Flag of Russia
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The flag of Russia is a tricolour 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 mechant and war ships and only became official in 1896. Rumored to be based off of the Dutch tricolor, the flag was in use until the 1917 Revolution, which toppled the czar and established a communist government. For that time period, a red flag charged with communist symbols was favored over the tricolor. It was not until the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991 that brought back the tricolor as the official flag of the new Russian Federation. The modern era flag underwent a slight change in 1993 and has been officialized since 2000. The flag of Russia is the source of the Pan-Slavic colours, which is used by the national flags of Bulgaria, Croatia, Serbia and many others.
This flag was used as naval and military ensign since 1693 at least, and was adopted as a merchant flag in 1705. On May 7, 1883 it was authorised to be used on land. However, it did not became an official national flag (State Flag) until the coronation of Tsar Nicholas II in 1896.
Popular myth traces the origin of the Russian flag to Tsar Peter the Great's visit to the Netherlands in 1699. The tsar, who went there to learn about shipbuilding, realised the need for Russia to have a flag for its navy too. Allegedly, he based Russia's flag on the flag of the Netherlands, making it a tricolour with three equal horizontal fields, but he chose Russian colors for it.
This story, while widely circulated, is probably a myth, as a German flag book of 1695 (predating Peter's trip to Western Europe) already describes flags of a similar design belonging to the Tsar of Muscovy. While the Russian tricolour is allegedly based on the Dutch civil ensign, it was used earlier than is commonly presumed (in fact, it was already flown by the Oriol - "Eagle" - the first battleship of the Russian Navy, in 1667).
The three colours purportedly came from the coat of arms of the Duchy of Moscow, which depict Saint George wearing white (silver) armour, riding a white horse, wearing a blue cape and holding a blue shield, on a red field. 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 colors is the order that they are placed reflected the Russian social system while under the monarchy: white represents God, blue represents the Tsar and red represents the peasants. A very common interpretation is the association of colours with the main parts of the Russian Empire: White thus represents White Russia (Belarus), blue the Ukraine or Small Russia ("Malorossia"), Red the Russian mainland.
 Variant versions
A variant of the flag was authorised for private use by Tsar Nicholas II during World War I, adding the Romanov eagle on a yellow field in a canton in the top left-hand corner. This variant was never made official.
When the Bolsheviks took power in 1917, the tricolour design was discarded, and a definitive new flag of the Russian Republic (one of the constituent republics of the Soviet Union) was introduced in 1954 (see flag of Russian SFSR), and this remained the republic's flag until the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991. The flag of the Soviet Union did not have the left-hand blue band. The previous Soviet design was different (a plain red flag with different variants of the "RSFSR" abbreviation in the honour canton).
 See also
- List of Russian flags
- Coat of Arms of Russia
- Russian Empire
- Flag of Russian SFSR
- Coat of Arms of Moscow
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