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Historical reference on the official symbols of the Republic of Karelia

The National Coat of Arms of the Republic of Karelia

The National Flag and the National Coat of Arms of the Republic of Karelia were authorized as official symbols in 1993, however they are based on historical traditions and heraldic symbols both of the Soviet period, and of earlier time.

After establishing of the Soviet Power in Karelia up to middle of 30th there was no republic's own state symbolics.

Within the civil war provisional government existed for a short time in the north of Karelia. In March of 1920 at the session of delegates of the Karelian volosts in the settlement of Ukhta (nowadays Kalevala) the coat of arms of the Finnish artist Gallen-Kallela was authorized. The coat of arms had red and green fields on which the black and gold furious bear holding a silver vesuri, a special kind of national cutter, in its paws was represented. Above the bear there was polar lights of silver color, and the bear was trambling down silver fetters. The symbolics of the arms reflected reverence of a bear as the king of woods by Karelians from most ancient times. Vesuri, as the major instrument of work, reflected economic activities. The broken off fetters by the feet of the bear could symbolize both liberation from the yoke of Russia and simply the discovered independence. Green color meant woods and nature of Karelia, black stood for the ground and grief, and red was a symbol of blood and pleasure.

In the Soviet period the State Emblem of Karelian ASSR in essence repeated the coat of arms of RSFSR with small variations. From 1978 till 1991 there was no development of the state symbolics in the republic. In 90th the process of creation of own coats of arms in the cities and districts of the republic became more active, the policy of reorganization and publicity has woken interest of the public to heraldry. In August of 1990 the Supreme Soviet of the republic has accepted "The Declaration on the State Sovereignty of Karelian ASSR", and in November of 1991 the autonomous republic was renamed into the Republic of Karelia. There occurred a necessity of change of the state symbolics, and the competition was declared. In 1992 the special competitive commission has considered 60 projects of the flag and 20 projects of the coat of arms. It was decided to take for acquaintance projects of coats of arms by V.F.Dobrynin and Yu.S.Nivina on the session of the Supreme Soviet of the Republic of Karelia. Dobrynin 's project almost repeated the coats of arms by Gallen-Kallela that was perceived by many as excessive politization of life in Karelia. Session of the Supreme Soviet of the Republic of Karelia on February 16, 1993, has decided to assume as a basis Yury Serafimovich Nivin's variant and on September 28, 1993, the Supreme Soviet of the republic has accepted the modified coat of arms. The description of the coat of arms in the Constitution of the Republic of Karelia is the following:

"The Coat of Arms of the Republic of Karelia is rectangular board rounded in the bottom third, and three times crossed by colors of the national Flag of the Republic of Karelia in equal shares with the profile of black a bear represented on it. The gold frame of the board transforms to the stylized images of fur-tree on the left side and of the pine on the right side. In atop the board the eight-pointed star (the dual cross) of gold color is located."

(Article 13).

Thus, the modern coat of arms of Karelia represents the board of rounded type bordered by the strip of gold color, the field of the board is devided into three equal parts: the top is red, the middle one is blue, and the bottom is green. On the panelboard field the profile figure of a black bear walking to the right on his hinder feet is placed. This bear reminds the one from the coat of arms of 1920, but without the vesuri cutter. The bear from the most ancient times was worshiped, even was idolized by Finno-Ugric peoples, the inhabitants of the European North. It is embodied in the folklore of Karelians' songs, legends, fairy tales passed on in centuries. The image of a bear is included in the emblem of Novgorod territory to which Karelia historically belonged.

Atop the board the eight-pointed gold star is placed. The eight-pointed star is a sign found everywhere in Karelian and Vepps national embroidery, and also it is the sign of the Russian population of the North. The star is a symbol of eternity, a lodestar, a source of life and prosperity, happiness and abundance, wealth, a symbol of high aspirations and ideals of people. The eight-pointed star is also the symbol of protection, a kind of "protecting amulet".

The board is supported by board-holders in the shape of stylized trees - the fur-tree and the pine of gold color that transform to the basic contour of the board. The role of pines and fur-trees is extremely important in the life of the republic. Pine woods form approximately 60 percents of woods of the republic, and fur-trees make about 30 percents. The image of fur-trees and pines is a frequently found element of Karelian embroidery that is an echo of the ancient representations related to reverence of vegetation. Gold color is the color of leadership, greatness, statehood and wealth.

The Legislative Assembly of the Republic of Karelia in 2000 accepted special Laws on the national Flag of the Republic of Karelia and the Coat of arms of the Republic of Karelia.

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Created: February 13, 2003. Last updated: February 13, 2003.
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