Flag Of Russia: History And Meaning

The  current Russian flag has flown in the country as an official banner since 1993. It is the second flag of the current Russian Federation, established two years after the dissolution of the Soviet Union.

Its design is made up of three horizontal stripes of the same size. The upper strip is white, the central strip is blue and the lower strip is red. The coat of arms is not present in its design, although some ceremonial flags do use it. Although its adoption occurred in 1993, its origin corresponds to the seventeenth century. 

The national flag has changed few times throughout its history. For 300 years it has always kept the tricolor except during the establishment of the Soviet Union (1918 – 1991).


While Russia’s current flag design was first created in 1547, Russia was organized under a principality format for nearly three centuries before the first flag was founded.

Previously, it was difficult to determine which banner represented the population of Russia during the centuries before the 11th, as the country was not organized under the same absolute government.

Royal Standard of the Principality of Moscow (1263 – 1547)

The Principality of Moscow, also known officially as the Grand Principality of Moscow, was a state that was organized after the dissolution of the Kiev Rus and the end of the invasion by the Mongol troops.

In fact, this state originated after the Mongols invaded the Rus, which caused instability within the state and led to its end. At that time, Moscow was nothing more than a small town that did not reach a large population or had greater influence within the structure of the country.

However, it was there that Daniel I was appointed as regent of the new country and as the “puppet” king of the Mongol state, which had taken control of all of Russia after the war.

The Principality of Moscow, while spending several centuries under Mongol control, also made military breakthroughs to expand its territory, helping to shape modern-day Russia. The Principality annexed the Novgorod Republic in 1478 (which stretched across the north and to the east of the territory now controlled by the Russians) and the Tver Principality seven years later.

The flag used by the country was called the “Moscow flag” and was designed in the form of a war banner. It was almost all red with five yellow stars on its right side.

Russian Zarato (1547 – 1721)

Throughout its history, the Principality of Moscow was organized under a decentralized system, as a consequence of Mongol rule. The country remained constituted in the same way even after the Mongol Horde ceased to establish control over the country in 1480.

However, when Ivan the Terrible assumed the throne of the Principality, he completely changed the structure of the country so that all decision-making power always passed directly through him. Thus, in 1547, with the arrival of the aforementioned king to the throne, the Principality of Moscow was eliminated so that the first Russian Zarato was created.

With the creation of this new state, Russia became centrally organized. Under this new name of zarato, all the Russian territories that the country had in its control, or those territories that were Russian but were not under the control of the czar, were united under the same banner. It is also common to refer to this state as “Moscow Zarato”, since that was its center of operations and its main city.

During the zarato, Russia extended its territorial control by more than thirty thousand square kilometers each year. It came to control more territory than ever, annexing even Ukrainian lands, and it did so under a banner equal to the one it has today.

The tricolor was used mainly by the merchant ships of the zarato, but it became their official flag before the establishment of the empire.

Russian Empire (1721 – 1917)

In 1700, the Russian Zarato went to war with Sweden. The conflict was called “The Great War in the North.” This war had several European countries as participants, among which were Denmark and Norway, the Commonwealth of Poland and Lithuania, England, and even the Ottoman Empire itself.

The end of this warlike conflict (one of the largest in the Modern Age) brought with it the total dissolution of the Kingdom of Sweden, with the Swedes having to give up control of a large part of their Baltic territories after their defeat in the war. This caused Russia to incorporate new territories to its extension.

Thus, in 1721, the Russian Zarato was dissolved and the Russian Empire was created, considered the third largest empire in the history of mankind. The country was organized primarily as an agrarian power , also having one of the largest armies in the world.

In fact, thanks to territorial expansions and the empire’s Christian connection, it brought the country into the dispute of the First World War . The Russians promised to keep the Orthodox Christians in Europe safe, and as they were threatened in war, Russia joined the conflict.

The empire was organized as a constituent monarchy under the same banner as the Russian Zarato. The tricolor was used from 1705 as the flag of the navy and unofficially for a long time, until it was declared as the official flag of the country in 1883.

First flag of the Union of Soviet Russia (1918)

With the February Revolution in 1917, the Russian Empire was ended with the fall of the Tsar. After the revolution, Russia entered a time of internal chaos in which the various political activists and the country’s military forces itself clashed with each other. In fact, Russia entered a civil war before the Soviet Union was established.

The Socialists, however, agreed and organized elections supported by the country’s working class. In 1918, the creation of the first flag that would fly in the Soviet Union after the civil war was discussed. This flag was all red with an inscription made in Russian pre-revolutionary spelling.

The flag, however, was not used for long nor did it have the correct name of the country, as it was designed prior to the official creation of the USSR. In fact, during the period between 1918 and 1922, the official name of the Union was the Russian Soviet Socialist Federative Republic, as it had not yet incorporated the territories of Ukraine and the Transcaucasus Union.

Second flag of the Union of Soviet Russia (1918 – 1937)

The second flag of the Soviet Union existed for a few years before the incorporation of all the territories of the USSR into the country, but it is considered the first official flag of the Soviet Union. A Russian committee approved the creation of the second flag, which would have the inscription of the Soviet Union in its upper left part, attached to the mast and written in Slavic.

The inscription was separated from the rest of the cloth by a golden border, the same color as the letter, which gave a touch of special symbolism and importance to the name of the country.

In 1922, the rest of the Soviet territories that did not yet belong to the USSR were incorporated into the country, with which it finally obtained its official name of Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, definitely leaving behind that of the Russian Socialist Soviet Federative Republic.

In addition, with the incorporation of all the states into the USSR, the state flag of the Soviet Union was adopted, which is the flag with which the country was mainly recognized historically. Most representations of the USSR, both in film and literature, are usually made with the red flag with the hammer and sickle on top.

Third flag of the Union of Soviet Russia (1937 – 1954)

From 1937 to 1954, the design of the flag used in Russia changed again to present the abbreviated name of the country at its top, written in Cyrillic. This was the flag of Russia during World War II, but the Soviet armies were fighting together, resulting in the hammer and sickle flag being used and not the official Russian flag.

It should be noted that each country, although it belonged to the USSR, had its own flag. In fact, many countries used their national flag before that of the USSR. In any case, the third flag of Soviet Russia was a redesign of the second, similarly similar to the flag of the USSR.

Fourth flag of the Union of Soviet Russia (1954 – 1991)

In 1947, a law was passed in which each country belonging to the Soviet Union was required to have the hammer and sickle along with the yellow star on its flag. The redesign of the Soviet Russia flag was approved in 1954. The flag was quite similar to that of the USSR, but had a blue stripe on the part that is attached to the flagpole.

Fifth flag of the Union of Soviet Russia and first flag of the Russian Federation (1991 – 1993)

On November 1, 1991, the flag of Soviet Russia became a tricolor similar to the one used by the empire almost a century ago. Furthermore, after the dissolution of the USSR in 1991, it remained the first flag of the current Russian Federation. It was not in force for two years, but it is considered the first national flag of Russia under its current political organization.

The only difference it had from the current flag is the shade of blue in the central stripe, which was slightly lighter than the Empire version.

Second flag of the Russian Federation and current flag (since 1993)

In 1993, the use of the original tricolor was resumed after an official government decree. It should be noted, however, that the tricolor never completely disappeared; it was used sporadically even when Russia was Soviet territory.

The Russian anti-Leninist troops used this flag to fight against the Soviet armies on the side of the Nazis during World War II, and the tricolor remained, in addition, as the symbol of the opposition against the socialist government.

It became the official Russian banner in 1993 and remains to this day as the country’s flag.


It is said that the original flag of Russia was created after Alexander I visited the Netherlands and was inspired by the colors of the Dutch flag to create the Russian one. However, the origins of the flag date back to 1668, when a Russian naval ship flew a similar tricolor, but distributed in quadrants.

The flag was originally used by the country’s merchant marine. According to historical records, it was Pedro I who assigned her to the navy, but this is not exactly known.

While there is no clear record of how or when the flag emerged specifically, the colors do represent special meaning. White is the divine color, which represents God’s care and peace over the Russian territories. Red represents the homeland and all the Russian inhabitants of the country. Blue represents chastity and honesty.


  1. Flag of Russia, World Population Review, (nd). Taken from worldpopulationreview.com
  2. A History of the Tricolor Flag of Russia, Presidential Library Website of Russia, 2017. Taken from prlib.ru
  3. Flag of Russia, Wikipedia, 2019. Taken from Wikipedia.org
  4. History of Russia, Wikipedia, 2019. Taken from Wikipedia.org
  5. Flag of Russia, Encyclopedia Britannica, 2018. Taken from Britannica.com

Add a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *