Coat of arms: The history of one of the main symbols of Russia
Coat of arms: The history of one of the main symbols of Russia

The history of the coat of arms of Russia dates back to the end of the 15th century, during the reign of Ivan III, when for the first time the image of a two-headed eagle appeared on the seal of the sovereign. It was this emblem that became the main element of the coat of arms, which has undergone various changes over time.

By the beginning of the 18th century, the state emblem of Russia was a two-headed eagle with open and raised wings, crowned with three crowns, with a scepter and a power in its paws and a shield with an image of a rider-snake-fighter on the chest (symbols surrounding the eagle on state seals of the second half of the 17th century were worn partly " optional "character and in the XVIII century can not be traced).

The Peter's era made several significant changes in the appearance of the state emblem, which was associated with the obvious Western European influence.


First, on the state seals of Peter's time, at least since the 1710s, the image of the chain of the Order of the Holy Apostle Andrew the First-Called, the highest award of Russia, established by Peter I after returning from a trip to Europe as part of the Grand Embassy, ​​appeared. This chain could cover both the entire shield with the state emblem and the central shield with the image of a horseman. The second option eventually settled down and was subsequently officially approved.

The Order of St. Andrew the First-Called was the only order of the Russian Empire to have a neck chain. The Apostle Andrew the First-Called was of great importance for Peter not only as the patron saint of Russia (according to the legend recorded in the "Tale of Bygone Years"), but also as the patron saint of sailors and navigation. The introduction of the sign of the highest state order strengthened the status of the state emblem and established parallels with the tradition of Western European state heraldry.


Secondly, since the 1710s, on state seals, crowns over the eagle's heads, instead of the former royal crowns, take the form of Western European imperial crowns - from two hemispheres with a hoop in the middle. This, apparently, emphasized the imperial status of the Russian kingdom, officially approved in 1721 after the end of the Northern War.

Thirdly, also from the 1710s on the seals on the wings of the eagle, images of the six main title coats of arms began to be placed - Kiev, Vladimir, Novgorod, Kazan, Astrakhan and Siberian kingdoms. This innovation also finds parallels in European heraldry, including the state heraldry of the Holy Roman Empire of the German nation. Subsequently, in the Russian state heraldry, this tradition was entrenched (although the composition of the title coats of arms changed in the 19th century).

Fourth, starting from the 1710s, the idea of ​​the horseman-snake-fighter as St. George the Victorious was formed (including by Peter I himself). This conjugation was explained by the closeness of the iconographic types of the images of the horseman and St. George the Victorious and the departure from the previous, secular-cratological interpretation of the serpent fighter of the 16th – 17th centuries.

After the establishment in 1722 of the Heraldic Master's Office, an official body dealing, among other things, with issues of official heraldry, the first professional heraldist in Russia, Count F.M. Santi, developed a new draft of the state emblem, according to which the emblem was approved by the decree of Catherine I on the state seal dated March 11, 1726. The description of the coat of arms was as follows: "A black eagle with outstretched wings, in a yellow field, in it a rider in a red field."


Thus, the color scheme of the Russian coat of arms was determined - a black eagle in a golden field - like the two-headed eagle in the state coat of arms of the Holy Roman Empire.

The Russian Empire in heraldic terms became on a par with the leading state of the then Europe and to some extent entered into a "dialogue" with it about the imperial legacy in general. The image of the rider-snake-fighter as St. George the Victorious was recognized as the Moscow coat of arms in 1730. The approval of this coat of arms took place already under Catherine II in 1781: "St. George on a horse, in a red field, striking with a copy of a black serpent."


In the second half of the 1730s, the Swiss engraver IK Gedlinger, who worked in Russia, created a new state seal that was used throughout the 18th century. It contains a very picturesque image of a two-headed eagle with raised wings and heads, the chain of the Order of St. Andrew the First-Called covers a shield with the Moscow coat of arms, and around the eagle there are six shields with the main title coats of arms.

Later, until the beginning of the reign of Paul I, no changes occurred in the Russian state emblem.


Paul I, being fascinated by the knightly theme, had a huge impact on the development of heraldry in Russia, trying to turn it into a harmonious and logical system. As you know, already at the beginning of his reign, he accepted the title of Protector, and then Grand Master (Grand Master) of the Order of Malta - the Order of St. John in Jerusalem of the knights of Rhodes and Malta (in Russian literature the incorrect name of this order - St. John of Jerusalem). This status was reflected in the state emblem. On August 10, 1799, the white eight-pointed Maltese cross and the crown of the Master of the Order of Malta were introduced into the new version of the coat of arms.

The crown was placed over a shield with St. George the Victorious (the Moscow coat of arms), which, in turn, hung on the St. Andrew's ribbon on the chest of a two-headed eagle and was superimposed on the Maltese cross. On December 16, 1800, Paul I approved the "Manifesto on the Full Coat of Arms of the All-Russian Empire", which was a complex heraldic composition, probably modeled on the Prussian state coat of arms.

One of the features of this new version of the coat of arms was the unification in it of all the title coats of arms of the Russian Empire, including almost fifty. However, this coat of arms remained a project without being put into use. After the accession to the throne of Alexander I, the state heraldry of Russia was returned to the form that it had before 1796.

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