Red star

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A red five-pointed star Red star.svg
A red five-pointed star

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.


One interpretation sees the five points as representing the five fingers of the worker's hand, as well as the five populated continents (counting the Americas as one). A lesser-known suggestion is that in communist symbolism, the five points on the star were intended to represent the five social groups that would lead Russia to communism: the youth, the military, the industrial labourers, the agricultural workers or peasantry and the intelligentsia. In Soviet heraldry, the red star symbolized the Red Army and military service, as opposed to the hammer and sickle, which symbolized peaceful labour.[ citation needed ]

Different countries across Europe treat the symbol very differently. Some former Warsaw Pact nations have passed laws banning it, claiming that it represents "a totalitarian ideology", [1] but other Eastern European countries hold a very positive view of it as a symbol of antifascism and resistance against Nazi occupation.[ citation needed ] Red Star has also been used in a non-communist context and before the emergence of this movement, in symbols of countries and states since the 19th Century. It appears for example on the flags of New Zealand and the U.S. state of California. Red star has also been used as logo by private agencies and corporations, such as the oil giant Texaco and beer multinational Heineken.

A New Year tree with a red star in front of a church cupola in Volokolamsk, Russia, 2010. Volokolamsk (Moscow Oblast) 12.jpg
A New Year tree with a red star in front of a church cupola in Volokolamsk, Russia, 2010.


Red Star (1908) Krasnaia zvezda.jpg
Red Star (1908)

The star's origins as a symbol of communist mass movements dates from the time of the Bolshevik Revolution and the Russian Civil War, but the precise first use remains unknown. The red star as a symbol of the Red Army was proposed by the Military Collegium for the organization of the Red Army and the creator of the Red Star emblem was the Bolshevik commander of the Petrograd Military District, Konstantin Eremeev. [2] On the other hand, one account of the symbol's origin traces its roots to the Moscow troop garrison toward the end of World War I. At this time, many troops were fleeing from the Austrian and German fronts, joining the local Moscow garrison upon their arrival in the city. To distinguish the Moscow troops from the influx of retreating front-liners, officers gave out tin stars to the Moscow garrison soldiers to wear on their hats. When those troops joined the Red Army and the Bolsheviks they painted their tin stars red, the color of socialism, thus creating the original red star. [3]

The red star was used in communist media as early as in 1908 with the publication of the novel Red Star by Bolshevik revolutionary Alexander Bogdanov, which describes a technologically advanced communist civilization on Mars. [4]

Another claimed origin for the red star relates to an alleged encounter between Leon Trotsky and Nikolai Krylenko. Krylenko, an Esperantist, wore a green-star lapel badge; Trotsky inquired as to its meaning and received an explanation that each arm of the star represented one of the five traditional continents. On hearing that, Trotsky specified that soldiers of the Red Army should wear a similar, red, star. [5]

Regardless of the star's exact origin, it was incorporated into the Red Army's uniforms and heraldry as early as 1918. [6]

U.S. Army Signal Corps Curtiss JN-3 biplanes with red star insignia, 1915 Curtiss JN-3.jpg
U.S. Army Signal Corps Curtiss JN-3 biplanes with red star insignia, 1915

Shortly before the founding of the Soviet Union, in mid-March 1916 the U.S. Army Signal Corps' aviation section used the red star [7] for the national insignia for U.S. aircraft on the aircraft of the Signal Corps' 1st Aero Squadron during the Pancho Villa Expedition to apprehend the Mexican revolutionary Pancho Villa.

Use in the USSR and its constituent republics

The symbol became one of the most prominent of the Soviet Union, adorning nearly all official buildings, awards and insignia. Sometimes the hammer and sickle appeared inside or below the star. In 1930 the Soviet Union established the Order of the Red Star and awarded its insignia to Red Army and Soviet Navy personnel for "exceptional service in the cause of the defense of the Soviet Union in both war and peace". The Soviet and Russian Federation military newspaper bore and bears the name Red Star (Russian: Krasnaya Zvezda ). [8]

As a holiday ornament

During the 1930s, Soviet publications encouraged the practice of decorating a New Year's tree, known as a yolka (Russian : Ёлка). These trees were often decorated[ by whom? ] with a red star, a practice that has continued in Russia since the 1991 dissolution of the Soviet Union. [9]

Use in other communist countries

Following its adoption as an emblem of the Soviet Union, the red star became a symbol for communism around the world.

Several Communist states subsequently adopted the red star symbol, often placing it on their respective flags and coats of arms – for example on the flag of the Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia. Separatist and socialist movements also sometimes adopted the red star, as on the Estelada flag in the Catalan countries.

In the Eastern Bloc

The red star became a common element of the flags and heraldry of socialist states in the Eastern Bloc, appearing in heraldry for virtually all of the countries, and on the flags of Bulgaria, Hungary, Romania, and Albania.

In Yugoslavia

In former Yugoslavia the red star served not only a communist symbol, but also as a more generic symbol of resistance against Fascism and the Nazi occupation of Yugoslavia, as well as of opposition to its associated ethnic policies. Tito's partisans wore the red star as an identification symbol during World War II.

In Asia

As communist movements spread across Asia, some entities used a red star, while others used a yellow star (often on a red field) with the same symbolism. The Far Eastern Republic of 1920 to 1922 used a yellow star on its military uniforms, and the flag of the People's Republic of China has five yellow stars on a red field. The flag of Vietnam also has a yellow star on a red field. Examples of communes and villages in China named after the red star include Hongxing Village in Huilong Township, Hubei, China [10] and Kizilto in Xinjiang (named Hongxing Commune during the Cultural Revolution). [11]

In Africa

Socialist countries in Africa also incorporated the red or gold stars into their heraldry. This practice was also adopted by countries that formed following anti-colonial national liberation struggles, which often involved Marxist organizations.

State military units

By March 2010, the Russian government readopted the Soviet red star (but now with a blue outline reflecting the three colors – white, blue and red – of the Russian flag) as a military insignia.[ citation needed ] The Russian Air Force used this star as a roundel up to 2013, when Russia re-instated the Soviet-era red star. [12]

As of 2014 the Armed Forces of Belarus still use the old Soviet red star. The coat of arms of Armed Forces of the Republic of Kazakhstan includes a modified version of the Soviet red star.

By states with limited recognition

Transnistria and the Luhansk People's Republic are proto-states located in Eastern Europe. Due to their historical association with the Soviet Union, they have adopted socialist imagery – including the red star – into their flags and heraldry.

By sports teams

Several sporting clubs from countries ruled by communist parties used the red star as a symbol and named themselves after it, such as the Serbian club Red Star Belgrade (Serbian : Црвена звезда / Crvena zvezda), the East German Roter Stern Leipzig  [ de ], the Angolan Estrela Vermelha do Huambo, the Estrela Vermelha from Beira, Mozambique or the Czechoslovak Rudá Hvězda Brno. Some sports teams from non-communist countries used it, such as French Red Star from Paris, Swiss club FC Red Star Zürich, English Seaham Red Star F.C., and even an American women's soccer club (Chicago Red Stars—though in that case the star is based on the flag of Chicago and not on the communist logo). The American soccer clubs Sacramento Republic FC and D.C. United also use red stars in their logos, referencing the flags of California and the District of Columbia respectively. The German rowing club Pirnaer Ruderverein 1872 began (and continues) to use red star since the 19th century.

Use by socialist groups

Armed revolutionary organizations

In 1970, the Red Army Faction, a West German militant group, used a red star paired with a Heckler & Koch MP5 in their highly recognizable insignia.

In 1994, the red star was included in the flag of the armed revolutionary Zapatista Army of National Liberation (EZLN) in Chiapas, Mexico.

A number of communist parties in Turkey utilize the red star. Likewise, a number of Kurdish revolutionary organizations connected to the Kurdistan Communities Union utilize the red star in their iconography. Those include the flags of the Kurdistan Workers' Party and the battle flag pennants of the People's Defence Forces and Free Women's Units in Turkish Kurdistan, the People's Protection Units and Women's Protection Units in Syrian Kurdistan, and the Eastern Kurdistan Units and Women's Defense Forces in Iranian Kurdistan.

The Iranian Islamist-Socialist militant opposition group the Mojahedin-e-Khalq uses the red star with the rifle, sickle and the map of Iran in the background.

Political parties and movements

The Brazilian leftist Worker's Party uses a red star as its symbol with the party acronym (Portuguese : Partido dos Trabalhadores – PT) inside. Hugo Chávez and his supporters in Venezuela have used the red star in numerous symbols and logos, and have included it in the logo of the United Socialist Party of Venezuela (PSUV). It was also used throughout 2007 as a symbol of the "5 Engines of the Bolivarian Socialist Revolution". It is also used by the militant South African shack-dweller's movement Abahlali baseMjondolo. Like in Latin America and Africa, several European socialist parties continue to use a star as a part of their logos. The red star is also featured prominently in the independence flags of various separatist movements in Spain.

Uses without socialist symbolism

Some red stars adopted in emblems and flags have a significance that does not originally relate to socialism. Among these, the most well-known include the current state flag of California (echoing the Californian red star flag of 1836) and the flag of New Zealand (designed in 1869, officially adopted in 1902). The flag of the District of Columbia (designed in 1921, adopted in 1938) recalls George Washington's coat of arms. DC comics' Wonder Woman also wears a 5 point red star headband with gold or yellow background.

Crescent moon and star

The crescent moon and star was a symbol used by the Ottoman Empire. Various states with Ottoman history have thus adopted this symbol into their present-day flags.

Assorted Flags and Coats of Arms

Symbol of animal relief

The red star was adopted as the symbol of the International Red Star Alliance, a Geneva international treaty signed in 1914 with the purpose of bringing about international cooperation on behalf of sick and wounded war animals, while securing the neutral status of the personnel engaged in such work. Besides the International Alliance, national Red Star societies were also established. Regarding animal relief, the International Red Star Alliance had an analogous role of that of the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement. To identify their neutral status, white brassards with red stars were worn by military veterinary personnel in World War I in a similar way medical personal worn brassards with red crosses. [13]

Following the War, the American Red Star turned to focus on domestic issues, including care for animals during disasters. The organization waxed and waned over the decades, and as of 2016 exists as the American Humane Association's Red Star Animal Emergency Services. [14] [ verification needed ]

Red stars in labels and logos

The red star was used by the Texaco oil company in various forms from 1909–1981. [15] Its overseas division Caltex also used the red star until 1996. The Red Star is currently a registered trademark of Red*Star Auto Works Inc. (pic).

The brand of Erguotou in Beijing, a Chinese Baijiu, was named after "Red star" in 1949 to celebrate the founding of the People's Republic of China. [16]

North Korea's Red Star operating system takes its name from the communist red star.

The red star and the hammer and sickle are regarded as occupation symbols as well as symbols of totalitarianism and state terror by several countries that were formerly either members of or occupied by the Soviet Union. Accordingly, Latvia, [17] Lithuania, [18] Hungary [19] and Ukraine [20] [21] [22] have banned the symbol among others deemed to be symbols of fascism, socialism, communism and the Soviet Union and its republics. In Poland, the Parliament passed in 2009 a ban that referred generally to "fascist, communist or other totalitarian symbols", while not specifying any of them. [23] Following a constitutional complaint, it has been abolished by the Constitutional Tribunal as contrary to articles in the Constitution of Poland guaranteeing the freedom of speech. A similar law was considered in Estonia, but eventually failed in a parliamentary committee due to its conflict with freedoms guaranteed by the constitution of Estonia.

The European Court of Human Rights has ruled, in a similar manner, against the laws that ban political symbols, which were deemed to be in clear opposition with basic human rights, such as freedom of speech, [24] [25] confirmed again in 2011 in case Fratanolo v. Hungary. [26] The decision has been compared [27] to the legislation concerning the symbols of Nazism, which continue to be banned in several European Union member states, including Germany and France.

There have been calls for an EU-wide ban on both Soviet and Nazi symbols, notably by politicians from Lithuania, Estonia, the Czech Republic, Hungary and Slovakia. The European Commissioner for Justice, Franco Frattini, felt it "might not be appropriate" to include communist symbols in the context of discussions on xenophobia and anti-Semitism. [28]

In 2003, Hungarian politician Attila Vajnai was arrested, handcuffed and fined for wearing a red star on his lapel during a demonstration. He appealed his sentence to the European Court of Human Rights, which decided that the ban was a violation of the freedom of expression, calling the Hungarian ban "indiscriminate" and "too broad". [29]

In Slovenia, the red star is respected as a symbol of resistance against fascism and Nazism. On 21 March 2011, Slovenia issued a two-euro commemorative coin to mark the 100th anniversary of the birth of Franc Rozman, a partizan commander, featuring a large star that represented a red star.

Non five-pointed red stars

Emblems and flags where the red stars displayed are not five-pointed are much rarer. Among these the following deserve mention.

See also

Related Research Articles

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Hammer and sickle Communist symbol

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Red flag (politics) Symbol of Socialism and left-wing politics

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Flag of Belarus National flag

The national flag of Belarus is a red-and-green flag with a white-and-red ornament pattern placed at the hoist (staff) end. The current design was introduced in 2012 by the State Committee for Standardisation of the Republic of Belarus, and is adapted from a design approved in a May 1995 referendum. It is a modification of the 1951 flag used while the country was a republic of the Soviet Union. Changes made to the Soviet-era flag were the removal of communist symbols – the hammer and sickle and the red star – as well as the reversal of the colours in the ornament pattern. Since the 1995 referendum, several flags used by Belarusian government officials and agencies have been modelled on this national flag.

National emblem of Belarus National emblem of the Republic of Belarus

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.

Coat of arms of Ukraine National coat of arms of Ukraine

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Emblem of Uzbekistan National emblem of the Republic of Uzbekistan

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.

Emblem of the Byelorussian Soviet Socialist Republic

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.

Emblem of the Georgian Soviet Socialist Republic

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".

Emblem of the Kirghiz Soviet Socialist Republic

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".

Emblem of the Tajik Soviet Socialist Republic

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.

Emblem of the Latvian Soviet Socialist Republic

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".

Emblem of the Moldavian Soviet Socialist Republic

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").

Emblem of the Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic

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

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.

Upon the independence of Belarus from the Soviet Union, the country resurrected national symbols that were used before the Soviet era. These included a flag of red and white stripes and a coat of arms consisting of a charging knight on horseback. These national symbols were replaced by Soviet-era symbols in a disputed 1995 vote. Those two symbols, along with the national anthem, are the constitutionally defined national symbols of Belarus.

State Emblem of the Soviet Union

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.

Emblem of the Russian Soviet Federative Socialist Republic

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 Wikimedia list article

Bans on communist symbols were introduced or suggested in a number of countries as part of their policies of decommunization.


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