Flag of the Soviet Union
|Names||The Soviet flag, The Hammer and Sickle; The Red and Gold; The Red Banner|
|Use||Civil and state flag, civil and state ensign|
|Adopted||12 November 1923 (original version)
15 August 1980 (last version used)
|Design||A plain red flag with a golden hammer and sickle and a gold-bordered red star in its upper canton.|
The flag of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics; commonly known as the Soviet flag was the official national flag of the Soviet Union from 1923 to 1991. The flag's design and symbolism are derived from the Russian Revolution. The flag is also an international symbol of the communist movement as a whole. The nicknames for the flag were The Hammer and Sickle and The Red Banner.
The design is a solid field of red adorned with a unique gold emblem in the upper hoist quarter. The red flag was a traditional revolutionary symbol long before 1917, and its incorporation into the flag paid tribute to the international aspect of workers' revolution. The iconic hammer and sickle design was a modern touch – the union of the hammer (workers) and the sickle (peasants) represents the victorious and enduring revolutionary alliance. The famous emblem is topped by a gold-bordered red star representing the Communist Party of the Soviet Union.
The first flag with the gold border star, hammer and sickle was adopted on 13 November 1923. In 1955, a statute on the flag was adopted which resulted in a change of the hammer's handle length and the shape of the sickle. A final modification to the flag was adopted in 1980 in which the colour was brightened to a lighter shade of red. The flag continued to be the official national flag until the dissolution of the Soviet Union.
Its imagery is now the basis for the flags of many communist parties: a yellow hammer and sickle on a red background.
Symbolism and design
The flag of the Soviet Union consisted of a plain red flag with a gold hammer crossed with a gold sickle placed beneath a gold-bordered red star. This symbol is in the upper left canton of the red flag.
The colour red honours the red flag of the Paris Commune of 1871. The ideology of communism can be seen from the flag. The red star and hammer and sickle are themselves symbols of communism and socialism.
The hammer symbolises urban industrial workers while the sickle symbolises agricultural workers (peasants)—who together, as the Proletarian class, form the state. The red star represents the Communist Party, and its position over hammer and sickle symbolises its leading role in socialist society to unify and enlighten the workers and peasants in the building of communism. The reverse of the flag is officially just red, without the symbols. However, in practice, the flag was usually made through and through and thus the symbols usually appeared on the reverse side and in the reverse order.
The flag's design was legislated in 1955, which gave a clear way to define and create the flag. This resulted in a change of the hammer's handle length and the shape of the sickle. The adopted statute stated that:
- The ratio of width to length of the flag is 1:2.
- The hammer and sickle are in a square with sides equal to 1⁄4 of the flag's height. The sharp tip of the sickle lies in the center of the upper side of the square, and the handles of the hammer and sickle rest in the bottom corners of the square. The length of the hammer and its handle is 3⁄4 of the square diagonal.
- The five-pointed star is inscribed into a circle with a diameter of 1⁄8 of the flag's height, the circle being tangent to the upper side of the square.
- The distance of the vertical axis of the star, hammer and sickle from the hoist is 1⁄3 of the flag's height. The distance from the upper side of the flag to the center of the star is 1⁄8 of the flag's height.
The final design of the flag was adopted in 1980. The design was kept the same except that the background colour was changed. The colour was brightened from a near-burgundy crimson to a light to medium red. That flag remained the national flag of the Soviet Union up until late 1991, when a tri-color was formally adopted by the Russian SFSR.
The reverse side of the flag is the same as the obverse side (front) of the flag but without the star and hammer and sickle.
During the establishment of the Russian SFSR, Vladimir Lenin and his colleagues had considered the inclusion of a sword symbol in addition to the hammer and sickle as part of the state seal on which the flag was eventually based. The idea was dismissed as too visually aggressive. Lenin apparently said "A sword is not our symbol."
The first official flag was adopted in December 1922 at the First Congress of Soviets of the USSR. It was agreed that the red banner 'was transformed from the symbol of the Party to the symbol of a state, and around that flag gathered the peoples of the soviet republics to unite into one state — the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics'. On 30 December 1922, the Congress adopted a Declaration and Agreement on the establishment of the USSR. Article 22 of the Agreement states: 'the USSR has a flag, coat of arms and a state seal.' The description of the first flag was given in the 1924 Soviet Constitution, accepted in the second session of the Executive Committee (CIK) of the USSR on 6 July 1923. The text of article 71 states: 'The state flag of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics consists of a red or scarlet field with states coat of arms'. It was ordered with the unusual ratio of 4:1 in proportion and consisted of a red flag with the state coat of arms in the center. However, such a flag was never mass-produced. This flag was the official flag for four months, and was replaced as the official flag by the more familiar hammer and sickle design during the third session of the CIK of the USSR on 12 November 1923.
In the third session of the CIK of the USSR, the description of Soviet flag in the Constitution was changed, and article 71 was edited to be: 'The state flag of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics consists of a red or scarlet field, and in the canton a golden sickle and hammer, and a red five-pointed star bordered in gold above them. The ratio of width to length is 1:2.' On 19 August 1955 "Statute on the State Flag of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics" was adopted by a decision of the Presidium of the Supreme Soviet of the USSR. This resulted in a change of the hammer's handle length and the shape of the sickle. A final modification to the flag was adopted on 15 August 1980, which changed the flag field into a bright red. These modifications stayed in use until the disintegration of the USSR on 25 December 1991, at which time the flag ceased to be a national flag.
Today, the Soviet flag is used by the opposition, mainly left-wing rallies and demonstrations in the former Soviet space. It is often used flags of the USSR republics (in particular those where the demonstrations are held).
Similarities with other flags
The Soviet Union was the world's first constitutionally socialist state, making it the inspiration of future socialist states. This led to the inspirations for the flags of the Republic of Angola, the People's Republic of China, the Democratic People's Republic of Korea, and the Socialist Republic of Vietnam.
On 15 April 1996 Boris Yeltsin signed a presidential decree giving the Soviet flag (called the Victory Banner, after the banner that was raised above the Reichstag on 1 May 1945) status similar to that of the national flag. The difference is that the hammer and sickle has been removed from the flag, leaving only the star. On certain holidays, the Victory Banner is flown along with the Russian flag.
- Communist symbolism
- Flag of Russia
- Flags of the Soviet Republics
- Flags whose reverse differs from the obverse
- Hammer and sickle
- Red flag
- Red star
- Whitney Smith (2008). "Flag of Union of Soviet Socialist Republics". Encyclopædia Britannica. Retrieved 2008-11-05.
- Victor Lomantsov (2002-11-30). "Reverse of the flag". FOTW.net. Retrieved 2008-11-05.
- USSR Supreme Soviet Presidium (19 August 1955). Положение о государственном флаге СССР (in Russian). Retrieved 2008-11-05.
- Konstantin AndreevichIvanov (1971). Flags of the states of the world (in Russian). Moscow: Izd-vo Transport. p. [page needed]. OCLC 20146023.
- FOTW - Army flags of the Soviet Union: There were only regimental (division etc.) colours in Soviet Army. This is an unofficial army flag used in artworks.
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