Russia has recently had a number of protests against President Vladimir Putin. The protests constitute a challenge of urban Russians against Putin’s rule.
If you’ve ever seen pictures of these protests, one interesting thing stands out. This is the fact that the protesters don’t wave Russia’s national flag. Instead, they always wave different flags:
What are these flags? What do they represent? I’ve done a bit of digging to get at these answers.
One common flag in the protests is this one:
Obviously, this flag is not the national flag that Russia uses. It looks a bit darker – dare I say more threatening – than the white, red, and blue-striped official Russian flag.
Apparently this flag was one of the two flags that represented the Russian Empire before the revolution (the other is the current official flag). It seems to have been much less popular than the other flag.
Here’s another picture with these flags:
In the center there’s a standard of a bird with two heads. This type of standard also often appears in these protests. It seems to be a version of this flag:
This was the imperial standard during the Russian Empire.
These types of flags are often used by Russian nationalists. They seem to be a symbol of the Liberal Democratic Party of Russia, a Russian nationalist party (which some describe as ultranationalist).
For a person without deep knowledge of Russia, it’s somewhat concerning to see these flags of the Tsar. It seems to imply that the Russian Empire and the Tsar were good, or imply a type of nostalgia for the Tsar.
There’s another type of flag that’s very prevalent in these protests against Putin. See if you can recognize it:
The good old flag of the Soviet Union.
Interestingly, there are a lot of variants of communist flags. For instance, this picture there are several red flags with a red star outlined in white and two Russian phrases stamped on top of the red star. This “red star” flag seems to be very popular and has been waved in a lot of protests. Puzzlingly, this doesn’t match the standard of Russia’s official communist party. (EDIT: This is the flag of the Left Front, a group of leftist political organizations including and perhaps dominated by the communists).
Here’s another variant of the pro-communist flags waved in these protests.
In this picture there are a lot of blue and white flags with a red star and sickle-and-hammer. Again, I can’t find where this flag comes from (although it’s certainly obvious what it represents). (EDIT: A reader informs me that this is the Soviet naval ensign.)
Communism seems to be quite popular amongst Putin’s opposition.
There’s a final type of flag in these protests. They’re the orange flags in the two pictures above.
Here’s another photo with these orange flags:
These flags seem to represent liberals in the protest movement. The orange flag is a symbol of Solidarnost, a group of liberal Russian organizations.
In the picture there are also a number of red-and-white flags with a red-and-white sun. I have absolutely no idea what these flags would represent. (EDIT: This is the flag of the Russian People’s Democratic Union, a small liberal party).
It’s very interesting how Putin’s opposition has very little passion for Russia’s national flag. Instead, they wave their own flags – flags representing communism, liberalism, and nationalism. This seems to be a sign that the Russian flag as a national symbol is still relatively weak. Of course, Russia isn’t the only country where this occurs.
It’s also pretty concerning when one sees just what flags Putin’s opposition likes to wave. There are a lot of flags of the Tsar and the USSR in the protests. Not quite what most people in the West are hoping for.