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The hammer and sickle (Unicode: "☭")is a symbol meant to represent proletarian solidarity – a union between the peasantry and working class. It was first adapted during the Russian Revolution, the hammer representing the workers and the sickle representing the peasants.
After World War I (which Russia withdrew from in 1917) and the Russian Civil War, the hammer and sickle became more widely used as a symbol for labor within the Soviet Union and for international proletarian unity. It was taken up by many communist movements around the world, some with local variations. Today, even after the dissolution of the Soviet Union in 1991, the hammer and sickle remains commonplace in Russia and other former Soviet republics, but its display is prohibited in some other former communist countries as well as in countries where communism is banned by law. The hammer and sickle is also commonplace in later communist run countries such as Cuba, China, Vietnam, Laos and North Korea.
Farm and worker instruments and tools have long been used as symbols for proletarian struggle.
The combination of hammer and sickle symbolised the combination of farmers and construction workers. One example of use prior to its political instrumentalization by the Soviet Union is found in Chilean currency circulating since 1895.
An alternative example is the combination of a hammer and a plough, with the same meaning (unity of peasants and workers). In Ireland, the symbol of the plough remains in use. The Starry Plough banner was originally used by the Irish Citizen Army, a socialist republican workers' militia. James Connolly, co-founder of the Irish Citizen Army with Jack White, said the significance of the banner was that a free Ireland would control its own destiny from the plough to the stars. A sword is forged into the plough to symbolise the end of war with the establishment of a Socialist International. This was unveiled in 1914 and flown by the Irish Citizen Army during the 1916 Easter Rising.
In 1917, Vladimir Lenin and Anatoly Lunacharsky held a competition to create a Soviet emblem. The winning design was a hammer and sickle on top of a globe in rays of the sun, surrounded by a wreath of grain and under a five-pointed star, with the inscription "proletarians of the world, unite!" in six languages (Russian, Ukrainian, Belarusian, Georgian, Armenian and Azerbaijani). It originally featured a sword, but Lenin strongly objected, disliking the violent connotations.The winning designer was Yevgeny Ivanovich Kamzolkin (1885–1957).
On 6 July 1923, the 2nd session of the Central Executive Committee (CIK) adopted this emblem.In his work, Daily Life in a Crumbling Empire: The Absorption of Russia into the World Economy, sociologist David Lempert hypothesizes that the hammer and sickle was a secular replacement for the patriarchal cross.
At the time of creation, the hammer and sickle stood for worker-peasant alliance, with the hammer a traditional symbol of the industrial proletariat (who dominated the proletariat of Russia) and the sickle a traditional symbol for the peasantry, but the meaning has since broadened to a globally recognizable symbol for Marxism, communist parties, or socialist states.
Two federal subjects of the post-Soviet Russian Federation use the hammer and sickle in their symbols: the Vladimir Oblast has them on its flag and the Bryansk Oblast has them on its flag and coat of arms, which is also the central element of its flag. In addition, the Russian city of Oryol also uses the hammer and sickle on its flag.
The former Soviet (now Russian) national airline, Aeroflot, continues to use the hammer and sickle in its symbol.
The hammer and sickle can be found as a logo on most ushanka hats, usually the Soviet-styled ones.
The de facto government of Transnistria uses (with minor modifications) the flag and the emblem of the former Moldavian SSR, which includes the hammer and sickle. The flag can also appear without the hammer and sickle in some circumstances, for example on Transnistrian-issued license plates.
Four out of the six currently ruling Communist parties use a hammer and sickle as the party symbol: the Communist Party of China, the Communist Party of Vietnam, the Lao People's Revolutionary Party and the Nepal Communist Party. All of these use the yellow-on-red colour scheme, except for the Nepal Communist Party which uses white-on-red. In Laos and Vietnam, the hammer and sickle party flags can often be seen flying side by side with their respective national flags.
Many communist parties around the world also use it, including the Communist Party of Greece,the Communist Party of Chile, the Communist Party of Brazil, the Purba Banglar Sarbahara Party from Bangladesh, the Communist Party of Sri Lanka, the Communist Party of India (Marxist), the Communist Party of India (Marxist–Leninist) Liberation, the Communist Party of India, the Communist Party of India (Maoist), the Indian Communist Marxist Party, the Socialist Unity Centre of India (Communist), the Egyptian Communist Party, the Communist Party of Pakistan, the Communist Party of Spain, the Communist Party of Denmark, the Communist Party of Norway, the Romanian Communist Party, the Lebanese Communist Party, the Communist Party of the Philippines and the Shining Path. The Communist Party of Sweden, the Portuguese Communist Party and the Mexican Communist Party use the hammer and sickle imposed on the red star. The hammer and sickle accompanied by the yellow star is used by the Communist Refoundation Party, the main communist party in Italy, the country with the most usage of the symbol around the world: hammer and sickle was used in past by the Italian Socialist Party, the Proletarian Unity Party (Italy) and its forerunner Italian Socialist Party of Proletarian Unity, the Proletarian Democracy and the Party of Italian Communists, all parties formerly represented in the Italian Parliament.
Many symbols having similar structures and messages to the original have been designed. For example, the Angolan flag shows a segment of a cog, crossed by a machete and crowned with a socialist star while the flag of Mozambique features an AK-47 crossed by a hoe. In the logo of the Communist Party USA, a circle is formed by a half cog and a semicircular sickle-blade. A hammer is laid directly over the sickle's handle with the hammer's head at the logo's center. The logo of the Communist Party of Turkey consists of half a cog wheel crossed by a hammer, with a star on the top.
Tools represented in other designs include: the brush, sickle and hammer of the Workers' Party of Korea; the spade, flaming torch and quill used prior to 1984 by the British Labour Party; the pickaxe and rifle used in communist Albania; and the hammer and compasses of the East German emblem and flag. The Far Eastern Republic of Russia used an anchor crossed over a spade or pickaxe, symbolising the union of the fishermen and miners. The Fourth International, founded by Leon Trotsky, uses a hammer and sickle symbol on which the number 4 is superimposed. The hammer and sickle in the Fourth International symbol are the opposite of other hammer and sickle symbols in that the head of the hammer is on the right side and the sickle end tip on the left. The Trotskyist League for the Fifth International merges a hammer with the number 5, using the number's lower arch to form the sickle. A sickle with a rifle is also used by the Marxist and Islamist group People's Mojahedin of Iran.
The Communist Party of Britain uses the hammer and dove symbol. Designed in 1988 by Michal Boncza, it is intended to highlight the party's connection to the peace movement. It is usually used in conjunction with the hammer and sickle and it appears on all of the CPB's publications. Some members of the CPB prefer one symbol over the other, although the party's 1994 congress reaffirmed the hammer and dove's position as the official emblem of the party. Similarly, the Communist Party of Israel uses a dove over the hammer and sickle as its symbol. The flag of the Guadeloupe Communist Party uses a sickle, turned to look like a majuscule G, to represent Guadeloupe.
The flag of the Black Front, a Strasserist group founded by early Nazi Party members and expelled around the time of the Night of the Long Knives purge, along with his supporters and the Sturmabteilung and originator of the ideology and the Black Front himself Otto Strasser, featured a crossed hammer and sword, symbolizing the unity of the workers and military.
The flag of Burma (from 1974–2010) featured a bushel of rice superimposed on a cogwheel.
The flag of Chama Cha Mapinduzi (CCM, Party of the Revolution in Swahili), currently the ruling political party of Tanzania, has a slightly different symbol with a hammer and a hoe (jembe) instead of a sickle to represent the most common farm tool in Africa.
The National Bolshevik Party used the hammer and sickle in their flag, but colored black instead of gold and in a design similar to the Nazi flag, a brighter red flag than the USSR, with a black hammer and sickle on a white disk in the center.
The symbols of the liberal socialist parties of Radical Civic Union in Argentina and the Czech National Social Party in Czechia features a hammer and a quill with the former representing workers and the latter representing clerks.
The hammer and sickle has long been a common theme in socialist realism, but it has also seen some depiction in non-Marxist popular culture. Andy Warhol who created many drawings and photographs of the hammer and sickle is the most famous example of this.
In several countries in the former Eastern Bloc, there are laws that define the hammer and sickle as the symbol of a "totalitarian and criminal ideology" and the public display of the hammer and sickle and other Communist symbols such as the red star is considered a criminal offence. Georgia,Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Moldova (1 October 2012 – 4 June 2013) and Ukraine have banned communist symbols including this one. A similar law was considered in Estonia, but it eventually failed in a parliamentary committee.
In 2010, the Lithuanian, Latvian, Bulgarian, Hungarian, Romanian, and Czech governments called for the European Union to criminalize "the approval, denial or belittling of communist crimes" similar to how a number of EU member states have banned Holocaust denial. The European Commission turned down this request, finding after a study that the criteria for EU-wide criminal legislation was not met, leaving individual member states to determine the extent to which they wished to handle past totalitarian crimes.
In February 2013, the Constitutional Court of Hungary annulled the ban on the use of symbols of fascist and communist dictatorships, including the hammer and sickle, the red star and the swastika, saying the ban was too broad and imprecise. The court also pointed to a judgement of the European Court of Human Rights in which Hungary was found guilty of violation of article 10, the right to freedom of expression.In June 2013, the Constitutional Court of Moldova ruled that the Moldovan Communist Party’s symbols—the hammer and sickle—are legal and can be used.
In Indonesia, the display of communist symbols and the country's Communist party was banned by decree of dictator Suharto, following the 1965–1966 killings of communists in which over 500,000 people were killed.In January 2018, an activist protesting against Bumi Resources displayed the hammer and sickle, was accused of spreading communism, and later jailed.
In Poland, dissemination of items which are "mediums of fascist, communist or other totalitarian symbolism" was criminalized in 1997. However, the Constitutional Tribunal found this sanction to be unconstitutional in 2011.
In Unicode, the "hammer and sickle" symbol is U+262D (☭). It is part of the Miscellaneous Symbols (2600–26FF) code block. On systems where Compose key is available, it could be written as
[Compose]+CCCP. It was added to Unicode 1.1 in 1993.
The State Flag of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, commonly known as the Soviet flag, was the official state flag of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR) from 1922 to 1991. The flag's design and symbolism are derived from several sources, but emerged during the Russian Revolution. The flag is also an international symbol of the communist movement as a whole. The nicknames for the flag were the Hammer and Sickle and the Red Banner.
In politics, a red flag is predominantly a symbol of socialism, communism, Marxism, trade unions, left-wing politics, and historically of anarchism. It has been associated with left-wing politics since the French Revolution (1789–1799).
The national emblem of Belarus features a ribbon in the colors of the national flag, a map of Belarus, wheat ears and a red star. It is sometimes referred to as the coat of arms of Belarus, although in heraldic terms this is inaccurate as the emblem does not respect the rules of conventional heraldry. The emblem is an allusion to one that was used by the Byelorussian SSR, designed by Ivan Dubasov in 1950, with the biggest change being a replacement of the Communist hammer and sickle with an outline map of Belarus. The Belarusian name is Dziaržaŭny herb Respubliki Biełaruś, and the name in Russian is Gosudarstvennyĭ gerb Respubliki Belarusʹ.
A red star, five-pointed and filled, is a symbol that has often historically been associated with communist ideology, particularly in combination with the hammer and sickle, but is also used as a purely socialist symbol in the 21st century. It has been widely used in flags, state emblems, monuments, ornaments, and logos.
The state emblem of Uzbekistan was formally adopted on July 2, 1992 by the newly establish Republic of Uzbekistan. It bears many similarities to the emblem of the previous Uzbek SSR, which Republic of Uzbekistan succeeded. Like other post-Soviet republics whose symbols do not predate the October Revolution, the current emblem retains some components of the Soviet one. Prior to 1992, Uzbekistan had an emblem similar to all other Soviet Republics, with standard communist emblems and insignia.
The emblem of the Armenian SSR was devised from an initial prototype sketch by Martiros Saryan, a famous Armenian painter, and was adopted in 1937 by the government of the Armenian SSR.
The Byelorussian SSR emblem was used as the coat of arms of the Soviet Socialist Republic until the fall of the Soviet Union. The coat of arms is based on the coat of arms of the Soviet Union.
The coat of arms of the Georgian Soviet Socialist Republic was adopted on May 20, 1921 by the government of the Georgian Soviet Socialist Republic. The coat of arms is loosely based on the coat of arms of the Soviet Union. It shows symbols of agriculture. The red star rising above the Caucasus stands for the future of the Georgian nation, and the hammer and sickle for the victory of Communism and the "world-wide socialist community of states".
The coat of arms of the Kirghiz Soviet Socialist Republic was adopted on March 23, 1937 by the government of the Kirghiz Soviet Socialist Republic. The coat of arms is based on the coat of arms of the Soviet Union. It shows symbols of agriculture on a backdrop of the Ala-Too mountain ranges, surrounded by a frame of folk art of the Kyrgyz people. The red star was added in 1948. The rising sun stands for the future of the Kyrgyz nation, the star as well as the hammer and sickle for the victory of communism and the "worldwide socialist community of states".
The State Emblem of the Tajik Soviet Socialist Republic was adopted on March 1, 1937 by the government of the Tajik Soviet Socialist Republic. The emblem is based on the State Emblem of the Soviet Union. It shows symbols of agriculture. The red star is prominently featured with a small hammer and sickle within it. The rising sun stands for the future of the Tajik nation, and the star as well as the hammer and sickle for the victory of communism and the "world-wide socialist community of states". The emblem was replaced with the new emblem in 1992, which uses a similar design to the Soviet one.
The emblem of the Latvian SSR was adopted on August 25, 1940 by the government of the Latvian SSR. It was based on the emblem of the Soviet Union. It features symbols of agriculture (wheat) and Latvia's maritime culture. The red star as well as the hammer and sickle for the victory of communism and the "world-wide socialist community of states".
The coat of arms of the Moldavian Soviet Socialist Republic was adopted on February 10, 1941 by the government of the Moldavian Soviet Socialist Republic. The coat of arms is based on the coat of arms of the Soviet Union. It shows symbols of agriculture, an outer rim featuring wheat, corn, grapes and clover. The red banner bears the Soviet Union state motto in both Moldovan and the Russian language. In Moldovan, it was initially "Пролетарь дин тоате цэриле, униць-вэ!", then, from the 1950s "Пролетарь дин тоате цэриле, уници-вэ!", both transliterated as "Proletari din toate țările, uniți-vă!". The acronym "MSSR" is shown only in Moldovan ("РССМ").
The coat of arms of the Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic was adopted on March 14, 1919 by the government of the Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic and subsequently modified on November 7, 1928, January 30, 1937 and November 21, 1949. The coat of arms from 1949 is based on the coat of arms of the Soviet Union and features the hammer and sickle, the red star, a sunrise and stalks of wheat on its outer rims. The rising sun stands for the future of the Soviet Ukrainian nation, the star as well as the hammer and sickle for communism and the "world-wide socialist community of states".
Socialist heraldry, also called communist heraldry, consists of emblems in a style typically adopted by socialist states and filled with communist symbolism. Although commonly called coats of arms, most such devices are not actually coats of arms in the heraldic sense. Many communist governments purposely diverged from the traditional forms of European heraldry in order to distance themselves from the monarchies that they usually replaced, with actual coats of arms being seen as symbols of the monarchs.
The State Emblem of the Soviet Union was adopted in 1923 and was used until the dissolution of the USSR in 1991. Although it technically is an emblem rather than a coat of arms, since it does not follow traditional heraldic rules, in Russian it is called герб, the word used for a traditional coat of arms.
Hoxhaism is a variant of anti-revisionist Marxism–Leninism that developed in the late 1970s due to a split in the Maoist movement, appearing after the ideological dispute between the Communist Party of China and the Party of Labour of Albania in 1978. The ideology is named after Enver Hoxha, a notable Albanian communist leader, who served as the First Secretary of the Party of Labour.
The coat of arms of the Russian Soviet Federative Socialist Republic (RSFSR) was adopted on 10 July 1918 by the government of the Russian Soviet Federative Socialist Republic, and modified several times afterwards. It shows wheat as the symbol of agriculture, a rising sun for the future of the Russian nation, the red star as well as the hammer and sickle for the victory of Communism and the "world-wide socialist community of states".
Communist symbolism represents a variety of themes, including revolution, the proletariat, peasantry, agriculture, or international solidarity.
Bans on communist symbols were introduced or suggested in a number of countries as part of their policies of decommunization.
Any person who: a) distributes, b) uses before the public at large, or c) publicly exhibits, the swastika, the insignia of the SS, the arrow cross, the sickle and hammer, the five-pointed red star or any symbol depicting the above so as to breach public peace – specifically in a way to offend the dignity of victims of totalitarian regimes and their right to sanctity – is guilty of a misdemeanor punishable by custodial arrest, insofar as they did not result in a more serious criminal offense.