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Karelia in the Soviet Union (earlier flags)

Last modified: 2014-03-30 by zoltán horváth
Keywords: karjalan työkansan kommuuni | karelian workers’ commune | v.s.f.s.r. | v.s.f.s.t. | karjalan assr | karjalan asst | karelskoi assr |
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Karelian Workers’ Commune, 1920

Actually, flag of Soviet Russia
Olonets ''Russian'' flag
image by António Martins, 28 Jun 2002

The Karelian Workers’ Commune (Finnish: Karjalan Työkansan Kommuuni) was set up 7 June 1920 by decree of the All-Russian Central Executive Committee of the Congress of Soviets. It worked in direct competition with the autonomous East Karelian government. The chairman of the KWC’s Revolutionary Committee was a Finn, Edvard Gylling, who fled Finland when the red side lost the civil war there. Initially, both the borders and administration structure of the KWC were somewhat unsettled. The KWC did not have a constitution or a flag of its own. Instead the Russian constitution applied, and the Russian flags were used. Paskov [pas94] illustrates two flags. First, the one of the Russian SFSR. The second flag shown is the well-known red flag with yellow star, hammer and sickle (set to 1924 by Paskov [pas94]). The Karelian Autonomous Soviet Socialist Republic was proclaimed by the Fourth All-Karelian Congress of Soviets 25 July 1923. Still, a flag was not adopted until 1938. Until 1938, the flag of the Soviet Union was in use, according to Paskov [pas94].
Jan Oskar Engene, 29 May 1997

Though the KWC used the flags of the Russian SFSR, there might be one flag connected with Soviet Karelia. This is the flag Paskov [pas94] describes as «The Flag of the Russian Federation adopted in the Olonets Province in 1918». This is again a red field with an abbreviation in golden yellow in the canton. The canton is outlined in gold on the field sides. This flag does not, however, appear to be a flag for the KWC.
Jan Oskar Engene, 29 May 1997


Karelian A.S.S.R., 1937.06.17-1938

In 1935 was created the ASRR that adopt flag in 1937.
Jaume Ollé, 17 Nov 1996

Paskov [pas94] shows this flag to be red and with RSFSR written in large cyrillic and Latin gold letters, with the name Karelian ASSR written in a smaller gold script in Russian and Finnish/Karelian.
Jan Oskar Engene, 29 May 1997

Karelian in Latin

Karelian flag of 1937
image by Marco Pribilla, 07 Dec 2002

Russian, Karelian (Latin) and “Soviet Finnish”:

  • Р.С.Ф.С.Р.
    (Российская Социалистическая Федеративная Советская Республика)
  • V.S.F.S.R.
    (Venäjän Sotsialistiitsheskoi Federatiivnoi Sovetskoi Respublikka [?])
  • V.S.F.S.T.
    (Venäjän Sosialistinen Federatiivinen Sovettitasavalta)
  • Карельская АССР
    (Карельская Автономная Советская Социалистическая Республика)
  • Karjalan ASSR
    (Karjalan Avtonomnoi Sovetskoi Sotsialiitsheskoi Respublikka)
  • Karjalan ASST
    (Karjalan Autonoominen Sosialistinen Sovettitasavalta)
(Inscriptions according to the constitutions; explanations for abbreviations and other remarks in brackets. Accuracy is not guaranteed, especially when it comes to exact dates, the spelling of the Karelian language or the dots in abbreviations.)
Marco Pribilla, 07 Dec 2002

Coat of arms

Inscriptions on the Coat-of-Arms of Soviet Karelia according to the constitution of 17.6.1937 — in Russian, Karelian (Latin) and “Soviet Finnish” (based on emblem of RSFSR):

  • Р.С.Ф.С.Р.
  • V.S.F.S.R.
  • V.S.F.S.T.
  • Карельская АССР
  • Karjalan ASSR
  • Karjalan ASST
  • Пролетарии всех стран, соединяйтесь!
  • Kaikkien maijen proletaariet, yhtykkyä!
  • Kaikkien maiden proletaarit, liittykää yhteen!
Marco Pribilla, 07 Dec 2002

Karelian in Cyrillic

Karelian flag of 1937
image by Marco Pribilla, 07 Dec 2002

Russian, Karelian (Cyrillic) and “Soviet Finnish”:

  • Р.С.Ф.С.Р.
    (Российская Социалистическая Федеративная Советская Республика)
  • В.С.Ф.С.Р.
    (Венӓя̈н Социалистической Федеративной Советской Республика [?])
  • V.S.F.S.T.
    (Venäjän Sosialistinen Federatiivinen Sovettitasavalta)
  • Карельская АССР
    (Карельская Автономная Советская Социалистическая Республика)
  • Каръялан АССР
    (Каръялан Автономной Советской Социалистической Республика)
  • Karjalan ASST
    (Karjalan Autonoominen Sosialistinen Sovettitasavalta)
(Inscriptions according to the constitutions; explanations for abbreviations and other remarks in brackets. Accuracy is not guaranteed, especially when it comes to exact dates, the spelling of the Karelian language or the dots in abbreviations.)
Marco Pribilla, 07 Dec 2002

Coat of arms

Inscriptions on the Coat-of-Arms of Soviet Karelia according to the constitution of 17.6.1937 — in Russian, Karelian (Cyrillic) and “Soviet Finnish” (based on emblem of RSFSR):

  • Р.С.Ф.С.Р.
  • В.С.Ф.С.Р.
  • V.S.F.S.T.
  • Карельская АССР
  • Каръялан АССР
  • Karjalan ASST
  • Пролетарии всех стран, соединяйтесь!
  • Кайккиэн майен пролетаариэт, ӱхтӱккӱӓ!
  • Kaikkien maiden proletaarit, liittykää yhteen!
Marco Pribilla, 07 Dec 2002

Version without Finnish (doubtful)

Karelian flag of 1937
image by Marco Pribilla, 07 Dec 2002

In [lau97] another drawing of this flag is shown without the Finnish inscriptions but I found no official confirmation for such a flag. It might have existed as an intermediary flag before adopting a new one by the constitution of 29.7.1938. On the other hand, the new norms for the Karelian language were introduced around the same time as Finnish was abolished. Therefore the Cyrillic inscriptions "Р.С.Ф.С.Р." and "Карельской АССР" may have replaced the previous Cyrillic and/or Latin inscriptions "V.S.F.S.R." / "В.С.Ф.С.Р." and "Karjalan ASSR" / "Каръялан АССР" about at the turn of the year 1937-1938, meaning that the "Карельской" flag would have been actually used even before the new constitution suggests it.
Marco Pribilla, 07 Dec 2002


Karelian A.S.S.R., 1938-1940

Karelian flag of 1938
image by Marco Pribilla, 07 Dec 2002

Russian and Karelian (Cyrillic):

  • Р.С.Ф.С.Р.
    (Российская Социалистическая Федеративная Советская Республика)
  • Р.С.Ф.С.Р.
    (Российской Социалистической Федеративной Советской Республика [?])
  • Карельская АССР
    (Карельская Автономная Советская Социалистическая Республика)
  • Карельской АССР
    (Карельской Автономной Советской Социалистической Республика)
(Inscriptions according to the constitutions; explanations for abbreviations and other remarks in brackets. Accuracy is not guaranteed, especially when it comes to exact dates, the spelling of the Karelian language or the dots in abbreviations.)
Marco Pribilla, 07 Dec 2002

Anachronic version in three languages

Karelian flag of 1938
image by Marco Pribilla, 07 Dec 2002

To make things even more comlicated, there is a decree (in Karelian, apparently from 1938 but with no exact date) which prescribes the "Карельской" flag with inscriptions in Russian, Karelian and Finnish!
Marco Pribilla, 07 Dec 2002

Anachronic version in latin Karelian

According the Pashkov’s book [pas94] the bilingual flag was adopted 29 December 1937. The inscriptions were in Russian and Latin karelian:

Р.С.Ф.С.Р.
R.S.F.S.R.
Карельская АССР
Karelskoj ASSR
Victor Lomantsov, 15 Dec 2002

Pashkov [pas94] indeed suggests this in an image (drawn by himself?) but what he actually says in the text is that the inscriptions on flag and CoA were to be written in Russian and Karelian. He does not define the form of Karelian, nor the alphabet used. Besides, Pashkov’s book is in my opinion, despite its merits, neither very detailed nor without errors.

I have several reasons to think that the inscription "Карельской АССР" could not have been in Latin script. According to Finnish researcher Esa Anttikoski, all Karelian newspapers, for instance, reverted to Cyrillic script in November 1937. At the turn of the year 1937/8 Cyrillic became the only official script of the Karelian language. Why would the flag have borne a Latin inscription under such circumstances?

Laurla has published in his book [lau97] copies of several law texts (constituion extracts and decrees) concerning the flags of Karelia. The 1937 constitution is given in Finnish, Russian and Karelian, both Cyrillic and Latin. § 112 says:

The state flag of the Karelian Autonomous Soviet Socialist Republic is the flag of the RSFSR, of red cloth, with the golden letters ’RSFSR’ in the Russian, Karelian and Finnish language in the upper left corner near the hoist and additionally underneath the letters ’RSFSR’, with smaller letters, ’Karelian ASSR’ in the Russian, Karelian and Finnish language.
There are no further details about the design and the text includes the inscriptions only in the respective language in which it is issued, so the only source of information about the Karelian inscription are the texts written in Karelian.

The Karelian language version of the 1937 constitution gives us "VSFSR" and "Karjalan ASSR" in both the Latin and the Cyrillic alphabet. However, Laurla’s book [lau97] contains another constitution extract in Karelian (Cyrillic only) in which the inscriptions are "RSFSR" and "Karel’skoj ASSR" in Russian, Karelian and Finnish.

This constitution is, according to Laurla [lau97], from 1938 but the strange thing is that the Finnish language should no longer be mentioned here, like in the respective Russian version.

You may notice that all details are not quite in harmony with each other and perhaps some research should be done in the archives of Petroskoi (Petrozavodsk) to clear things up further. But one thing I can assure is that in the documents available to me now there is no trace of "RSFSR" or "Karelskoi ASSR" in Latin script. What can or cannot be concluded of this is another question.

Marco Pribilla, 17 Dec 2002

Inscription with “new Karelian” in latin

Karelian flag of 1938
image by Jaume Ollé, 17 Nov 1996

Anyway, the only thing which is almost certain is that a flag with "RSFSR" and "Karelskoi ASSR" in Latin script probably never existed, neither with nor without Finnish inscriptions.
Marco Pribilla, 07 Dec 2002

Coat of arms

Inscriptions on the Coat-of-Arms of Soviet Karelia according to the constitution of 29.7.1938 — in Russian and more russified Karelian (Cyrillic):

  • Р.С.Ф.С.Р.
  • Р.С.Ф.С.Р.
  • Карельская АССР
  • Карельской АССР
  • Пролетарии всех стран, соединяйтесь!
  • Кайккиэн муалойн пролетарият, ӱхтӱккиӓ!
Marco Pribilla, 07 Dec 2002


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