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Subnational flags of the Soviet Union

Last modified: 2013-12-10 by zoltán horváth
Keywords: deface | scarlet | purpure | heraldry |
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Soviet subnational flags

In the USSR only SSRs and ASSRs had the right to the coats of arms and flags. Krays, oblastes, autonomous oblastes and autonomous okrugs (till 1977 called national okrugs) had no flags and coats of arms. They used flags and coats of arms of the SSRs, in structure of which they were. Cities and rayons also had not any flags.
Mikhail Revnivtsev, 19 Oct 2005



In 1936-1980ths the ASSR flags were “rare”. I think they were flown only upon Parliaments and Governments of the ASSRs. In Moscow they flew nowhere.
Victor Lomantsov, 25 Oct 2000

While I was in Russia, I questioned intensively several people about vex apects of the soviet society, and what I got about ASSR flags is very scarce as they seem to be very seldom used. In Chuvashia, where I lived, many people even didn’t knew that there was an ASSR flag, and never saw it — though it was, as usual, almost identical to the RSFSR flag. The latter, though, was also an infrequent sighting, being the soviet national flag the almost exlusively used flag in most occasions (this may have been different in non-russian republics).
António Martins, 24 Oct 2000


1918 tricolor flags allowed?

I was aware at the time that Mikhail Gorbachev had decided to let Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia fly their 1918 national flags, in addition to their S.S.R. flags.
John Crosby, 23 May 2001



ASSR flags were identical to the respective SSR flags but defaced with its name (complete or initials only) written across in golden letters. Meanwhile, a oks, unlike SSRs and ASSRs, didn’t have flags of their own.
António Martins, 11 Mar 2000 and 25 May 2001

Names of ASSRs on flags were usually written in “national” language and in language of the republic of which the ASSR was part.
Victor Lomantsov, 21 Dec 2001

The flag of Russia was the only SSR flag only with non-horizontal stripes, while the flag of Byelorussia had the only one with both.
Steve Stringfellow and António Martins, 12 and 13 Mar 2000



The post-1949 soviet flags scheme: Mainly red (scarlet), with distinguishing features for each republic’s flag; for republic’s autonomous subdivisions (only ASSRs), the republic flag with the appropriate inscription in golden letters. Soviet SSR flags had two shades of blue, as expactable, considering they were russian language based (the known "goluboĭ / sky blue vs. siniĭ / blue blue" issue):

António Martins, 09 Sep 1999

SSR flags (and most soviet flags containing red) were medium red (aka scarlet, alyĭ, or simply krasnyĭ), not dark red (aka purpure — purpurnyĭ or kropovyĭ). The word "krasnyĭ" means simply red, regardless of the exact shade, but in those rare soviet/russian flags using a darker hue this was/is specifically stated. Likewise, a “dark” shade of yellow (golden) was prescribed and used.
António Martins, 07 Nov 2000 and 10 May 2000

It should be noted that in some cultures, notably in Germany, golden is sometimes rendered with a greenish hue, usually light greenish yellow, but this is not so in Russia, where golden is usually rendered as dark yellow or light orange.
António Martins, 28 Jan 2001



Names of ASSRs on soviet flags usually were written in the local language and in language of the “metropolis” — i.e., the republic of which the authonomy was a part of.
Victor Lomantsov, 21 Dec 2001

On flags of autonomous republics (ASSR) in structure of the RSFSR there could not be inscriptions on the national languages located above of inscriptions in Russian language. Absolutely authentically.
Mikhail Revnivtsev, 25 Oct 2006

Until 1950ths abbreviation in russian language (and other “soviet” languages) were with dots between letters (for example "C.C.C.P.", later "CCCP").
Victor Lomantsov, 21 Oct 2000

The exact face used on ASSR flags was one of Smith’s unanswered doubts in the special number of The Flag Bulletin dedicated to soviet vexillology [smi72]. For what is worth, Sokolov shows some times serif and others sans type faces on his articles, and there’s also the questions of case (all upper case, capitalized plus lower case or capitalized plus small caps), and abbreviation.
António Martins, 24 Oct 2000

I would not be surprised if it is determined that ASSR flags were produced in very small amounts (at any given time only a couple of copies, used in selected locations?), and thus the size, position, face, style and content of the distinguishing inscription would be either unspecified legally or in practice ignored, and would vary with the ad hoc opinion of the flag maker…
António Martins, 24 Oct 2000


Banners of Soviet Republics

Many (all?) soviet republics had these banners. Usually it was red field with republican coat-of-arms and the name of republic. They had gold fringe. I know about banner of Azerbaijan, banner of Uzbekistan. I saw photos of L. Brezhnev, leader of the Communist party, attaching a various awards (Orders of Lenin etc) to these banners. I don’t know about any official Regulation for these banners.
Victor Lomantsov, 09 Jan 2002

A similar flag was sent to me from Modolva SSR. The flag is a 1:1 ratio, red background with green stripe, the only exception is that the coat of arms is in color, located in the center.
Zachary Harden, 09 Jan 2002

I saw the mysterious red banner with emblem of RSFSR too. For example, Yeltsin stood near this flag on inauguration ceremony. May be it was some sort of banner (colour) of RSFSR.
Victor Lomantsov, 09 Jan 2002

I am not at all surprised. They must have been popular, not the least because they look much more “ceremonious” the the rather simple (“boring”) soviet flags.
Željko Heimer, 09 Jan 2002


Coats of arms

The emblems of the ASSRs were similar to their appropriate SSR, but with aditional inscription in several languages identifying the ASSR.
Željko Heimer, 20 Sep 2001

Two republics in USSR had round Arms: Armenia and Georgia.
Victor Lomantsov, 24 Oct 2000

Interesting ideas that pop up when comparing these 15 emblems, especially regarding the political atmosphere of the adoption time, the local heraldic traditions, and the more or less clumsy management of the delicate balance between nationalism and “internationalism” in the Soviet Union:

António Martins, 28 Sep 1999

I think it shouldn’t be called coat of arms when it is not heraldic arms, which these Soviet emblems are not. They may have the same purpose as coats of arms, but they do not follow the rules of heraldry — and that was made on purpose, becasue the communists (wrongly) connected heraldry with the late Emperor and the upper class.
Elias Granqvist, 01 Nov 2000

In fact they were emblems, because they did not follow the rules of classical heraldry. But nominally (in Constitutions) they were «coats of arms» (gerby). The first soviet coat of arms (RSFSR, 1918) had a shield, motto etc. The “coat of arms” of Ukrainian SSR had a shield too. But later soviet “coats of arms” became more and more “unheraldic”…
Victor Lomantsov, 01 Nov 2000

Exactly breaking of that rule made a strong political expression that the Soviet wanted to express. The “new society” formed by the revolution needed «new symbols», and adopted those parts of heraldry (conscious or not) that suited the purpose while rejecting and changing what suited not. What is important is that this “new heraldry” took it roots and still today we can see the influences in symbols of states (and other corporate bodies) all over the world. Only among the national coats of arms there are easily found examples of shield-less coat of arms, mainly influenced by Soviet “heraldry” (though, there are other reasons, too, why some countries rejected the shield in their coats of arms).
Also, one can with more or less success, more or less artificialy, suggest that the shields «are there, only not so obvious». Like in the case of Kazakhi SSR, the shield of Gules field might be “seen” with edges being hidden behing the ears. Other “coloured” shields might be seen in some other Soviet coats of arms. The circular coats of arms might be considered to be circular shields, in many cases traditional to those countries anyway. But, indeed such theory must be very streched for the examples of baltic SSRs (Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania) or Belarussian SSR coats of arms. It may be that those last are more non-heraldic then others possibly also because these are the countries with much stronger heraldic tradition then other countries of the Soviet Union, and here maybe the “deheraldization” was to be most practiced.
Željko Heimer, 02 Nov 2000


About the administrative structure of the Soviet Union

The SFSR status indicated that that republic itself was a federation of several ASSRs (Autonomous Socialist Soviet Republics), possibly also with "non-ASSR" territory, so to speak, as in the case of the Russian SFSR. However, this was not linear, since at least in recent times other republics of the Soviet Union had ASSRs and where not SFSRs themselves. This is the case of Azerbaijan (with Nakhtchevan ASSR), Georgia (with Adjaria ASSR and Abkhazia ASSR) and Uzbekistan (with Karakalpakia ASSR). The Russian Soviet Federated Socialist Republic remained the only SFSR since the Transcaucasian SFSR split.
Jorge Candeias, 26 Mar 1999

In the 1920ths many autonomous republics in RSFSR did not use the word "autonomous" in their names. But they were really autonomous (not independent, not “full status republics”). For example, Tatarstan, Bashkiria etc. These republics until 1930ths used the names SSR. Later, the “standard form” of the state name was introduced: ASSR for autonomies, SSR for “full republics”.
Victor Lomantsov, 21 Oct 2000

a oks (previously, n oks — soviet era names were identical to the current, with "nacionalhnyĭ" instead of "avtonomnyĭ" before 1977), unlike SSRs and ASSRs, didn’t have flags of their own.
António Martins, 17 Sep 2001

Till 1936 in USSR kray means administrative-territorial unit, which contains autonomous SSR. After 1937 in USSR Kray contains autonomous regions or simple regions (for example, Primorsky Kray in the RSFSR or Tselinny Kray in the Kazakh SSR). National districts (after 1977 — autonomous districts) were included and into structure simply regions: into Region of Omsk, further — into Region of Tyumen; into Region of Kalinin, into Region of Magadan, into Region of Arkhangelsk.
Mikhail Revnivtsev, 07 Oct 2005

In the beginning of the 1920ies the autonomous republics Dagestan and Kazakhstan used the name "SSR" although they had an autonomous (ASSR) status.
Jens Pattke, 23 Jun 2001



  • 1922: The 10th All-Russian Congress of Soviets/1st All-Union Congress of Soviets takes place. Present are the RSFSR, the Transcaucasian SSR, the Ukrainian SSR, the White Russian SSR.
  • In 1924, the Uzbek and Turkmen SSRs are formed.
  • In 1929, the Tajik SSR is formed.
  • The 1936 Stalin Constitution names 11 republics as forming the USSR: the RSFSR, the Ukrainian SSR, the White Russian SSR, the Georgian SSR, the Armenian SSR, the Azerbaijan SSR, the Kazakh SSR, the Kirghiz SSR, the Uzbek SSR, the Turkmen SSR, and the Tajik SSR.
  • In March of 1940, the Karelian ASSR is upgraded to Karelo-Finnish SSR, pending the conquest of Finland. It is downgraded back to ASSR in 1956.
  • In August of 1940, Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania become the 14th, 15th, and 16th SSRs (in no particulate order).
  • In the same month [August of 1940], Bessarabia and Bukovina are annexed by the USSR. Bukovina and Southern Bessarabia are attached to the Ukrainian SSR. The Ukrainian Moldavian ASSR is split into two parts: a section along the Dniestr is attached to the remainder of the newly annexed Bessarabia, and named Moldavian SSR, and the remainder of the ASSR is absorbed into the Ukrainian SSR.
Georges Kovari, 22 Mar 2001