Semiotic and Legal Analysis of Flags in Russia: Belonging to a Multi-National Federal State Through Color, Form, Space and Time
The chapter provides semiotic analysis of national flags in Russia in historical perspective and describes legal regulation of the use of flags as state symbols on federal and federal entities’ levels. Contemporary white-blue-red national flag, Soviet red flag and imperial black-yellow-white flag are analyzed in different contexts, as official state symbols and as unofficial symbols of different political movements; the evolution of their meaning with time is shown. Subjects of the Russian Federation also have their flags, which reflect their aspiration for self-identification and sovereignty within the limits of common political identity of the nation. The right to establish their own official symbols is a part of their constitutional status, and they realize this right for the construction of their regional identity within the semiotic space of Russia as a whole.
There is no unity in approaches to the fixation of the legal status and description of flags on the level of federal entities, though main legal rules concerning the use of flags and subordination between the national flag and the flags of federal entities are stipulated by the federal law. Most of regional flags have been created since 1991, because these regions had no status of federal subjects before that. By their visual representation the flags differ depending on the cultural and historic characteristics of the regions. Some of them resemble the regional coat of arms, some of them try to follow the federal model by using bars of different color, some include religious symbols.
Legal regulation of the use of flags includes constitutional standards, statutory standards and also provisions of criminal and administrative law on desecration of flags and on inappropriate use of the national flag, which may humiliate or publicly demonstrate disrespect for it. The judicial practice in application of these standards is, however, confusing, because the provisions lack legal certainty.