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Russian Federation / Российская Федерация

Russian flag image by António Martins, 21 October 1997

On this page:

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Presentation of Russia

Full name: Russian Federation
Location: Eurasia
Status: Independent state since 26 December 1991. Member of the United Nations (Permanent Security Council member)
Notes: The world’s largest state, Russia was the dominant member of the USSR, which many people saw as the modern inheritor of the expansionist policies of the Tsars. With the collapse of the USSR, Russia inherited the Soviet Union’s permanent seat on the UN Security Council, but also much of the debt of the former USSR. Russia is a federated state with, in theory, widespread devolution to its regions. Unresolved tensions exist between the central government and many of these regions.
Stuart Notholt, 13 Nov 1995

Description of the flag

On 11th of December, the President’s Order (Ukaz) Nº 2126 gave the following description:

State flag of Russia is a rectangular »« with three equal-size horizontal bands: the upper one is white (белый), the middle one — blue (синий), and the lower one is red (красный). Width/length relation equals 2/3.
Federal Constitutional Law No 1-FKZ, adopted 25th of December, 2000, assumed the latter as the description of Russian flag.
Kirill Marchuk, 04 May 2001

The Russian flag (white-blue-red) was approved as National flag in August 1991 by the Supreme Soviet of RSFSR and was used together with the soviet era flag for a few months until finally adopted by decree of the Congress of People’s Deputies in December 1991.
Alexander Getmanenko, 28 May 2003

On the 25th of December 2000 the Federal Law On National Flag of Russia was adopted. This document governs that «National Flag is a rectangular banner, which consists of three equal horizontal stripes: the top one is white, the middle one is blue, the bottom one is red. The width of the flag is related to length as 2 to 3.»
Zachary Harden, 05 Mar 2001, quoting the Russian Consultant in San Francisco, CA, USA

Russian national flags normally used in Russia range from the lightest to the darkest shade (like from argentine blue to british blue), even if in Russian light blue is considered a separate color. There are for sure official regulations about the precise shade to be used in national flags used by the government, presidency, armed forces, etc. — but until now I could not find them. All laws state simply "blue" ("siniĭ").
António Martins, 16 Jun 2000

The official ratio is 2:3. It was been changed by Presidential decree Nº 2126 (11 december 1993). In 1991 when Russian tricolor was officially adopted one had 1:2 ratio.
Michael Simakov, 25 Jan 1999, and Victor Lomantsov, 10 Nov 1999

National Flag at the London 2012 Olympics

The protocol manual for the London 2012 Olympics (Flags and Anthems Manual London 2012 [loc12]) provides recommendations for national flag designs. Each NOC was sent an image of the flag, including the PMS shades, for their approval by LOCOG. Once this was obtained, LOCOG produced a 60 x 90 cm version of the flag for further approval. So, while these specs may not be the official, government, version of each flag, they are certainly what the NOC believed the flag to be.
For Russian Federation: PPMS 285 blue, 032 red. The vertical flag is simply the horizontal version turned 90 degrees anti-clockwise.
Ian Sumner, 10 October 2012

Origin of the Flag

20th of January 1705 Peter I adopted merchant flag. But this flag was naval ensign since 1693 (without official adoption).
Victor Lomantsov, 06 Mar 2001

Although it is mentioned in a lot of (flag)books, it is probably just a myth that the Russian tricolour is derived from the Dutch one during Tsar Peter’s (incognito) visit to the Netherlands in 1697. One of the worlds first flagbooks, compiled by Carel Allard (from Amsterdam) in 1695 [ala95], shows three Russian flags:

  • horizontal white-blue-red, over all (shifted to the hoist) a golden double headed eagle with a red shield (with St.George, without the dragon) on its chest and a golden crown over its heads. Caption: Czar of Moscovia. (See here.)
  • horizontal white-blue-red, over all a blue saltire. Ratio of the flag aprox. 1:3. Caption: Other flag of Czar of Moscovia. (See here.)
  • quarterly red and white, a blue cross over all. Caption: another Moscovian flag. (See here.)
Mark Sensen, 25 Nov 1998, quoting [sie96]

More correctly it should be said that the shape of the Dutch flag influenced the Russian one, while the colors were “traditional”. It is to remember that the Dutch ensign, created 1572, was the first maritime flag in the shape of three horizontal stripes, and since then, it got great popularity. We could say that white, blue and red flags were in used in Russia from about 1667, mainly in the quartered form with a blue cross, while from 1697, after the visit of Peter the Great to Netherlands, the triband design became the preferred one. (Sources: [zig94], [sto74] and [fow69].)
Mario Fabretto, 27 Nov 1998

Originally the civil ensign, the tricolour was officially recognized for use on land on 7 May 1883. Under the Bolsheviks, the flag was suppressed. It began to re-surface in 1990, and was officially adopted as the state flag on 21 August 1991, three days after the hardline attempted coup against (USSR) President Gorbaĉëv. A day later, Russian President Boris Elcin waved the flag from on top of a tank as the coup collapsed. An enormous white-blue-red cloth was paraded through the streets of Moscow and the flag was raised over the building of the Russian Supreme Soviet. On 25 December, it was also hoisted over the Kremlin. The next day, 26 December 1991, the formal legal termination of the USSR and its symbols took place.
Stuart Notholt

Smith [smi75] says that the plain white-blue-red tricolor had been the civil ensign since 1799 and an “alternate civil flag” since 1883 — this owing to the unpopularity of the black-orange-white flag. However, the black-orange-red was not officially abolished, so that Russia had two civil flags from 1883 to 1914.
Tom Gregg, 21 Mar 1999

The white-blue-red is based on the coat of arms of the duchy of Moscow, which is red with Saint George, wearing white armor and a blue cape, riding a white horse, holding a blue shield, defeating the dragon.
Anton Sherwood

The rider is said to be St. George from 1730. The dominant colors are in effect red, blue and white. The white-blue-red flag was used till the fall of Kerenski’s government, in November 1917. The same happened to the two-headed eagle, without the imperial crown.
Giuseppe Bottasini

Flag Day

National Holiday "Day of State Flag" in Russia is 22 of august. This holiday was introduced with a decree No 1714 of president B. Eltsin on 20 of august 1994. In 21.8.1991 the national tricolour was firstly raised upon the White House (the building of the Government of Russia). This flag deputies took from the study of deputy minister V. Yaroshenko. In 22.8.1991 it was adopted the decision about official acknowledgement of the tricolour. There were no “Flag Days” in Russian Empire, USSR, RSFSR or RF before 1994.
Victor Lomantsov, 10 Nov 1999

Supposed Color Meanings of Russian Colors

All these meanings were invented many years after the adoption the flag. If you have an imagination you can invent thousands of meanings. But officially the colours means nothing.
Victor Lomantsov, 06 Mar 2001

From the ancient times in Russia those three colors had a special symbolic meaning: white is nobility and sincerity; blue is truthfulness, commitment and purity; red stands for bravery, valor and love.
Zachary Harden, 05 Mar 2001, quoting the Russian Consulant in San Francisco, CA, USA

Meaning of the current flag:

  • white: nobility, frankness;
  • sky-blue: loyalty, honesty, irreproachability, chastity;
  • scarlet: courage, courage, self-sacrifice, generosity, love.
The same flag but different meaning (19th century):
  • white: liberty, independence
  • sky-blue: God Mother
  • scarlet: sovereignty
Ŭladzimir Maksakaŭ, 05 Dec 2000

In Russia the white color symbolizes generosity and frankness; blue — loyalty, honesty, faultlessness, wisdom; red — courage, magnanimity, love. The Russian tradition may have the following interpretation as well: red color is associated with Russian people, blue — with the Ukrainians, and white — with the Belo Russians. So, the use of these three colors has a long history in Slavic states, mean the sacred union of the Slavs with a unique cultural heritage of each nation.
Pascal Gross, 12 Jul 2001, quoting from

The colours represent the following:

  • red = people
  • blue = czar
  • white = god
On the flag, the Czar is above the people and below god.
Alex Shifrin, 11 Jan 2000

Some people believe that they mean the structure of the world. In Russian view: red means the land, blue means sky, and white means heavens.
Goshaiva, 18 May 2003

The color of the stripes was then understood according to the ancient explanation of the Universe: on the bottom is a material world, higher are the skies, and the highest is a divine world. Later it began to symbolize a unity of the three Eastern Slavic Nations — Byelorussia, Ukraine and Russia.
Zachary Harden, 05 Mar 2001, quoting the Russian Consulant in San Francisco, CA, USA

I seem to recall that the current Russian flag has similar meanings, the white for the White Russians, the blue for the Ukrainians and the red for the Russians of what is now Russia.
David Kendall, 10 Aug 1999

Mourning Practices Using Russian Flag

Now in Russia in mourning the flags flying on half-staff, or two black ribbons added to the hoist.
Victor Lomantsov, 24 Oct 2000

News photo showing the Kremlin dome top flag at half mast.
Theodore Leverett, Aug 2000

Russian Flag Museum

There’s a museum about the Russian flag, in Paris, hosted by the Russian Embassy in France:

Musée du Drapeau russe
Représentation commerciale de la Fédération de Russie en France
49, rue de la Faisanderie
FR-75116 Paris

Arnaud Leroy, 19 Jan 2003

See also: Flag Museums

Proposed Flag related National Anthem Lyrics

The symbols [flag and coat of arms] are given prominent mention in the words for the revived anthem — the re-established Soviet tune, with new words by the same poet who composed the original nearly 60 years ago. Russia has been without an official anthem since 1991, when the unbreakable union broke up. An arcane tune without lyrics has been used as a stand-in Putin told a new advisory State Council grouping Russia’s regional leaders to decide whether to resurrect the catchy Soviet tune, write words for the current one or compose a new anthem altogether.
The source said the Kremlin would send a bill to parliament next week proposing to keep intact the music composed by Alexander Alexandrov in 1943 and personally approved by Soviet dictator Josef Stalin. It will be accompanied by new verses by 87-year-old Sergei Mikhalkov, a beloved children’s poet who wrote the original words in 1943. The Kremlin source quoted the opening lines of the verses Mikhalkov had written for the old tune, making it clear Putin had made up his mind.

Its mighty wings spread above us
The Russian eagle is hovering high
The Fatherland’s tricolor symbol
Is leading Russia’s peoples to victory
quoted by Lewis Nowitz from the Netscape news site, 30 Nov 2000

The Russian national anthem had no lyrics from 1991 to 2000, the time period of Russia using the anthem composed by Glinka. Before the change, lyrics were asked to be sent to the Kremlin, an example is what is above. The Kremlin asked for the lyrics to be changed, and took the revision, which does not included any reference to the national symbols.
Zachary Harden, 06 May 2002