The flag of the Russian Federation is a tricolor flag consisting of three equal horizontal fields; white on the top, blue in the middle and red on the bottom.
The flag was first used as an ensign for Russian merchant ships and
only became official in 1896. The flag continued to be used by the Russian Provisional Government after the Tsar was toppled in the February Revolution and was not replaced until the October Revolution which established the Russian Socialist Federative Soviet Republic - the world's first constitutionally socialist state. From that time period, a 1:2 red flag featuring the abbreviated name "RSFSR" ("РСФСР") was used, until replaced in 1954 with the universal design of the Soviet flag with a blue stripe along the mast. It was not until the dissolution of the Soviet Union in 1991 that the tricolour was brought back as the official flag of the new Russian Federation. The modern era flag underwent a proportion change in 1993 and has been official since 2000.
There was no universally accepted flag for Russia until the middle of
the 17th century. The earliest mention of the flag occurs during the
reign of Alexis I, in 1668, and is related to the construction of the first Russian naval ship, the frigate Oryol.
According to one source, the choice of the colours may originate from the Dutch flag,
and is related to the nationality of the ship's lead engineer Butler.
During the construction, he faced the need for the flag, and issued a
request to the Boyar Duma,
to "...ask His Royal Majesty as to which (as is the custom among other
nations) flag shall be raised on the ship." The official response merely
indicated that, as such issue is as yet unprecedented, even though the
land forces do use (apparently different) flags, the Tsar
ordered that his (Butler's) opinion be sought about the matter, asking
specifically as to the custom existing in his country. The Netherlands had at the time already settled on its current flag, consisting of red, white and blue stripes, which Butler duly told the Tsar.
This conversation apparently took notice, as the source proceeds to
describe the materials bought "overseas" for the ship, and specifically
mentions red, blue and white fabric. It is not at all certain, however,
that the choice of the colours was affected by the Dutch flag.
A different account traces the origin of the Russian flag to Tsar Peter the Great's visits to Archangelsk
in 1693 and 1694. Peter was keenly interested in shipbuilding in the
European style, different from the barges ordinarily used in Russia at
the time. In 1693, Peter had ordered a Dutch-built frigate from
Amsterdam. In 1694 when it arrived, the Dutch red-white-and-blue banner
flew from its stern.
Peter decided to model Russia's naval flag after this banner by
changing the sequence of colours. It eventually became the flag of the
While differing in the circumstances, the two flag origin versions agree
on the Dutch flag influence. However, there are historical reasons to
doubt that the flag was chosen as late as Peter's reign. One of the
strongest arguments against that comes from a Dutch flag book of 1695 by
Carel Allard, which is considered to be one of the world's first flag
books. Printed only a year after Peter's trip to Western Europe, the
book already describes three flags of a similar design noted as
belonging to the either Tsar of Muscovy, or Muscovy itself. One of the three flags shown is the tricolour with a double-headed eagle bearing a shield on its breast, and wearing a golden crown over both of its heads. Another is the tricolour with a blue saltire over it and the third
consists of two white (top left and bottom right) and two red (top
right and bottom left) squares, with a blue cross in the middle.
The flag was adopted as a merchant flag at rivers in 1705. On 7 May 1883 it was authorized to be used on land, and it became an official National flag before the coronation of Tsar Nicholas II in 1896.
Two other Slavic countries, Slovakia and Slovenia, have flags similar to the Russian one, but with added coats-of-arms for differentiation
The three colours did not come from the coat of arms of the Grand Duchy of Moscow, which depict Saint George
wearing white (silver) armor, riding a white horse, wearing a blue cape
and holding a blue shield, on a red field because these colors of the coat of arms are known since mid 19th century only. According to another version, these three colours were associated with the robes of the Virgin Mary, the holy protectress of Russia.
Yet another interpretation of the three colours is that the order in
which they are placed reflects the Russian social system under the
monarchy: white represents God, blue the Tsar and red the peasants.
Another very common interpretation is the association of colours with
the main parts of the Russian Empire: white representing Belarus ("White Russia"), blue Ukraine (or Malorossia, "Little Russia"), and red "Great Russia".
The Russian flag adheres to the colours of the greater ideas of pan-Slavism.
A different interpretation associates white with the bright future
(where the colour itself is associated with brightness, while its
placement at the top - with future); blue with clouded present, and red
with bloody past
The National Flag Day is an official holiday in Russia, established in 1994. It is celebrated on 22 August, the day of the victory over putschists in 1991, but it is not a day-of
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