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Soviet Russia (1917-1923) and early flags of Russia in the Soviet Union (1923-1954)

Last modified: 2014-04-05 by zoltán horváth
Keywords: rsfsr | merchant | coat of arms | error | cross: letters | ĉeqomin (s. v.) | kolĉanovskiĭ (n. p.) | serebrân (v. n.) |
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Presentation

These are the flags of (post-revolutionary) Russia, used from 1918 to 1954. Naturally, once the Soviet Union was formed, in 1922, these flags stand for a part of it, not for an independent Russia. (But of course the federal character of the Soviet Union was largely fictional: That’s another story but the flags, even so, reflected this.) The name RSFSR did not change both before and after the set up of the Soviet Union.
António Martins, 15 Jan 2000


Improvised red flag

revolutionaries’ flag
image by António Martins, 22 Jul 2007

The red flag became the most popular symbol from the first moments of the 1917 revolution, being widely used even by non-Communist elements. People often ripped the white and blue stripes from the tri-colour Russian flags to make very narrow, unravelled red flags that were shown everywhere.
José Manuel Erbez, 12 Jun 2001

If the regular russian flags these were ripped from were standard 2:3, then these would be quite long: 1:9 ∵ 6:9 = 2:3.
I guess that the flags in question were the regular Russian tricolor and the tricolor with imperial canton.
António Martins-Tuválkin, 30 Jul 2007

Red flag with modern script (1918.04)

Russian SFSR in 1937
image by Mark Sensen, 25 May 1996

Cyrillic letters in one row in canton (I saw it on posters). This variant was recommended by Order No 320 in April, 1918 as national and war flag.
Victor Lomantsov, 31 Oct 2000


Red flag with ancient script (1918.05)

Flag of Russian SFSR in 1918
image by António Martins, 28 Jun 2002

Red with in the upper hoist yellow cyrillic initials (RsFsR). Yellow border around the canton.
Mark Sensen, 24 Apr 1996

“Ancient cyrillic” letters in different sizes (big letters — R, F, R; small letters — S, S). This flag existed in 1918-1937: It was approved by Foreign Ministry (“People’s Commissariat”) on May, 20, 1918 (before the adoption of the Constitution) instead of the modern script variant.

Ratio of the flag = 1:2
Height of the canton = 1/2 of the height of the flag
Length of the canton = 2/5 of the length of the flag
In 1920 the Central Executive Committee readopted this flag as War Flag (Navy flag and Merchant flag became other). The description of the flag in the Constitution was not changed until 1954. But really in 1937-1954 the flag was other.
Victor Lomantsov, 18 Aug 2000 and 31 Oct 2000

The War Flag (called the State Flag after 1925) was red with the initials in a decorative slavonic script in the canton, bordered on the lower and fly sides by a gold fimbriation. This flag continued in use until 1954. There’s a photo of one of these in Wilson’s Flags at Sea [wil99]. New forms were worked out pursuant to a decree of the All-Russian Central Executive Committee of the Soviet of Workers’, Soldiers’, Peasants’, and Cossaks’ Deputies dated 29 September 1920, created by the artists S. V. Chekhonin, N. P. Kolchanovskii and V. N. Serebryan.
Dave Martucci, 17 Jan 2000

State flag of RSFSR [Russian Socialist Federal Soviet Republic] (1918-1920); The first flag of the Navy of the Republic (1918-1920); and Flag of auxilliary vessels of RKKF (until 1924) [RKKF stands for Workers and Peasants Red Fleet]
Željko Heimer, 11 Apr 1999, quoting from Flag-znamya korablya, 07 Mar 1999

Proposed by S. V. Chekhomin, this flag is described by W.E.B. (name?) in [smi72] as «regarded by some as “pseudo-Slavic” and by others as an unnecessary and inappropriate manifestation of Russian chauvinism».
António Martins, 15 Jan 2000

This flag shows in an old photograph, taken March 1919, of the 3rd International Congress of Communists. The canton is red and the letters and border are (I will assume) yellow. The letters are RSFSR (Russian Soviet Federal Socialist Republic).
Steve Stringfellow, 18 Aug 1999

The march 1919 photo of the III International shows the border all around the letters, on all four sides, while [wil99] shows the border only on the lower and fly sides. Which version was correct?
António Martins, 22 Nov 2002

This flag image in Internationaal Seinboek, c. 1920 has the canton-height perhaps even slightly larger than half flag-height. That agrees with Smith’s FTAAATW p. 177. [smi81d] This flag was in use from 1920-1954, according to [smi81d]; the Flag-Encyclopedia [zna99], has 1918-1937 [which is the correct period].
Jarig Bakker, 17 Aug 2000


Flags of the 1918.08 constitution

Constitution (august 1918) adopted the flag of RSFSR:

Article XVII, §90.

… the commercial, naval, and war flag of the Russian Socialist Federative Soviet Republic consists of a scarlet cloth, in the left-hand corner of which, near the staff, are placed the gold letters «RSFSR» or the inscription «Russian Socialist Federative Soviet Republic».
As you see, the details of the design were not regulated. We know about flags with full inscription, and flags with with abbreviation looked like cross.
Victor Lomantsov, 18 Aug 2000 and 31 Oct 2000, and Dave Martucci, 17 Jan 2000

The first published edition of the constitution is accompanied by a drawing of the flag — with the initials in a cross pattern.
Dave Martucci, 17 Jan 2000

Full name

Flag of Russian SFSR in 1918
image by António Martins-Tuválkin, 29 Jul 2008

Red with inscription «Russian Socialist Federal Soviet Republic» in cyrillic as decreeted 13 Apr 1918.
Mark Sensen, 30 Jul 1996

According to Konstantin A. Ivanov [iva67], the red flag with the full name of the RSFSR in the canton is a legal flag after the Decree of the All-Russian Central Executive Committee [A-RCEC] of the Soviet of Workers’, Soldiers’, Peasants’, and Cossaks’ Deputies on 14 April 1918 which stated «As the flag of the Russian Republic is established the Red Banner with the inscription — «Russian Socialist Federative Soviet Republic».» Note that there is no reference to the color of the inscription.
Dave Martucci, 17 Jan 2000

Improved version for the image at su-ru_h.html#18c in FotW-ws. According to the illustration in [iva67] (p.43, fig.1), this flag had 2:3 ratio.
António MARTINS-Tuválkin, 29 Jul 2008

Cross

Russian SFSR in 1918
image by Mark Sensen, 24 Apr 1996

Cyrillic letters "RSFSR" in cross ("R" on the top, "SFS" in the middle, "R" on the bottom):

  R
S F S
  R
This variant was drawn in first edition of the Constitution (1918).
Victor Lomantsov, 31 Oct 2000

Red with in the upper hoist yellow cyrillic initials (RSFSR) in serif, placed in the form of a cross.
Mark Sensen, 24 Apr 1996

I’m surprised that the official image shows the flag with a 2:3 ratio.
António Martins, 31 Aug 2006

In Crampton’s 1990 flag book [cra80d] the flag is entitled «the USSR national flag from 1918 to 1920». This caption is a misnomer as the USSR was not formed by the RSFSR, Ukrainian SSR et al. until 1922.
Edward Mooney, 13 Jan 2000, and Roy Stilling, 14 Jan 2000

Incorrect depiction in Petit Larousse

The Petit Larousse encyclopedia (1924 ed., dutch) shows under «Sovjet Russia»: A version with the Latin characters RSFSR in a triangle, the R’s at the base-corners, the F in the apex:

  F
 S S
R   R
Peter-Hans van den Muijzenberg, 29 Oct 2000

It is a fiction. I think the drawing was made according to textual description («red banner with abbreviation RSFSR») by the artist who never saw the real flag. I don’t know about variants with either latin "RSFSR" or cyrillic "RSFSR" in a triangle.
Victor Lomantsov, 30 Oct 2000 and 31 Oct 2000


State Coat-of-arms of 1918

CoA of Russian SFSR in 1918
image reduced

See also: later coat-of-arms


Merchant Flag of 1920

Merchant Flag of Russian SFSR in 1920
image by Željko Heimer, 13 Jul 1996

On 29 of September, 1920 the Government revised the flags. Merchant ensign — red with white letters ’"RSFSR"
Victor Lomantsov, 31 Oct 2000

The merchant flag was red bearing the plain Cyrillic letters "RSFSR" in white. This flag was superceded in 1923 by the Flag of the Soviet Union.
Dave Martucci, 17 Jan 2000

This is one of the flags shown in the background of a poster identified as Civil War poster: White Russian anti-Semitism, dating from 1919 (Trotsky Internet Archive).
Phil Nelson, 12 Nov 1999


Flag of 1937

Flag of Russian SFSR in 1937
image by Mark Sensen, 25 May 1996

Red with in the upper hoist yellow cyrillic initials (RSFSR) in serif. The same flag used in 1940’s.
Mark Sensen, 25 May 1996

Red field with golden letters «RSFSR» in canton (without the yellow border).
Victor Lomantsov, 31 Oct 2000

This flag was replaced by a new one in 1954.
Željko Heimer, 17 Apr 1996


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