The Soviet Empire: flags and anthems

John Crowfoot considers the role flags and anthems have played in defining Soviet and Russian identities, past and present.

On May Day morning, 1990, the political and economic crisis threatening the Soviet Union was vividly revealed to Muscovites as a crisis of identity as well. The fifteen red flags of the federation's constituent republics traditionally hung out for all major celebrations were nowhere to be seen: they had been replaced by pieces of yellow, pink and orange cloth, the consciously neutral type of decoration that usually adorns the city for 'non-political' events like the Olympics in 1980, or the XII World Youth Festival in 1985.

As the Western press reported, the 'workers demonstration' was organised by the official trade unions for the first time, and later that morning Gorbachev and the Soviet leadership were menaced by both the main union contingent of participants, with their thinly-veiled anti-market slogans, and the latter public and highly political part of the demonstration.

To continue reading this article you will need to purchase access to the online archive.

Buy Online Access  Buy Print & Archive Subscription

If you have already purchased access, or are a print & archive subscriber, please ensure you are logged in.

Please email if you have any problems.