State Duma Sweeps Away Archaic Law Penalizing Patriotic Display of Russia’s Double-Headed Eagle
The State Duma has allowed the usage of the Russian National Emblem in everyday life. From now, the two-headed eagle is legally allowed to be used on clothes, souvenirs, and during public and sports events.
Alexey Konopko analyzes the new law.
The Emblem matter has never appeared on the Duma's agenda, although the deputies have always seen it in the offices, above the front stairs; even the entrance to the building is decorated with a recently updated double-headed eagle, but if used outside the Duma, the proud state symbol might be turned into a criminal charge even for a deputy, not to mention for common people.
It was somewhat of a legal conflict. There was no direct prohibition, but one could demonstrate the Emblem only in certain instances, as the law stated. An absurd situation happened during the last election campaign, when the image of the eagle on ballot boxes had to be covered after some blogger complained about it. By 373 votes in favor, the parliament members remedied the conflict.
Every Russian citizen remembers Summer 2008. It was the time when the national soccer team, which had been often made fun of, unexpectedly won the bronze at the European Championship. Earlier that year, in the Spring, Russia wins the World Ice Hockey Cup, the first time in a quarter-century. People crowded the streets by their own will and many of them violated the law.
Eduard Latypov, President of Russia Unites Supporters' Club: «National Flag colors and emblems help identify the fans of one team from the other's.» Surely, in nearly all our activities for the support of the team, the fans, obviously, wear clothes containing our national emblem, as the symbol of our country. So, we needed this law fixed".
But it's not only about sport. From now, the Emblem can be placed on mugs, t-shirts, or passport covers. Online stores have been selling these products at the risk of getting a fine and placing them in special sections. These orders are received from entire organizations.
Kirill Rogachyov, the director of an online store: «Various organizations buy this stuff, Government organizations and those which are closely connected to the state, like the Boxing Federation, for example, may order a set of t-shirts with the Russian Flag on sleeves. Some ask us to print an emblem, like the Emblem of St. Petersburg or Russia».
The important thing is not to overdo it. The flag may look good on a balcony, but there are certain limits which shouldn't be surpassed. In Washington, for example, it's OK to print stars and stripes on underwear. This is regarded as a form of patriotism.
Alexey Kurinny, the State Duma member: «We and Americans have different outlooks on life, and what they consider normal, we may regard as disrespect. The law still doesn't regulate the border between popularization and disrespect. We still don't know whether it is contempt to wear the Emblem on shorts, excuse me, or if it is popularization. Legal drafters have no answer».
The current National Emblem was adopted in 1993. The two-headed eagle appeared in the XV century on the coins of Tsar Ivan III. After that, state authorities started to use it.
It's interesting that the law which the deputies are fixing doesn't limit the usage of the flag so strictly. Heraldists say this is not a coincidence.
Georgy Villinbakhov, President of the State Heraldic Office: «The usage of the State Emblem is administered by federal authorities. May I place it on a private jet, or a yacht, or at a restaurant entrance? The present legislation says that if there's the Emblem on a building, then it belongs to the state. If we allow everyone to use the Emblem for private purposes, we'll make it difficult to tell the difference and thus create a difficult situation for many»,
However, this point of view is not shared by 3/4 of Russian citizens. According to Russian Public Opinion Research Center, more than 70% of Russians feel proud when they see state symbols. This fact is well-known to the rest of the world. When a foreign reporter asked Yevgeny Grishin, 1960 Squaw Valley Olympics gold medalist, what his best memory of the Games was, he answered: «It was the Soviet Red Flag in the American sky».
Alexey Konopko, Andrey Ganykin, Semyon Shapchenko, German Makiyenko, Vesti