National symbols of the Russian Federation


The national coat of arms, the national flag and the national anthem are symbols of the Russian state. The national symbols of the Russian Federation reflect historical continuity. The history of Russia's flag and coat of arms began many centuries ago. In December 2000 and January 2001 the national symbols of the Russian Federation were enshrined in federal laws on the coat of arms, flag and anthem. These laws also define the use of the national symbols. The Russian press acclaimed that event as reflecting the desire of Russian leaders to reconcile society with the history of the Russian state and restore historical continuity. The capital of the Russian state - Moscow - is also considered to be a national symbol.

The State Flag of the Russian Federation

The State Flag of the Russian Federation is an official symbol of state power; embodiment of state sovereignty.

 On December 11, 1993, President B.N.Yeltsin of the Russian Federation signed Decree "On the State Flag of the Russian Federation" and approved Statute of the State Flag of the Russian Federation.

The documents say this: "The State Flag of the Russian Federation shall be a right-angled piece of bunting of three equivalent horizontal stripes: upper, white; middle, blue; lower, red in color. The ratio of the flag's width to its length shall be 2:3."

In fact, the State Flag of the Russian Federation reproduces the merchant marine flag that existed in Russia since 1705 (from 1873 on, it was considered a state flag along with the Romanovs' black-gold-white dynastic flag).

The exact order of stripes on the flag is known since Peter I's times as well: the upper stripe is white, the middle blue, and the lower red. The arrangement of the stripes fitted in with the ancient concept of the world: the physical and carnal world is below, the heavenly world is above it, and the divine world is superimposed upon the two. In the 19th century, the stripes were made to symbolize the concord of the three East Slavic peoples: the Byelorussians, the Ukrainians, and the Russians.

In Old Russia, the colors of the flag were always symbolic of human qualities: white, nobility and frankness; blue, fidelity, integrity, irreproachability, chastity; red, courage, audacity, self-sacrifice, magnanimity and love.

The state flags of the Russian Federation are hoisted atop the buildings of the supreme bodies of state power and administration, embassies, trade missions, consulates of the Russian Federation abroad, are flown by ships in the high seas and in the territorial waters of foreign states, etc.

The State Flag of Russia is hung on a specialized flag-pole (mast) in front of a building or atop a building. Whenever raised vertically, the white stripe shall be on the left and the red stripe on the right.


National Anthem of the Russian Federation

The National Anthem of the Russian Federation is a solemn musical melody accepted as a symbol of state unity: the lyrics express the sentiments of patriotism and respect for the country's history and state system.

The first official attempt to create the official Russian anthem goes back to the year 1833, when Nicholas I ordered a group of poets and composers to make it. Before that, all important events were to the accompaniment of church canticles or military marches as was the custom under Peter I.

The melody of the English anthem, "God Save the King," came into use as early as the end of the reign of the first Russian Emperor (Peter the Great) and later during the rule of his daughter Elizabeth (Elizaveta Petrovna).

In the late 18th century it competed with the song "Glory" by composer Dmitry Bortnyansky, with this dual state of affairs persisting until the times of Nicholas I.

In 1833, on orders from Emperor Nicholas I, a closed contest of sorts was held for Russia's new anthem. The Tsar eventually selected "The Russian People's Prayer" by Vasily Zhukovsky and Alexis Lvoff, which, first, sounded indeed like a prayer, second, had a simple and easy-to-remember melody, and, third, was similar in its text to anthems of European monarchies.

Accepted in 1833, the anthem existed till the 1917 February revolution, when it was replaced by the melody of La Marseillaise, the principal song of the French revolution and the French anthem. But the lyrics were different, if no less revolutionsry: "Let us break with the old world, let us shake off its dust from our feet."

It gave way to The Internationale, which was used as the RSFSR and USSR anthem until January 1, 1944, when the anthem composed by Alexander Alexandrov, with words by Sergei Mikhalkov and Garold El-Registan, created as early as 1936 as "The Anthem of the Bolshevik Party," was first played on radio. The lyrics were revised in 1944.

After the 20th CPSU Congress, the text, which mentioned Stalin several times, went into the background, and a new version, edited by the same poets, was approved in 1977 following the passing of the new USSR Constitution.

Mikhail Glinka's melody became the anthem of new, democratic Russia in 1991

President Boris Yeltsin signed a decree on December 11, 1993, confirming the Statute of the National Anthem of the Russian Federation, which proclaimed as such the melody of "The Patriotic Song" by Mikhail Glinka.

December 20, 2000, saw Alexandrov's melody become the Russian Federation's anthem again. A national contest was announced for the lyrics, which involved both prominent poets and ordinary citizens. A total of 6,000 texts were submitted, with the commission in charge of the contest eventually deciding to approve a version penned by Sergei Mikhalkov. On December 30, 2000, President Vladimir Putin signed Decree "On the Text of the National Anthem of the Russian Federation." On March 7, 2001, the text was endorsed by the State Duma of the Russian Federation.

Text of the National Anthem of the Russian Federation (Lyrics by Sergei Mikhalkov; an unofficial translation):

Russia, our holy great nation!

Russia, the country so dearly loved!

A powerful will, a tremendous glory,

Are your inheritance for future and past.

Glory to land of freedom and unity,

Nations as brothers united stand tall,

Given by ancestors, wisdom our national,

Glory, our land, we are proud of you!

From the southern seas to the polar region

Spread our forests and fields.

You are unique in the world, inimitable,

Native land protected by God!

Glory to land of freedom and unity,

Nations as brothers united stand tall,

Given by ancestors, wisdom our national,

Glory, our land, we are proud of you!

Wide spaces for dreams and for living

Are opened for us by the coming years.

Faithfulness to our Fatherland gives us strength.

Thus it was, so it is and always will be!

Glory to land of freedom and unity,

Nations as brothers united stand tall,

Given by ancestors, wisdom our national,

Glory, our land, we are proud of you!


National Coat of Arms of the Russian Federation

The National Coat of Arms of the Russian Federation is an official state symbol of the Russian Federation. The State Duma passed on December 8, 2000, Federal Constitutional Bill "On the National Coat of Arms of the Russian Federation," which was later approved by the Federation Council and signed into law, on December 25, 2000, by President Vladimir Putin of the Russian Federation.

  The National Coat of Arms of the Russian Federation is a quadrangular red heraldic shield with rounded lower angles and a pointed extremity, which has a gold two-headed eagle rising up on open wings. The eagle wears two small crowns and one large above them, linked by a band.. In its right talon it holds an orb, and in the left a scepter. On its chest is a red shield, on which a silver horseman in a blue cloak is riding to the left on a silver horse. He is piercing a black, prone dragon with a silver spear as the horse tramples it.

The gold two-headed eagle placed against the red background keeps historical continuity with the color gamut of the late 15th - 17th century coats of arms. In its design, the eagle dates back to images on monuments of Peter the Great's epoch. It is his three historic crowns that are depicted above the eagle's heads, which in the new conditions symbolize the sovereignty of both the Russian Federation as a whole and its parts, the subjects of the Federation. The scepter and the orb the eagle holds in its talons symbolize the state power and a united state. The horseman piercing a dragon on its chest is an ancient symbol of the clash of good and evil, light and darkness, as well as of defense of Fatherland.

The restoration of the two-headed eagle as Russia's National Coat of Arms represents indissolubility and continuity of national history. Its present-day coat of arms is a new crest, but its components are profoundly traditional; it reflects the different stages of national history and carries them on in the third millennium.


Museums and theatres

Close to 1,500 museums cover practically all fields of knowledge-historical, ethnographic, memorial, of folk crafts, fine and applied arts, theatre, music, natural sciences, technology, and many others. Museums-reserves have lately come into the foreground. Twenty open-air ethnographic museums present folk architecture, arts and everyday life. All museum collections, with a total exceeding fifty million items of historical, scientific and artistic value, comprise Russia's invaluable museum fund, its precious national treasure.

The State Tretyakov Gallery is the national treasury of Russian fine art and one of the greatest museums in the world.  The Gallery's collection consists entirely of Russian art and artists who have made а contribution to the history of Russian art or been closely connected with it. The collection contains more than 130 000 works of painting, sculpture and graphics, created throughout the centuries by successive generations of Russian artists.

The State Museum of Fine Arts was opened on May 31, 1912 on the basis of the Cabinet (museum) of Fine Arts and Antiquities of the Moscow University as an educational and public institution where the most important periods of art history from the ancient times to the New Age have been represented: in plaster casts, maquettes, pictorial and galvanic copies, in accordance with the unique scientific program. The Museum became the first institution of this type in Russia. On May 31, 1923 it ceased its subordination to the University. In 1937 was named in honor of Alexander Pushkin the great Russian poet.

The Moscow Kremlin is situated in the very center of the capital of Russia. Its monumental walls and towers, golden-domed cathedrals and ancient palaces stand high on the Borovitskiy Hill above the Moskva River forming a magnificent architectural ensemble. Since time immemorial the Moscow Kremlin has been the centre of Russian statehood, the residence of Russian tsars and hierarchs of the Russian Orthodox Church. Since 1991, the Kremlin has been the official residence of the President of the Russian Federation. The ensemble of the Moscow Kremlin has been included in the UNESCO World Heritage List.  One of the most remarkable exhibits of the Kremlin museums linked to the genealogy of Russian princes is the Cap of Monomakh, the Russian Tsars' inherited crown.

The State Hermitage occupies six magnificent buildings situated along the embankment of the River Neva, right in the heart of St Petersburg. The leading role in this unique architectural ensemble is played by the Winter Palace, the residence of the Russian tsars that was built to the design of Francesco Bartolomeo Rastrelli in 1754-62. This ensemble, formed in the 18th and 19th centuries, is extended by the eastern wing of the General Staff building, the Menshikov Palace and the recently constructed Repository. Put together throughout two centuries and a half, the Hermitage collections of works of art (over 3,000,000 items) present the development of the world culture and art from the Stone Age to the 20th century.

“The Russian Versailles", "the Capital of Russian Fountains" - Peterhof is an immensely luxurious royal estate, lying on the shore of the Gulf of Finland (Baltic Sea), a combination of several palaces and parks, the "capital of Russian fountains" and "the Russian Versailles". The estate was founded by Peter the Great and shortly after 1710 the tzar had a beautiful park with several palaces built. The focal point of both the Lower Park and the Upper Garden is the magnificent Grand Palace (Bolshoi Dvorets) with the Grand Cascade (Bolshoi Kaskad) in front of it. The original palace was built for Peter the Great in 1714-25 and in 1745-55 was remodeled to its present baroque glory by Bartolomeo Rastrelli, the architect of the Winter Palace in downtown St. Petersburg.

The State Monument Museum "St. Isaac's Cathedral" is one of the finest architectural monuments of the XIX century (architect A.Montferrand), the former principal cathedral of the Russian capital, the largest cathedral in town able to accommodate about 10,000 audience. The cathedral is graced with 112 solid granite columns weighing up to 114 tons each, and about 400 relieves and bronze sculptures. The observation platform on the colonnade provides a magnificent view of the city.

The reforms removed all fetters from the stage. Despite all the problems of contemporary Russian life, the number of theatres is growing. Up to fifty new companies have appeared in 1993-1994. All told, Russia has 413 companies, with drama accounting for over half. Since 1989 local budgets have financed theatres to encourage provincial theatre. There are 31 languages of acting in our multi-ethnic country. Some ethnic companies are top-notch, and worthy rivals of Moscow theatres.

The Bolshoi Theater dominates Sverdlov Square in Moscow. It stands on the site of an earlier theater that burned down in 1853. The new building is a masterpiece of 19th century Russian neoclassicism and was adorned with a massive, eight-columned portico, surmounted by the horse-drawn chariot of the god of the arts, Apollo that was part of the previous theater. The theater's vast five-tiered auditorium is richly ornamented with chandeliers, gold stucco decoration and plush red velvet furnishings. It seats over 2,000 people and its auditorium is an impressive 21 meters tall, 25 meters long and 26 meters wide, making it one of the largest theaters in the world. The Bolshoi has hosted some of Russia's most famed performers and celebrated premieres by some of the world's best-loved composers. Glinka's opera "A Life for the Tsar" premiered there on 7th September 1842 and Richard Wagner conducted a series of concerts there in 1863. This century has seen the theater premiering works by the composers Prokofiev and Shostakovich, as well as the spectacularly successful ballet hit of the 1960s "Spartacus", by Aram Khachaturyan. The theater's star dancers, among them Maya Plisetskaya, Vladimir Vasiliev, Galina Ulanova and Rudolf Nuryev, helped to build the theater's reputation and boosted their careers into the dazzling heights of international success.

The world-renowned Mariinsky Theater, known during Soviet times as the Kirov Opera and Ballet Theater, reverted to its original name in 1992. The present building, which dates back to 1859, originally housed another theater but was remodeled and taken over by the Mariinsky company. During pre-revolutionary times the theater enjoyed royal patronage and has played host to some of Russia’s most celebrated classical performers; Fiodor Shaliapin sang there, and the dancers Vatslav Nizhinsky, Matilda Kshesinskaya, Anna Pavlova also graced its stage. The building and its marvelous 1,625-seat auditorium were severely damaged during the 900-day Siege of Leningrad, but later restored in 1944. Since then the theater has maintained its excellent reputation, particularly for classical ballet. The theater rose to the dizzying heights of international success under the leadership of the conductor Yuri Temirkanov and the current Chief Conductor and Artistic Director Valery Gergiev. The theater’s Ballet Department also flourished under the famous Leonid Yakobson and has enjoyed performances by the world-renown Rudolf Nureev.


Religions in Russia

The largest religious current in the territory of Russia is Orthodoxy that is professed by the followers of the Russian Orthodox Church (ROC) - the largest religious association in Russia. The country has over 5,000 Russian Orthodox churches. Many are built anew or under repair on parish and local budgets money.

Among the several more ambitious projects is the Cathedral of Our Lady of Kazan, erected in Red Square to commemorate the liberation of Moscow by Minin and Pozharsky's militia, pulled down in 1936, and recently rebuilt from scratch. The Cathedral of Christ the Savior, demolished in 1931, is restored. Patriarch Aiexis II described its rebirth as "a sublime act of piety and penitence."

The Russian Orthodox Church (ROC) was formed at the end of the Xth century. It was headed by the Metropolitans obedient to the Patriarchate of Constantinople; they resided in Kiev, from 1299 - in Vladimir, from 1325 - in Moscow. In 1448 the ROC received an autocephalous status. A patriarchate was founded in 1589. The reforms of Patriarch Nikon in 1653-1656 led to a schism and the emergence of the Old Belief. Following the adoption of the Spiritual Regulations in 1721, the Church came under the supreme administration of the Holy and Governing Synod. The patriarchate was restored by a decision of the Local Council in 1917-1918.

In accordance with a Decree by the Sovnarkom (Council of Peoples Commissars) of the RSFSR on January 23 (February 5) 1918, the Russian Orthodox Church was separated from the State, and schools were separated from the Church. At the beginning of the 1920s, there emerged in Russian Orthodoxy a movement under slogans of modernizing the cult that led to a schism in the Russian Orthodox Church in 1923. In the years of Soviet rule, the State unlawfully interfered in the affairs of the Church, and the clergy was subjected to reprisals. After the demise of Patriarch Tikhon in 1925, the authorities obstructed the convocation of Councils and the election of a patriarch. During the Great Patriotic War, an attempt was made by the authorities to bank on the prestige of the Church. In 1943 the Council of Bishops elected Metropolitan Sergiy (Stragorodsky) Patriarchal Locum Tenens.

Since 1983 the Moscow Patriarchy, as the spiritual and administrative center, has been in Moscow at the St. Danilov Monastery. According to the Charter of 1988, the highest bodies of church authority and administration are the Local Council, the Council of Archpriests and the Holy Synod headed by the Patriarch. Since 1990 the Primate of Russian Orthodox Church is His Holiness Patriarch Alexy II (secular name - Alexei Mikhailovich Ridiger) who together with the Holy Synod governs the Church.

Islam, in terms of importance and number of followers, is the second religion in the Russian Federation after Christianity. From 8 to 10% of the population, or 12-15 million people practice this religion. Islam is the dominating religion in Dagestan, Ingushetia, Chechnya, Kabardino-Balkaria and Karachayevo-Cherkessia. Approximately half of the populations in the republics of Tatarstan and Bashkortostan are followers of Islam. There are up to 4,500 Muslim communities throughout the Russian Federation.

Buddhism ranks third in Russia in number of followers. The religion is professed by less than one percent - around 900,000 people - of the poulation. Russia no longer has predominantly Buddhist-populated regions. It is the faith of one-half of the Kalmyks, one-third of the Buryats, and one-fourth of the Altaians. Followers of non-traditional and marginal forms of Buddhism represent evenly all nationalities. There are about 200 Buddhist communities in this country.

Followed by less than one percent of the population, Judaism is the fourth biggest religion in Russia. The number of the faithful is believed to be in the environs of 600,000. The majority of Jews live in big cities. Their most numerous communities are in Moscow, St. Petersburg, Yekaterinburg, Samara, Nizhni Novgorod, Chelyabinsk, Rostov-on-Don, Saratov, and Novosibirsk. The religion is professed predominantly by the Ashkenazic Jews, the Karaites, the Tats, the Mountain Jews, and the Russian Subbotniks. The number of Jews shrinks steadily on account of continuous repatriation. There are about 100 Jewish communities in this country.

Roman Catholicism is Russia's fifth religious creed in terms of the number of followers. There are nearly 500,000 people professing the religion, who are subdivided into Roman Catholics and so-called Greek Catholics. In 1961, the USSR had about 1,200 Catholic communities, but their number shrunk dramatically after Ukraine and the modern Baltic countries seceded from the USSR.


Russian cuisine

Russian cuisine is one of the most popular and widely spread in the world. Russian dishes are easy to cook and they do not demand much skill and special ingredients, they do not need exotic equipment and tool and everybody who knows how to hold a cooking knife and how to peel potatoes can cook delicious Russian dishes.

A few words about Russian cooking traditions. In old Russ, grain - that is rye, barley, oats, millet and wheat - was always the main food product. Since days of old the Russians have been known as land-tiller. That is why bread remains their major national food. "No dinner without bread," goes the Russian saying. Wheat loaves have dozens of varieties. As to rye bread, Russians eat more of it than any nation in the world--a peculiarity of the Russian diet. Pies have always been a par of the holiday fare. The pies are customarily filled with different kinds of meat, fish, and berries. As for the groats, millet was most often used since it was the main agricultural product. They also made various kinds of kashas (cereals), round loaves, baked puddings, and krupenik.

Russians have always eaten vegetables. In old times it was the turnip, cabbage, radish, and cucumbers. Since the 18th century the potato began to play an ever more important part as one of the most loved ingredients of the Russian board.

The abundance of berries, mushroom, and honey in Russian cuisine is accounted for by the country's vast expanses, especially in the north.

One more important thing should be mentioned for better understanding of Russian cooking traditions. Russian is an Orthodox country and all the feasts were always strictly followed. Totally there are more than 200 days in a year in which the Orthodox Christians should avoid eating meat, milk and milk products (including butter), eggs. That is why Russian cuisine widely uses vegetables, fish, berries, and mushrooms. In order to cook tasty dishes using just vegetables it is necessary to use different spice, Russians used dill, parsley, celery, later they used spidery which were delivered from other countries - pepper, cinnamon, cardamom, cloves. Nearly all dishes include onion.

As the Russian custom has it, a festive table isn't worth this name without a bottle of vodka. Russians are traditionally hearty drinkers: as good whiskey shall come from Scotland, and port from Portugal, so Russian wheat vodka is the world's best. We have an amazing variety to offer, from the clear, colorless Moskovskaya and Stolichnaya to all kinds of bitters with herbs and spices.

Of our folk soft drinks, kvass is the best-known. Made of brown bread or malted rye flour, it goes down best on a sultry summer day. If you add it to chopped-up meat and vegetables, you get okroshka, an exquisite cold soup.