Bans on Communist symbols

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Symbols commonly associated with communism, the hammer and sickle and red star

Bans on Communist symbols were introduced or suggested in a number of countries as part of their policies of decommunization.[1]

By country[edit]

The plain red flag is often used at socialist or communist rallies, especially on International Workers' Day
  States where communist symbols are banned
  States where communist symbols were formerly banned
  States where some communist symbols are banned with the resolution of communist symbols in general


Anti-communist propaganda leaflets and literature, blaming the Indonesian Communist Party for being the actor of 30 September Movement

Communism alongside Marxism-Leninism were officially banned in Indonesia following the aftermath of 30 September coup attempt and the subsequent anti-communist killings, by adoption of TAP MPRS no. 25/1966 in 1966 and Undang Undang no. 27/1999 in 1999, which are still in force. The law does not explicitly declare a ban on symbols of Communism, but Indonesian police frequently use the law to arrest people displaying it.[2] Some of its violators were people with no knowledge of symbols of Communism, in which cases the authorities frequently freed them with only minor punishment or small fine applied.[3] However, displaying such symbols in an attempt to intentionally propagate Communist or Marxist-Leninist ideas are an extremely severe offence, even considered as treason against the country and could be punished by up to 20 years of prison.[4][5] This makes Indonesia a country with a very strict anti-communist policy compared to other countries that also practiced anti-communism.

Other socialist and left-wing related symbols, while not officially prohibited by law (as democratic socialism itself remained acceptable in the country) are still widely condemned by the Indonesian people and considered as being closely related to Communism in general. These include the red star, the socialist heraldry, the red flag, and anthems or slogans such as The Internationale and "Workers of the world, unite!". Despite this, The Internationale was still remained in use during International Labour Day.

In addition, since the New Order regime was established in 1967, the hammer and sickle has become stigmatized in the country, which itself is very similar to how Nazi symbolism is treated in the West in general. As such, displaying the symbol in public, even without any political intentions, is still regarded as highly offensive. Because of this, Indonesians are usually prone to report those who displayed the symbol in public to the authorities.

Indonesia is the first country in the world to introduce a ban on Communist symbols, not including the Axis countries during World War II.

In April 2017, Indonesian police detained a Malaysian tourist at a hotel in Mataram for wearing a T-shirt with an image of the hammer and sickle symbol. The tourist was not aware that Communist symbols were banned in Indonesia. The police seized the T-shirt and released the tourist after giving him a warning.[6]

United States[edit]

During the Red Scare of 1919–20 in the United States, many states passed laws forbidding the display of red flags, including Minnesota, South Dakota, Oklahoma,[7] and California. In Stromberg v. California, the United States Supreme Court held that such laws are unconstitutional.[8]


In 2009, such a ban was proposed in Moldova by parliamentarian Oleg Serebryan,[9] and the law came into effect in 2012.[10] The Constitutional Court of Moldova found it unconstitutional.[11]


In 2015 the Verkhovna Rada passed a law banning communist and nazi symbols. Earlier, in 2012, the city of Lviv in Western Ukraine banned the public display of Communist symbols.[1] On December 2015, all communist parties were officially banned in Ukraine.


On November 30, 2006, Estonian government signed the draft law to ban politically motivated display of Soviet and Nazi symbols in public places.[12] On January 24, 2007 it was passed in the first reading by the parliament. The bill specifies those symbols: the flags, coats of arms, other attributes, and slogans of the USSR, the Communist Party of the Soviet Union, Germany's Nazi Party, and its SS organization.[13] However, it eventually failed the parliamentary committee on the grounds of freedom of speech.[citation needed]


Lithuania banned Soviet and Nazi symbols in 2008 (Article 18818 of the Code of Administrative Offences) under the threat of a fine.[14] Article 5 of the Law on Meetings prohibits meetings involving Nazist and Soviet imagery.[15] As of 2015, the laws were in effect.[16]


In June 2013, the Latvian parliament approved a ban on the display of Soviet and Nazi symbols at all public events. The ban involves flags, anthems, uniforms, Nazi hakenkreuz and the Soviet hammer and sickle.[17][18][19]


In Georgia a ban was introduced in 2010,[20] but it failed to define the applicable sanctions.[21] In 2014, there was a proposal to amend the ban,[22] however as of 2015, the law remained inactive.[23]

Czech Republic[edit]

In 1991, in Czechoslovakia the criminal code was amended with w § 260 which banned propaganda of movements which restricted human rights and freedoms, citing Nazism and Communism. Later the specific mentions of these were removed citing their lack of clear legal definition. However the law itself was recognized as constitutional.[11][24] However, in 2005, there was a petition in the Czech Republic to ban the promotion of Communism and in 2007, there was a proposed amendment to the law to ban Communist symbols. Both attempts failed.[25] [26]


In 2009, in Poland[9] § 2 to 4 were added to Article 256, which ban "fascist, communist or other totalitarian symbols" unless used "as part of artistic, educational, collecting or academic activity." On July 19, 2011, the Constitutional Tribunal of Poland found this ban unconstitutional due to the violation of freedom of expression.[27] In June 2017, Poland updated its "decommunization" legislation to include Soviet propaganda monuments, prompting negative reactions from the Russian government.[28]


Hungary had a law (Article 269/B of the Criminal Code (2000)) that banned the use of symbols of fascist and communist dictatorships.[11][29] The same year the Constitutional Court upheld the law when it was challenged, claiming that the involved restriction of the freedom of expression was justified.[30] In July 2008 the European Court of Human Rights considered the challenge of Attila Vajnai who was charged with a misdemeanor for use of the red star and declared the Hungarian law to be in violation of the freedom of expression. The Court recognized the gross violations by the Nazi and Communist regimes; however, it noted that modern Hungary is a stable democracy with negligible chance of dictatorship, therefore restrictions on the freedom of expression have no justification in the country in the form of a "clear, pressing and specific social need".[31] Eventually the law was annulled in 2013 by the Constitutional Court, citing the lack of precise definition and the European Court of Human Rights.[32] In March 2017, Prime Minister Viktor Orbán introduced a draft law that outlaws merchandise featuring symbols like the Nazi swastika or the communist five-pointed red star, including the one used by the Dutch brewing company Heineken.[33]


Romanian Law 51/1991, Art.3 considers the following as threats to national security: "initiating, organizing, committing or supporting in any way totalitarian or extremist actions of a communist, fascist, legionary or of any other racist, antisemitic, revisionist, separatist nature that can endanger in any way the unity and territorial integrity of Romania, and inciting actions that can endanger the rule of law". However, symbols are not mentioned in the Law.


In Bulgaria, lawmakers have voted on 24 November 2016 to make the public display of communist symbols illegal. The law, known as the "Criminal Nature of the Communist Regime", requires that signs and items created during the Communist regime glorifying the former Communist party and its leaders be removed from public places. A ban is introduced on putting such signs in public places.[34][35][36]


In 2012, Mongolia has removed the last statue of Vladimir Lenin in its capital, Ulaanbaatar. No law on decommunization in the country will be planned.[37]


The use of fascist and communist symbols is currently under review in Croatia, one of the discussions being the banning of the red star, a symbol used by the Yugoslav People's Army during the Croatian War of Independence.[38]


Albania's Institute for Communist Crimes (ICC) proposed a ban on communist-era films, sparking negative reactions from the public.[39]


The Flag of East Germany was outlawed as an unconstitutional and criminal symbol in West Germany and West Berlin, where it was referred to as the Spalterflagge (secessionist flag) until the late 1960s, when the ban was lifted.

South Korea[edit]

Similarly, the flag of North Korea is prohibited in South Korea as an unconstitutional symbol though some exceptions exist.[40][41]

European Union[edit]

In January 2005, Vytautas Landsbergis, backed by Member of the European Parliament from Hungary, Jozsef Szajer, urged a ban on the Communist symbols in the European Union, in addition to Nazi symbols.[42] In February 2005, the European Commission rejected calls for a proposed Europe-wide ban on Nazi symbols to be extended to cover Communist Party symbols as well. However this rejection did not rule out the individual states having their own laws in this respect.[43][44] In December 2013, a group of MEPs including Landsbergis addressed a letter to the President of the European Parliament, in which they requested a ban of symbols of totalitarian regimes.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b Brooke, James. "Communist Symbol Ban Spreads in Europe". Retrieved 17 August 2017.
  2. ^ Police chief explanation on banned hammer and sickle symbol in Indonesia (in Indonesian)
  3. ^ Farmer arrested after wearing shirt with hammer and sickle (in Indonesian)
  4. ^ Explanations on banning communism and Marxism-Leninism in Indonesia (in Indonesian)
  5. ^ Undang Undang no.27/1999, laws on Communism and Marxism-Leninism (Indonesian)
  6. ^ Malaysian detained in Indonesia for wearing T-shirt with communist symbol, The Straits Times, 14 April 2017, retrieved 17 May 2017
  7. ^ Zechariah Chafee, Jr., Freedom of Speech (NY: Harcourt, Brace and Howe, 1920), 180ff., Appendix V
  8. ^ Stromberg v. California, 283 U.S. 359 (1931).
  9. ^ a b "New Polish law equates Communist and Nazi symbols". Retrieved 17 August 2017.
  10. ^ "Moldova: Ban on Use of Communist Symbols - Global Legal Monitor". 28 November 2012. Retrieved 17 August 2017.
  11. ^ a b c "Analysis of the Law on Prohibiting Communist Symbols - Human Rights in Ukraine". Retrieved 17 August 2017.
  12. ^ "Estonia Proposes Ban On Soviet, Nazi Symbols". RadioFreeEurope/RadioLiberty. Retrieved 17 August 2017.
  13. ^ "Moscow stung by Estonian ban on totalitarianism's symbols", Eurasia Daily Monitor, Vol. 4, Issue 19, 2007
  14. ^ "Lithuanian ban on Soviet symbols". BBC News. 2008-06-17.
  15. ^ Joint amicus curiae brief, p. 11
  16. ^ "Audi featuring Soviet symbols banned from entering Lithuania". The Baltic Times. November 4, 2015. Retrieved August 17, 2017.
  17. ^ "Latvia bans the use of USSR symbols during public events". Baltic News Network. April 11, 2013. Retrieved September 14, 2014.
  18. ^ "Latvia Bans Soviet, Nazi Symbols". Sputnik. June 21, 2013. Retrieved September 14, 2014.
  19. ^ "Latvia Bans Soviet Symbols". The Moscow Times. June 23, 2013. Retrieved September 14, 2014.
  20. ^ "Georgia: Ban on Soviet Symbols Proposed - Global Legal Monitor". 8 December 2010. Retrieved 17 August 2017.
  21. ^ "Georgia to enforce ban on communist symbols". 31 October 2013. Retrieved 17 August 2017.
  22. ^ "Communist symbols to be banned in Georgia". 4 May 2014. Retrieved 17 August 2017 – via
  23. ^ ""Decommunization of Georgia: causes, excuses and permanent interference."". Retrieved 17 August 2017.
  24. ^ "Joint amicus curiae brief for the Constitutional Court of Moldova on the compatibility with European standards", p. 8
  25. ^ "Communists in Czech Politics". Retrieved 17 August 2017.
  26. ^ Joint amicus curiae brief, p. 13
  27. ^ Joint amicus curiae brief, p. 12
  28. ^ Russia warns Poland not to touch Soviet WW2 memorials, BBC News, 31 July 2017, retrieved 2 August 2017
  29. ^ Hungarian Criminal Code 269 / B. § 1993
  30. ^ Joint amicus curiae brief, p. 9
  31. ^ "European court overturns Hungarian prohibition on "communist" star". Retrieved 17 August 2017.
  32. ^ Gulyas, Veronika (20 February 2013). "Hungary Court Annuls Ban on Fascist, Communist Symbols". Retrieved 17 August 2017.
  33. ^ Hungary threatens to ban Heineken's red star as 'communist', The Guardian, 24 March 2017, retrieved 29 March 2017
  34. ^ "Parliament Passes Amendments to Act Declaring the Criminal Nature of the Communist Regime in Bulgaria". Retrieved 7 October 2018.
  35. ^ "New protests for the removal of the statue of the Soviet Army in Sofia". Retrieved 7 October 2018.
  36. ^ "Bulgaria bans public display of communist symbols". Retrieved 7 October 2018.
  37. ^ "Mongolian capital removes Lenin". 14 October 2012. Retrieved 7 October 2018 – via
  38. ^ Sven Milekic (2 March 2017), Croatia to Review Use of Fascist, Communist Symbols, Balkan Insight, retrieved 8 March 2017
  39. ^ Fatjona Mejdini (16 March 2017), Proposed Ban on Albanian Communist Films Sparks Backlash, Balkan Insight, retrieved 1 April 2017
  40. ^
  41. ^ "South Korea Makes Olympic Exception for North Korean Flag". Retrieved 7 October 2018.
  42. ^ "Estonian MEP supports ban of communist symbols". Retrieved 17 August 2017.
  44. ^ "BBC NEWS - Europe - EU rejects Communist symbol ban". Retrieved 17 August 2017.