fow69]
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