Socialist heraldry

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The state emblem of the People's Republic of China is typical of socialist and communist heraldry. The colour red and the star are symbols of communism; grains are often used to represent agriculture, farmers or the common people, the cogwheel or other industrial tools represent the industrial proletariat.

Socialist heraldry, also called communist heraldry, consists of emblems in a style typically adopted by communist states and filled with communist symbolism. Although commonly called coats of arms, most such devices are not actually coats of arms in the traditional heraldic sense. Many communist governments purposely diverged from the traditional forms of European heraldry in order to distance themselves from the monarchies that they usually replaced, with actual coats of arms being seen as symbols of the monarchs.

The Soviet Union was the first state to use socialist heraldry, beginning at its creation in 1922. The style became more widespread after World War II, when many other communist states were established. Even a few non-socialist states have adopted the style, for various reasons – usually because communists had helped them to gain independence. After the fall of the Soviet Union and the other communist states in Eastern Europe in 1989–1991, this style of heraldry was often abandoned for the old heraldic practices, with many (but not all) of the new governments reinstating the traditional heraldry that was previously cast aside.

Origin and history[edit]

Soviet leaders sought to distinguish their insignia from the emblems used by the Russian Emperor and aristocracy. They replaced and omitted the traditional heraldic devices, substituting an emblem that did not conform to traditional European practices.

The Soviet Union, created after the 1917 revolution, required insignia to represent itself in line with other sovereign states, such as emblems, flags and seals, but the Soviet leaders did not wish to continue the old heraldic practices which were associated with the feudalism the revolution sought to replace. In response to the needs and wishes, the national emblem adopted would lack the traditional heraldic elements of a shield, helm, crest and mantling, and instead be presented more plainly. This style was followed then by other socialist and communist states, which wished to also focus attention on the nation's workers and diverge from feudalism and all of its associations.


Socialist heraldry typically makes use of the following symbols:



The great seal of the Soviet Union was the first example of socialist heraldry. It was used in several other communist countries, particularly in Eastern Europe, Africa and Asia, except in Cuba.


The Socialist Republic of Romania created a new heraldic tradition which proved to be quite controversial. The State Heraldic committee combined stylised touristic themes, photographic representations of landscapes with old heraldic figures and modern items such as oil rigs into one whole.


In 1974, Hungary replaced the coats of arms of 83 cities with Soviet-styled socialist emblems. Lions and eagles were replaced by cheering workers, families with toddlers and proud farmer girls reaching for the sun with their fists. All these themes were crowned by a red star.


With the demise of the USSR and other Communist regimes in Europe, most of their socialist heraldry has been replaced with old pre-communist symbols or by wholly new coats of arms.

Socialist heraldry is still seen in the emblems of several countries, such as the People's Republic of China. North Korea has a national emblem in pure socialist style, as does Vietnam.

The national emblem of Belarus adopted in 1995 following a controversial referendum, is reminiscent of that of the Byelorussian SSR.

The national emblem of Macedonia is reminiscent of that of the Socialist Republic of Macedonia (once a constituent socialist republic of the Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia).

In Africa, the emblems of Angola and Mozambique, as well as Algeria, use socialist heraldry.

The Republic of Serbia used the coat of arms of the Socialist Republic of Serbia[1] until the recommended symbols by the National Assembly on August 17, 2004. The recommended usage was made Law on May 11, 2009 thus officially replacing the socialist heraldic Coat of arms.[2]


Bellow are two galleries of historical and current national emblems. The years given are for the emblems, not for the countries, except for the component republics of the USSR.

Historical emblems[edit]

Soviet Union[edit]




Republics of Yugoslavia[edit]

Current emblems[edit]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Law on the use of the coat of arms of the Socialist Republic of Serbia (Serbian: Zakon o upotrebi grba Socijalisticke Republike Srbije ("SG SRS", br. 6/1985.)
  2. ^ "Zakon o izgledu i upotrebi grba, zastave i himne Republike Srbije — English: Law on the Appearance and Use of the Coat of arms, the Flag and the Anthem of the Republic of Serbia". Official Gazette of the Republic of Serbia – No. 36/2009 (in Serbian). Narodna skupština Republike Srbije – JP "Službeni glasnik". 2009-05-11 (valid from 2009-05-19). Retrieved 2009-12-15.  Check date values in: |date= (help)
  • Stephen Slater, "The complete book of Heraldry" London 2002