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Imperial flag (Russia, 1858-1883)

Last modified: 2014-03-09 by zoltán horváth
Keywords: imperial flag | orange | catherine 1 (russia) | e | crown: imperial |
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“Imperial” flag
image by Rick Wyatt
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Origin and usage of the flag

Quoting from [smi75c], Russia adopted a “heraldic flag” …

…on 11 June 1858 for use as a civil flag. Under the influence of German counselors, the government based it on the livery colors of the imperial arms — black and golden yellow, the latter usually represented as orange. A white stripe was added at the bottom lest the flag be exactly the same as the one used by Austria, whose arms also featured a black eagle on gold. White, long a symbol of legitimist monarchies in Europe, was specifically attributed here to the cockades of Peter I and Catherine II. The black-orange-white flag was very unpopular, so much so that the government felt compelled on 7 May 1883 to recognize the white-blue-red as official for use on land during celebrations. Hence the flag intended for unrestricted use was rarely seen in prerevolutionary Russia, while the flag restricted to special occasions was in fact the most likely to be hoisted whenever private citizens wished to express their nationality by displaying a flag on land.
I have only seen one instance of the black-orange-white flag illustrated. It was on the cover of sheet music of a Russian National song printed in Germany in the 1880’s. Apparently the Germans were at least consistent regarding what they thought the flag of Russia ought to be!
Nick Artimovich, 02 May 1996

In 1858, a black - golden yellow - white horizontal tricolor was adopted as the civil flag. Black and yellow were the Imperial colors; the white stripe was added to distinguish this flag from the Imperial Austrian "Reich" and war flag, which was a black-yellow horizontal bicolor. The black-yellow-white flag was highly unpopular and so in 1883, the civil ensign was adopted as an alternate civil flag.
Tom Gregg, 09 Jan 1997

However, the black-orange-red was not officially abolished, so that Russia had two civil flags from 1883 to 1914.
Tom Gregg, 21 Mar 1999

The Russian nationalists’ black-yellow-white might be based on the imperial eagle shield.
Anton Sherwood

The story I heard was that the yellow, black and white flag was in the Romanov livery colors. These date back to the Holstein Gottorp connection. They also represent the Russian state as a personal possesion of the Tsar. It is reported that Nicholas II on a census form decribed heimself as the owner of Russia.
Arthur Etchells IV, 22 May 2000

Unlike the white-blue-red flag, this black-orange-white one seems to have no reported variant or defacement (naval flags, etc.).
António Martins, 09 Nov 2000

Modern political use

There was a report today on TV on the electional campaign in Russia. On one of those gatherings there were several “Imperial” flags (black over golden [this one was in fact very lemon yellow] over white).
Željko Heimer, 09 Jun 1996

The black-orange/yellow-white tricolour is constantly seen in demonstrations. It used mostly by monarchists and radical nationalists.
Alexei Arkhipov and Juan Morales, 22 Mar 1999

The Russian Empire’s black-yellow-white flag has indeed become popular on today’s rightist scene, from innocent traditionalist monarchists to national-socialist skinheads.
Andre Kovalev, 04 Jul 2002

Modern historical use?

Imperial flag with ''E''
image by António Martins, 21 Dec 1999

The black-yellow-white standard is flown over the Summer Palace in St. Petersburg, which used to be outside the city and is now a museum. It may also fly over the Hermitage or the Winter Palace downtown — all favourite royal pasttime places.
Andrej Kovalev, 22 May 2000

This flag is on the top of the Ekaterininskiy Dvorets (Palace of Emperess Ekaterina II) in Pushkin (former Tsarskoe Selo, one of summer residences of Russian Imperial Family) near St.-Petersburg. I saw it this summer and photographed it. There is a museum in this palace and I think (but is I’m not sure), that it is a flag of this museum. The letter "E" on the shield means "Ekaterina". The flag’s ratio is ≅1:2.
Andrew Gorodkov, 11 Oct 2000

In a previous program (on Russian TV channel Kulhtura) was shown a very intersting flag: the well known “imperial flag”, with black, golden and white stripes, bearing centrally a red shield charged with a golden capital hand-written cyrillic "E" and crowned imperial, standing for Ekaterina (russian for Catherine). (On the image above, ratio 1:2 unsure.) This was shown hoisted nowadays on the top of a palace, former imperial residence, currently a museum. It would be interesting to know if this is a historical flag of a modern “anachronical” creation. I mean, was designed in a recent date or was used by Catherine the Great or in any other historical situation? Are there others standing for other Tsars?
António Martins, 21 Dec 1999, 23 May 2000 and 09 Nov 2000

Color meanings

Meaning of the old flag (1858-1885):

Uladzimir Maksakau, 05 Dec 2000