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Construction details of Soviet flags

Last modified: 2014-03-30 by zoltán horváth
Keywords: dimensions | construction | hammer and sickle (yellow) | different reverse |
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Plain red reverse

soviet flag reverse
image by António Martins, 08 Dec 2005 | [two-sided] [reverse]

Reverse side of the soviet flag (at least since 1977) was plain red.
Victor Lomantsov, 08 Nov 2001

It is “common vexillological knowledge” that soviet flags had de jure plain (or rather emblemless) backsides only after 1980. However, I own a copy of the 1980 Constitution and the only prescription about the backside of the flag (and any other construction detail) is not on the constitutional text of 1980, but in a common law of 1977 annexed to the Constitution. This means that the reverse is officially emblemless since at least 1977 — and maybe it has been such since much earlier.
António Martins, 06 Dec 2002

According to the Soviet Constitution of 1980, the reverse is plain red. This is actually explicited not on the text (which is scarce in construction details) but on the color plate and on the b/w construction sheet, that shows the obverse with the h&s+star device on the top hoist and the obverse completely red (obverse and reverse are illustrated by showing a spearpointed pole: obverse shows the pole at the viewer’s left hand and the reverse shows the pole at the viewer’s right hand).

Please note that this is so in the 1980 version of the constitution, but it doesn’t meant that this was not taken without change from previous versions. So the soviet flag might have had a plain red background before 1980 (and probably it did). The colour plate (on whose backside is printed the b/w construction sheet) is said to have been published by decree of the Preasidium of the Supreme Soviet on 1980.08.15, although the preambulum of the Constitution (whose section VIII deals with the arms, flag, anthem and capital of the Soviet Union), was approved on 1977.10.07.

António Martins, 10 Dec 1999

The reason for this formal omission of the emblem in the reverse is not a practical manufactoring constraint, it seems, judging from how often it was disregarded in practice, but rather some formal concern of heraldic nature. As such it may very well be prescribed legally from the very beggining and ever ignored in practice.
António Martins, 06 Dec 2002

No hammer, sickle and star on reverse side [applies to all SSRs’ flags and their derivatives].
Mark Sensen, 25 May 1997

But sometimes not so (unofficially)

The USSR flag had in front a hammer and sickle and the back was a plain red flag with nothing on it. I’ll admit that I had a bit of trouble finding a written reference again when I needed it, but from Webster’s Concise Encyclopedia of Flags & Coats of Arms [mch85a]:

The flag was approved in 1923 and finally settled in 1924; the shape of the hammer and sickle was slightly corrected and exactly prescribed in 1955. In 1980 it was stipulated that the hammer, the sickle and the star appear only on the obverse side of the flag, the reverse being all red.
I’ve seen (and probably own) flags made following this regulation and others ignoring it completely.
Jon Radel, 03 Sep 1995

Not all the SU flag were made according to those specifications, so I am sure that there would be some found with H&S on reverse too.
Željko Heimer, 08 Nov 2001

In May 1985, I accompanied my brother on a California lawyers two week continuing education tour of four cities in the Soviet Union (Moscow, Minsk, Kiev, and Leningrad). In all those places, of course flags were in evidence. And we were in the crowd of foreigners in from of the Hotel Metropole for the 9th May Victory Day Parade, where flags were more than numerous. Also, a boat trip on the Dneiper in Kiev, the crowded Space Park across from the Hotel Kosmos in Moscow, war memorials in Mink and Kiev (“The Mother of the Ukraine”, an amazing statute), at the Hermitage and Puskin Museum in Leningrad, in all those places many flags. In the Space park was a display of 16 poles flying the Union Flag, as well as the 15 Republic Flags. But nowhere did I see a flag flying as described above, with the symbols on only one side. I have no doubt that while the above description is correct, it was ignored by state institutions of every type.
John Crosby, 17 May 2001

Hammer and sickle details

a: width of hammer and sickle; b: height of hammer and sickle; c: space between top of hammer and sickle and centre of star; d: diametre of circle inscribing star; e: height of the hammer; f: distance from centre of star to top of flag; g: distance from centre of hammer-and-sickle and star to hoist
(All measurements in fractions of the heigth of the flag. In brackets, values not expressed but deduced, calculated or implied)

a b c d e f g sources
Soviet Union 1/4 1/4 1/16 1/8 1/8 1/3 [iva67]
Estonia 1/4 1/4 1/16 1/8 1/8 1/3
Kazakhstan 1/4 (1/16) 1/8 1/2 [fss]
Russia 1/4 (1/16) 1/8 2/5 [lau97]
Tadzhikstan 1/4 1/4 (1/20) 1/10 1/10 1/3
Turkmenistan 1/6 (1/20) 1/10 1/10 1/4 [fss]
Uzbekistan 1/5 (1/20) 1/10 1/10 1/3 [sol85]
Ukraine 1/4 1/4 (1/16) 1/8 3/16 1/8 2/3 [sol83]
 generic h&s construction sheet
 image by Mark Sensen, 19 Jun 2001

The hammer an sickle device is enscribed in a square, the handles of both instruments placed on it’s diagonals, and the tip of the sickle coinciding with the middle of the upper side of the said square. The star (whose fimbriation is not defined in this construction sheet, as also the details of the hammer and sickle), is inscribed on a cicle, which is tangent to the said square also on the middle point of it’s upper side. There may be a more detailed construction sheet giving the missing details, but it is not included on the 1980 version of the constitution.
António Martins, 09 Dec 1999

No hammer, sickle and star on reverse side.
Mark Sensen, 25 May 1997

One thing I note on this is that the width of the yellow fimbriation of the star is not defined!
Željko Heimer, 24 May 1997


The “rounded” star has its inner diameter equal to half the outer diameter. Rosignoli [rsg72] writes in 1972/4:

The red star with hammer and sickle was introduced in 1922 and two types of it were initially made for the Red Army. The “rounded” star which is still in use nowadays was adopted on 3 April, 1922, but another pattern with straight points (“sharp”) was also adopted on 11 July of the same year. The latter star slowly went into disuse.
Ole Andersen, 12 Jun 1999

Anything below this line was not added by the editor of this page.