Ribbon of Saint George

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Ribbon of Saint George
Георгиевская лента
Flag of the St George Ribbon.png
Flag of the Saint George Ribbon.
Ribbon of Saint George (tied).svg
The Ribbon of Saint George (tied). The pattern is thought to symbolise fire and gunpowder. It is also thought to be derived from the colours of the original Russian imperial coat of arms (black eagle on a golden background).
Adopted Order of Saint George, established in 1769

The ribbon of Saint George (also known as Saint George's ribbon and the Georgian ribbon; Russian: Георгиевская ленточка, Georgiyevskaya lentochka, not to be confused with the Guards Tape) is a widely recognized symbol of remembrance of the Soviet people who fought in the Great Patriotic War, WWII. The ribbon consists of a black and orange bicolour pattern, with three black and two orange stripes. It appears as a component of many high military decorations awarded by the Russian Empire, and the current Russian Federation.

The stripes signify the fire and fog of war. While the symbol is primarily related to WWII, it has recently become more associated with Russian nationalism. The symbol was promoted by the post-soviet Russian state as a way to unify people and remember and respect those that fought.

It was also promoted in 2005 as a response to the liberal Orange Revolution in Ukraine.[1][2] That year, Russian state media along with youth organizations launched the campaign ahead of World War II memorial celebrations.[1] The ribbon was associated with units who were awarded the collective Guard battle honours during the conflict, due to the usage of the color scheme in the Great Patriotic War victory medal awarded to all personnel, civilian or military, who aided the war effort.

In Russia, the ribbon of Saint George is also used by civilians as a patriotic symbol and as a symbol of public support to the Russian government, particularly since 2014.[3] In Ukraine and the Baltic states (Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania), the symbol has become widely associated with Russian nationalist and separatist sentiment.[4]


The Georgian ribbon emerged as part of the Order of Saint George, established in 1769 as the highest military decoration of Imperial Russia (and re-established in 1998 by Presidential decree signed by then President of Russia Boris Yeltsin). While the Order of Saint George was normally not a collective award, the ribbon was sometimes granted to regiments and units that performed brilliantly during wartime and constituted an integral part of some collective battle honours (such as banners and pennants). When not awarded the full Order, some distinguished officers were granted ceremonial swords, adorned with the Georgian ribbon.[5]

Gold Sword for Bravery – Russian Empire award for bravery

In 1806, distinctive Georgian banners were introduced as a further battle honour awarded to meritorious Guards and Leib Guard regiments. The pike on which these flags were mounted was topped by the Cross of Saint George and adorned with 4,44 cm wide Georgian ribbons. It remained the highest collective military award in the Imperial Russian Army until the Revolution in 1917. It is worth noting that the tsarist version was yellow and black, not orange and black like the revived Soviet version.[6]

The symbolism of the orange and black (or yellow and black) is thought to represent fire and gunpowder of war, or the death and resurrection of Saint George, or the colours of the original Russian imperial coat of arms (black eagle on a golden background).[6] Another theory is that it is, in fact, German in origin, derived from the or and sable stripe patterns found on the heraldry of the House of Ascania, from which Catherine II originated, or the County of Ballenstedt, the house's ancient demesne.[7]

The title of the Soviet Guards was first introduced on 18 September 1941 in accordance with the decision of the Headquarters of the Supreme Commander-in-Chief (Russian: Ставка Верховного Главнокомандующего, Stavka, Verkhovnogo Glavnokomanduyushchego) and by the order No. 308 of the People's Commissar of Defense for the distinguished services during the Yelnya Offensive. The 100th, 127th, 153rd and 161st Rifle Divisions were renamed into the 1st, 2nd, 3rd and 4th Guards Divisions, respectively. The units and formations nominated for the Soviet Guard title received special Guards banner in accordance with the decision of the Presidium of the Supreme Soviet of the USSR. On 21 May 1942, the Presidium of the Supreme Soviet of the USSR introduced Guards ranks and Guards badges to be worn of the right side of the chest. Both included the Georgian ribbon pattern. In June 1943, they introduced the Guards Red Banners for the land forces and in February 1944 – for the naval forces. Georgian ribbons adorned the banners exactly as in the 19th century.[6]

Presidents of Russia, China and Kyrgyzstan with Saint George ribbons during the 2015 Moscow Victory Day Parade
Members of the collaborationist anti-Soviet Union of Russian Youth use the Ribbon of Saint George at a demonstration in Babruysk (today Belarus), 1943

Established on 8 November 1943, the Order of Glory (Orden Slavy) was an order of the Soviet Union. It was awarded to non-commissioned officers and the rank-and-file of the armed forces, as well as to junior lieutenants of the air force, for bravery in the face of the enemy. The ribbon of the Order was orange with three black stripes – the same as that of the Cross of Saint George.

One of the most honourable medals in the Soviet Union, the medal "For the Victory over Germany" (Russian: За победу над Германией, Za pobedu nad Germaniyey) also features Saint George stripes. It was awarded to all the soldiers and officers who participated in the Eastern Front campaigns, and was the first award to be universally granted to all the veterans, for the most part, right after the end of the war. Afther war by Jubilee Medal "Forty Years of Victory in the Great Patriotic War 1941–1945" 1945–1985.

The ribbon – along with the Russian tricolored flag and the Russian Navy Ensign – was also used by the anti-Soviet Russian Liberation Army that fought alongside Nazi Germany during World War II.[1]

2005 Georgievskaya Lenta Action[edit]

In 2005, the 60th anniversary of Victory Day, news agency RIA Novosti and a youth civic organization launched a campaign that called on volunteers to distribute ribbons in the streets ahead of Victory Day.[1][5] Since then the ribbon is worn by civilians in Russia and other former republics of the Soviet Union as an act of commemoration and remembrance.[5] For the naming of the ribbons the diminutive form is used: георгиевская ленточка (georgiyevskaya lentochka, "small George ribbon").[5] Since 2005 the ribbon is distributed every year all over Russia, and around the world in the preparation for 9 May and is on that day widely to be seen on wrists, lapels, and cars.[2][5] The motto that goes with it is "We remember, we are proud!"[5]

Yulia Latynina and other journalists have speculated the Russian government introduced the ribbon as a public relations response to the 2004 Orange Revolution in Ukraine in which demonstrators had adopted orange ribbons as their symbol.[1][2]

Use during the Ukrainian crisis[edit]

Local residents in Donetsk carry portraits of their ancestors and participants in World War II, 9 May 2015

During the events of 2014 in Ukraine it was used by Antimaidan activists and pro-Russian population of Ukraine (especially in the south-east regions) as a symbol of pro-Russian and separatist sentiment.[8][9] The ribbon is also worn by members of the Donbass People's Militia paramilitary group. Euromaidan activists started making derogatory reference to the Ribbon of Saint George as the "Colorado Ribbon", as the colors of the ribbon coincide with the colors of a Colorado potato beetle.[9][10] Over time the term "Kolorad" has become an ethnic slur for Russians.[11]

In April 2014 the veterans of Kirovohrad banned the symbol from Victory Day celebrations "in order to prevent provocations between the activists of different movements". Instead, only Ukrainian state symbols would be used.[12] The next month Cherkasy urged veterans and supporters not to wear the ribbon or any other party symbols.[13]

The Ukrainian government replaced the ribbon with a red-and-black remembrance poppy, like those associated with Remembrance Day in Western Europe in 2014.[1][14]

On May 16, 2017 the St. George Ribbon was officially banned in the country, with those who produce or promote the symbol subject to fine or temporary arrest. According to Speaker Andriy Parubiy, the symbol had become a symbol of "Russia's war and occupation of Ukraine."[15]


On 5 May 2014, the Belarusian Republican Youth Union encouraged activists not to use the ribbon. Other officials reported that the decision not to use the symbol was related to the situation in Ukraine, "where the ribbon is used by militants and terrorists".[16] In time for Victory Day 2015, the ribbon's colors were replaced by the red, green and white from the Flag of Belarus.[17] But the President of Belarus Alexander Lukashenko arrived on 7 May 2015 in Moscow with a Saint George ribbon combined with the flag of Belarus placed on the lapel of his jacket, thus showing his personal positive attitude to the ribbon.[citation needed]


During preparation for the first Victory Day parade in the Canadian city of Winnipeg on 10 May 2014, the Russian embassy distributed Ribbons of Saint George to participants. The move was considered controversial in view of the ongoing events in Ukraine with the Ukrainian Canadian Congress calling the ribbon a "symbol of terrorism."[18]


Some parties made statements intended to discourage the use of the ribbon in Kazakhstan in 2014 for Victory Day celebrations, suggesting that red (of the Red Army) and turquoise (the national color of Kazakhstan) should be used instead.[19] However, no official authority issued any comments.

Vladimir Putin and Benjamin Netanyahu wearing the Ribbon of Saint George, at Victory Day 2018


The government of Latvia proposed the ban on the use of any Ribbons of Saint George by law on May 2014; earlier, Latvia imposed a ban on the use of all Soviet symbols at public events.[20]


The ban on similar grounds to that in Latvia has been discussed.[21]

Russian nationalist and government loyalist symbol[edit]

The ribbon has been adopted by Russian nationalist and government loyalist groups. During the 2011–13 Russian protests, protestors demonstrating against electoral fraud in the 2011 elections carried white ribbons. Supporters of Putin would counter-protest wearing Saint George's ribbon.[22] On 28 April 2016, a group of people from the National Freedom Movement[23] wearing St. George ribbons attacked a school competition organized by the Memorial society, pouring toxic solution of Brilliant Green to writer Ludmila Ulitskaya and other guests and assaulting a journalist.[24][25] The Russian ultranationalist group National Liberation Movement (NOD) has adopted the orange-black flag as its symbol.[26]


See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d e f "Ukraine breaks from Russia in commemorating victory". Kyiv Post. Retrieved 8 May 2015. "In the 1960-70s there were no St. George's Ribbons seen during the Victory Day parades. If someone showed up with a ribbon, it would be a violation. 
  2. ^ a b c Russia awash with symbols of WW2 victory, BBC News 8 May 2015
  3. ^ Kashin, Oleg (1 May 2015). "Hunting swastikas in Russia". OpenDemocracy.net. 
  4. ^ Karney, Ihar; Sindelar, Daisy (7 May 2015). "For Victory Day, Post-Soviets Show Their Colors – Just Not Orange And Black". Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty. 
  5. ^ a b c d e f Anatoly Korolev and Dmitry Kosyrev (11 June 2007). "National symbolism in Russia: the old and the new". RIA Novosti. Retrieved 23 February 2015. 
  6. ^ a b c Alexei Rudevich (25 April 2014). 5 фактов о георгиевской ленте [5 Facts about the Saint George Ribbon]. Russia7 (in Russian). Retrieved 23 February 2015. 
  7. ^ Mikhail Medvedev (8 May 2017). Георгиевская ленточка: победа прихоти над культурой [Ribbon of Saint George: fads prevail over culture]. Saint George (in Russian). Retrieved 3 September 2017. 
  8. ^ Bigg, Claire (May 6, 2014). "Kyiv Ditches Separatist-Linked Ribbon As WWII Symbol". Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty. Retrieved 2014-05-09. 
  9. ^ a b Sindelar, Daisy (April 28, 2014). "What's Orange and Black and Bugging Ukraine?". Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty. Retrieved 18 May 2014. 
    Ukraine’s Reins Weaken as Chaos Spreads, The New York Times (4 May 2014)
    (in Ukrainian) Lyashko in Lviv poured green, Ukrayinska Pravda (18 June 2014)
  10. ^ Активистка Майдана: "Это я сожгла три колорадские ленты" (in Russian). Moskovskij Komsomolets. March 30, 2014. Retrieved 13 April 2014. 
  11. ^ "Talking Smack About Ukrainians and Russians", The Moscow Times, July 24, 2014
  12. ^ "Кировоградские ветераны отказались от георгиевских лент на 9 мая : Новости УНИАН". Unian.net. 2014-04-23. Retrieved 2014-05-09. 
  13. ^ "Председатель Черкасской ОГА призвал отказаться на 9 мая от георгиевских лент : Новости УНИАН". Unian.net. 2014-04-26. Retrieved 2014-05-09. 
  14. ^ Yaffa, Joshua. "Vladimir Putin's Victory Day in Crimea". The New Yorker. Retrieved 2014-05-09. 
  15. ^ "Ukrainian Lawmakers Back Ban On Ribbon Embraced As Patriotic Symbol In Russia". Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty. 2017-05-16. Retrieved 2017-05-16. 
  16. ^ "Георгиевская лента напугала Лукашенко". Retrieved 12 August 2016. 
  17. ^ "Russians embrace Kremlin-backed WWII ribbon". Retrieved 12 August 2016. 
  18. ^ "Pro-Russia parade planned for city riles local Ukrainians". WinnipegFreePress. 9 May 2014. Retrieved 9 May 2014. 
  19. ^ Черно-оранжевые ленты не будут использоваться в ходе празднования Дня Победы в Казахстане. (in Russian). Dialog.kz. Retrieved 16 February 2015. 
  20. ^ "Latvia proposes ban on Russian St. George's ribbon". Retrieved 10 September 2014. 
  21. ^ "Lithuanian faction: St. George Ribbon a symbol of 'Russian aggression and imperialist ambitions'". Retrieved 12 August 2016. 
  22. ^ Malgin, Andrei (April 16, 2014). "The Black and Orange Ribbon of Putin's Army". The Moscow Times. 
  23. ^ "В Москве облили зеленкой Улицкую" (in Russian). Lenta.ru. 28 April 2016. Retrieved 10 May 2016. 
  24. ^ "Crowd wearing nationalist symbols attacks children's school competition organized by historical society Memorial — Meduza". Retrieved 12 August 2016. 
  25. ^ "Meduza correspondent assaulted by member of crowd disrupting Memorial society young scholar awards — Meduza". Retrieved 12 August 2016. 
  26. ^ "Putin's ultranationalist base takes aim at the West". Retrieved 12 August 2016.