The standard of Moscow


In celebration of City Day in 2006, a new official symbol of Moscow, the standard, was unveiled. The government decided to create this new symbol in 2000, when the city’s veterans noted that neither Moscow’s coat of arms nor its flag reflected its status as a Hero City. The standard, which features all the state decorations the city was awarded in Soviet times, allowed the government to address this oversight without altering Moscow’s other official symbols.

The Moscow Duma passed the law on the standard in the autumn of 2004, but it took another 18 months to finalise the project, choose a contractor through an open bid process, and manufacture the standard.

The standard was placed in the White Hall of the government building in downtown Moscow in time for City Day in September 2006. Muscovites got their first glimpses of the new standard on billboards and screens set up for the City Day celebration.

Under the 2004 law, the standard is an official symbol of Moscow, representing the unity of the capital’s citizens. The standard joins Moscow’s coat of arms, flag and anthem as an official symbol of the city.

The standard of Moscow

The standard of Moscow is a dark red rectangular cloth with a 2:3 width-to-length ratio. It features a double-sided image of the main feature of the Moscow emblem in the centre, facing away from the flagstaff: St George on horseback, slaying the serpent. The overall width of this central feature must be 2/5 of the flag’s full length.

Using the standard

Under the law, use of the standard is mandatory only during a few prominent municipal ceremonies — the mayoral inauguration, the swearing in of city councillors, and the awarding of badges and certificates to honoured citizens of Moscow.

In keeping with the principle of separation of powers, the standard is alternately kept at City Hall and the City Duma. It was passed to the latter for a year on 6 May 2007, Moscow Flag and Coat of Arms Day.

Of course, the standard may be used during other important city functions. However, when the standard is being housed at City Hall, use of the standard must be personally approved by the mayor, which speaks to the importance of the standard as a symbol of the city.

The ceremonial use of the standard has not been fully elaborated. The city’s Heraldry Commission adds details with each new ceremony. The standard is used only on rare occasions to emphasise its status.

Symbolic meaning

The standard symbolises the unity of all Muscovites. One side depicts St George on horseback slaying a dragon. The image is framed by a laurel branch and an oak branch, symbolising valour and glory. St George, the city’s patron saint, is also depicted on the Moscow flag and coat of arms.

The opposite side features symbols of Moscow. Prince Yury Dolgoruky, the founder of Moscow, is pictured in the centre, with the inscription: «Visit me in Moscow, brother.» This quote from a letter of the prince is the earliest recorded reference to Moscow. The top and bottom cartouches bear the word «Moscow» and the year of the first recorded reference to the city, «1147».

The four corners of the standard bear the principal architectural monuments of Moscow — the Kremlin, St Basil’s Cathedral, the Cathedral of Christ the Saviour, and Moscow State University on Vorobyovy Hills.

The side medallions depict the imperial crown and the patriarchal mitre, symbolising Moscow’s role as the heart of Russian secular and religious life as well as its defining role in the history of Russia.

These elements are tied together by a floral pattern representative of medieval Russian art, which was influenced by the art of Byzantium. Heraldic animals woven into the pattern symbolise different eras in Russian history — the lion for the Vladimir Principality, the unicorn for Muscovy during the reign of Ivan the Terrible, the griffin for the Romanov dynasty, and the two-headed eagle for the Russian Empire.

Standard vs. flag

Standards are frequently confused with flags, but there is one critical difference between them. Flags can be manufactured in any number; several thousand flags adorn Moscow during celebrations. A standard, on the other hand, is unique – there can be only one in the world.

Moscow is one of the few Russian cities to have its own standard.

Composition of the standard

While the defining feature of a flag is the cloth itself, a standard is a mix of elements.

The flagstaff is the main difference between the two: a flag can be used with or without one, while a standard is always attached to its staff. Most staffs are made of high-quality wood. Longer staffs, like that of the Moscow standard, consist of two parts joined together with a metal socket. The top part of the Moscow standard flagstaff is concealed by the cloth while the lower is decorated with gilded semicylindrical vertical grooves or flutes (an architectural term).

The finial (ornate top) of the Moscow standard is a sphere atop of which rests a small sculpture of St George slaying a dragon — this image is also featured on the Moscow coat of arms. The tops of flagstaffs are usually simpler shapes (pikes, spiralled domes, etc.) than the finials of standards.

Two tasselled braids of gold thread hang from the finial of the Moscow standard.

Ribbons inscribed with mottos are occasionally attached to standards. The Moscow standard has two ribbons clasped to the finial with the city’s Soviet-era decorations embroidered on them. One of the ribbons bears the Gold Star medal and the Order of Lenin, which Moscow received along with the status of Hero City in 1965, and the other bears the orders of Lenin and the October Revolution, awarded to the city in 1947 and 1965, respectively.

The banner cloth is attached to its flagstaff with two nails, whose gilded heads also depict St George.

The Moscow standard is made of two lengths of velvet, and edged with crimson and gold fringes that replicate the fringes of the Russian Empire’s coronation standard.

A flat metal clench

The bottom of the Moscow standard’s flagstaff is cased in gilded metal.

How the standard is made

The Moscow standard is decorated in intricate machine embroidery. It took several months to design the embroidery software.

The standard is edged with alternating crimson and gold fringes, replicating the fringes of the Russian Empire’s coronation standard.

A sculpted figure of St George slaying a dragon decorates the finial.

The metal parts of the flagstaff — the ribbon clasp, the coupling and the bottom sheath — are all finely crafted. And the gilded grooves decorating the flagstaff warrant special mention.

The Moscow standard is a unique item offering no analogue in modern Russia.

Description of the standard

  1. The standard consists of the banner and the flagstaff with a finial, clench and bottom sheath. Attached to it are ribbons representing state decorations bestowed on the city in multicoloured embroidery.
  2. The two-sided, rectangular, crimson banner is 130 cm wide and 170 cm long, with an inturn to attach the banner to the staff. It is fringed in crimson and gold.
  3. In the centre of the obverse side is the main image of the Moscow coat of arms — St George slaying a dragon from atop his horse, facing away from the staff. This image is framed by gold-embroidered branches — an oak branch on the hoist and a symmetrical laurel branch on the fly.
  4. In the centre of the reverse side is a round gold medallion bearing the profile of Prince Yury Dolgoruky, the founder of the city, facing away from the staff, framed by inscriptions. The top one reads: «Visit me in Moscow, brother,» and the bottom «Prince Yury Dolgoruky.» Two ornamental stripes divide the inscriptions.
  5. The reverse is framed in eight gold medallions linked by a floral pattern. The two-headed eagle, unicorn, lion and griffin are woven into the pattern on opposite sides of the banner.
  6. The four corner medallions depict Moscow’s principle architectural monuments — the Kremlin, St Basil’s Cathedral, the Cathedral of Christ the Saviour, and Moscow State University on Vorobyovy Hills.
  7. The side medallion on the hoist bears the image of the patriarchal mitre, and the opposite medallion shows the imperial crown. The top medallion is inscribed with the word «MOSCOW», and the bottom one, «1147».
  8. The dark wood flagstaff is 250 cm long and 4 cm thick, and decorated with gilded grooves. Its bottom is sheathed in a gilded metal cylinder 7 cm long.
  9. A flat metal clench that rings the staff under the standard is inscribed: «Established by Law No. 78 of the City of Moscow on November 24, 2004.»
  10. The spherical finial, of gilded metal, atop of which stands a small sculpture of St George on horseback slaying a dragon — the main feature of the Moscow coat of arms.